Yes, we set a record…with “we” being the genius of Steve, Tony, John, and our rider, Sylvain.
But that’s not the good news…the good news is how much fun we had on Sunday at the Motor Scooter International Land Speed Federation time trials yesterday!
It’s official: We are the fastest 150cc hybrid motor scooter on the planet. We’re called a hybrid because we’re not a step-through scooter, and the good folks at MSILSF created a special class for bikes like ours. And yours.
Can we go faster? You bet. But we’re not in business to make land speed records. We’re in business to make motorcycles, and we want to make one for you. We want you to set the next record.
Think about it, folks…where else in the world is there a motor sport where you have a shot at doing what Sylvain Binau did this weekend - set a land speed record - for under $5K?
You might be thinking there’s no way you can compete with the factory, but we want you to. And we want you to smash our record. And we want you to top what Walt Fulton did on a Mustang back in the ‘50s, which was to top 100 mph on a Mustang. Walt had more than twice the engine displacement we do, but we have 60 years of internal combustion engine and transmission advances. We think it can be done, and we want to help you do it.
We’ll share everything we did to this bike. No secrets here, boys and girls…we want you to take what we did and do it better, and we want you to do it on a California Scooter!
I gotta tell you, I froze my butt off on Sunday, and the weather was atrocious, but I can’t remember ever having this much fun. Take a look at some of the photos we grabbed for you…it was wonderful!
I suppose I should back up a bit and tell you how all this came about. My good friend Jerry Nelson (a retired LAPD police officer, committed motorcyclist, and scooter rider) sent an email to me one weekend about a bunch of guys planning to hold land speed record trials for motor scooters. After an initial smirk (which is probably the reaction a lot of people had), I sent Jerry’s email to the boss. Within just a couple of minutes, Steve fired an email back. “This is great,” he said, “we’re in!” Whoa, I hadn’t expected that.
One thing led to another, and before I realized it, the entire shop was fired up about taking the trophy home. It was exciting! Everyone had ideas on everything…the frame geometry, the engine, the handlebars, the gearing, the colors. You name it, and the guys who designed and built the land speed record (LSR) bike had lots of input. Things moved along nicely.
The real stars of the design and build effort are John, Tony, and Steve…and this bike is magnificent. The boys just finished it last week, and there really wasn’t any time to dial it in, but wow, this bike is something special!
I knew this would be great, and I knew there would be a lot of opportunities for capturing some great photos. There are so many cool things that went into this bike. Like the number plate. We had to have one on the front of the bike. One of the guys said let’s just paint the headlight black and put the number on it. I got a shot (and posted it) of the black headlight before we put the number on. “Why the black light?” we heard….and we answered, “it’s infrared…we’re doing our test runs at night!”
We knew we’d need a rider. Oh, all of us can ride motorcycles, but we needed a real jockey. A light, small, wiry guy with lots of talent. One night we went for a ride with the NoHo Scooters crowd, and after racing all over LA, we wound up at Phillippe’s for dinner. When Steve and I were standing in line to order our sandwiches, he nudged me and pointed to a guy behind me. “He could be our LSR rider,” Steve said. The guy looked thin. I didn’t know who he was. Never met him, but he rode in on an R1 Yamaha and he handled it well.
“How much do you weigh, Dude?” I asked.
“104 pounds,” he said. Wow. That’s exactly half of what I weigh.
“You wanna be a famous motorcycle racer?” And the rest, like they say, was history. Sylvain Binau became our factory rider.
We were going to use stock wheels, but Syl suggested we go with something lighter. Steve designed our 3-spoke billet wheels, which shaved over 4 lbs off each wheel. And their looks are awesome.
Syl came out to the plant and rode the bike around the building. We had just three days before the race. It was the first time Syl had been on the bike.
We heard that it was supposed to rain over weekend, and sure enough, on Saturday morning, it looked bad. Steve and I jumped in his Ford pickup (it’s more like a limo…that truck is a sweet ride), and we headed up into the Cajon Pass. Lots and lots of rain.
When we got to the track, the gate was locked. We tried to find a back road in, and after exploring every dirt road in the Cajon Pass, we went back to the competition staging area. By then the gate was open. Mind you, this was not the day of the race…it was Saturday (the day before)…and we met Alan Spears for the first time. We made small talk standing in the rain. We liked the guy immediately. Alan’s a lawyer, and Iraq war vet, and a scooter geek, and it’s fun listening to him speak. Alan’s the guy who put this whole thing together. He did a great job.
My Mexico moto buddies J. and John came down for the event (you met them on the Baja trip blog), and they stayed at my place Saturday night. Good food, good drinks, and good company.
We were up with the roosters Sunday morning. More rain. Lots of rain. We rolled over to the plant where Steve had the gear packed and ready to go. Syl arrived with his Dad and his friend Piedad, and we were off. Like they say, off to the races. For real. The day had arrived. It would be the first time Syl would have an opportunity to get the bike past 3rd gear.
So, let me shut up for a bit and I’ll let the photos do some of the talking…
It was pretty miserable weather, but we were having a great time. There was excitement in the air, and everybody was in high spirits. Hey, anybody can race in dry weather. This was going to be something special. And the bikes…wow, they were awesome. They ranged from ultra-exotic classic scoots to modern stuff. The common denominator was a love for anything with two wheels, and the excitement of competition!
Syl ran up and down the track a few times on a Classic (wow, it looks wet in that photo above, and it was!), and then it was show time. How much of a show? Well, check out Syl on his first run of the day…
He looks good, doesn’t he?
Syl clocked a 73 mph run on his very first pass down the track. I was busy snapping photos, but I noticed the streamer behind the LSR bike. My first thought was that the guys had left the tow strap on the bike, but then TK told me it was the heat tape coming off the muffler. That was our only mechanical issue the entire day. Our very own Crocodile Dundee (that would be TK) whipped out a titanium knife and cut the tape off when Syl returned to our pit area, but not before I had a little fun with him. Syl had never been to the Cajon Pass before, and a couple of days before the race I told him to watch out for the big rattlesnakes we get up there. After his first run, I asked Syl if he saw the snake chasing him. Then I showed him the photo. We had a good laugh over that one.
I was in awe of the guys and gals on their scooters. I grabbed some great photos, too.
Take a look…
And I have many more like the one above, but take a look at Syl rolling back into our pit area after his first high-speed pass…
This next one was very cool, too…it had an expansion chamber with a great sound! It was only a 50cc bike, and this guy was doing well.
It was a hoot watching all of this!
I’m not knowledgeable enough to identify all of the scooters I caught with the Nikon, but I sure enjoyed seeing them.
This one below…what do you think…is that an auxiliary gas tank? Or maybe a nitrous oxide tank?
The riders were having fun, but they were serious on the track. Check out the concentration and determination in these pictures…
This Buddy Blackjack caught my eye…it’s the same color as our Greaser.
Check out these fellows in the pit area…they are on a Mustang and a Valmobile. Never heard of a Valmobile? I sure hadn’t. Yet here it was. Japan made these bikes in the ’50s and ’60s. I have another photo of it below…
Yessirree, a Valmobile. These 49cc two-strokes folded up into a suitcase. They weigh about 75 lbs and they are reputed to get around 165 miles per gallon. Amazing stuff, this is!
And here’s another shot of that beautiful Mustang!
A minimalist scooter, stripped down and at speed! The photos don’t do these riders justice…here they are, riding in a downpour, in temperatures just a bit above freezing, and having a great time.
This next photo is one of my favorites…it’s my new friend Kirk on his 1966 Vespa. He cranked out 72 mph! This bike started life as a 125, but Kirk bored it out to 135cc. He told me when he wants to ride on the street he just puts the headlight back in. This is hot rodding at its finest!
Another cool shot. There were a lot of female riders.
This looks cool, doesn’t it?
I’m not sure what the original bike is, but this bike has had a heart transplant…it’s powered by a 250cc Kawasaki motorcycle engine. I think this bike hit 80 mph!
These things are interesting inside, don’t you think? Check out the pipe!
Sylvain’s dad Patrick is a rider, too…he pilots a 600cc Kawasaki sports bike. Here’s a shot of two great riders…can you feel the pride here?
Later in the day the sun finally put in an appearance, but it stayed cold. The snow line was only a few hundred feet above us, and the sky was a very, very bright blue. It was a beautiful morning. My buddy John and I walked down to the starting line and a grabbed a few shots of the riders as they started their speed runs.
John Esposito…a serious bike artist! John is a great guy…he’s a lot of fun to be around. Nobody can do what he does when it comes to painting a motorcycle. It’s magnificent stuff, and if you follow this blog, I’m not telling you anything new…you’ve seen lots of John’s work here. John painted our LSR bike, and it is a show stopper. And a land speed record holder.
I noticed this fellow using an 8mm film movie camera. Wow, I hadn’t seen one of those since the ’60s. This is Oscar, a rider from Tijuana, who came up for this event. Cool stuff. Classy gear.
We ran into a lot of interesting people at the MSILSF land speed trials, including Josh from Scoot! magazine. He’s a cool guy. We talked for a bit. He may ride with us on our next Mexico trip. Josh has a scooter trip lined in Italy. I’ll bet that one’s going to be fun.
And one last shot of that magnificent Salsbury – an absolutely gorgeous machine. It’s the first one I’ve ever seen. My good buddy Jim up at Raceway Motors (our dealer in Oregon) tells me that a Salsbury can go for upwards of $20,000. This one was beautiful, and with a sidecar, it’s got to be a rare animal. What a bike, and it’s obviously not a hangar queen…it was out here racing in the rain, like everybody else. Well done!
Well, folks, that wraps up this blog entry. I probably put too many photos in, but hey, I’m having fun! In another day or two, I’ll add some videos, too. And if you’d like to see what the other folks did yesterday, check out the MSILSF results right here.
So, are you feeling lucky? You wanna race? Give us a call, and we’ll get you started!