Once you’ve made the decision to participate in land speed racing, gathering your thoughts around your bike and your riding gear can start taking place with the rule book in hand.
For our purposes, we’ll focus on the most basic class of competition—production. The beauty of running in the production class is that bike preparation can focus on getting the thing to its optimal state of tune. Keep in mind that in most respects, the bike must be as originally produced. You don’t have to worry about spending big money on custom-made high performance modifications because they aren’t allowed anyway.
The production class calls for the bike to be “as produced” but that actually applies to most respects of the bike’s design for consumer use. However, there are some alterations that you must make for the purposes of competition. For example (and in all cases go by what the rule book says—this is only an overview):
- Rear view mirrors must be removed unless an integral part of the standard equipment fairing—in that case, they must be taped;
- Passenger foot pegs must be removed;
- Flame proof sleeve material (Nomex, etc.) must enclose the fuel lines and no plastic fuel system components (filters, connectors, etc.) are allowed.
- Side/center stands must be safety wired or zip-tied in the up position before any run;
- Any bike with exposed drive chain must have a chain guard;
- Gauge faces, lights and ny other glass or lens materials must be taped;
- A kill switch that can be operated without the rider taking hands off the handlebar and a tether kill switch must be on the bike;
- A fuel supply shut-off valve must be within reach of the rider when in riding position;
- Every bike must be equipped with a steering damper (whether they came with one from the factory or not);
- Entry number and classification must be displayed on both sides of the bike and in letter/number sizes specified in the rules;
- Leather boots at least 8” high and leather gloves with gauntlets are required.
- One and two-piece full coverage leather suit is required. Non-leather materials are allowed in non-critical areas.
- Approved full face helmet is required—open face, modular or multi-piece helmets are not allowed.
- Crankcase, oil tank, transmission oil, coolant and other openable drain and filler cap points must be safety wired. Axle nuts (if not already secured with a castle nut and cotter pin) and pinch bolts must also be safety wired. Thread locking compounds are not allowed on items that require safety wire.
- Valve caps and stems ontires must be metal;
Some things may be removed at the rider’s option, such as:
- Air filter (but not the air box);
- Tool box;
- License plate frame and bracket;
- Turn signals if not integrated into factory equipment fairing;
- Re-jetting cabureted bikes and changing final drive gear ratios is permissible. Re-jetting for the high altitude of Bonneville could be helpful, but Bonneville veterans I’ve talked to say the best way to do it is get out to a high altitude location well in advance and have access to a dyno to do it well. Re-jetting incorrectly can adversely affect performance in a big way.
The list of dos and don’ts gets much longer if running a modified or streamlined bike, so if that’s your aim, be able to do a dissertation on the rule book.
Make lists of the stuff you want to assure you have along and check them off as you load for the trip. Things like:
- Road emergency items for your vehicle like making sure there’s air in your spare, your jack is in the vehicle and in working order, recent tune-up, oil change, new battery is helpful, spare serpentine belt, tools, extra coolant, motor oil and any other bits unique to your vehicle that may give out and be hard to get in the middle of who-knows-where on the way. Be sure to travel with drinking water and maybe some snack foods just in case you do break down and have to wait a long time for road service. And, of course your cellphone and car charger are essential, though there are places out there where you won’t get a connection for anything but a satellite phone.
- Road emergency items for your trailer (assuming one will be in use) such as spare tire, a jack that works with your trailer (if the one for your vehicle doesn’t), wheel chocks, grease gun (if the wheel bearings require routine greasing—i.e. bearing buddies, etc.) and so on.
- Tools for complete tear-down of your bike for technical inspection in the event you qualify for the record books, which includes draining coolant (if applicable), pulling the carbs, and any other equipment necessary for pulling the head off to allow measurement of bore and stroke in the impound area. A shop manual for your bike is necessary to allow verification of stock dimensions and really can come in handy for repairs and tear-down anyway.
- Gear for set-up in the pits such as ground cover tarps, cordless drill, drywall screws for securing the tarp to the salt, sun shade and so on.
- Your personal items—riding gear, clothes, shoes, camera, video gear, binoculars, sun screen, pit passes, and all required papers for registration, including your AMA membership card.
The lists are really helpful—I used five separate lists every time we went out west. There is just too much to trust to memory alone.
We covered some of the things that go on during the first day of the event—registration and scrutineering— in our first installment, so we won’t cover that again. Check that out at: http://www.rideapart.com/articles/kickstand-taking-bonneville
The course opens for competition on the second day of the event. The first item on the agenda after getting your pit opened up in the morning is the driver’s meeting. It is mandatory and it is important, whether you’re a salt rookie or have been competing there for twenty years.
The way the event will be run, the course conditions and key rules are reviewed at the driver’s meeting and violations of some of the rules can get you a very strong reminder of their importance or even disqualification. Safety is paramount and nearly everything that is discussed at the driver’s meeting relates to running a safe event. That’s also the time for question and answer and questions are encouraged.
The event staff—most of whom are volunteers—are very helpful, as well. If you get confused or didn’t get a piece of information, you can always ask one of the event staff. If they don’t know the answer, they will help get you to the person who does.
After the driver’s meeting, if you’re ready to go and the bike and your gear have cleared scrutineering, you can head to the pre-staging area and from there, you’ll be sent to the starting line for the course you’ll be running on.
The course layout and key points like where to enter and exit the course you are to run on can actually be a little difficult to spot at times. An odd circumstance considering everything is in plain view and there isn’t so much as a blade of grass to obstruct your view of the entire speedway, but it can happen. In fact, it is the sheer vastness of the place that can be disorienting even for salt veterans.
For example, the actual start line for the course can be a couple of miles from the pit area. Timing and mile markers fade quickly in the vast distances of the place, and the course itself is defined with lines on the salt as well as flags. But at speed or even traveling slowly off the course or out to the starting areas, it is possible to get confused about where you are with relation to where you’re supposed to be. Rather than create a potentially hazardous situation, the general directions for this eventuality is just to stop where you are and one of the event staff will come to you to help get you squared away. These are the types of procedures covered in the driver’s meeting.
After each run, you exit the course and return to the pit area where you can pick up your official timing slip. If that timing slip indicates your speed qualifies you for a record or return run, then you do not go to your pit area, but instead must report to impound and check in. Your bike cannot leave the impound area until you are to report out on the course for your return run. Nothing can be done to the bike without checking in with the event staff in impound first.
From there, the staff will get you set up for the return run, which will start on the end of the course where your initial qualifying run ended. The impound staff will instruct you on where to check in and when you can leave impound to return to the course; you cannot go to your pit area.
Once you are cleared for a record return run, you head out to the start point on the course specified by the impound staff and check in with the course staff. They’ll do a quick double-check of your bike and your gear and when they give you the go-ahead that the course is clear they’ll send you on your run.
After the run you get your timing slip again and if your two-way average speed is a new record, you must go directly to impound and check in. If it appears that you’ve set a new record, then you can either have your engine sealed and go back out for more attempts to push the record farther or if you’re satisfied you’ve got all the bike has, you can let the impound staff know and the technical steward will arrange for inspection of your engine. It is your responsibility to tear the bike down for inspection and to have all the tools and equipment necessary to do it.
There is no place quite like Bonneville and nothing quite like competing in motorcycle speed trials there. We hope these articles will be helpful if you decide to give it a shot.