Thursday, 31 December 2015

salty water on the salty flats at Bonneville.

 . . . Bonneville Speed Week was cancelled last year caused by flooding of the salt due primarily to the lakes bed filling back up with some recent rain water descending from the surrounding hills.
   It used to be a sea-water lake which rose up over millions of years with the Rocky Mountains and over time lost it's water to evaporation leaving behind the salt all nice and flat and visually impressive.     We look forward to lots of sunshine evaporating off the flood water as it has done so rapidly in the past so that Speed Week will proceed as scheduled in 2016,   and our own team preparations continue as they must !       . . . and bike build is coming along very well thanks to the expertise of Chris, experience of Richard and supervision of John.

I help out too with the less-skilled stuff which is probably just as well for all involved.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Bonneville Film which tells a good story.

One of the classic films about Bonneville is "The World's Fastest Indian" starring Anthony Hopkins.  This is an endearing and pleasently sentimental film which features a 'fairy tale' perspective on the achievements of ranked outsider Burt Munro from Invergargill, New Zealand as he heads over to America to naively compete at Speed Week at Bonneville salt flats on his trusty old Indian motorcycle.    

The film successfully captures some of the intense atmosphere of the event and features an array of the sort of astounding machines that one is only likely ever to see at Bonneville.

I rate this film quite highly although it does sugar-coat Burt's character and infact he was an altogether more complex individual than comes over in the film,   this is understandable for the context of a feel-good story, however a more in depth view of Burt is found in the book "One Good Run" by Tim Hanna

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Starting with the rule book

the must-have book for Bonneville

. . .   Rules and Regulations for participation in Bonneville Speed Week are numerous, comprehensive and generally make sense.
   All machines participating require to undergo a complete technical inspection to ensure that safety concerns are satisfied and that machines are fit for purpose,   that proper protective clothing is worn by participants,  that rider/drivers have the ability to control their machines at speed parameters,  and that there will be minimal danger to spectators and event volunteers due to participant behaviour.
   All new rider/drivers must attend a 'Rookie Orienteering Meeting' prior to a competitive run on the Course.   No one may participate in the event without first receiving a 'licence' confirming that Event organisers consider a participant fit and able to take part.    Medical Information forms must be completed,  and of course a participation fee is paid.     There we are,   simple !

   Interestingly, in the Special Recreation Permit Stipulations, the very FIRST rule is  " No person shall discharge firearms, fireworks or other dangerous weapons".   This may seem surreal to British people, but to Americans this is normality.

More about the rules later !

Sunday, 22 November 2015

All bikes need bits, . . . lots of bits.

   My motorcycle which will be used to attempt World Records in 2016 at Bonneville, Utah is made up of two donated engines from Murray's Motorcycle Museum on the Isle Of Man, and a foraged-frame pulled from a pile of discarded 'futures'.   Other parts have been brought together quite skillfully by the build Team of Chris, Ron, Richard and John with a little help from myself.    To start with it looked like a pile of feasible salvage but over time and many committed hours work in several workshops a real-contender motorcycle is now taking shape.

  Part of the success of this bike-build has a lot to do with the excellent parts resource that is the leading Royal Enfield dealership called Hitchcocks.       Parts availability and speed of service are excellent and with both my engines being originally Royal Enfield 250 Continental GT's, having a reliable source for vintage parts and spares is invaluable for Bonneville-standard preparation of a motorcycle.

Here's a video of what they are all about,   it's quite old-fashioned in all the right ways and free of the veneer increasingly noticeable in the modern bike scene.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Bike-fit and skipping ropes !

bag with sandwiches and a flask of tea,   how very VMCC
   . . . this is the only bike I ever bought new, and it cost me £8,000 which needed a Credit Union loan and some hard-earned savings, but since 1998 my trusty triumph thunderbird sport has provided thousands of miles of fresh air, sunny days and quite a few soakings when the rain fell, which it does a lot in Scotland.   It's on this bike that I discovered my own Country via it's minor roads, remote locations and a few malt whisky distilleries.
     In preparing for my Bonneville land speed challenge in 2016 the practical experience of small-road (and occasionally rough track riding) has provided a level of experience which has helped in what is called "bike-fitness" and this has been recently complemented with some off-road dirt bike practise around the Isle Of Man to boost competence for the temperamental surface that is a salt flat.    Pushing some heavy weights in the gym is all very good, and skipping for fifteen minutes twice a week is great,  but off-road and track-day riding makes a big difference in terms of preparation for the intensity of the moment on the salt where I either set a speed record,    or I don't.     

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Time in the Workshop for modifications.

 . . . it is of course perfectly acceptable to take any standard production bike to the salt flats in Bonneville, Utah and attempt a world record speed run.   Naturally, to ensure safety and standards certain protocols must be observed as found in the participant instruction form.    Personal protective gear including helmet, gloves, boots and suit must be of a minimum standard as set by the organisers before one is allowed to participate.   The vehicle, whether it be a bike, car or lorry must have necessary modifications including the wire-locking of nuts and bolts before participation is allowed.
All this can easily be done to a standard road bike and proper protective 'gear' is easily sourced.

   Seriously attempting world records (rather than simply participating in a fun-run) will most probably require modification of existing bikes and possibly a complete rebuild with re-engineering of not just the engine, but the running-chassis too.

Crew Chief Richard has had the cutter, welder and grinder out recently and I have been helping him (as best I can) with 'adjustments' under the watchful eye of Team Chairman John,   . . . who keeps us all from getting over-excited !
left a bit, right a bit !
making the frame fit !

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Covering the costs of the Bonneville Challenge.

 . . . it's just the practicalities of the situation of building, transporting and riding a motorcycle half-way round the World.
Freighting, van hire and other associated costs like fuel, Insurance required spares and equipment mean that any attempt at a Record during Speed Week will be expensive.

The best way to deal with costs is be rich,     or if your not rich, generate some extra cash in instalments and in plenty of time before hand so as not to be put under pressure nearer the time.

Two of my recent fund-raisers have been an unexpected opportunity to hold an art exhibition in Glasgow where all fourteen of my pictures sold for £120 a piece to whisky-fans who follow me online.   (which is one reason for having an online activity blog or vlog)  so I raised £1,680.

Also I put a few bottles of whisky into auction which I have been saving over the years for a "rainy day" and have raised  £2,285 from their sale to collectors.

Total raised from just two events is now £3,965 to which I've added £35 to round it off to £4,000

As well as special fund-raisers like these events just mentioned I am putting by £50 a week in a cash-fund as it is easy to use the 'piggy bank' system of small regular deposits rather than trying to accommodate a big amount near the time.

I am skipping out on sweets and beer to get the £50 a week,   and I buy less fancy food at the supermarket too,  which all helps.

One of my exhibition pictures from my Inverarity Art Show in Glasgow.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The cost of Bonneville Speed Week Challenges.

 . . . like so many things in life,  to attempt to achieve an objective (in this case, some World records at SpeedWeek) requires organisation and commitment which is followed up with the application of cash !

Motorcycle racing is expensive,   many road-racers like those we see competing in the T.T. on the Isle of Man live lives in near constant debt,   financing from race to race and skipping all luxuries like holidays, clothes and insurance policies.      With a Bonneville records attempt things are more one-off and so planning financially is easier to organise.    

The biggest cost for more participants is the build-cost of the machines being used.
This can vary from £6,000 for a small, simple bike to over £40,000 for a higher-specification bespoke bike with many one-off parts.

Other costs include -

- Freighting of machines to the U.S.A. including crate and spares
- Cost of transport hire in the U.S.A. for transportation of both machines and team members.
- Fuel, food, local equipment and additional local costs.
- Accommodation.
- Fees and participation costs for Bonneville including Entry Fee, competitor insurance and merchandise.
- Race suit, helmet, boots and gloves.
- Water for drinking !

In my next Blog-spot I will discuss how I go about raising the cash to make "Salty Wheels' a reality.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Making time to share my experience and knowledge with whisky-fans

 . . . Last week I spent some time In Glasgow, Scotland visiting friends and catching up with people I have known for years.      It does us good not to be constantly immersed in our big ambitions for World Records or whatever thing is dominating our lives at a given moment,    and stepping aside from our routines can be a regular tonic.
   The whisky-fans who turned up for my fund-raiser evening at the goodspiritscompany in Bath Street, Glasgow certainly enjoyed themselves and we had a great time with all the profits from the evening going to the Drumchapel (an estate in north-west Glasgow) Food Bank which provides valuable support for families who through no fault of their own can be going without meals if it were not for the presence of their local Food Bank.  There are many of these places around the U.K. now and more will be required the way things are going.
The event was totally sold out with demand for another tasting later on from those who missed getting tickets !

£433 was raised and a big thank you to all the enthusiastic bidders who made the bottle auction such a success at the end of the night.

The Whisky List was -

Carn Mor GlenTauchers 5yo
Deerstalker 12yo
Clynelish cask 1998
Auchentoshan cask 22yo
Glen Esk cask 26yo
Port Charlotte 2004

 . . . ALL whiskies high strength and natural colour.

One of my little duties as a presenter in the tasting room is to sign the "Ambassadors Wall"  which is what I am doing here,   for the second time.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Jurby Festival of Motorcycles 2015

 . . . and yet another sunny warm bright day for what is now the Isle of Mans most notable one-day motorcycle event,   and which happens just before a week of vintage and colourful racing by older bikes (but not necessarily older riders) round the 37.73 mile circuit of the T.T. Mountain Course.

     I took the opportunity to help team-mate Chris with a little bit of personal fund-raising by handing out leaflets advertising his own blogspot page which you will find at...

Our two blogspots vary considerably in that Chris's content tends to be a lot more technical and analytical  than here at 'saltywheels' where I keep things more anecdotal and logistically focused.
I will be discussing Bonneville Speed Week practicalities as I go along with this journey to Speed Week 2016.
Team colours to be worn at all Team events.  Not often you will see me in a tie !

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Preparing for Bonneville with T.T. racer advice.

I am fortunate to be part of a great Team preparing to go to Bonneville in 2016.   Our Chairmen John has practical experience having been to the Salt Flats in 2012.  Our Team leader Richard is a consecutive World Record holder at Bonneville Speed Week and Chris who is riding the 600cc motorbike has years of experience with bikes, both riding and building them.  All our helpers and crew are experienced capable people who will multi-task with ease.   This gives us a huge advantage of not going into this event blind and unprepared for what will be involved and required to gain some World Records.     An extra perspective and opinion is of course always welcome and my mate Connor Cummins who is well used to the demands of competition motorcycle racing has recently suggested that I repeatedly watch footage of on board camera videos by racers lapping the T.T. course.
   He has said that if I watch the footage repeatedly (about six times or more) it will start to look less blurry and become more accessible which in turn will give me more insight into bike control and road positioning at high speed.

     Although there are no roads as such on the salt flats, there are marked boundaries to the course and unlike the T.T. course there is not much 'furniture' (that's ANY stuff getting in the way at the edges of the track like houses, walls and trees) but a racers focus and calmness before the event will be very helpful in targeting our potential achievements.

Conor is setting up a coffee company at the moment, and in the pic below, he shows us his 'preping' for a busy day selling espressos and cappuccinos at the recent Ramsey Sprint held during G.P. race week.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Getting our engine running. First fire-up of one of our two new engines.

 . . . not so easy to start at first but this is hardly unexpected,   brand new and unique engines need a little time and patience to get going, but the wait was well rewarded with a magnificent roar from the exhaust and the delightful smell of Castrol R engine oil getting hot.

will it start or wont it start ?
The team were on location at a quieter part of the Isle of Man to prime and fire-up the carefully prepared converted Royal Enfield 250cc engine which has been placed into a donor running chassis as a temporary home until the new frame is completed.    After a few failed starts the engine fired-up well and after a few runs it was identified what minor, but important adjustments were required to improve the general performance ,     but for the moment things are looking good.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Traily bike Fitness for salt-racing.

 . . . It is well proven by the likes of John McGuiness and other T.T. racers that to be fit for motorbike racing you are best to include bike-related fitness programmes so to help prepare the Team for Bonneville in 2016 team Captain Richard has had us out and about on off-road bikes.  
   The Team have been out on some very rough tracks and paths with myself looking after a little 125cc Honda which has proven to be remarkably forgiving of my many tumbles and novice-wipeouts.    No bones broken yet thank goodness and I do seem to be improving slightly in terms of balance and ability,     . . . and I hope the flooding situation at Bonneville improves too because for a second consecutive year Bonneville Speed Week has been cancelled by organisers due to the problem of flooding on the salt.   I do hope that everything will be dry for 2016 as Utah is a long way to travel for another short notice cancellation.

the trail bikes are certainly a good way to physically fit-up for Bonneville because the combination of altitude, heat and rough salt surface,  and I do mean rough (like a chip-gravel drive-way),  makes the salt tracks during Speed Week rather skiddy so thank goodness it's all in a (relatively) straight line for the runs.

Chris has started his own Blogspot called  Bonneville2016  and I hope you will go across to view his on-going blog as he introduces a lot more detailed technical information than I can.

Windy Corner on a less-windy day.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Launch of 2016 Bonneville Project happening soon.

. . . with just over a year to go before heading over to Bonneville, Utah from the Isle Of Man,  preparations are well on the go with assembling and testing my two engines for the bike.
The Class will be 250cc and I hope to exceed 100mph which will be a challenge for the machines due to the altitude of 4000ft above sea level.         We hope that the salts will be dry and firm for our visit after the unfortunate recent flooding.