Chasing a speed record on a 60-year-old Vincent single

Big Speed with Big Sid

Maxton is a sleepy nowheresville in a dry county along the North and South Carolina border, on a broad coastal plain that stretches to the Atlantic ocean 60 miles away. It’s an unremarkable place, except for an abandoned, World War II-era airstrip secluded in a stand of pines just outside town. That’s the Maxton Monster Mile, now home to the East Coast Timing Association’s speed trials, and ground zero for some of the fastest motorcycles on earth.

I’ve been to Maxton once before, in 2006, when I went 207 mph on a turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa. I won’t go as fast this visit, but I do hope to set a land-speed record on a very rare and special motorcycle, a 1949 Vincent built by Louisville, Kentucky’s “Big Sid” Biberman. Big Sid is a legend in the vintage bike world, one of the most feared drag bike tuners of the fifties and sixties, and still today one of the nation’s foremost authorities on Vincent motorcycles—specifically, very fast Vincent racing motorcycles.

A few years ago, Big Sid suffered a serious heart attack that took away much of his enthusiasm for life. To snap him out of an enduring funk, his son Matthew made an insane proposition—the two of them, who never got along well (especially not in the garage) would build one last bike. It wouldn’t be any garden-variety restoration, however. It would be a “Vincati.” This was the mythical hybrid of two of Sid’s favorite bikes—the Vincent Black Shadow and the Ducati 750 GT—and a machine that had animated Big Sid’s imagination for decades. The project, which healed the broken relationship between father and son and saved Sid’s life at the same time, is chronicled in Matthew Biberman’s most-excellent memoir entitled “Big Sid’s Vincati” (available here: http://www.bigsid.com).

After Project Vincati was wrapped up, there was still some unfinished business. The donor Vincati motor came from a Vincent Rapide that was given to Sid by his old friend Lex, who was dying from cancer. When they went to retrieve the Rapide, Matthew made a promise to Lex: “We’ll use this chassis, too. After the Vincati is done, I am going to buy a Vincent single engine and build that bike up to take to the track.”

This bike, nicknamed “Overtime Tina,” is the resolution of that promise, and this quest for a speed record is the final postscript to the Vincati story. I’m honored to be a part of the story, and I’m hoping I help to write a perfect, fairy-tale ending at Maxton this weekend.

Click here for a video of “Overtime Tina” firing up for the first time: http://www.redroom.com/video/overtime-tina-motorcyclistbig-sid-project-bike