Article & Photos By Chris Callen
Originally Published in the December 2018 Issue
One of the greatest things about attending Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trails are the stories. The personal triumphs and even the defeat that come with reaching a lifetime goal. That one run, that special accomplishment that very few get to add to a list of their lifetime achievements. Sure, there are those who are fixtures at Bonneville, there year after year because once they make it they know, this is as good as it gets. Still, more are passing through, either only able to make it once or unable to give in to the dance that is a love affair with the salt flats. You can see the ones with the great stories, just waiting to share them, so full of the exhilaration of what they are doing that it brims over. A long stare as if they are gazing out to the edge of the universe itself, and in some ways, even beyond. This is a story just like that, a great story, of a great group of people doing a great deed in the name of an amazing man.
It all started with one man that was very well respected in the motorcycle community of Europe. His name was Zed, and from the stories of his friends and family, I got to know him during my time on the salt flats, although we never had the chance to meet in person. In France, when Harleys became popular in the early seventies, there were a few people who really shined through that time. He was one of the first guys in Paris that started to build choppers; he became a pioneer of custom Harleys in Paris. At that time, it was still very difficult to get aftermarket parts for American bikes in France, so he started to bring them in. After some time, he was done with the scene in Paris and moved to the South of France. In ’91, Zed opened a shop called “Street Drag” in Nimes. There, they started to build all kinds of Low Riders and performance-based customs. In 1994 they went to Sturgis and became the first Europeans to win the Rats Hole show with a bike called the “Street Dragoon”, a little yellow Ironhead. After that, he continued to build bikes and over the next ten years became very well known for his builds but also became a little bored. That’s when he was asked by the staff of Freeway Magazine to work for them.
In 2001, Zed signed on as the Editor in Chief, shooting bikes all over the world and writing editorials that would set the tone for the life and times around the motorcycle scene. Of course, this took a lot of his time, and he wasn’t doing as much shop work as he used to but in 2011 he was inspired to build a new bike, one that would be for the purpose of racing at Bonneville. Like so many stories, after watching the story of Burt Monroe and his quest for a run on the legendary salt flats, he began his pursuit. Three years were invested in the build itself. In 2014 he was finally ready to make the trip.
Along with his friend Bob, who would pilot a Triumph, the two men intended to reenact the Rocker vs. the Biker. Unfortunately, the race was canceled due to the rain that year which may have been better since Zed still had some details to work out on the Ironhead. 2015 came and only one week until the race, the bikes loaded on the plane, Zed and his wife and children were already in Utah, and the race was called once more. His son remembers that his father even refused to go out on the salt without the bike but instead mentioned the experience in his editorial. His words explained that he imagined so many things about Bonneville and everything that he would see and do there, but instead he would discover another face of the United States through traveling with his family instead. The salt would have to wait for another year.
Sadly, as 2016 rolled around Zed fell ill and would be unable to make it back to the States. He passed away at only 58 years old in the beginning of 2017 having never completed his dream of running at Bonneville. The very day he passed his friends and family discussed plans to get everything together and complete this journey for him. They founded the “Till The Salt” foundation, and as a group, they gathered under this cause. Some started to sell T-shirts, some ran fundraising events, while others went through the rulebook to get the bike in order. They were meeting people along the way to make that one great pass in Zed’s honor. They could never have imagined what this would bring to them by the time they made it on to the salt. A lifetime of memories, a whole new set of friends and family they picked up as they went, and one great accomplishment made in the name of a great man.
You would think that for a man that made as much of his life around motorcycles, his children may have been raised in the shop as well, but it was quite the opposite. Zed never mixed his family with his motorcycle world, so this was, in many ways the first time his family met people from the other life he led. So many people explained how much Zed meant to them, how his words helped them in their lives. Many claimed that much of the reason they bought Freeway Magazine was to read Zed’s editorial each month. He knew his subject matter, but like a great writer does, he was able to move people through the emotion his words conveyed.
The bike performed fantastically. Zed had built a very thin and very quick little Sporty indeed. Amazing since there was no place in France to test what the bike could, they literally traveled thousands of miles not knowing what would happen. The morning that we did this interview, that little Ironhead recorded a run at 132mph, which was a great run, but the bittersweet part of this story came at the end of one day on the salt, when the racing was over, and they all got together to let Zed’s Ashes loose to the winds of Bonneville. A special place for stories of love and triumph…. a special place indeed. RIP Pierre-Jacques “Zed” Zanvit.
Owner: Zed, Editor In Chief Of Freeway Magazine
City/State: Les Cévennes
Builder : Zed
Value: A Whole Life
Time: “A Hand Is Good For Everything Exept Hold The Time” Hindu Saying
Model: Harley Davidson
Ignition: Dyna 2000i
Pistons: Harley Davidson Modified
Carb: Mikuni Hsr 45
Air Cleaner: Carls Speed Shop
Exhaust: 2 Into 1 Supertrapp
Model: Ironhead Modified
Type: Moto Trial Montesa
Triple Trees: Moto Trial Montesa
Tire: Contitrail Attack 2
Front Brake: We Don’t Give A Fuck
Size: 18 Inch
Rear Brake: Jay Brake
Painter: Odyssey Motorcycle / Daddygraph
Bars: Bottelin Dumoulin
Hand Controls: Beringer
Foot Controls: Zed
Gas Tank(S): Peanut Modified
Oil Tank: Inox Handmade
Front Fender: Sportster Modified
Seat: Lady Coco
Tail Light: None