The New Land Speed Racer

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Racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats has been on a list of goals for a few years now. I've talked about it a lot, but it was time to do something. I think Sue thought it was all talk, so when I showed up with the Buell, I was in the dog house for a while.

I had thought a lot about building a Sportster for the salt. I'm a self taught, mediocre, motorcycle mechanic but I understand how the push rod v-twins work, so that bike made sense to me. My buddy Steve, rides a Buell X1, and it's the same basic engine with a little bit of a head start on some of the go-fast components I would need so I started my search for a Buell.

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I like the X1 or "tuber" as it's sometimes called, because it looked like it would be easier to get inside it and monkey around (so far that's been true). That being said, everything is a lot more squeezed into the frame, so I've said a choice word or two as I've busted my knuckles trying to get at something that should be easy, but takes a more convoluted attack plan than working on a Road King.

My goal is to do a little every year (as I can free up cash for this project) and just have fun pretending to be a serious land speed racer. Since this is really the last place a private backyard mechanic can build something to race—and since Bonneville is in my back yard, I'm jumping in with both feet.

Eventually I'll do a little bit of streamlining, but for now, I'm going to just work on the engine, make it legal to race on the salt, and see how fast she'll go. Because I'm in undiscovered country most days, I'm pretty slow at it—but I'm having fun learning and getting my hands dirty.

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When Cortez landed in the New World, he burned the boats so his crew had to commit to what they were doing since there was no easy way to go back. I've "burned the boats" by taking off everything that makes her street legal, putting it all in plastic bags, and depositing it all in a box or two on a shelf in the garage.

So far I've replaced the air filter with a velocity stack, replaced the stock handlebars with a clubman bar, moved the ignition switch off the handle bar, removed the headlight (in anticipation of a fairing at some point), pulled off the blinkers, and removed the tail light. It's definitely a work in progress.

As Steve and I talk about the project long-distance, it's become clear that I should probably dyno her to get a baseline—which I'm working toward now. Probably sometime in the next month.

After that, this year's objectives will be to put in new cams and do all the safety stuff that needs to be done so I can run.