I have loved motorcycles since the first time I saw one; they made perfect sense to me. In a world with a lot of complexity, motorcycles stood out as a simple expression of pure, unadulterated fun.
I’d had my first Schwinn bicycle for only three days before a confusing rule of “stay on our block” morphed in my mind to “stay in our city,” and I was grounded from my bike. I was seven, and although I believed two wheels meant there were no rules, just suggestions, my parents apparently believed otherwise.
A neighbor with a broken Taco mini-bike offered a straight trade for my bicycle. I thought, and still think, it was the best trade ever. I tore it down and repainted the frame Ford engine blue. My father found another Briggs & Stratton engine for it, and I rode all over the undeveloped housing projects and apple orchards in our neighborhood. The little centrifugal clutch would come apart on a regular basis and I would have to find the pieces and put it back together. I think the mud helped rather than hurt in these rebuilds.
I outgrew the mini-bike and got a Yamaha YZ80 — a little unbreakable two-stroke. We rebuilt the top end and added a pipe, which was my first introduction to what would be a lifelong love of two-strokes and understanding them. I had so much fun on that little bike. The neighbor kids all had bikes and we rode every day, all day. Weekends were spent in the surrounding mountains and deserts, exploring and racing. Pure heaven.
My attention was drawn to road racing, where the likes of King Kenny Roberts, Fast Freddy, Lawson, Rainey, and Shwantz plied their beautiful trade, with those two-stroke behemoths trying to shrug my heroes off at every opportunity. Best racing ever… I still watch old race coverage.
I attended my first MotoGP race at Laguna Seca in 1992. The sea of bikes in the parking area made me feel part of a group who loved motorcycles as much as I did. The racing was spectacular, although my hero Wayne Rainey wasn’t there. I have been to lots of races in my life — NASACAR, Indy, flat track, dirt circle, and desert — but that race at Laguna Seca will always remain my favorite.
As much as I love the corners, I was raised in a Bonneville Salt Flats land-speed family. Our first year out on the salt was 1974, and we ran a Dodge Dart with a blown Ford flathead in it. I still remember that chain-driven blower as if it was yesterday, and how the clatter and buzz of the drive made me think that none of my useful appendages needed to be anywhere near it. My father set a record that year, which stood until 2015.
We ran lots of cars and set more records over the years, but in 2006 I started campaigning on my own motorcycle project. Using a lifetime of learned skills as a machinist, and my love of two strokes, I began racing an old Yamaha RD400, and it is still my favorite motorcycle.
I bought the bike from Ed Erlenbach. It was already the world’s fastest RD400, with records at El Mirage and Muroc, but it had never been raced on the salt, which is a very different animal. The first year I raced the bike, a piston seized and I was terrified to tear it apart. I didn’t want to mess with the magic inside that engine!
I got over my apprehension and was soon was duplicating the beautiful work Ed had done with my own cylinders. However, keeping an air-cooled, gas-powered engine cool enough on the long, hard, wide-open throttle pull on the salt proved to be an excellent challenge. I learned a whole new set of skills, and started designing and building the entire engine. I was lucky enough to set the AMA record for Modified Gas class in 2013.
I’ve built street motorcycles most my life and learned to paint, weld, and fabricate out of necessity. I try to challenge myself on every project, to learn new skills, and to refine seldom used talents, all in the name of getting better. I have also spent most of my professional career machining hard core race car products.
The challenge of building Alpha was in this vein of self-exploratory knowledge-based learning. It was challenging and fun, plus it had the twist of being an interesting social media experiment because the designer lives in Turkey and we worked together on a mutual project across thousands of miles. As I was shaping the body, I would send pictures to Mehmet and he would critique the angle of a curve and I would work it until we were both happy.
Where the name Speed of Cheese comes from is, I had a black and white picture of me out on the Salt Flats sitting on my race bike. This picture was floating around work when one of my co-workers photoshopped me on a Holstein cow, which is what the race bike looks like in B&W with the spots on the bodywork. Someone else wrote “traveling at the speed of cheese” on the now spread-all-over-the-shop photoshopped picture. It made me laugh, so I adopted the name for the race team.
I’ve been lucky to meet and work with some amazing people over the years. I am so happy and grateful for every step of this life and the events that have led me to where I am now, and I look forward to the next adventure, the next challenge, the next great quest!