Tuesday, July 6, 2021

An Update on the Race

 [As time allows I'll get back to the series on the actual build of this replica of my 1987 Pro Stock bike, but for now here is this]

Jane and I arrived home safe and sound from the Iowa Hog Drags, so I thought I should give an update on how things went for us and the replica of “The Beast”.  First of all, Jay Rogers did another stellar job of putting the event together, so thank you Jay and crew. I also need to thank my old racing buddy Aard for riding through two days of rain all the way from Phoenix in order to be mistreated as our pit crew. 

Before loading up to go to Humboldt, Jane and I had already come to the conclusion that we would need to add a little height to the seat in order for my aging knees to get my feet on the footpegs in time to shift. Jane cut some padding that we could take along and duct-tape onto the aluminum seat that I fabricated earlier in the week; I didn’t want to spoil the clean looks of the bike before we even arrived.

Friday afternoon, after Aard and I finished our entry into the world’s ugliest seat contest (complete with wrinkles in the duct-tape) we took the bike up for its first pass.  I was far from comfortable with the seating position which led to a lackluster burn out, but that wasn’t of much concern since it was essentially a shake-down pass.  Coming up to the staging lights I had to fight the urge to allow my legs to swing back into a lay-down position.  In retrospect, I realized that I have not ridden a sit-up drag bike since about 1991, which may explain a lot.  I think I had my feet only a couple inches behind the footpegs when I dropped the clutch, but the force of the launch immediately sent my legs backwards into a lay-down position.  Trying to pull my feet forward and onto the pegs shifted my weight enough that only one wheelie bar wheel was on the asphalt to do its job, so as you might imagine I was no longer going in a straight line.  Of course, when its well past time to shift and your foot is still not in position, the acceleration drops off drastically.  It felt like I was a quarter of the way down the 1/8 mile track before I was able to get my feet on the pegs and hit second gear.  The good news is that, though The Beast was still not going perfectly straight, it pulled really hard the rest of the pass.  The elapsed time was an embarrassing 10.20 but with a hopeful (all things considered) 90.37 MPH.  Unfortunately the 60 foot time clocks were not operational in the left lane

Later Friday evening, we attempted another stab at it in the right lane, but lost clutch release capability between the water box and staging lights.  Being done for the day, we got the bike back to the trailer and disassembled just far enough to confirm that it was probably the throw out bearing and not something more serious.  The next morning revealed that indeed a thrust washer on the throw out bearing had broken in half, and since I had a spare in the tool box, we were soon back in business.

Another round of test and tune on Saturday allowed us to get The Beast up to the line for a second pass.  While waiting in line to start I noted the track crew cleaning up a small oil spill in the right lane (with its functional 60 foot clock), so I opted for the left lane again.  This time I was very conscious of getting my feet ahead of the footpegs as I staged the bike.  The results, however were the same.  The bike launched so hard that despite my best efforts, the acceleration immediately sent my legs to the rear in a “lay down” position.  Once again it was far beyond shift time with the bike practically nosing over before I could get my feet on the pegs to shift.  The result was another embarrassing E.T. of 9.22, but this time at 97.1 MPH, …and another throw out bearing thrust washer broke as I turned off the end of the track onto the return road.

Now, living up north, I am no stranger to the phenomenon of a bike feeling really fast on that first ride of spring after a long winter storage, so part of it may be chalked up to that, but I honestly do not remember riding a drag bike which launched so “violently”. Obviously 34 years have passed since I rode The Beast in that particular configuration, so the old body is not as flexible as it once was, but I have to admit to still being a bit baffled as to why I was unable to get my feet on the pegs in a timely manner.  

We installed my last thrust washer onto the throw out bearing, pulled three springs out of the clutch for good measure, and waited for eliminations.  The only plan I could come up with was to launch the bike really softly, get my feet on the pegs and then, and only then, crank the throttle.  That worked, … sort of.  I’m not exactly sure why, but my test and tune passes were all on a .500 full tree, but the elimination run was a .400 pro tree. I’d like to think that’s what caused my reaction time to be .400 slower that my opponent’s .067 light, but part of it could have been my concentration on taking it easy on the launch – that just doesn’t come naturally.  Doesn’t matter though, Troy Fittro on the number 76 bike had me by .400 on the E.T. as well, so he earned the win either way.

Now for next year (God willing that there is a next year), in the interest of safety I may need to move the pegs back and make it a lay down bike.  There’s a little time to sort that out, …along with the clutch. If you think I’d be depressed with such a lackluster initial outing you would be wrong.  It was a great time, and the top end charge of the bike felt truly awesome from where I sat.  However, one of the best parts of the weekend was an idea that I came up with on the return road from the last pass.  I asked Aard to pull us (me and The Beast) over to where Pete Hill had his Top Fuel Knucklehead on display.  I asked Pete if he could give me some of his Knucklehead magic by autographing the gas tank on The Beast.  Gentleman that Pete is, he obliged and made my already good weekend even better!