Time for a quick update on Shea Nyquist's quest to break the land speed record in a fully electric streamliner. The bike is up and running, albeit without any fairing panels on it yet, and Nyquist has been doing some "kind of illegal" but successful testing on quiet backroads near his home.
When we first caught up with Shea back in May (and make sure you read that interview, this whole project is amazing), he had his electric streamliner rolling, and was trying to figure out how to steer the 1,700-lb (770-kg) thing on his long, sloped driveway. Slow speed handling is a real challenge for machines with such a long wheelbase, and despite Nyquist's decades as a high-level BMX athlete, balancing and staying ahead of the bike was a hairy proposition.
What he really needed was a test track. But test tracks for land-speed motorcycles are few and far between, especially for shoestring budget operations like what Shea's trying to put together, so he looked around for a quiet bit of road where nobody might notice an electric land-speed machine wobbling up and down and he was unlikely to get in anyone's way.
A suitable candidate was found, not far from his house and freshly paved, and the clandestine testing began, with friend and colleague Dustin Rose filming and blocking off traffic, and land speed legend Jack Castello keeping watch and giving tips.
"Driving the bike started out being a bit sketchy," Nyquist tells us. "I kept the stabilizer wheels pretty low, just so I could test the throttle and brake before trying to balance. Once I felt confident about the drivetrain, I raised the wheels up and started to try to balance. The bike felt incredibly unstable starting out. I kept my first runs to about 40 mph (64 km/h) and it felt like i was trying to balance a pencil on my finger.
"I could tell that the bike needed to go faster to get stable, I just had no clue how fast that was! If I went faster and the bike remained unstable, it would have been very easy for me to accidentally steer off the 20-ft-wide (6-m) road and lunge through a ditch into a barb wire fence. After a couple more sketchy runs, I decided to open it up and find where that stability transition was. I accelerated hard, the bike felt good during acceleration and when I got to around 60 mph (98 km/h), all of the wobbles and twitches fell off. The steering tillers went light and all i could think was hell yes!
"After a couple of runs, some of the local ranchers came out to see what the hell was zipping down the street and scaring their horses ... A little sweet talking and a promise to make my stabilizer wheels more quiet, and I convinced them to let me run it another day.
"So that night, I cut up an old moto tire and pop riveted it to perimeter of the stabilizing wheels.
I came back in force. Chase Truck, drone camera, GoPros and a bit of a crew. After charging up my batteries, I wanted to get used to the bike. The speed, the control, and the sensation. Even though it was stressful, exhausting and kind of illegal, I was exhilarated to have achieved this landmark goal. The bike runs, drives and rips! The last couple of runs of the day, I had a chance to open it up a bit more and I got the bike up to 80 mph (129 km/h), which would be a frightening speed on a regular motorcycle on that road ... I felt like I'd pushed my luck enough. I'm ready to take it out to the salt flats and feel confident."
The next items on Shea's to-do list are getting hold of the mandated safety gear he'll need to pass scrutineering, and building the aerodynamic fairings that'll do the lion's share of the work helping him try to break the land speed record for electric streamliners. He's hoping to take the bike out for a run at the SCTA event at El Mirage in mid-September.
The 200-kilowatt (270-hp) electric bike is currently doing 80 mph (129 km/h) on a 10 percent throttle, and that's without any aerodynamics in place. Nyquist is confident that a record is within his reach, and in order to get the project over the line, he's asking for contributions on a GoFundMe, through which the first 100 people that throw in US$25 or more can get their name on the side of the bike.
Meet Shea and see some of his testing in the video below.
Source: Lark Machine Co
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