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2014 Bonneville Speed Trials

Posted on October 8, 2014 by Andrew in Other. 12 comments


Written by Pierre Robichaud.

Bonneville. It conjures up many a mental image. To the average Joe, it means that motorcycle movie with the guy who played Hannibal Lecter… if it registers at all. And to most of us, it refers to a legendary bike and a popular Utah destination toward the top of our bucket list. But to an increasingly rare breed, its true meaning can only understood by actually experiencing it.


Prior to going to the Bonneville Speed Trials, formerly BUB, my perception was that it was ruled by motorcycle companies and rich people there to break records. But to my surprise, there were many individual racers there just to run. They were without support, sponsors or any real help at all. They had come from all over the world with beautiful bikes: crusty, rusty, bone stock and polished show bikes alike.

There also seemed to be a small but dedicated group of younger men and, somewhat surprisingly, women racers ready to carry the torch forward. Small shops like Super Rat and Sodium Distortion were making a buzz with sick bikes and movies about their pursuit of land speed records. Someone said it was like a family reunion – one that you actually wanted to attend. But, early on in the week it didn’t look like it would happen at all.


The day before the event, at the edge of the salt, gray skies poured rain. It was a lake for almost as far as you could see. Tons of salt had been dumped at the end of the road to try to create a bridge to the other side, but its construction couldn’t outpace the rain. Speed Week had been cancelled several weeks before. And at the last minute, too. But there were assurances that our track had been shifted onto dry salt and you just had to get out to it. But you would need to make the slow trek to and from the pits every day through water 6-8 inches deep.


The weather at Bonneville is always capricious and this year even more so. This can make racing difficult, as a densely clouded sky would crack open spilling out sunshine and then minutes later, it would be swallowed up again only to be replaced by gusting wind. It could be blowing at 17mph past the start while 3 miles down at the end of the track, it would be a lowly 4mph. Sometimes you may wait minutes or even hours for the right conditions. But, it’s in spite of, or because of these experiences that Bonneville has its allure.


As we waited, I overheard a guy say to a group huddled around a bike called ‘Salt Shaker’ that the salt gets into everything, even the oil. He wasn’t lying; you taste it on your lips and it seems to permeate everything. Obviously, it finds its way into your veins too, as these salt junkies are lured back year after year. I’d bargain that once you have a taste of salt, the experience will give new meaning to Bonneville and that is what it is to be a Salt Flat racer.


[Photos by Pierre Robichaud, AMA and Bonneville Speed Trials]

  • B. J. Parker

    Gorgeous photos and compelling narrative.

  • TJ Martin

    See … thats the thing when it comes to all the Bonneville events [ cars and bikes ] It IS the very last bastion of speed where the little guy , limited of funds yet flush with ingenuity , talent and skill CAN go head to head with multi billion dollar corporations …. and have a good chance of coming out on top . And if one should chose not to go up against the big money there are plenty of other classes available to race in where only the little guys participate . Along with … got some weird , eccentric , off the wall idea of what an LSR bike [or car ] should be ? As long as it meets the safety regs .. there’s a class for you as well .

    But beware anyone considering entering the Salt arena . This is hard core reality . Not virtual hipster ironic coolness able to be faked or taken lightly . So take it seriously . Very seriously indeed … from prep right on down to health and nutrition … or it’ll bite you so hard and so quick your head’ll be spinning for months afterwards … assuming that is you survive . As the guys from El Solitario can attest to .

    In closing Andrew . Great photos and brilliant mini essay ! Keep this level of writing up and you’ll be needing to write a book some time in the future as well 😉

    • Ture Gustafson

      Baja 1000.

      • TJ Martin

        Close mind you .. but as we ‘ Mericuns ‘ like to put it … no banana . Which is to say … Baja used to be but not any longer Too many rules . Too little freedom . Way too expensive [ if you wish to accomplish anything more than just being a part of the fray ] And in reality the little guy doesn’t stand a bats chance in hell of even being competitive .. never mind prevailing over the big money teams at Baja these days .

        So .. Nope ! Bonneville is the only one !

        • John Keegan

          @TJMARTIN, gawd help me I was almost ready to agree with you,but nope. (1) Bonne isn’t about the last bastion of individual vs enterprise. There are countless AMA club sponsored 1/4 milers and enduros and 1/4 mile events etc.. that are enthusiast driven. (2) there are rules in every one. (3) it’s allllll expensive, even the Ninja 250 road class can cost a second mortgage when factoring in travel, time, repairs, hospital, divorce (4) you miss the idea of Bonne entirely…it isn’t the winning, it’s the being there and running.

          If you had ever been, you’d know.

          • B. J. Parker

            As a little guy, it’s kindda my dream just to participate in both of the these amazing events (Baja 1000 and Bonneville). I doubt I’ll get to for some time, if ever, because John Keegan is right – jsut participating costs an arm and a leg!

  • Tyler Stone

    Oh man, some of these bikes should get full features. Really liking 2,3,5,6, and 7. Really want to see a closer shot of 6, that thing looks sick.

    • It’s all about 1 for me. Damn!

      • John Keegan

        I see a couple of ringdings, so there must be a moped pit bike in the background that I’m missing.

    • Tigger

      Bikes 3 and 6 look the most interesting to me. 1 looks like mechanical nightmare! Imaging what would need to be removed to change the plugs :]

  • russelllowe

    I love this place. For me Bonneville has to be one of the greatest places on earth. I raced my CB750 there in 2013 and 2014 and have big plans for a redo in 2015. I started with a $385 dollar motor from eBay that was a little bit seized when I got it (broke free after some juice down the spark plugs and some wiggling on the crank). I got it to 109.974mph this year; on the very last run if the whole event … Only 2mph under another CB750 that had $7k in his motor alone. Keep in mind it’s pretty hard to go fast at Bonneville (but the only place if you want to go really fucken fast!). And I haven’t opened the motor up yet. In fact, I met a guy Joe from Colorado who is going to freshen it up for me for next year … How did I know he was the right guy to do the rebuild? His CB350 did 119mph! Of course he’s done a bit of work on that one!

    Last thing I’ll say, Firestone Champion Deluxe tires run really nice at Bonnevill

  • Last year I was in the area and able to catch enough of it to know I needed to add making a run to the bucket list.

    I snapped this shot of Mark Bjorklund who in a few minutes would soon be going, according to the official record, 163mph.