We’re riding Roberts’ diabolical TZ750 flat tracker at the Indy Mile!

Suicide Ride

It’s the bike that inspired Kenny Roberts, one of the most fearless motorcycle racers that ever lived, to utter these immortal words: “They don’t pay me enough to ride that thing!” Desperate to compete with the dominant Harley-Davidson XR750s in the 1975 AMA Grand National championship, tuner Kel Carruthers shoe-horned the two-stroke four-cylinder from King Kenny’s TZ750 roadracer into a Champion flat track frame and set him loose at the 1975 Indy Mile. Roberts won that race from a near-last-place start, cementing his name forever in flat track history. The TZ750 flat tracker made 125 horsepower, had a light-switch powerband, a 150-plus mph top speed and no front brake. It was so fast, and so difficult to control, that the AMA banned it from competition after just three races—before someone got killed. Now the very same bike has been restored to riding condition, and Editor-in-Chief Catterson wants me to ride it for your entertainment. Is this his sick and twisted idea of an “early retirement” program, or what?

Of course, I said yes. How often do you get the opportunity to ride one of the most infamous machines in motorcycle racing history? In the company of Roberts himself? With none other than Kel Carruthers spinning the wrenches? On the very same swatch of dirt where Roberts earned his legendary win 34 years earlier? Never mind the fact that I’ve literally never—ever—ridden on a dirt track before, and that I’d be making my debut on a bike that, at one time or another, has been described by every last synonym of the word “unrideable?” Story opportunities like this don’t come along every day.

Best of all, you’re invited to watch—the ride is happening this coming Saturday night, August 29th, immediately following the Lucas Oil Indy Mile AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National event at the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds. I’ll be riding the bike shortly after the main event. Hopefully the groove will be good and blue—I’m going to need every bit of traction that I can get. I have little doubt this will be the ride of my life.