Since finishing the Hilux build and filming the Dream Build Drive documentary I have been yearning for something new, the last 5 years had been a steep learning curve, a stretch on the budget and a testing time on my patience. After the Hilux was finished I had been asked a lot of times “what was next” and the simple answer was I have no idea, 2014 was full of good memories, a wedding, a honeymoon to the USA, a documentary release, Chopped, Qld Matsuri, WTAC and a hell of a good time on my prehistoric Harley gave me a lot of enjoyment. 2015 rolled around and all I wanted to do was fire up my dirt-bike and get lost in the forest somewhere.
That’s exactly what I did too, I spent a lot of time over the start of 2015 ontop of my KTM 350 SX-f, blasting the firetrails of the Victorian Alpine Region, it was the simple pleasure and break that I needed, the freedom to reflect on what I had been through and the vision to see what things could become.
I was coming back to camp after a long morning ride, it was the perfect day, I was stretching the legs of my KTM more and more each day, impressed with its ability to accelerate so hard that you could carry the front wheel basically till the rev limiter in top gear, thats 14,000rpm and the thrill never ever got old. How can a $5,000 motorcycle bring so much enjoyment.
Back at camp I started to wonder how fast a 350cc motorcycle could go, how you could find a road long enough to work out what the tallest gear possible would be, where that point would be that the torque would limit the speed. Having had a supermoto setup on my 250cc KTM in the past I downloaded the gear ratios on the 350sx-f, measure the rear tyres outer diameter, then selected the tallest gearing that was able to fit on both the rear wheel and the drive sprocket.
After a few minutes on the iPhone I was able to extract some numbers, minus all the real world resistances if the motor was able to rev to 14,000 rpm with some off the shelf tall gearing I could extract over 250kmh out of the rear wheel. That is pretty impressive from a 350cc single cylinder.
That night I started to think about it, how much wind resistance would be holding the bike back? Would the engine hold together for the length of time needed to get that speed? How would I find a road long enough to truly find out?
The next morning I filled the bike with fuel, checked the oil, fitted a clean filter then headed out to the forest. I found a fire trail the day before that was wide and smooth, if I got a run up from the road and hit it as fast as I could I could get a pretty good idea of what this gearing was capable of, so I did just that, I tightened my helmet, looked down the track and hit it.
1st 2nd 3rd off the bitumen and onto the dirt I was hauling, by the time I selected top gear I ducked down and the bike pulled hard, I couldn’t see that far ahead, everything was blurry, the bike was up in the RPM and there was still a lot of wheel-spin, I moved my weight further back and had the throttle pinned 100% wide open, I didn’t find the limiter on that run and decided to back off because I see the end of the trail and knew it would take a lot to pull it up.
I pulled it up just shy of the oncoming pine trees, I used the whole track, I looked down at the header pipe and it had lost all of its color, the bike was pretty warm so I turned around and kept moving to keep the air flowing through the radiators, I could see where I had been, it was obvious the bike wasn’t gripping up, I finished off my ride and went back to camp.
That night around the fire I started to wonder again, then it came to me, I remember visiting the Salt Lake with my parents as a kid, I know a group called the Dry Lakes Racers Association run events there, after a quick search I found the record results fro the fastest run ever made in Australia, to my suprise the 350cc category was almost empty, the production bike record was 85mph thats 136kmh, this bike I know is capable of much more.
I looked further into the event, the conditions and the rules, I downloaded the rule book and started thinking about how I could get there, do it on a budget but maximize my opportunities by doing it in the most valuable way possible.
The next morning I went for another ride, I had the rules buzzing around in my head, I narrowed down the possibilities into two scenarios, 1 take the stock bike, change the gearing and compete in the Production Class, its cheap, its easy and it sets a new benchmark for a production 350cc speed. the downside to that is I am just on a dirt-bike, I don’t need 300mm of suspension travel, I don’t the big frontal area of a stock dirt bike holding me back with resistance. Scenario 2 would go like this, I would skip modified class because of the immense amount of design rules, I would move straight to Special Construction, Special Construction gave me the most freedom as a builder, I know I am capable of producing something special so I start the design process in my head.
When I get back to the camp I ring a few people, one being Dean, and one being Matt, the adventure quickly turns into a documentary idea and the planning stage is quickly put into action, we have a limited time frame and everyone is working on the idea.
So this is the beginning of a story, a tale of a humble dirt bike that will transform into a Land Speed Racer, best of all you will watch every step unfold on this very page!
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