Going fast is one thing but going fast enough to break a landspeed records at the world renowned Salt Flats on bikes you built is entirely another. If you have ever been interested in finding out what it takes to accomplish such a feat, read on and get to know Lowbrow Customs owner Tyler Malinky and learn about his journey to the Salt Flats, how it feels to break records on a one of a kind Triumph, and how he plans to race again this August on a nitro guzzling fire breather.
Name: Tyler Malinky | Founder of Lowbrow Customs
Current bikes owned: 1926 Harley-Davidson JD, 1955 Triumph Land Speed Bike ‘Poison Ivy’, 1955 Dual-Engine 1955 Triumph Land Speed Bike ‘Double Vision’, 1959 Harley-Davidson Panhead chopper, 1969 Harley-Davidson FLH (stock), 1975 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead chopper, Pan-American S&S Panhead motor powered custom.
Landspeed record bikes:
Poison Ivy: This was my first race bike, which I built in 2010. It was actually a rolling chassis, just a frame, front end, wheels and a narrow gas tank, when I decided to turn it into a land speed race bike and make it out to Bonneville Speed Week that year to race. I was inspired by my friend Wes White of Four Aces Cycle and his race efforts on a 500cc Triumph. I lost a record my first year on a back-up run (once you set a land speed record you have to do it again, the average of those two runs is your final speed and is compared to the existing record) when I bent a valve, but came back to race in 2011 and set two records in the A-VG (Special Construction Vintage Gas) and APS-VG (Special Construction Partially Streamlined Vintage Gas) 750cc classes. I haven’t raced this bike since, though at Speed Week 2016 one of my records was broken, so I am currently rebuilding this bike, testing, and tuning. I will set the new record at Bonneville Speed Week this August.
Double Vision: I have long thought that dual engine drag motorcycles were as cool as it gets. I was an Invited Builder for Born Free 4 and I decided to use that as a goal to get the bike done for the show in June 2012 and race it at Speed Week. The bike is powered by two 650cc Triumph pre-unit motors, 1955 vintage. Together they are 1300cc and power runs through a single 4-speed Triumph transmission. I built the bike in my home garage over the course of a few months with some help from good friends. Double Vision won ‘Best Competition’ at Born Free 4, and I went on to set a land speed record in my class at Speed Week. 2013 proved to be a faster year and I blew away some old Harley records by over 20 mph, setting a personal best (so far) on this old Triumph at 152+ mph. The bike is currently all taken apart and I am working on having it back together to race in 2018 as a completely new bike, from the motors on up.
How long did it take you to prepare for the flats (bike build / any training).
When I decide to do something I tend to go headlong into it. I actually prefer no training and little forethought, the excitement of the unknown is a solid driving force. My first race bike probably took me six months of work, on-and-off, through the year, and the training took place racing in my first event. I still get nervous before my first run of the season, but once that is out of the way I am all business. I make so many changes to the bikes each season that it sometimes makes them seem unfamiliar to ride at first. There aren’t many places you can run a straight-line, top-speed, land speed motorcycle with bad brakes very safely. So, testing is almost always taking place in tandem with going as fast as possible during a race.
Why did you choose that particular moto to modify?
My first motorcycle was a 1970 Triumph Bonneville I bought when I was 18 or so. I just liked the way they looked. I have become so familiar with vintage Triumphs that it was just a good base for a race bike. That, plus the history of Triumphs as the ‘World’s Fastest Motorcycle’ and their racing heritage made it a good fit. Modern bikes are great as well, and I am sure going 200mph on a new Suzuki Hayabusa is good fun, but the challenge isn’t there for me. I like taking something old and slow and making it go fast. I like building it in my garage, and I like that there isn’t a computer involved. Just old, simple technology. Compression, spark and fuel.
Tell us about your first experience at the Salt Flats and what you learned.
Speed Week 2010 was my first experience being at as well as racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Friend and experienced racer Wes White, who was my inspiration to start racing, took us under his wing and taught us the basics of racing at Bonneville, how to get through tech inspection with our motorcycles, how things worked. I drove out to Utah from Cleveland with my brother Kyle (and his 1967 Triumph land speed bike he built that year) and our dad. The drive out, the racing, driving back, spending two weeks in an RV with them, working on bikes, arguing, racing, are some of the best times and definitely the things I will remember even when I am an old man. I learned: going fast at Bonneville isn’t easy; racing is exhilarating; I really love motorcycles; being the fastest takes perseverance.
What was the most challenging thing to deal with during the weekend?
Mechanical problems and / or unforeseen problems (parts of your motorcycle breaking and needing repairs on the Salt Flats is much different that in your garage or workshop surrounded by your tools and welder) are a big part of racing. Hot, sunny weather turning into torrential downpours, high winds, and other obstacles are par for the course. However, the flip side of camaraderie among racers of both car and motorcycles, adrenaline, excitement all more than even out the difficulties that come with racing out on the Salt Flats.
We heard you have broken records on the flats, can you list them?
I would have to look them up, I don’t even know them! I set a couple records on my single-engine Triumph, Poison Ivy, in 2011 around 116 and 117 mph. These are ‘soft’ records and one has been upped to around 123mph as of the last race season, though I aim to push that up closer to 130mph (on regular gasoline) this year. On my dual-engine Triumph I beat a couple Harley-Davidson records and upped them from 126 and 129mph respectively to 141 and 151+ mph. I beat the Harley records and then beat my own records several times getting them to those speeds. I am just exploring the possibilities with my dual engine bike, this is just the beginning. Running fuel (methanol and nitro methane versus regular gasoline) and a new chassis should push my bike in the 180 – 200mph range quite realistically. As long as all goes as planned. We shall find out in 2018 so stay tuned! I also set a couple land speed records at the Ohio Mile, which is ECTA or East Coast Timing Association records.
Was it a “HELL YEAH” feeling or more of a “I can beat what I just did” feeling when you found out you broke a record?
I was quite happy the first time I broke 150 mph. Definitely a hell yeah feeling, but the curse of speed is that it only lasts a moment before that feeling and thought settle back in ‘but I know I can go faster…’ and back at it again..
Will you return to the flats again?
I will be racing Poison Ivy at Bonneville Speed Week in August 2017. I am currently rebuilding that engine and getting the chassis ready to break the current record. Double Vision will be reborn as an entirely new dual-engine bike next year, as a nitro guzzling and fire-breathing monster. Don’t tell my wife or my mom ;)