By Kerry O’Day
When I turned 50, I decided I wanted to try doing some type of motorcycle racing again. I had raced moto-cross and a few desert races back in the 70’s. So for my 50th birthday, I entered a 250 mile desert dual sport race in South Texas. Well, when I did that, I was hooked again on motorcycle racing. I soon realized that I would never win a race again and many races I would not even finish, but as long as I started I was having fun. I was riding my KLR in local cross-country races and any dual sport event I could. I was having fun, as well as, inspiring some of the other older riders that they could do it too.
Then I watched the movie “The Worlds Fastest Indian” and started wondering how fast could I get the KLR to go? I googled Bonneville Salt Flats and the BUB Speed Trials came up on my computer. I began to read about all the regulations and said, “I can do that,” and signed up. Now I knew my KLR could do well over 100 mph, so I was going out to the Salt Flats just once to prove it. My almost stock bike did a whopping 93.7 mph. I knew it could do better than that, so I signed up for the next year’s race. I started working on the bike to get more power out of the engine. I bored the cylinder to a 685 and had the valves enlarged and the head cleaned up. I also changed the exhaust and installed a lower front fender. Now I was ready to break the world’s record, or so I thought! A 99.93 mph is all the KLR would do, so I signed up for the following year. I heard about the Texas Mile, which was just starting up in Goliad, Texas, so I signed up for that race. When I showed up at the Texas Mile, I had the only bike that wasn’t a Halabusa or a ZX1400. The tech inspector said to me, “what do we have here, are you nuts?” I had more fun that weekend than anyone else did! My bike ran over 105 mph and didn’t cost me a ton of money to go out and have fun. The other thing, everyone noticed me, all the spectators were taking photos of my bike. Everyone was asking me about the bike and how cool it was to see an old guy on a normal bike out racing. I was inspiring riders to realize that they could bring their bike to the race and have a good time as well. You don’t always have to go 200 MPH to have fun and no one is going to get rich doing world land speed record racing. That year I won the prize for having the slowest and lowest bike at the race.
Well, my one goal was to make the KLR faster than the diesel KLRs from HTD. I went back to work trying everything on the engine to get more horsepower out of it. One problem is no one builds true race parts for a KLR, so we had to go out and find what would fit and make it work. Most suppliers were happy to work with us on the project. Scotts built a one off steering stabilizer for me and Progressive Suspension helped us in lowering the bike. We tried turbo charging the engine, which never worked right so we added Nitrous to it, which is another first. In the next 5 years, the bike got faster and faster. I was having more fun trying new race parts on building the bike than I was racing it. Last year in 2010, I finally beat the HTD diesel KLRs so I could claim to be the World’s Fastest KLR! We haven’t stopped tinkering with the bike. I am coming up with new ideas all the time to make it faster. This year we are forking on a new front end faring to cut the wind better. Shorter handlebars and a larger carburetor are also in the mix for race parts. Who knows I might get the bike up to 150 MPH before it quits.
So why do I ride a Kawasaki KLR and not a bike more designed for speed racing? First, I like the challenge of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Second, the KLR is built rock solid and is over built in many areas. I don’t think you could blow up a KLR engine if you tried and I have tried and I can build 10 KLRs for the price of one race ready Halabusa. And last, I like being and looking different and many other riders and spectators do also. I won the trophy for having the hottest bike last year at the Texas Mile. I am having as much fun going down the straight line at 125 MPH as the fast racers do at 190 MPH. I also have more pictures taken of my KLR than the Halabusa riders do. Last, I can pull off all the road race fairings and parts, change the tires and go race a Dual Sport race in the Fall and continue to have even more fun with this one motorcycle. What could be more fun at the age of 57 for a guy who loves riding motorcycles? Yeah, I know, but this is right up there with it! See ya at Bonneville!