Motus Land Speed Records

An Ultimate MotorCycling Web Exclusive – Bonneville Debrief with Motus Motorcycles President, Lee Conn

Back in August, we had the pleasure of meeting the Motus Racing Team in the impound area at the AMA sanctioned Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Meeting them in the impound area was a special pleasure – it meant that we both had either qualified for a record attempt, or had already completed it and were in the impound area to tear the bikes down for tech inspection to verify displacement. That was the case for both of us (read our Bonneville Land Speed Diaries).

Things were kind of busy for both teams at that moment, so we didn’t have much time to talk out there, but we’ve been in touch with the Motus folks since then to find out what they learned and achieved besides setting a pair of AMA Grand National Motorcycle Land Speed Records.

First, the records—Motus set the two fastest land speed records for any American production motorcycle.  With top speeds of 163.982 (1650 P-PG class) and 165.813 (1650 P-PP class) respectively, company founders Brian Case and Lee Conn who also did the riding established Motus as the fastest production pushrod motorcycles in the world.

Not content with thrashing their bikes around on the salt at maximum speed all week, when the speed trials were over, they put the mirrors and license plates back on and rode their production class competition bikes the 1,900 miles back to their home offices in Birmingham, Ala.!

Motus manufactures the MST and MSTR, high-performance, American V4 premium sport-touring motorcycles. Powered by the MV4 and MV4-R Baby Block engines, the MSTs are characterized by Motus as “a reinvention of the traditional sport-tourer. Comfortable American sportbikes with accommodations for touring.”

The technical specifications of the V4 powerplants are impressive. In the run-up to the Bonneville appearance, the Motus team put the MSTR on the dyno at an altitude of 4400ft, and found the bike produced 158 rear-wheel hp (about 180 hp at the crankshaft) at 8,200 RPM and 114 lb./ft. torque at 5,000 RPM.

Where does all that output come from? The liquid-cooled V4 MV4-R Baby Block motor displaces 1,650cc (100 c.i., 3.465 in. bore x 2.699 in. stroke), with an 11.5:1 compression ratio, fed by closed-loop electronic multiport fuel injection with ride-by-wire throttle control. Unlike the common motorcycle engine valve train with double overhead cams, the Motus powerplants use automotive-style pushrod maintenance-free hydraulic lifter valve activation.

All this is built into a block and heads cast of 356-T6 aluminum, with cast steel crankshaft, billet cam, forged steel rods and pistons.

Power gets to the ground via a six speed sequential dual overdrive transmission coupled to the XW ring chain final drive by a wet multi-plate side-mount clutch.

Post-Bonneville debrief with Lee Conn, President, Motus Motorcycles

UMC: Looking back on your Bonneville experience and lessons learned, what product change/improvement ideas emerged?

Conn: “Yes, we’re now looking for a better salt protectant! Our bikes did really well, but our Mercedes Sprinter’s alternator caught fire on the Salt. We sent a team member to the NAPA in Salt Lake City on one of the bikes to get a new one….. In reality, we did not find many specific product improvement ideas from the Bonneville experience, but we were able to validate a number of things at high speeds that we’ve not been able to see on the streets.

“Much of our aero work was done through CFD in a computer, which is generally very good correlating to real world, but you never know until you validate. The aero kit was very stable at all speeds, although the relatively upright windscreen (designed for 20-90 mph riding) seemed to be a limiting factor for air resistance. My fastest run of almost 169mph was achieved by standing on the pegs and having my head about 6” above the windscreen. A more slanted screen would be better LSR, but we were running in production classes, which prevent that type of modification.”

“Also, where we could hear smoother engines such as in-line 4’s “spinning up” and losing traction, we learned that the inherent traction of the 75 degree crank and 1-4-3-2 firing order had the MSTR “hooked up” at all times. We have seen this on the street, but on salt at high load and high speeds it was very evident.”

“If we can make 169mpg at 4200 ft on the salt, we anticipate a top speed of approximately 190 on pavement at sea level with stock gearing. Hmm…sounds like fun.”

UMC: As a result of the LSR attempts and the work surrounding it, what product and organizational weaknesses and strengths came to light and what changes and improvements may result?

Conn: “From an organizational strengths and weaknesses standpoint, we were really proud of how the team performed in relatively harsh conditions. We were not cleared to compete in the production classes until about 4 weeks before the event, so we quickly converted 2 of our test bikes into race bikes. Once we hit the Salt, other than changing tire pressures and tearing down the engines for scrutineering to verify the engines, we didn’t really do anything to the bikes. I only got in 4 runs (2 “down” and 2 “back” at 149, 162, 163, 169mph). So, we were going faster each run, but just ran out of time.”

UMC: Finally, has your double record-setting success moved the needle so to speak on public interest, dealer interest and so on?

Conn: “Yes, quite a bit. We have a bunch of new inquiries from dealers and customers interested in our motorcycles and engines. We look forward to supporting other teams riding (and driving) Motus products and competing for land speed records next year. Nothing will make me happier than seeing a more experienced race team taking our records on MSTR’s or using the mighty V4 Baby Block in other applications. There is so much more potential there and we can’t wait to see the MSTR break 200mph!”

UMC: Are there any other things you’d like to get out there and comment on about the product line, the company, the technology and future developments?

Conn: “Thanks for the opportunity. Competing at Bonneville is a great way to objectively measure what you’ve done. While we were waiting for our EPA approvals, which have since been issued, land speed racing was a great chance to blow off some steam and really see what the MSTR is capable of on the world’s largest dyno.

“With the 2 AMA records in hand, we bolted the mirrors and license plates back on the bikes and rode straight home (30 hours, 1900 miles) in one crazy non-stop (well, we did have lunch in KS City) Red Bull-fueled ride. Now, we’ve started building motorcycles that will ship to dealers around the U.S. in January.”

For more on these American-built V4s, visit Motus Motorcycles.