It’s amazing. For one week, you’re pretty much cut off from the outside world while you’re on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Cell reception is weak and sometimes non-existent. You’re at the mercy of the very brutal environment being that the Salt Flats are at 4000 feet. It’s arid, and at this time of the year, extremely hot and windy. And you’re very exposed.
However, all that matters for everyone on the Salt is time, speed and time (or vice versa). For many the goal is to pass the 200mph mark, or maybe the 150mph mark, or simply to to get a run in and a slip of paper that gives you your numerical reward for giving it a go.
All ages take part. Like 78-year-old Sandy Vetter aboard her Yamaha 350cc two-stoke who just about kissed 100mph. There is no “gender” in this facet of motorcycle racing. It’s just how fast you go. That’s what makes this so pure.
You need nerves of steel as well. The “race track” isn’t a smooth piece of asphalt. It’s a compacted, groomed track of salt, nine miles in length. The speed, or timed mile, is recorded between mark 5 and mark 6. But the Salt is a “living” thing, and changes throughout the day. If the day becomes warmer and the wind picks up, moisture can be drawn up from under the salt and cause the track to become crunchy. An overnight shower can make the top surface slick or greasy.
So to ride a motorcycle, flat out at 80, 100, 160 or even at 238-plus mph as we witnessed this week takes a high level of concentration and a whole lot of nerve.
Throw in the wind factor and certain machines cannot run if the winds are too high. Valerie Thompson’s Team 7 Streamliner is such an entry. Other similarly shaped machines have different wind maximums but regardless, when you’re traveling at 150-200 mph on un-faired machines, or naked bikes, you’re going to feel every gust from the wind, and every bump of the Salt.
It’s a family event for everyone who is involved in the BMST, now in it’s 14th year, so when the end of the week comes, the fuel truck shuts down at noon, followed by the Enola Gay lunch wagon at one, and the track closes at three.
This is only the second time I have attended the Bonneville Motorcycle Salt Trials. But it’s a wonderful feel-good event, with great people who all have a wonderful community spirit. Plus, it’s all about motorcycles. Which isn’t a bad thing right?
I’m already looking forward to being a part of the 2018 BMST.