We left for Bonneville Speed Week 2019 with high hopes and more prepared than ever before. A month prior to Speed Week we knew the salt flats were still underwater but starting to dry out so we prepared the bikes the best we could, and headed to the salt the first week of August. Our convoy with our friends from King Street Cycle arrived in Salt Lake City the day before racing started.....and so did the thunderstorms. It was a pretty quiet ride to the salt as we had no idea what to expect. We have had a couple years canceled due to weather, so we knew what the last minute storms could mean.
When we arrived at the salt our spirts lifted, the entrance at lands end looked pretty decent, but the further we got out onto the salt the more potholes and standing water we came upon. We set the pits up and proceeded to tech, got through the inspections and paperwork, and were ready to race. Saturday morning we showed up on the salt for the drivers meeting....and were told the tracks were too wet and we would be on hold until at least Monday.
It was hot and dry so we were still hopeful things would dry out and improve and we could get at least a few days racing in. After the time, energy, and money spent over a year you can't just pack it up and head home! We spent the next few days hanging with our friends, talking to other racers, doing last minute improvements and troubleshooting, and had my bachelor party. I mean where better than the Nevada/Utah border with so many of our friends and family together....and no 5am alarm to be at the start line! Those leisurely days are definitely not the norm, and despite the fact that we weren't racing, everyone seemed to have a great time catching up with our friends from all over the world we see at Bonneville each year.
After four days of sitting and waiting, the call was finally made and racing would begin at 7:30am Tuesday. However, there would only be one course instead of the usual 3 to 4. That means everyone there had the same destination: course 1. We got a good night's sleep and headed to the salt....and right into the biggest line of traffic we have seen on the salt in 9 years. Like with much of racing, we hurried up and waited. We got onto the salt and headed straight to the start line and took our place in line, about 100 vehicles back. Racing started, the line moved forward, and the weather got hotter. We got more excited the closer we got to the 0 mile marker, even though reports of the slat conditions were not great and the occasional spin out or accident occurred.
Just before 3pm, after waiting in in line all day, Tyler got to the front of the line and prepared to run, and we all went to the start line to watch. He fired his bike up and took off, and it sounded great! As he was almost out of sight near the 1 mile mark I saw a flash and cloud of salt, and I said "he went down" and I waited to see or hear the bike, and my gut dropped when I heard "rider down" over the CB. The chase van was already on its way down and I was trying to decide how I would get my van down the track with the vehicles and people blocking the line, when my friend Liz Leggett used her long range lens on her camera to look down course. She saw Tyler stand up and walk around his bike as the SCTA patrol vehicles and ambulances rushed over. I have to say it felt like an hour until we had word from Greg and Joe that Tyler was ok and they were checking him out then heading back to tech. In the meantime they cut racing off for the day due to conditions.
I jumped in a van and we all rushed over to tech, and there was Tyler, arm in a splint, smiling and talking to the tech guys explaining what happened. I hugged him and finally felt calmer. He was a lucky guy. He said he got a bit of a front wheel wobble going while in fourth gear ands tried to move over and find a firmer bit of salt on the course. There wasn't firmer salt, all the race vehicles spinning their wheels over the course of the day had loosened the surface over huge areas. The wobble turned into a tank slapper and he went down. His front wheel taco-ed as he high sided and the bike went over 3-4 times taking him with it for at least one rotation. The bike was pretty beat up, but we took it back to the pits and the guys jumped on it and managed to start it up. The frame looks okay and it is definitely repairable. Tyler fared about the same, still running and repairable. Joe and Greg drove him to the hospital that evening in Salt Lake City where they gave him the full trauma experience. CT scans, ultrasounds to ensure no organ damage, neck brace and x-rays. The x-rays show a unique series of fractures in his forearm's radial bone. A series of fractures running lengthwise from the joint. That is where the brunt of the impact from the crash went. As they say any accident you can walk away from...
The next morning Andy from King Street, Alp. and myself were all still waiting to run, but after looking at the course I decided to pull out of line. To me it felt the same as the day before, and with lay down design motorcycles with almost no suspension and slicks, it did not feel worth the risk. It was a seriously hard decision to make even with what happened to Tyler, the course conditions, the year worth of work and anticipation, and slow track speeds, but the first vehicle to run spun out and made me feel I made the right decision. I spoke with Andy and not too long after and he pulled out as well, and Alp felt the course was not safe to run his partial streamliner either. It wasn't worth the risk; to set record speeds you need good optimal conditions. We didn't want to risk our bodies or bikes on sub par conditions. Bear from Old Bike Barn had the best week of us all, completing his rookie run on the 1-mile short / rookie course (which was in good condition), and getting a feel for the salt with a total of 13 runs on his 1st year. He had pulled the 1969 CB750 engine form his survivor chopper that debuted at Fuel Cleveland this year and dropped it into his totally stock 1976 CB750 chassis so he could run the 1st-year motor and celebrate the 50th anniversary. He managed to push the stock bike to 100.113 mph at 5779 feet, meeting his goal of doing the ton on the salt, and paying tribute to his favorite motorcycle.