Ican't quite remember how the mini bike
came into my procession; after all it was 53 years ago and at that time I was
the ripe old age of 12. A lot of more important data has flowed in and out of
my CPU since then. I'm sure that the space used to store the facts surrounding
the acquisition of a minibike; some 53 years ago, have been over written with
more relevant data. Perhaps now that space contains far more useful factoids;
like the location of the urinals along all the routes I frequently ride.
Anyway it came into my procession sometime during my 12th summer. It
was pretty much a complete mini bike. However its 3hp Briggs and Stratton
single cylinder engine didn't run, the tires were flat and the front end of the
mini bike was still showing the results of its last stop. Obviously the last
owner wasn't very good at avoiding solid objects or he preferred them to using
the mini bike's feeble rear brake.
can vaguely remember carrying and dragging this golden find back to my lair and
guarding it like a lion with a fresh kill. Once again my 12 year old
imagination began to take flight; once again I was seeing land speed records
falling at my feet. The mini bike would carry me through my next step in
With the clear memories of my last father and son chat at
the conclusion of my earlier experiment into P2WICEPPM; I proceeded with great
caution and extreme secrecy. I also decided that this time I would go off road
and pursue my land speed records on dirt. After all, at the Great Salt Lake,
they ran on hard-packed salt, hard-packed dirt couldn't be any
This time the lawnmowers engine was spared the disgrace
of being part of my outlaw gang, instead my dad's cement mixer's power plant
would be pressed into service. It was selected because it was hardly ever used
and wouldn't be missed as soon. It seems at our house grass needed to be cut
far more often than we needed cement.
With the engine part of the
problem now solved. The bent front end was another matter. My pit
crew/co-driver in this new endeavor to break land speed records was my friend
and neighborhood sidekick Kenny. Kenny had a very simple fix for our bent fork
problem; he would just ask his dad to help. Kenny's dad was a master machinist
with all of the equipment needed to straighten out the minibike's bent and
twisted front forks.
Kenny's dad was different; twelve year old boys
sometimes fail to see adults (grown men) with interests as exciting as our own.
Most dads were always very serious and more interested in behavior and
education. But Kenny's dad "Mr. S" was different. Not only was he a lot more
sympathetic to our land speed record goals; he also shared our interest in fast
performance sports cars.
The image above as well as the other satellite images where
taken in 2013, a lot has changed in the neighborhood since 1967 when I left to
go sailing with the U.S. Navy. But I think it gives you an idea of life back in
the good ole 1960.
you opened any issue of "Popular Mechanics" magazine in the 60s and looked at
the ads in the back pages of the magazine, you would find all sorts of great
things you could build in your garage. There were complete plans which you
could follow to build things like; furniture, boats, actual working airplanes,
gyro-copters, and minibikes to name a few.
weren't models or toys; they were the real thing. That airplane, the mini
gyro-copter and the minibike, could actually be built and owned by you. They
weren't put there to create hours of daydreaming subject matter for 12 year old
or were they?
Studying the pictures very closely it looked
like the minibike I dragged home was exactly the same as the one pictured in
the back of "Popular Mechanics". You see you could actually build one in your
The front end of the mini bike was welded up from several
different pieces of tubing and flat plates. I was pretty sure that its repair
wasn't going to quick. We removed the bent front forks off the mini bike and
handed them over to Kenny's dad. After a week that seemed like years had passed
by, "Mr. S" delivered.
I'm sure "Mr. S" was glad that the hounding he
got every day in the driveway when he came home was over. Kenny and I managed
to meet him every evening in the driveway and hounded him for news and status
on the mini bike's front end repair.
When the mini bike's front end
returned home; it was not only straight, it was re-welded, sandblasted, and
primed for paint. In short it looked like a brand new part. "Mr. S" wasn't a
very tall man, but when he held the fork in the air to admire his work and
point out to us all of the things that were done to it, he looked like a giant
The next day we installed the mini's new fork. With two aerosol
cans of black paint the mini's front end and frame were painted. We also
removed the tires from the rims. Painted the rims and patched the holes in the
tubes and then mounting the tires and tubes back on the rim and filled them
with air. The "borrowed" engine went into the frame and the strange new
centrifugal clutch slid into place on the end of the engine's crankshaft.
The strange new centrifugal clutch would allow us to start the engine
with its pull rope. The engine would run at idle and not drive the rear wheel.
Not until the engine was throttled up would the mini bike start to move; this
solved the problem I had with the motorbike. I would not have to run alongside
and then jump onto a running machine. Increasing the engine's rpms would spin
weights out which would grab the inside of the clutch cover and rotate the
little sprocket attached to it. The clutch cover's turning would turn the
little sprocket which pulled the chain that ran from the engine to the rear
The rear sprocket was about two inches less in diameter than
the rear wheel itself. But once the clutch engaged it turned, the amount of
torque from the engine that was delivered to the rear wheel was unbelievable.
memories of police interfering with my previous attempts at breaking land speed
records with the motorbike were still pretty fresh in my memory. Lucky for me
our back yard butted up against one of the largest sand and gravel pits on Long
Island. Hundreds of acres of dirt roads traveling in and around the largest
piles of rocks and sand anyone has ever seen. Mountains over 60 feet high of
rocks; each mountain built from rocks all the same size, and sand were
everywhere. The far side of the pit, away from our yard was bordered by the
tracks of the Long Island Railroad. Cutting through the middle of the sand pit
was a set of railroad tracks that crossed a bridge that was used to empty train
cars of sand and gravel into waiting trucks below.
At the other end of
the pit were conveyer-belts leading up to towers which were 100 foot high, sand
and gravel would be placed on the conveyer taken to the top of the tower and
dropped into the hopper. In the hopper rocks and sand were separated and
segregated by size and then dropped into waiting trucks. The trucks would carry
their loads to customers or a designated place in the pit and then dumped. This
dumping is what created the mountains.
All the homes in my neighborhood were built at the same time by
the same company, it was part of the post war housing boom. Every home in the
neighborhood was either a single floor ranch or a two story colonial style
home; each one had the same floor plan, each yard was almost identical in size.
The back yards of all the houses on my side of the street ended at a
fence between them and the sand pit. Some homeowners installed a gate so that
they could access the area beyond the fence to drop off grass cuttings; leaves
and tree limbs
The gate in my yard gave us easy access to the one of my
The fence line that separated back yards from
the pit property ran for about 150 yards. There was a dirt walking path about
six to ten feet from the fence that paralleled the course of the fence. This
was a perfect place to make our high speed record runs with the mini bike. We
were far enough away from houses and people that the noise wouldn't attract too
much attention. After a week of running the mini bike up and down the foot
path; it became wider and was being packed down more and more. Our track was
also getting smoother and faster.
To get the most speed in a straight
line I would get into an aerodynamic position by lowering my upper body down
parallel with the mini's upper frame and seat. With my hands on the mini bike's
handle bars, my head would align between my elbows, and I would view the fast
approaching world through the handlebar uprights. In this position I would push
the envelope to go faster and faster.
It didn't take long for this 150
yard stretch of track to become boring. We needed a longer and more interesting
path to follow. Both Kenny and I figured that the longer the path was, the
faster we could go. Ideas started to bloom not only in my head but Kenny's too;
it was time for us to search for other places where we could do land speed