The Fast Camel

Mike From Cyclemo’s Wins the 2019 Sons of Speed

Article by Roadside Mary, Photos by Missi Shoemaker

Originally published June 2019, Cycle Source Magazine

I’m sure most of you reading this have heard of Billy Lane’s Sons of Speed vintage races and if you haven’t already, I highly suggest you catch either the Daytona or Sturgis race to see some incredible machines like the one on these pages blasting around the track! Mike Silvio is the current caretaker of this amazing machine and his enthusiasm for old bikes is obvious. Silvio has always loved motorcycles, but his life was forever changed at age 14 when he became the owner of his late great uncle’s 1936 original paint Knucklehead. As time passed, he eventually opened Cyclemos which is his shop as well as a museum for old bikes.

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In the early days, he got a lot of 45 Flathead work, and the most common request from almost every customer was to make it go faster! After experimenting over and over again with multiple engine configurations, he feels that he’s finally able to make the right combinations to really make these engines run.

Fast forward to TROG where he had a blast ripping up and down the beach beating several Knuckleheads on his personal bike that he calls the Knucklebuster! After this he got the itch to build a bike outfitted for the 1/2 mile. Mike started on the engine and as with most shop owners’ other projects took up most of his time. He also admits that he was a bit intimidated by the idea. The 1/2- mile races are a true test of man and machine because everything is pushed to the limits and held there for sustained periods so any problem could be a potential disaster. Billy Lane had been asking Mike to take part in Sons of Speed, and he had always come up with an excuse of some sort to stay away. Silvio knew that once he went, he would go every chance he could.

Mike’s close brother and race partner Matt Walksler called him 4 weeks out from the race and said that their good friend and fellow racer Billy Applegate was gonna be riding Matt’s SOS winning hot board track bike, and he wanted to know if Mike had anything ready for the recently formed 45 class. Mike quickly responded “No, but I will!” Mike said he literally hung up the phone, cleared off one of his lifts and immediately started work on the bike. He started with a basket case1941 WLDR that only needed a set of cylinders and a transmission to be complete. However, the frame needed some serious attention as the right rear frame tubing was beyond repair. Mike cut it out and replaced it, as well as modifying the frame to use a 1948 WR 3 bolt style transmission, which is a lot stronger. The springer is a 41 and was one of the few pieces that didn’t need much attention. The original front and rear hubs were rebuilt with new guts and then laced up with Buchanan spokes to a set of Borani rims. The rear brake is a super rare early drum and back plate that actually uses front brake shoes in them because of how narrow they are. The race is actually a brakeless race, but Mike wanted the brakes for riding the bike during testing and tuning while for the race the rear brake rod and bell crank are removed. The bars are OEM that are custom bent and welded while the tanks and primary are WR. Mike ended up using a Bates racing seat, and pillion pad and his good buddy Dave Butcher made the chin pad. Silvio painted the bike and his buddy, Scoot Malone, painted the graphics while he happened to be running an errand and came back to see that he had painted the “finger” on the back of the P pad. Mike told him to take it off because he thought it was too cocky, Scoot spent the rest of the day convincing him to leave it and yep it’s everyone’s favorite part! He asked Scoot to come up with a camel that looked dumb..slow..and lost, he absolutely nailed it; everyone loves it. It’s definitely one of Mike’s favorite paint designs to date!

Mike’s race team is TWEAKERS RACING. It was founded by his race partner Matt Walksler and himself a few years ago. It was Matt who found an old proverb…”Death rides a fast Camel” to which they both laughed their asses off. With all of the beach racing they’d been doing as of late and the mere fact it would have people scratching their heads, camels know adorn all of their stuff. This bike is called “The Fast Camel” because this one seems to have a wicked personality to boot.

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Mike and Matt did some math to come up with the best possible gearing for the race, and after making one tooth change during practice they ended up going back to what they started with. Mike says he was never worried about Billy’s abilities as a rider and racer he says he KNEW he could win the race. His biggest concern was the motor actually staying together for the entire competition. The practice races were amazing, the bike seemed to be running really well, certainly better than Mike expected. Every time he tried to wave Billy in but he just kept going lap after lap. He says he just knew it was gonna blow, but it didn’t even leak any oil, which according to Mike is nuts! Come race day the jinx happened, when Billy went for a few practice laps he ended up busting the rear exhaust mount due to too much vibration. They spent the next two hours trying to find a welder and get the bike fixed. Mike says he brought enough parts to build another complete bike but no welder. Eventually another racer whose name Mike can’t remember other than @hotshotwelding welded up his pipe while Mike was busy working on the issues that he was having on his own bike. Mike says he found it simply amazing that at the 11th hour a competitor was working on someone else’s bike, it’s a true testament to how close the whole race scene really is! It’s a brotherhood and common bond that brings them together as racers, tuners and enthusiast’s!

The pits were a buzz the entire day with everyone helping each other sharing tools, parts and knowledge which definitely made it a whole lot of fun! Well, needless to say they got the pipe repaired JUST in time for the first heat they were in. Mike says it was a blast to watch Billy race, he just kept getting faster and faster as the day went on. His fastest lap ended up being 24 seconds. Mike said he can’t wait to go back! He’d like to thank Billy and Erin Lane for putting on such an epic event!

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