Ten Seconds: Destroyed
Unfortunately during the second pass I developed some kind of habit that caused the bike to drift left, almost to the point of crossing into the other lane. To compensate, I believed I needed to modulate the throttle and steer the bike back into my lane, which ultimately left me with a time somewhere in the 13-second range. Definitely not what I expected after such a good first run. Nevertheless, I cleared my head, relaxed and visualized a sub 10-second run, convinced that I could do it as a number of other journalists had already accomplished breaking the barrier.
Drag racing, like many things in life, is a sport of tiny adjustments be they physical or mental. With new determination and processed information from the previous runs I decided that I might have lined up too far left. So on my third run I decided to move just a little to the right. I was now more toward the center of the drag strip. With what was probably my best burn out of the day, I approached the staging box in my new position, laid across the tank, pinned the throttle when the time was right, dumped the clutch and blasted myself off the line. Almost instantly after I hit the shift button to go to second gear I knew this run was different. I attribute that to getting into second gear sooner than on the previous two runs. When I hit third gear I was going faster than at any other time and the bike rumbled and fluttered across the ground with the front end barely touching. Yet it was never uncontrollable and the bike did its job. The wide rear tire, wheelie bar and long and low set up of a drag bike will generally allow you to do your one duty: shift!
When I returned to the pit I still had the strong conviction that I should've gotten below 10 seconds. When Sean came to the pit he calmly told me he had captured the entire run on video and thusly had concrete evidence that in fact I had become a member of the nine-second club with my 9.96-second time. At that point my day of riding the Destroyer would be over until I received a medical exam and complete a NHRA license application. National Hot Rod Association rules require that anyone going below 10 seconds in the particular class that the Destroyer is slated in must do the above.
Is Harley's claim that their new machine will go under 10 seconds as designed for the average guy, true? Apparently so, because at least eight journalists did as much. Director of CVO, Jim Hofmann stated that the VRXSE Screamin' Eagle V-Rod Destroyer is "the bridge between Harley's NHRA efforts and the V-Rod line."
It's difficult to do a traditional review of this kind of motorcycle because no one at Motorcycle.com is a drag racer; therefore it's hard to sort out any idiosyncrasies that the bike may have. What we can say is that the Destroyer will do exactly what it is designed to do. With the right knowledge of all that drag racing entails, which can be a lot, someone with determination and this motorcycle can not only go under 10 seconds but they may start looking to break the nine second barrier. Many experienced racers have already come close on the Destroyer so it won't be long now before the world of motorcycle drag racing changes forever.
Sean Makes a Pass
Our intrepid photog Fonzie Palaima is off playing in MOhab (that'd be Moab, Utah) with the Goddess of all things MO, Ms. Ashley Hamilton. He was supposed to be back about two weeks ago, but if you know Ashley, you know that her "scheduled return date" and actual calendar dates aren't even distantly related. So, Pete needs to go to CA Speedway for the Harley CVO Destroyer launch and MO has no photo/videographer. Dull-flickering sparks ignite, as a plan forms in my head. "I'll go shoot Pete's adventure, don't worry about making it back in time" I tell Da Fonz. And I meant it, I would indeed go with Pete and photo/video his time aboard the Destroyer. Of course, I'd also stash my leathers in the trunk "just in case".
I thought I was so smart. Unfortunately, reality poked its ugly head into my plans, shortly after we arrived at the track, when Harley Media Coordinator Paul James told me "It's a one journalist per publication event, so you'll need to stay off the track and stick to the photos." Great, I'll just spend the day watching everyone else have fun.
Pete was doing a fine job adapting to his role as journo-racer and I did my best to play diligent photo guy, while stealing envious glances and eaves dropping on his coaching sessions with Gene.
As the sun was setting on a day which saw no fewer than seven journalists work there way down into the sub-ten second bracket, a few riders decided to leave-early and I took a shot at convincing Paul that it wouldn't be a big deal if I rotated-into the group and made a few passes of my own. Paul must have a big heart, cause he took pity on my pitiful soul and told me to suit-up. He didn't have to tell me twice.
I'd spent the first few hours of the day watching the other journalists work their way up to the Destroyer after a couple hours on the street bikes, followed by a classroom session for the Destroyer, then several "easy-roll-out" soft launches to get used to the race bike and its funky slick. After the soft runs, the journos went back for another class session, before hopping back on the Destroyer and making full-power drag race passes. Once those hot passes started, I saw plenty of wobbles, wiggles, lane departures and other hair-raising moments. Now it was my turn... without any classes, without all the practice, just "Hurry up it's getting dark and you only have time for two passes." So I'll get one soft-launch followed by a full-power all or nothing single-pass. Gulp, I guess I asked for it. It's probably best just to look cool and pretend that there's no pressure on me, no nerves, act like I've been doing this stuff all my life.
I straddle the Destroyer and the mechanic clips me into the kill switch, while I start this beast using the normal V-Rod switch gear and onboard electric starter. Well, it's all normal except for that left turn-signal button which happens to engage an air-ram to up-shift the bike at full throttle. I won't need that button for a few more seconds though, because you need to shift the destroyer normally until you are actually making a run, lest you deplete the onboard air supply prematurely. Of course the gap from the footpeg to the shift lever is literally about 30". This means you move your whole leg forward, while being careful not to scuff your boots on the ground. This requires a bit of flexibility, since you're lying semi-prone with the footpeg way behind you and the shift lever roughly even with your shoulders. It would be comical if you had to shift this thing very often, fortunately, you only do it to engage neutral, or bump the bike up to 2nd for a burnout.
I blip the throttle, shake the earth, and creep the clutch out an inch to get the bike rolling towards the staging area. As I coast to the burnout pit my thighs are already burning, because I still haven't found those damned foot pegs and my feet are cantilevered out behind me, hanging in mid-air. It's ok though, because the Destroyer is a bit tippy with her crazy fork rake and wrinkle-walled square-sectioned drag slick, so I need my feet free to make quick dabs of paint preservation.
Okay, I'm at the burnout box and 1-2-3 the burnout is done. That wasn't so hard. Now, I ease the Destroyer to the line and settle-in for my soft-launch. There's no "medium-launch" because the rear slick would wrinkle its sidewall and squirm the bike all over the track. It's either soft and easy, or hammer it all at once, there is no in-between, nothing else will work.
I ease the clutch out with about 2,500 rpm on the tach and the bike leaves the line just like a normal V-Rod. Then I gently roll-into the throttle so as not to wrinkle the tire. This is easy, just like the burnout. Gene said that once it's rolling good, you can open the throttle the rest of the way and hit the shift button at 8,000 rpm. So I do.
Then the pace becomes decidedly urgent and the shift light blares red almost instantly, I press the shift button and *Bang* the bike lunges forward even harder while I keep the throttle pinned and start counter steering to correct for the wrinkling rear tire. The bike maintains its heading and all is well as I bang-off the next three shifts and giggle my way through the timing lights. That wasn't so bad now was it?
165 bhp and a veritable mountain of torque all set loose in under a tenth of a second. Sounds violent, doesn't it?
Now I have to do it with full-power from a standstill. This is a whole new ball game, not just a normal launch with a gentle roll into the throttle to feel the motor and chassis. No, this is going to be a semi-controlled explosion from a standstill. Will the tire hook-up and shoot the bike straight down the lane like Gene promises? I don't know. All I know is that if I wimp-out and make a half-assed launch, the bike is likely to wrinkle the tire and bite me, hard. I don't want to scuff my pretty Alpinestars, so I know I must pin the throttle against the stutter box, then dump the clutch in one quick motion when the Christmas tree cycles, so the tire can hook-up and grow like a good drag tire should. I know this sounds simple, but let's think about it for a second. 165 bhp and a veritable mountain of torque all set loose in under a tenth of a second. Sounds violent, doesn't it?
Only one way to find out... I make my second burnout then roll up to the staging lights and take a few deep breaths before fastening my face shield and getting my body as flat as possible to prepare for launch. I let go of the throttle and re-position my hand so that I can hold the throttle to the stop with my arm and wrist level. I tip-toe forward until the bike trips the second beam and we're staged. I open the throttle by dropping my right arm to level and the Destroyer screams up to 8,000 rpm, where the electronics hold it and won't let it rev any higher until the clutch is released. When I dump the clutch, the bike will be free to rev all the way to its 11,000 rpm redline. My fillings rattle and my ear drums are throbbing while I think about that stutter box... Wait, what was that? yellow? Oh yeah, the Christmas tree just tripped and I guess I should open my left fingers and hang on. But seriously, would you? I mean this is really it, right? Nothing left to do but get shot out of this cannon and hey, why rush it, I mean it's the very last run of the day, I've never done this before, nobody else is waiting to make a run, and there's probably a good three or four minutes before it's too dark to see. What's the rush? Oh to hell with it! I let go of the clutch.
..did I smoke everyone else on my very first run?
Pressure it's building in the small of my back, as my ass shoves the rest of my 207-pound carcass forward through the first 60 feet in something like one second. My feet are flailing out behind me like stupid tassels from a RUB's handlebar and the shift light is burning its red message into my retinas before my feet can get anywhere near the pegs. It's a good thing I don't need them. My left thumb detaches from the grip, works its way over to the turn signal switch and presses. Bam! Second gear engages and the bike continues to rocket straight and true, while I search for those damned pegs and try to keep my boots from dragging. The ride is starting to get a little rough as the rigid chassis transmits everything larger than an electron from the track straigt to my breastbone via the gas tank (air box cover) but I can't really worry about that now, because the damned shift light is on again and it's time for another gear. I know this all sounds like a slow-motioned nightmare, but I assure you it is really... I mean seriously fun. The sounds are awesome, the feelings coming from everywhere on your body are new and exciting in a non-erotic manly-man sort of way and your mind is completely-blank while simultaneously processing several million lines of input. I really can't do the feeling justice, but you get the picture. Steer, steer, steer, time for fourth gear, has it really been that long since the lights changed? Really, almost six seconds have passed by now and we're already halfway down the strip. Seems like only yesterday; we were staring at those yellow Christmas tree lights while weighing the merits of clutch engagement. Enough reminiscing, our speed is well over 100 mph now and any nanosecond that shift light is going to send another message. I think my feet are on the pegs now, but I'm not really sure, since all the weight is on my chest and my feet are useless. Fifth gear engages a bit softer than the others, but the acceleration is still strong enough to keep me awake until the 1000 foot mark flashes by. About a second later and the timed run is over at 140ish mph, 1320 feet traveled and I'm still breathing...
I roll out of the throttle and the rear tire starts moving around now that it's not compressed by torque. The ride gets a bit busy for a moment and it feels like the bike just got taller. We skitter and dance for another hundred yards or so, until I start to sit-up and ease into the front brake. Things settle down nicely and I roll gently to the turn-out, but turning isn't this bike's forte. As soon as I lean the bike to the right, something scrapes and the steering goes all wonky. It's ok, no crash or anything, just a completely "wrong" sensation as I weave and bob my way back to the pits.
Did I make it into the 9's on my first and only run after being thrown into the deep end? Please this is a real drag bike; your grandma could make it into the 9's on this thing. Gene Thomason has already turned a 9.18 on a stock Destroyer and fully expects to get it into the 8's after he gets used to the bike and learns all its setup tricks. I mean hell; half the journalists got the bike into the 9's after a bit of practice and by the end of the day, one or two were already into the 9.55 range. Seriously, anybody can run a stock Destroyer into the 9's. A pro like me, do you really even need to ask? I'm so fast, I don't even need to qualify. My pet fish could run 9's on this bike.
I shut the bike off, remove my helmet and somebody pats me on the back. Wow, did I make it into the 8's or something? Pete swaggers over with a sly grin on his face and I'm getting curious, did I smoke everyone else on my very first run? "What was it?" I ask Pete. He smiles for a second and says you were 'this' close to getting into the... (8's?) he pauses for a second "You were this close from getting into the 9's, it was a 10.071" Aggghhh! It's dark now; there will be no second run, no practice, no error corrections, no chance to knock off the chip I could already see forming on Pete's shoulder. He would always be "Faster than Sean" and he knew it. He's a bonafide sub-10 second guy and I'm well... I'm not.
I'm calling Paul James on Monday, seems like there has to be a way to wrangle another run from him. That's all I'll need, "Honestly, I swear please Dr. James, just meet me at a dragstrip, any dragstrip... I need to beat Pete's 9.96, maybe that other journo's 9.55 and you've got the only cure in town."