Even Big Sid Biberman isn't immune to the "salt bug." From his humble beginnings as a Vincent drag racer in the 1950s to his current role as one of the world's preeminent Vincent authorities and the subject of son Matthew's cult-classic books Vincents with Big Sid and Big Sid's Vincati, the big man has had a remarkable motorcycle career. Still, one major accomplishment eluded him: a land-speed record at Bonneville.
Biberman had been to the Great White Dyno to spectate and assist other Vincent racers, but never to compete with his own bike. In his 80s now and unwilling to let this dream go unfulfilled, Big Sid Racing finally entered the 2011 BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials with two vintage Vincents: "Tina," the 600cc Comet single on which we set an ECTA record in 2009 (see "Overtime Tina," MC, February 2010), and "Lola," a recently resurrected Rapide V-twin.
The downside to setting a Bonneville record is the mandatory teardown. On the “frameless”
Bonneville is notoriously unforgiving to rookies, even those as accomplished as Biberman. Tina went as fast as 110.9 mph (against a 114-mph record) before she was sidelined with a salt-corrupted Lucas distributor. Lola also suffered jetting and valvetrain complications, but a two-way average of 109.079 mph was fast enough for team rider Logan Robison to set a new AMA National Vintage Gas record.
Crew chief Matthew was humbled, but still pleased with the result. "We didn't achieve the potential of either bike, but we set a record and went home without any significant damage and smiles on our faces," he said. "Ultimately, that's a success."
Big Sid's post-mortem was somewhat saltier: "Bonneville? She's like the whore that gives you the ride of your life, and then when you get home your dick falls off. There's salt everywhere. It'll take a year to clean these bikes!"