Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials Diary – Preparing for ‘What Ifs’

Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials Diary - Preparing for ‘What ifs’
The start of the measured mile is a mile away, but the vastness of the Bonneville Salt Flats makes miles seem meaningless. This was in 2010, my second trip out.

Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials Diary, Chapter 1

It occurs to me that preparing for the journey to Bonneville for the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials is more about packing for the “what-ifs” than for the competition itself.

I’ve been to Bonneville for motorcycle speed trials three times before and this, my fourth, is no different in that regard.

That’s because it is 1,470 miles one way from my house in Wisconsin to Wendover, Utah. On the way there are long, long stretches of Interstate highway where there is little or no habitation, services for vehicles or even shade, for that matter.

When you try to plan for a trip like that, it occurs to you early on that you have to try to anticipate every potential eventuality and bring things along to help deal with it.

This is fantasy, of course. It is in the nature of things that no matter what you plan for so meticulously, something else can come up. Nonetheless, if you’re smart, you do your best to plan and prepare.

My way of doing that is the list. Each time I’ve gone to Bonneville, I have found myself compelled to prepare lists as I think things though. I can’t sleep at night in the days immediately preceding departure unless I have my lists and I complete or pack everything on the list by the day before departure.

My lists have grown in number and sophistication. I use seven separate checklists in an effort to prepare for the journey out, the event, and the long trip home. Yes, seven lists!

There is a list for the bike to make sure I have done all that is required to meet the technical and safety requirements for the class I’m running in, and the list includes key tools and documentation that has to be available. The list has different sublists for when I take my air-cooled Honda CB350F vs when I’m taking my liquid-cooled Honda VF500C.

The bike list gets into specific tools to remember to take, as well as spare parts. For example, what tools will I need to strip the engine down for each type of bike, should the need arise for technical inspection to verify bore and stroke.

There is a list for the truck or car used to tow the trailer. Its service needs from brake fluid to replacement serpentine belts, coolant, air in the spare tire, jack, wheel chocks, blocks, you name it to assure it is possible to respond to common roadside breakdowns.

There is a list for the trailer. Air in the spare, in the tires, check suspension, hitch pin locks, a jack that can reach high enough to raise the trailer, should it become necessary, tie downs, functioning lights, wheel bearing grease, grease gun, and so on.
There is a list for the tools to bring.

This is the list that gets most out of hand and is enough to drive you nuts. The tools must include all the items, sizes and functions that could be required for almost any roadside emergency, for working on the bike and for working on the trailer.

It must take into account the absence of AC power supplies almost every place along the route and miles out on the salt, so things like cordless drills are essential. All sorts of odd situations must be taken into account—for example, will that standard lug wrench actually have the leverage to get the lug nuts off that truck or trailer wheel?

A breaker bar, pipe to use as a wrench handle extender and/or a good hammer needs to go along.

There is a list for clothing and personal gear that includes making sure all the riding gear meets the safety requirements and gets packed for the trip. Helmet, leathers, gloves, boots, what regular clothes to bring for potentially cold early mornings and probably hot afternoons all have to be considered.

But there may be rain to contend with along the way, as well and on one trip there was even a massive snowstorm to travel in. Of course, forgetting the camera, video cam, cell phone, laptop, tablet, batteries for all this stuff, sunglasses, sunblock, extra shoes, and what-not all need to make it into the load, as well.

There is a list for essential documents — the entry registration forms, pit passes, AMA member card, AMA Supplemental Rule Book, bike specification documents and/or factory shop manual, plus the personal information you may want to have along, such as advance directives. Copies of relevant correspondence need to be brought along, as well.

Finally, I have a list I call the miscellaneous list; a catch-all for the stuff that must go along, but doesn’t fit into the other lists. This is the stuff like tarps for ground cover required out on the salt, sun shades such as another tarp or EZ-up, drywall screws to secure the ground cover tarps, duct tape (the Handy-man’s secret weapon), bungee cords, extra tie-downs, flashlights, you name it.

My lists are now checked off. Everything I can think of is now loaded for the trip to Bonneville. If I don’t set a record, I know it’s not the end of the world. Having some fun on a good, safe trip, seeing old friends and making some new ones all make these trips worthwhile, record-setting or not. That said, we’ll give it our best shot, and we’ll get to see some great attempts by others.

Most of all, we will once again stand out there on that breathtakingly beautiful, other-worldly place that holds such a special place in motorsports legend. Once you do that, it is something you can never forget and you keep wanting to go back.

If you’re heading to Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials, either as a spectator or competitor, check out our Top 10 Must Knows When Visiting Bonneville Speed Trials.

For additional information, visit Bonneville Speed Trials.