Foreword By Tyler Malinky, Photos by Mikey Revolt / Lowbrow Customs
Originally Published July 2019
Lowbrow Land Speed Racing is a loose affiliation of friends who get together and race vintage motorcycles. It started back in 2009 when my brother Kyle and I both started building bikes to take out to the Bonneville Salt Flats and race at the 2010 Speed Week. We run Lowbrow Customs in Brunswick, Ohio (just south of Cleveland), designing and curating both stock and custom parts for motorcycles. Our parts span a hundred years and are mainly Harley-Davidson and Triumph. However, we offer many others as well. The racing was an extension of our passion for bikes, and hey, I can’t think of a better way to spend some time and money than by racing motorcycles! Our father Dennis has been crewing for us since the first time we raced, has since been joined by some of our best friends from around the US and Canada. Lowbrow Land Speed Racing now consists of a series of vintage motorcycles, including two 1950 Triumphs (one 650cc and the other a stroked 750cc bike), a 1967 Triumph 650cc, and a 1973 Norton 1000cc.
Our group is spread all over the place, from northeast Ohio to Kitchener, Ontario, Alabama to California. While we are geographically disparate, I know that we have lots in common. Everyone works many long nights and weekends in our garages, building our engines, refining our chassis, building new race bikes, dyno testing, and tuning. Our race experience varies from 6 or 7 years, although many racers including a couple of newer land speed racers have only an event or two under their belt. We pool our experience, our knowledge and plenty of sweat and effort to help support each other and our motorcycles during Bonneville Speed Week. There are records we are trying to break, but even more so we are competing with our machines against the environment. A low traction, high altitude environment with quick-changing weather patterns, far from our workshops, can lead to much frustration and heartache. That same frustration and heartache, however, can lead to some of the highest feelings of accomplishment and pride. It is why we do what we do. Take something slow and make it fast. Accomplish that, and then make it go faster. Chase records, set records, go faster. I am sure this has been felt by many of you reading this article. It is part of the core of motorcycling; the love of mechanics, of order, of acceleration, of transportation. I hope you enjoy the following first-person accounts of our race efforts at Bonneville Speed Week 2018 at the world-famous Bonneville Salt Flats…
Bonneville Speed Week 2018 was like no other. Lowbrow Land Speed Racing, aka ‘Team Lowbrow,’ consists of four racers competing for a coveted land speed record and their place in the record book. These racers are Tyler Malinky on a fresh 750cc 1950 Triumph build, Kyle Malinky on his ‘Silver Bandit’ 650cc 1966 Triumph, Alp Sungurtekin from California on his ‘T200’ 650cc 1950 Triumph partial streamliner and Andy Cox from Canada on his 1000cc 1973 Norton Commando. All four of the racers experienced a bit of success, but not all at the same time. As is often the case at Bonneville, that success came with frustrations, struggle, and puzzling problems. In this article you will hear directly from each racer, they will share their experiences about their week and what they are working on for next year’s Bonneville Speed Week.
In 2017 I brought my first race bike, Poison Ivy, back out for the first time since 2011 to reclaim my first record, which had since been broken. I was successful but came back with many changes I wanted to make so I could go faster. Instead of heavily modifying Poison Ivy, I figured, “why not build a new bike?” I had a few of the key components laying around and would build the rest. That is how I ended up spending many, many hours designing and building my new bike, which is as-yet unnamed. The frame is a heavily modified 1950 Triumph factory rigid frame. It uses about 12″ of the original seat post. The rest of the bike is handmade and has heavily modified parts. I spent as much time, or more, thinking about this chassis and designing it as I did actually building it. I really enjoyed the process and learned a lot as I went forward. The goal was to build a bike that was as simple as possible, and that allowed almost any part to be removed without having to remove anything else. I also built the engine, most of the final assembly was done just days before leaving for Bonneville Speed Week. And it got on the dyno the morning of the day we loaded the trailer for the salt.
I often have a bit of trepidation before racing a motorcycle I haven’t ridden before. I don’t even bother telling myself I will take it easy on the first run, because that never happens! The first run went very smooth. Taking off the line my feet fell into position and I felt right at home. It felt as if I had ridden this bike a hundred times before. The maiden voyage went well, though I was jetted too rich for the high altitude and heat of the afternoon and it didn’t want to pull over the low 120’s and 6200 RPM. I dropped a couple of sizes on the main jet and ended up in impound, qualified for a new record. It was the kind of run where I found myself howling and screaming and shouting in my helmet as I pulled off the course. The culmination of months and months of work had been condensed into a minute and a half on the track. I went to back it up early the next morning but was running out of gas toward the end of the run and couldn’t achieve top speed. I was learning about my new bike for sure! No big deal as I was just getting started.
I had a solid run during a sweltering 100-degree afternoon directly into an 11mph headwind and qualified again at 125mph. The next morning, with almost no wind, I topped out at 129mph with an average over the mile of 128.222mph. The two-way average brought the A-VG 750cc record from 124.5 to 126.455mph. I changed my gearing to run faster, but the next morning as I was revving through third gear something felt wrong, and I pulled off the course. After a bit of inspection, I realized that I had spun a connecting rod bearing and was done racing for the week. Despite the engine failure, I had a solid race week. The new chassis performed flawlessly, I gained speed over the prior year, and there is more yet to come. I have the bike and engine completely apart now and am making some improvements and rebuilding it for the 2019 race season. I keep learning, and I keep going faster. I can’t wait for the next race.
– Tyler Malinky
Here are a few words that describe my 2018 Speed Week: Frustrating, Demanding, Exhilarating. I was extremely excited to be back racing, and this year with Tyler, Alp, and Canadian Andy, we had a real team effort. The salt was probably the best it’s ever been since I can remember back 2011, the year Tyler and I both set multiple records. And judging from the amount of records that were set at this year’s Speed Week by all the competitors racing, I think I’m right.
Right away, on my first run, I started experiencing issues. The motorcycle kept popping out of gear at top rpm under load, so we began working through the bike and tried to determine the cause. By day two we eliminated some potential issues and realized I was having transmission issues. I had called Todd at the shop and had him overnight some parts for us. (Wendover overnight service is really like two days, one of the things that makes this such a challenging working environment). By the time we got the parts and were ready to run, it was day four, and yet still the same issues persisted! We came up with some creative engineering solutions, and by day six I was able to make my first complete run at about 119mph, which was what I had expected my first run of the week should have been! It was such a high to have a clean run, and I was immediately re-energized. We continued dialing the bike in, shaking out other small issues (that is racing!), but it felt like we were finally racing.
I had only a little time remaining on the salt and knew the record was out of question for this year. Obtaining my Class D Competition license with a run at 125mph was my new personal goal. The last day (only a half day of normal racing which ended at noon) my first run was at 123 mph, then I had a second run at 124.995, just .005mph off from my 125 Class D competition license, insanely close, but they do not round up at Bonneville. We rushed back to the line and started prepping the bike for one last run as they closed the course behind me! I got to run and managed to pull a 125.65 mph, more than enough to get my license. It was not the year I expected, but I am still happy we kept at it and turned it around. Our crew was a massive help in the pits, working at the issues, and just keeping morale up and keeping me going. In the end, I think we were all really happy to end the week with this success!
I am already working on cleaning and disassembling the bike. I’m sorting out a few issues and repairs from Speed Week and am doing some serious modifications to the transmission and moving to a later model 5 speed cluster. The goal is to run ECTA in April 2019 and to show up at Bonneville Speed Week 2019 better prepared, and ready to pick up where I left off and go for that record of 130.713!
– Kyle Malinky
Best Speed Week Ever! We achieved our fastest speeds, to date, at Bonneville Speed Week 2018. The new bodywork proved to be stable and comfortable at high speeds, and the T200 reached 180+mph on the GPS and 178+ mph average within the 4th measured mile multiple times. The T200 has already become the fastest sit on Triumph Twin, with a 1950 Ironhead pre-unit engine. The best part is that after a full week of runs, the engine was still in one piece and ready for more. We didn’t even have to adjust the valve lash once throughout the week.
All in all we found this year at Speed Week to have been rather successful and quite frankly it was a pleasure: the salt itself was the best we had seen in years, and with the courses having been as smooth as they were, we were free to focus on other factors and challenges — of which there are always many — including headwinds and the bike. We had loads of fun and learned a lot; there is one more thing we’ll need to figure out, so we can reach our ultimate goal of hitting 200+ mph.
In addition to our speed and engineering achievements on the course, we were also able to celebrate our union as not only best friends and teammates but as husband and wife. With the help of family, friends and SCTA tech members, Jalika and I were able to bring about a tiny village and get hitched right on course #1; the very place where we had backed up our latest record run. This was an amazing and relaxing way to end the week and make one more thing “official, certified and put in the books” as our friend “Father Jim” said. We are really excited about continuing our adventures together and sharing them with our friends and sponsors team Lowbrow; it was great to see Tyler achieve his personal best and new record this year.
We’re anxious to get back on the salt with all we have learned thus far. Within the last couple of weeks, we have been building a new bike since the A class ‘Asymmetric Aero’ is at the Petersen Automotive Museum. The new bike is based on an ‘M’ class frame which is an original 1950 rigid Triumph frame. We will continue to test/tune the Target 200 engine on the new bike at the USFRA SCTA sanctioned ‘World of Speed’ event at Bonneville September 14-17th. The ‘M’ frame bike with the T200 engine on it will make logistics easier due to its size and we will get to run it more, we may also break records in the naked classes.
We look forward to seeing our theories put to practice and seeing our LSR family out at Bonneville again very soon.
– Alp Sungurtekin
We came into Speedweek as “salt rookies,” and tried to be realistic. The fastest we had ever gone was 149.2mph in the 1 1/2 mile at Loring, AFB. It was an asphalt course with lots of traction, and it was pretty much at sea level, which made it fairly straightforward to tune the motor. Bonneville is a completely different animal. It sits at 4200ft above sea level, making it difficult to find power in the thin air, and it can easily be over 100ºF throughout the day, which adds to the challenge. The salt surface is ever-changing, too, so traction is a constant struggle. After talking to salt veterans, and all sorts of other racers, we figured we would maybe be able to squeak out a 140mph pass, and our ultimate goal would be to hit 150mph after we learned more about the challenging conditions and how to deal with them.
With lots of help from Lowbrow Customs, we got ourselves and our gear down there and passed tech, no problem. I managed to get my rookie pass out of the way with no issues and a 138mph pass. Our second pass brought us into the 140s with a 149.5mph, the fastest we’d ever gone. We were super stoked to be making our goals so fast! On the third pass, I had my first issue, I lost track of the mile markers and shut down early. Although expecting a slow run and a quick turnaround to get back on track, the next run turned out to be the fastest yet, with a speed of 150.5mph before my premature shutdown. It was almost unbelievable, getting a 150 mph pass done on our 3rd run! With a few adjustments, we were back in line looking for a clean run and wound up with a 154.4mph on our 4th run ever on the salt! This put us in the unexpected position of being just 3mph off the record! The rest of the week started to slide a little bit. Conditions changed, and we struggled to get back to 150mph. The decision was made to stop before we did real damage to the engine. It turns out we bent a valve slightly and had lost a bit of power. In the end, we felt we had surpassed our goals, and had a fantastic rookie week on the salt; better to stop a bit early than to go home with a broken motor or worse.
Because we got so close to the record, our goal for next year is pretty clear: set a new record. For Speedweek 2019 we will be looking to break into the 158mph territory, and we have a plan in place to get there. With some aerodynamic modification and some tire changes, we feel it is within reach, and we can’t wait to get back on the salt to see what we can do. We already have the motor apart, and we’ll be changing some clearances and refreshing some parts. We’re happy with the power right now, and we plan to get it all back together and focus on next year. It was an unbelievable experience overall, and I can’t thank Lowbrow Customs enough for helping us make it happen! Big thanks also go out to the King Street Cycles LSR crew; Lori Lackenbauer, Herb Becker, Bill Egan, and Jason Keller. Thanks also to Scwartz Inc., Winner’s Circle Motorsports, Town Moto, Walridge Motors, JS Motorsport, and Joker Machine. See you on the salt!
– Andy Cox