If you’ve been following Return of the Cafe Racers for a while you’ll have noticed we have a soft spot for land speed racers. The combination of bulletproof engineering and unique, purposeful styling produces some truly awe-inspiring motorcycles, but it’s what they’re capable of that really boggles the mind.
A few weeks back we took a look at a Ural based land speed motorcycle built by the Moscow based workshop of ‘Fine Custom Mechanics’. The heavily modified Ural was named ‘Bonny’ after the salt flats where it was destined to race. After suffering technical issue in 2016 and failing to set a record Bonny was retired. Content on achieving their world record goal FCM set about building a second land speed bike.
The aptly named, Bonny 2 is the second Ural land speed racer FCM have built using the knowledge they gained while racing the first bike. Bonny 2 was designed to be a more capable, more race focused motorcycle than its predecessor. In July of this year, Bonny 2 and the FCM team headed to the salt flats of Bonneville once again to compete in Speed Week so we caught up with them to see how things went.
First up, the question I’m sure is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. How did Bonny 2 perform at Speed Week?
“We participated in the class APS-VF 500cc. This class is for vintage engines that were produced prior to 1956. Bonny 2 is based around a Soviet-made Ural M-72 with a capacity of 750cc. Due to the engines flat head design, it was permitted to race in the 500cc class.
The record speed, which had been in place since 2000, was 115.7 mph. We fought hard to the end with 3 qualifying runs of 119, 121 and 120 miles per hour to beat that record. However to have that record stand at Bonneville you need to achieve it twice, back to back to seal the record. We qualified for records 3 times but had issues backing it up every time. During our last run on the last day, we were 1 of six left to race and only reached 75 mph because of a nitrous solenoid that failed.”
Was the nitrous solenoid the only challenge you encountered at Bonneville?
“From the very beginning, we had another serious problem. We could not find castor oil anywhere for our methanol engine. When we transported the engine from Russia it had to empty, so we were hoping to buy oil in the USA when we arrived. We spent 2 days in search of some and with the help of our friends from Grim Cycle Salvage finally managed to source it. We were also threatened with disqualification because of non-original carburetors. However, this was unreasonable. Thankfully we were helped by other participants at the event who explained to the organizers that we did not violate any rules.
Land Speed racing always produces plenty of technical and mechanical challenges. This year during the event we had to replace a bad toggle switch, 2 cylinders, 1 piston, 2 valves, 1 nitrous solenoid, 2 jet needles, 1 float valve, 4 fuses, 1 spark plug and 1 complete motor!”
“The main difference between Bonny 1 and Bonny 2 is that Bonny 1 was more of a custom bike that we wanted to race. He became a champion of Russia in 2015 when he secured a 7th place at the World Championships of Bike Building in Cologne. We used very few welds on the first bike’s frame, everything was fixed with bolts. On Bonny1 we installed a Harley gearbox and modified it to a belt drive.
Bonny 2 was created specifically for racing. We changed the rake and made the whole bike longer. We also retained an original Ural gearbox, set the front wheel up for better air resistance, relocated the nitrous system to beneath the seat and we got rid of the front brakes.”
Will you be retiring Bonny 2 to build a Bonny 3 for next year?
“No. Next year we will go to Speed Week again with Bonny 2. We are not ready to abandon the Bonny 2 just yet as we think it is capable of setting a new world record.”
Do you feel that competing in land speed racing has affected how FCM will build motorcycles in the future?
“Definitely. It was a very important experience for us working with the Ural and discovering its potential. Of course, we will not stop building beautiful custom motorcycles, but we won’t be limiting ourselves to only custom shows. We now want to continue to take part in races like Bonneville Speed Week, the Wheels & Waves sprints and Glemsek. Racing produces completely different emotions and they’re only made better when you’re riding a great looking motorcycle.”
After taking part in Speed Week Fine Custom Mechanics were featured on the Discovery Channel in a special story called ‘Bonny: Russian Record on the Salt Flats’. If you want to follow the FCM team on their journey to the salt and see Bonny in action it’s available to watch online.
Special thanks to Aleksandr Moros and the team at Fine Custom Mechanics for sharing their story.