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Outlaw Runs Outside the Notorious Buffalo Chip

By Bandit with photos from Calamity Vickie

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We were facing $10,000 to take the team to the Texas mile to make some trial passes, when my son called and spoke to me about financial reasoning. I paid attention and saved. Found out later there might be a Colorado Mile event by the Texas Mile folks in the near future.

I quickly made a desperate call to the Major of the town of Buffalo Chip. He knows everything about the Black Hills, the roads, the taxes, the politics, the sheriff, you name it. The Harley plant is rolling up to their 120th. The Sturgis Rally 85th is coming and the Chip is chipping away at 40 years rocking the rally.

The answer was positive. There are a lot of flat, straight, open roads in South Dakota. It included the frontage road beside the magnificent Chip. It goes 1.5 miles straight. It up-shifts to the north past the Sturgis airport. Then it’s a straight 4 miles until it slides onto a rough gravel surface.

I started to work with Woody. He suggested a meeting with the local sheriff, a new guy. I made photographic prints of the Salt Torpedo to share and we set a potential week for a meeting.

At the last minute we decided, I’m not saying who, to do it outlaw style and go for it on the remote, infrequently traversed back road. I started to coordinate the team for the end of April and prayed for clear weather. It snowed significantly previous week.

Micah, our esteemed Pilot in Auburn, California needed to study his schedule. He’s involved tuning TROG race bikes. Also, plans for the next cross-country Cannonball loomed.

Our team included Sturgis Museum and Hamster Cabana Dan, Micah “The Ugly” McCloskey, Sinner Irish Rich, 45-Trike John Martinesko, Luke from Switzerland, the Redhead and Calamity Vickie from Florida, currently facing felony charges.

It also involved the notorious Randy Cramer of Dakota V-Twin, who is also a Hamster and runs a U-Haul dealership in Spearfish, South Dakota. This was the third time I bugged him about trailers, made a reservation then cancelled. It started with Bonneville last year. It was rained out and we’re still waiting for the surface to clear. Then the Texas Mile…

Moving right along, we ordered an open 6 by 12 foot trailer. I learned a bunch in the process. I’m going shift away from rentals, although it was cheap, to look for an enclosed trailer purchase for Bonneville. The Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials originally developed by Dennis Manning and currently are produced by his family, including his daughter Delvine. They will take place from the 26th of August until the 31st.

It’s been cold around these parts and my 310 cranking amp batteries haven’t been up to the task. If we warmed up the shop and charged two of these batteries a jump seemed to do the trick. I’m going to investigate a slightly taller battery for more cranking amps. James Simonelli from Twin-Power and Shocker Batteries is helping out. He has all the info, stats and part numbers.

A few days before the run, we fired it and warmed it up. I noticed the shifting handle plate was loose. The battery seemed to jiggle like stripper dancing to a country music toon. I tightened it. The rear chain seemed loose. I made a long thin axle wrench and adjusted it, after checking to make sure it ran straight and true.

I previously built an S&S Carb anchor tab and clamp, recommended by Carl Pussar, famous bike builder and Hamster. In the process, I removed the electronic sensor ground strap. I carefully replaced it. I believed we were good to go, but nervous. This would be the handling acid test.

We reserved the trailer. John had a PT appointment in Spearfish and hauled the massive trailer, which including a 100-pound jack and emergency braking system. Luke rolled out of the hills to help and Friday we carefully loaded the Torpedo by lifting the nose of the trailer slightly. With rachet straps we tied it down.

After John’s cool looking SUV escaped the shop area, we hooked up the trailer to the 5-Ball Racing, Bikernet Van and pulled the rig to the top of the driveway. We loaded the van with a fuel can, tools. We checked the air pressure in the tires and filled the front two, to the proper pressure level.

“Don’t forget Duc tape, extra gas and bailing wire,” John added. We included a jack for lifting the trailer tongue, jumper cables, an extra charged battery and a loaded fuel can.

We covered the Salt Torpedo with a massive tarp. It could have snowed, rained or blew like crazy that night.

Micah and our 2014 Indian Chief.
Micah and our 2014 Indian Chief.

Micah’s flight was delayed several times. The last time until 10:30. Micah texted me as he boarded, “Pilot says closer to 10:00.” I peeled out at 9:00.

As soon as I rolled onto the winding Boulder Canyon I thought of Peter Fonda after I hit a deer in Wyoming. “Don’t ride at night,” he said.

Bob T, a 5-Ball Racing Team member in 14 Palms, California. He's pissed off he couldn't make it.
Bob T, a 5-Ball Racing Team member in 14 Palms, California. He's pissed off he couldn't make it.

I slowed slightly and peered into the night looking for stumbling deer who can’t decide whether to bolt across the highway or hold back.

Okay, I picked up our esteemed pilot and motored back into the hills. The next morning, we removed the tarp and fire wood logs holding it down and waited for a couple of team members to arrive. At 10:00 we moseyed down Boulder Canyon into Sturgis, out of Sturgis, east past Fort Meade, the VA facility to the Buffalo Chip Engine Bar. Meeting up with Robert Pandya, the Chip marketing guru, Cabana Dan and Irish rich, we were ready to rock.

I forgot to mention, Micah rode my 2014 Indian and scoped out our chosen road. He picked a staging spot in the middle of the 4-mile stretch. We unloaded, and struggled with jumping and firing the beast. Dan and rich jammed to the end of the Alkayia road, the gravel area and set up to watch for traffic.

We killed it a couple of times, shifting the wrong direction. The girls covered the action as we staged for the first run. So many things whistled through my mind as it fired and sounded like a locomotive on steroids. I forgot to remind Micah to take it easy. Plus, the wind whipped across the road from North to South at 45 mph. I held my breath as he pulled onto the asphalt ribbon and nailed it.

Like a bullet with wheels, it disappeared from sight. Long tenuous moment passed. Finally, with my heart lodged in my throat I could hear the distinct rumble in the distance.

Micah pulled off the asphalt onto the gravel and raised his gloved thumb high. “Handled like a dream,” Micah shouted.

“I clocked him at over 80 mph,” John said climbing out of his pace car.

I carefully studied every nut and bolt from front to back. I scribed indicators on the axle to see if anything shifted. Our Suspension Technology shocks did their job. No uncertain tire wear revealed anything but going straight.

We would have made additional passes. Micah finalized the decision process. “The wind prevented me from holding my lane,” That did it.

We loaded and hauled ass to the Knuckle Saloon to celebrate. Another magnificent day in the Black Hills. While munching on giant burgers we started a check-off list for Bonneville.

I'm going to order a spare front tire.
I'm going to order a spare front tire.

Shifting Adjustment
Bolt down seat
Check Motel Accommodations
Install speedo
Sprockets, check and bring extras
Shave fiberglass about chain

Here’s Battery info from James:

A standard YTX-20L (Softail battery) is 7” wide, 3 ¼” deep, 6 ¼” tall. They are typically 310-320 CCA.

The only other thing that will fit in this space is a Lithium Ion battery designed to replace a standard YTX 20L. I’d defer you to Anti Gravity.

If it were my bike, I’d do this:

Get yourself a battery jump quick connector like this X-Haibei Pair 175 amp 2 Gauge Battery Quick Connector Gray, Jumper Cables Connect Disconnect Plug for Trailer : Automotive

Make it accessible outside. Use an external auto battery as an initial boost for the first start only or as you feel necessary.

Lithium Ion batteries can fail without warning. If weight is a factor, by all means go lithium.

It sounds like a YTX-20L is the largest you can fit in that envelope.

--James Simonelli

Should be one more report before we cut a dusty trail to the Salt Flats. Hang On!


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Back to 2016 Bonneville Effort, 5-Ball Bonneville Racing

Reader Comments

Interesting, I was back at Bonniville a few years back, and it was cool to see somebody go 200 plus on a cycle, plus we also helped sponsor the old Easyriders streamliner, so good luck!

pat d
shoreline, WA
Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Editor Response Yep, I was on that team. This has been a trip. Pray for salt this year.
Tooooooo Kooooooolll Foooooool I'm diggin it

el Waggs
O-side, CA
Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Editor Response Thanks bro.
Sounds like a lot of fun. Good luck!

Ann Robinson
Long Beach, CA
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Editor Response Thanks much!

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