Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Zachary Norman and His Amazing Electric Motorcycle

[Slow Connection? Click to view the Viddler version.]

Numerous speed records have been achieved on the Bonneville Salt Flats, a surreal white plain that looks other-worldly. Some of the vehicles that race here look other-worldly, too. Imagine a 50cc streamliner rocketing down the salt speeds over 100mph, or the eerie whine of a lithium ion powered motorcycle, built on an old-school bobber frame.

The latter vehicle, built and raced by Zachary Norman of Venice, California, is the perfect juxtaposition of old and new technologies. Zack has outfitted a Flyright Choppers frame with a suitcase-sized lithium ion battery that powers an 84 volt, AC induction motor. A Curtis controller is matched to the AC motor for precise and smooth speed control. Zack also rides this motorcycle on the street, and claims a 50 mile range on a full charge.

Zack set a 69.059 mph record in the Omega class on his electric-powered motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats this August. He also clocked a run at 77 mph, and was trying to solidify that record with a second run. At the end of the day, he had set a world speed record of 73.056 mph. I interviewed Zack about his unique motorcycle as he was approaching the starting line.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Interview: Bob Milewsky, 2008 Chehalis Classic

The Chehalis Classic is one of the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association’s premier vintage events. Vintage MX Racing enthusiasts have been coming to “the farm” for 11-years. The farm is exactly what it sounds like – an agricultural property transformed into a great natural-terrain motocross track. This is the way things were done in the old days: Carve out a track, fire up the bikes, and then go racing.

A lot of people are attracted to vintage MX because the speeds are lower, and there aren’t so many punishing jumps and whoops like in modern motocross. This brings out riders of all ages, men and women, who have a love to race and ride older bikes.

The Chehalis Classic attracts vintage MX racers from all over the country. I was fortunate enough to run into a racer I had met at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb just a few weeks ago, Bob Milewsky and I sat down and talked about the Chehalis Classic, vintage motocross racing, and the special reasons that he and his wife Kim chose to attend this event.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Interview: Glenn Cox, "Lucky 13"

[Slow Connection? Click to view the YouTube version.]

Glenn Cox is a motorcycle racing privateer who is a seven-time competitor in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. This year he was racing a KTM Super Duke in the 1200 Class, alongside top racers such as Greg Tracy, Joe Kopp and Alexander Smith. The 1200cc motorcycle class is new at PPIHC. "It's not whiskey throttle, grab it and go," explains Cox, "You really have to play it finely, with a lot of finesse."

Handling a four-hundred pound street bike in the dirt sections is quite a challenge. Cox says that he can be doing 80mph in 4th gear and the rear wheel is still spinning from lack of traction. The bike is most at home in the paved sections, where Cox excels.

Cox's qualifying time put him on the front row at the 86th running of the race. Cox got the hole shot and ran the fastest pace he had ever carried up the mountain -- for about a mile and a half. After a perfect start, he led the race until Greg Tracy, as Glenn described it, "put a beautiful pass on me." Cox was determined to stay in front of the rest of his pursuers. He held the throttle open about a second too long while rocketing up the Picnic Grounds straightaway. When he finally grabbed the binders to break his 120 mph pace, it was too late. He couldn’t make the left-hand corner he was attempting to negotiate. Cranked over and sliding under full braking, he stood the bike up at the last moment and drifted off the pavement. Cox crashed into a 10 foot ravine and flew over the handle bars like a man being hurled into outer-space.

Waving like a beserker Viking, Glenn motivated eight spectators to help him drag his KTM up the embankment and back onto the course. Through sheer determination and a healthy dose of control, he managed to pass two other racers. Glenn finished in 9th place with a time of 14:38.

Glenn said it was ironic that he had been most worried about the dirt sections, and yet it was a paved section that bit him in the end. He admits that over-confidence on the pavement was the reason behind his mistake. Always the optimist, Glenn says he be a little wiser in next year's race.

In this video interview, conducted by Girl Wonder the day before the race, Glenn Cox shared his excitement and anticipation about running in the 2008 PPIHC on a KTM Super Duke.