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Spare Parts: Ton Up

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The first time I remember hitting 100 mph was on a family trip to Disney World. I was maybe 10 years old as Dad opened up the butterflies on the family wagon. Today, you’d probably lose your children to family services for such behavior, but for me, it was better than any ride Disney had to offer.

I was reminded of this recently during a chance meeting in a hospital outpatient waiting room. I’d met another rider there while passing the time, each of us waiting on our parent to have some tests done as a result of having gone well beyond their bodies’ personal recommended service intervals. The other rider was likeable and entertaining with high-speed stories and dyno numbers at the ready for everything in his stable of big boy toys and it was a big stable. There in the hospital, wrapped in his tales of special editions and one-of-a-kinds, hitting a hundred from the back seat of a ’71 Dodge wagon seemed kind of weak-kneed by comparison, but I’m guessing your first time to 100 probably wasn’t much different. There is an allure about 100 mph (a.k.a. “The Ton”) and you answer it with a mash of the foot or a twist of the wrist, just so you can say you did.

My first time over 100 on a bike made less of a lasting memory; though it was undoubtedly more visceral, I can’t even tell you what I was on. But I know subsequent forays to the far side have left me with tears in my ears. That’s a side effect you should know about. I’ve been there on Sportsters, baggers and imports and Commander Cody was right on when he described, “Telephone poles looking like a picket fence.”

Rocky Robinson, the World’s Fastest Man on Two Wheels, once said, “There can only be one World’s Fastest.” He’s right, of course, but everyone is looking for a loophole and that’s why you see so many classes for Land Speed Racing. We’d all like to be the World’s Fastest, but the cold hard truth is we aren’t and probably couldn’t be even if we had the chance.

In my judgment, 100 mph is the entry level benchmark for speed. There are many beyond that, but that’s where it starts. Years ago, many years before my Dad was crowned World’s Fastest Man in a ’71 Fury with a Family of Four on I-95, going 100 mph wasn’t just a matter of mashing the gas or twisting your wrist. Not everything was capable of hitting 100 right out of the box. The effort that went into getting it there would have made it a different game entirely. The chances taken mechanically to squeeze that last few mph needed to reach 100 would have been exhilarating. Would it hold? Would it blow? Far different from today’s world. I’ve had a taste of that with some of my bikes and it’s thrilling.

Before I get black flagged for inciting illegal activities on a public roadway, please keep your speed on the track. There are lots of instructional courses for cars and bikes to make you faster and if you take one, you’re most likely to find out how fast you aren’t. Back in the 90’s, we got Dad one of those Nascar driving experiences for a gift. Not wanting him to go alone, I got one too. It was soon after that driving experiences started to be a “thing.” I figured somebody would crash and sue before too long and ruin it for all of us, so we’d better do it while we could. It was great fun and a real eye-opener. Today the single-lap qualifying record for Nascar at Charlotte Motor Speedway is held by Kurt Bush at 198.71 mph. I’d like to tell you we were doing 170 during our session but the truth is our lap times were probably in the 130s arrived at by timing the VCR footage taken by my wife then comparing it to speed charts on the Internet, because they didn’t do all of that for you in 1993, not even for $250.

Most stories of speed are premised on the unprovable. For example, “I passed him so fast he looked like he was sitting still.” OK. How fast, exactly, would that be? I had a ’66 GTO that was pretty fast. Faster than the Mustang in the next lane until it ran out of gas. Then it wasn’t very fast at all, unless they started measuring times for the Four Man Push to a Gas Station four blocks away. The farthest I ever pushed a bike that was out of gas was 3/10 of a mile. I did that alone and never felt slower at any time in my life. I don’t have a time slip on that one either.

How fast you go and how fast it feels are not the same. Neither are fast and quick. So enjoy yourself, keep it safe and remember, somewhere, someone is most likely faster than you. There’s only one “World’s Fastest” and unless you answer to the name “Rocky,” and you’re on the salt, it ain’t you, cause the road can’t hold the World’s Fastest.

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