When John Parham purchased a motorcycle Streamliner in 2006 the goal was simple, break the land speed record in the 1350 CC engine class. What is a Streamliner? It’s a vehicle designed for all out acceleration in a straight line. In our Streamliner, we chose a 79 Cubic inch Sportster engine for motivation. Of course to get our bike up to speed it would require some TLC from the J&P technical support staff. Fortunately for me, I was chosen as part of the crew to make it happen. Here are some excerpts from the journal I had kept to document my experiences.
The only place big enough to run one of these machines is the Bonneville Salt Flats, in Wendover Utah. This is a Mecca for gearheads. There are regularly scheduled events held there, and as a team we elected to go to the 4th Annual International Speed Trials sponsored by Bub Exhaust. The meet was for motorcycles only, and the fastest bikes on the planet where going to be on hand. We were obviously in the right place.
DAY 1, Sunday September 3rd – The first thing we had to do was to pass safety inspection, which we did with flying colors. The bike had not been run in quite some time, so our summer efforts to upgrade the bike paid off. We had a steep learning curve ahead of us. We discovered, through trial and error that we where not able drive it off the line. There were bugs with the chassis that we worked out. The adjustments to the chassis were recommended by our pilot, Leo Hess. We adjusted the shock dampening, the steering speed, and the parachute release. We also rewired the skids.
Day 2, Monday, September 4th – We learned our first day that this wasn’t like a traditional drag race, where you start on a line and gun it. Our machine was geared to high, and was too heavy. We needed to determine the best way to get the bike moving so we decided to “tow and release”. On day 2 we decided to practice dead engine “tow and release” maneuvers. Basically, pull it behind a truck, release it, and see how it rolled. Each time we tried, things got easier. Finally, it was time to try it for real. We got in line again, and when it’s our turn, we tow up to speed, and release. This time, right down the alley…………… we listen intently to the radio announcer tracking our progress, and unfortunately Leo pulled out before reaching the timing trap. We are disappointed, and hurry down to collect him up. What we failed to realize is that the track had a gusting side wind of over 6 mph. With a body length of 22 feet, the wind pushed him off course. With no time left in the day, we decided to try again tomorrow.
Days 3-4, September 5th and 6th - For two full days we continue to refine the chassis to improve performance and handling. We also continued to refine our tow and release methods to ensure proper timing.
Day 3, Thursday, September 7th, Judgment Day – It was a beautiful morning, still as can be. I can barely contain my excitement and anxiety knowing that this is our last day. Finally, it’s our turn. Tow strap hooked up, rider strapped in, canopy down, time to Go! Accelerating, the liner stands up on its wheels early! RELEASE! Gosh she looks and sounds beautiful as she goes by…Ear glued to the Radio… the announcer comes on and says, “a very nice first pass for the J&P Cycles Streamliner, Kilo 181.384, Mile 181.092”. At this time, all the work, the missed nights with my family, the work learning on the salt and all the other things associated to get this point become validated. What a stupendous feeling! We rush down and collect the liner up and head for impound. In order for this to become a record, we have to make a return run. When in impound, we are allowed to service the bike but make no mechanical changes. Service goes quickly; we pull down for the return run. Our turn again, hooked up, waiting… Go! We pull up faster, release. I get chills as I see the bike go by, bellowing; you can tell he’s really on it. The radio crackles “J&P Cycles return run Kilo 179.609, Mile 176.805.” Time to go back to impound. This time we are all smiles because we have to tear down the engine, which doesn’t bother us at all because the only reason we have to tear down is because we set a record. The final step is for an official to measure our engine; once again we pass with flying colors. Whew!
We established S/PG-1350 records of Kilo 180.4965, and Mile 178.9485. We received word that the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) recognizes our runs as the current national records in our class. What a great feeling!
Thanks for taking the time to read some of my most cherished memories. Don’t hesitate to ask me questions about the event!