Category Archives: Inspiration


If you’ve made it this far you’re no doubt thinking “This man’s fallen off his rocker!”  “A locomotive engine design for a motorcycle!?!”  That’s not really the case, although it was the EMD engine and their prolific use on local short line railroads that introduced me to the concept of the uniflow engine.

To understand why the EMD engine is inspiring I should backtrack a little and explain a bit about the two-cycle engine, the history of motorcycle racing and what makes the uniflow engine the right choice for the Paulding Racer.

The Two Cycle Engine

It is the two-cycle engine design, not the four-cycle, which has produced the largest array of displacements, service types and power levels.  One of the smallest two-cycle engines produced is the loop scavenged Cox .049 cubic inch “Babe Bee”, a control line model airplane engine fueled by nitromethane.  On the other end of the scale is Wartsila-Sulzer’s uniflow RTA-96, a direct-drive uniflow marine diesel engine displacing over 111,000 cubic inches per cylinder.


Cover art for the Wartsila RT-FLEX96C and RTA96C Technology Review brochure showing bedding of the crankshaft. The man on the left should provide sufficient scale.

According to Cyril Lovesey, Sir Stanley Hooker once poked fun at the four-stroke engine, stating that it uses “one stroke to produce power and three to wear it out.”  While the four-stroke engine can devote one full stroke of the piston (half a crankshaft revolution) to each of the four portions of a combustion cycle, the two-stroke engine must do everything in only one full revolution.  The four portions of a complete combustion cycle in the four-stroke engine are:

1)  Intake:  The camshaft operated intake valve opens and the piston moves towards bottom of the cylinder, sucking in a fresh air and fuel charge.

2)  Compression:  All valves are closed and the mixture is compressed prior to ignition.

3)  Power:  With all the valves remaining close, the fuel mixture is ignited and expanded.  Power derived from the expansion is transmitted to the crankshaft.

4)  Exhaust:  The exhaust valve opens and the spent combustion gasses are forced from the cylinder in preparation for a fresh charge.


The four strokes of a four-stroke engine. Animation Credit: Wikipedia user Zephyris

On the other hand, the two-stroke engine has only one crankshaft revolution to complete everything the four-stroke engine does in two revolutions.  This is accomplished by combining the intake of a fresh fuel and air charge with expelling the exhaust gasses from the cylinder.  This operation is called scavenging.

The animation below is of a loop-scavenged two-stroke reed valve engine using the crankcase as an induction air compressor and is typical of chainsaw, weed trimmer and dirt bike engines.  The lubrication system is the total loss type, depending on oil inducted into the engine through the carburetor to lubricate the engine internals.

The cycle begins when the piston rises in the compression stroke.  Atmospheric air (blue) is drawn though the carburetor where it picks up a combustible mixture of fuel and lubricating oil (green).  The mixture passes though the reed valves into the crankcase.  As the piston reaches Top Dead Center (TDC) the reeds close and the piston begins moving down, reducing the volume of the crankcase and compressing the mixture slightly.

As the piston continues downward, it uncovers the exhaust port (known as the release point of the cycle), then the intake port.  The mixture compressed in the crankcase is forced though the transfer ports into the cylinder.  Some of it escapes out the open exhaust port.

As the piston rises in the next compression stroke the intake port is blocked off by the advancing piston.  At the same time, an exhaust pulse traveling down the tuned expansion chamber pushes the majority of the fresh mixture back into the cylinder, but only if the engine is operating within the range of the tuned exhaust.  If the engine is operating outside the range of the tuned exhust that portion of the mixture is lost, contributing to poor volumetric efficiency.

This piston continues advancing to the trapping point (the point at which the exhaust port is blocked off by the piston.)  Mixture compression occurs followed by ignition and expansion.  As the piston is forced downwards past the release point again, an exhaust pulse begins traveling down the tuned exhaust pipe and the cycle starts again


Animation of a two-cycle loo-scavenged reed valve engine. Credit: Wikipedia /

The Uniflow Engine

At this point, the more motorcycle-oriented of you are saying “The two-cycle bike is a peaky wheelie monster and unsuitable for modern road racing unless you want to get killed.  Besides, today’s 4-cycle bikes are more powerful than the old 2-smokes ever were and are better at helping the rider get that power to the road where it counts for something!”

That is true of port scavenged engines, yes.  However, it is not the case with the uniflow engine as evidenced by the fact that it’s an excellent choice for moving the heaviest loads ever moved by an internal combustion engine.  The same things that make an engine suitable for pulling a freight train or driving a ship make the perfect engine for a cutting edge road racing motorcycle.  Namely, a broad and flat torque curve and copious, predictable power.

By negating the need for a organ pipe tuned exhaust and through the use of forced induction, the uniflow engine can have the throttle characteristics of a 4-cycle engine.  In addition, it can produce more power than a four-cycle engine from the same displacement as a two-cycle engine fires twice as often.  This can place less stress on many of the rotating components of the engine and produces a smoother power response.

Operating Principle of the Uniflow Engine

Unlike a reed valve engine, the uniflow engines require a scavenge blower to “breathe” as it does not use the crankcase to compress the mixture before transferring it to the cylinder.  The scavenge blower can be an engine-driven supercharger such as a Roots Blower, a centrifugal supercharger, or even a turbocharger which is powered by the engine at low throttle settings to provide starting air.  The uniflow engine is so named because gas passes in only one direction though the engine, as seen below.


Illustration from the EMD 567 Engine Maintenance Manual illustrating the scavenging and compression events.

The start of the cycle begins at position A, with the piston at bottom dead center.  Scavenging air provided under pressure by the roots blower enters the cylinder ports uncovered by the piston and forces the spent fuel gasses up the cylinder and through the exhaust valve s.

As the crankshaft advances at position B, the piston ports are closed by the piston (trapping point) and compression begins.


Illustration from the EMD 567 Engine Maintenance Manual illustrating the injection and expansion events.

As the piston reaches top dead center, as in position C, fuel injection occurs and combustion takes place.  The piston is forced downwards to position D.  As the cylinder pressure falls and before the intake ports are uncovered again, the exhaust valves open and begin venting the remaining exhaust gasses to prevent blowback into the induction air belt.

A Locomotive Engine for a Racing Motorcycle?

The uniflow engine offers several distinct advantages with only a few disadvantages if developed for motorcycle use:

Advantage:  The uniflow engine has the potential for the highest volumetric efficiency of any 2-stroke engine across a broad range of speeds.  While the scavenging and charging events are substantially shorter than the equivalent 4-cycle engine, the uniflow engine has around four times the exhaust and intake port area of any 4-cycle engine which means faster scavenge and charge times.

Advantage:  Unlike loop-scavenged two-cycle engines, which are found in the vast majority of two-cycle road racing motorcycles, dirt bikes, weed eaters and chainsaws, the direct injection uniflow engine does not require a tuned expansion chamber exhaust to effect charge trapping.  As a consequence it should be possible to have a smooth and steadily building power curve with a fairly flat torque curve.  The result is predictable power as opposed to the “light switch” power hit of a loop-scavenged engine.

Advantage:  The uniflow two-cycle engine can provide all the predictable power characteristics which make the 4-stroke a dominant performer in motorcycle racing while providing more power per cubic inch of displacement.

Advantage:  While the uniflow two-cycle engine is more complicated and heavier than the 4-cycle engine or the loop-scavenged 2-cycle engine, it is my estimation that the weight penalty is more than made up for by the increase in engine performance.  The main increase in packaged weight will be the weight of the scavenge blower and drive arrangement.

Advantage:  The 2-cycle engine will provide twice as many power events per revolution of the crankshaft.  A substantially smoother engine should result.

Disadvantage:  The uniflow engine is one of the most complicated types of internal combustion engine due to the need for direct injection and a scavenge blower.

Disadvantage:  The piston skirt must keep the intake air ports closed as the piston approaches TDC.  This requires a trunk-type piston which will weigh more than modern slipper piston.  The heavier pistons will require more crankshaft counterbalance and may reduce the top end speed of the engine.

Disadvantage:  A uniflow engine achieves highest volumetric efficiency at a scavenge ratio of about 1.2 to 1.4   By directly injecting fuel into the cylinder after trapping, over scavenging the engine does not substantially alter fuel economy, but direct injection increases the engine complexity.

Why Hasn’t it Been Done Before?

To answer that question let’s go back in time to before the second world war.  Before WWII, British motorcycles dominated the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race, one of the oldest, most prestigious and certainly the toughest road race in the world.

On June 16th, 1939 however, a BMW factory bike ridden by Georg Meier ended the British domination when he won the Senior TT race after setting a new lap record on his supercharged BMW.  Jock West, another BMW factory rider placed second on his supercharged bike, a full 30 seconds ahead of the competition.  The BMW factory team was on a roll.  Meier had already won the 1938 German, Belgian and Italian GP races along with many domestic races.


A much older Georg Meier riding the Lap of Honor at the 1989 Isle of Man TT on a 1939 BMW Type 255 Kompressor, the same model he rode to victory in the 1939 Senior TT.  Photo Credit:  Wikipedia Commons

On September 1, 1939 the world changed forever as Germany invaded Poland, marking the start of WWII.  As the world scrambled to choose sides, motorcycle racing was forgotten and BMW went back to building airplanes.  It’s said that many of the race-winning Kompressor BMW’s were hidden in pig pens and barns during the war.  There is probably some truth to that, as some BMW race bikes survived the war and it’s insatiable appetite for scrap metal.

When the war ended in 1945, German racers were forbidden from competing in international competition by the FIM (Federation Internationale De Motocyclisme) and BMW was forbidden from building motorcycles.  As a final blow to the BMW Kompressor bikes, FIM banned supercharging entirely.  It’s a rule that still stands in the FIM MotoGP rules today:

2013 FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations
2.4.3  Engines  Engine Description
1.  Engines may operate on the reciprocating piston  four stroke
principle only.
The normal section of each engine cylinder and piston in plan view
must be circular. Circular section cylinders & pistons are defined as
having less than 5% difference in the diameter measured at any two
2.  Engines must be normally aspirated

The BMW Kompressor motorycles, stripped of their mechanical superchargers, were no longer competitive.  To win a GP race meant BMW would have to completely re-design their engine from scratch.  This time, a naturally aspirated one.

Successful campaigning of a racing motorcycle is perhaps the most expensive and effective method of advertising a sport bike manufacturer has at his disposal.  Going fast and proving it against the competition has always caught the attention of those of us who live to go fast.

Because of the expense required to develop their technologies, manufacturers tend to design their production bikes around the technology they develop for their racing motorcycles.  As superchargers are forbidden from most, if not all national and international competition (FIM, AMA) very little has been done since the 1930’s on supercharged motorcycle development.  This was true even when two-cycle engines were still allowed in competiton.  As the uniflow engine requires a scavenge blower to operate it has been excluded from powering bikes entering the major racing classes since the end of WWII.


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…although we could talk a little two-cycle design, we spoke with a very heavy four-cycle accent. We did believe we could understand what a two-cycle engine was trying to tell us, so with the optimism of youth we barged into the design that ultimately turned out to be the 567.

E.W. Kettering, Chief Engineer, EMD

The 567 Series Engine

In the mid 1930’s, EMD realized that the Winton 201 Series engine was not going to be sufficient to meet railroad demands as it wasn’t powerful or reliable enough.  They discovered that fixing the problems of the 201 would require an entirely new engine and thus they decided to start with a clean sheet of paper.  On one side they listed everything they got right with the 201.  On the other side they listed all the failures.  Their plan was deceptively simple:  Fix the failures, keep what they got right and build a more powerful engine that would better use the space within the carbody of a locomotive.

Unlike the 201, an early emphasis was placed on design for manufacturability to increase interchangeablity, tooling commonality and productivity.  As an example, all 567 engines use the same oil pump design.  The only difference is the length of the gear teeth.  An unintended benefit of this emphasis on interchangeability is that almost all parts of the engine, including revised designs, are interchangeable between engine serial numbers.

As with the 8-201, research began with a test engine studying cylinder liners, porting and pistons.  The pistons required substantial development to further refine the crown cooling system begun with the 201.  EMD found that traditional asymmetrical pistons with the pin bore though the wall of the piston caused substantial heat-induced stresses.  These stresses resulted in ring belt cracking due to the temperature gradient between the crown and ring belt.

567 test engine

EMD’s first 2-567 test engine.  Illustration Credit:  “History and Development of the 567 Series General Motors Locomotive Engine”  Page 18

Their solution to the temperature gradient problem was the “trunnion piston”.  The piston pin is installed though a trunnion, which is in turn a slip fit in the piston crown.  The trunnion is secured to the bottom of the piston by a snap ring.  This elegant solution solved not only the ring belt cracking problem by reducing the temperature gradient across the piston, but also allows the whole piston to rotate, potentially distributing skirt and ring wear more evenly.

piston temps

Winton and early EMD pistons suffered greatly from ring sticking due to high ring belt temperatures. This was solved by the EMD “heat dam” piston but presented a new challenge: The high temperature gradient caused the ring belt to separate from the piston crown.  Illustration Credit:  “History and Development of the 567 Series General Motors Locomotive Engine”  Page 25.

Another discovery during development of the 567 Series worth noting is that, like many two-cycle engines, the 201 series suffered piston and liner scuffing around the cylinder ports.  This can sometimes be due to the reduced contact area between the liner and the piston rings, resulting in metal to metal contact, ring breakage and eventual failure of the liner in the port strut contact area.

However, during testing of a 567 Series engine it was discovered that the cylinder liner operates at a much lower temperature around the intake ports.  This naturally causes a straight-bored cylinder to contract in the area of the intake ports, in the same way tightening your belt constricts your gut!

Liner Temps

This illustration, taken from “History and Development of the 567 Series General Motors Locomotive Engine” shows the temperature gradient across the cylinder liner in the area of the intake ports.  Illustration Credit:  “History and Development of the 567 Series General Motors Locomotive Engine”  Page 37

EMD’s solution?  Rather than bore a taper in the cylinder, as is commonly done on air-cooled aircraft engines, they decided to relieve the port area about .014″ on diameter.  This solved the piston and liner scuffing problem.

Liner Relief

An illustration from the EMD 645 series Engine Maintenance Manual, showing a cross-section of the liner and the location of liner diametral relief.

Numerous other improvements in injectors, crankcase structure, rod and rod bearing design, exhaust valves and valve bridges and other components resulted in what became the 567 Series.  At 567 cubic inches displacement per cylinder and a rated power of 1,750 HP in the later models at a piston speed of 2,100 FPM, the 567 is the engine that “Dieselized” American railroads.


An early 567 Series engine, note the square hand hole covers. Later 567’s and modern EMD engines have round hand hole covers.  Illustration Credit:  “History and Development of the 567 Series General Motors Locomotive Engine”  Page 64

While railroad history isn’t the purpose of this blog, it’s worth noting the enormous effect EMD’s engines have had on American railroad operations.  The 567 Series was installed in the EMD “E Series”, “FT Series” and the exceptionally popular “GP Series” locomotives, among others.

While the GP locomotives are by far the most popular, it’s an almost forgotten FT unit, GM-103, that is the most historically important.  Powered by four 1,350HP 567A engines, it was an EMD mainline freight demonstrator.  Freight, not passengers, are the bread and butter of American railroads and it was FT-103 that sold some American railroads completely on the diesel and forced the rest to follow.


Half of GM FT-103 repainted in it’s orginal demonstrator colors at the 1989 EMD open house in LaGrange, IL. Photo Credit: Unknown


AT&SF #115, a complete four-unit GM FT. Photo Credit: Jack Delano / Wikipedia

Dick Dilworth, Chief Engineer of EMD at the time, tells it best.  After hearing that a railroad executive, undoubtedly William Jeffers of the Union Pacific Railroad, had talked down to one of EMD’s salesmen about the capability of their FT-103, he got on the phone:

“I hear you’ve been taking advantage of one of our men.  I’d like to make a prediction.  If you’ll put our four-unit freight locomotive alongside your Big Boy on that hill out in Utah, we’ll push your Big Boy so far back into Lionel’s window with the rest of the toys that no one will ever talk about it again.”

Today, EMD locomotives powered by the same basic engine architecture pioneered in the 1930’s pull heavier trains than five UP Big Boys ever could over “that hill” (The Wasatch Grade).

FT-103 now resides under cover at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, MO alongside many of the steam locomotives it helped push back into Lionel’s window.  The technology it brought to the railroad lives on and relatively unchanged from it’s original form.


Me in the head unit of FT-103 with it’s 567A engine.

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The boys worked all night and hoped the engines would run all the next day. It was no fun but we learned fast and a new design study was soon underway at Winton. To mention the parts with which we had trouble in Chicago would take far too much time. Let it suffice to say that I do not remember any trouble with the dip stick.

E.W. Kettering, Chief Engineer, EMD

Predecessor to the 567 Series:  The Winton 201

It’s 1930, the Great Depression is deepening and gasoline prices are rising.  The railroads, recent adopters of gasoline-electric powered railcars for local passenger service, are screaming:  “Gas prices are going up!”

GM had just recently purchased the Electro-Motive Corporation, an early builder of gasoline-electric rail cars and the Winton Engine Corporation, builders of the engines that powered Electro-Motive’s rail cars.  The new division of GM, Electro-Motive Division (EMD), was set to task building a new engine to run not on distillate or gasoline, but diesel.

Up to this point, Winton’s largest 4-cycle gasoline railroad engine made 400 horsepower from 1,184 cubic inches.  Winton’s early solution to the problem of making more power with cheaper fuel was their 900HP distillate engine.  The engine, plagued with problems, made 900 horsepower when it could be kept running.  EMD realized that the future of railroad combustion engines was more power, LOTS more power.  This would allow the combustion powered train to haul much more weight and take to the main lines.

To build a more powerful engine, General Motors Research concluded the solution was a compression-ignition 2-cycle uniflow engine burning cheaper diesel fuel.  This engine would use Winton’s recently developed (but far from perfected) unit injector.  The 2-cycle engine, by it’s very nature, allows a higher volume-specific power output than a 4-cycle engine because it fires every revolution of the crankshaft, rather than every other revolution.   A course of research and development began with the construction of several single-cylinder test engines.  As problems were solved in the test engine, an 8-cylinder inline engine began to take shape, soon to be called the Winton 8-201.

“..I do not remember any trouble with the dip stick.”  Such was the story at the GM Building during the 1933 World’s Fair.  A pair of new engines of unconventional design, just recently assembled and still relatively untested, were on trial before the world.

Called the 8-201 because if their inline 8-cylinder configuration with a displacement of 201 cubic inches per cylinder, they would be discovered at the World’s Fair by Ralph Budd, president of the Chicago, Baltimore and Quincy Railroad.    The 8-201, redesigned immediately after the World’s fair and designated the 8-201A, would power his groundbreaking new train, the Pioneer Zephyr.  “Dieselization” of America’s railroads had begun.

winton worlds fair

The Winton 8-201’s at the 1933 World’s Fair.

The Winton engines were unique in many respects.  Beyond their novel fabrication almost entirely from welded steel plate, “powerpack” construction and unit injectors, they were one of the first uses of the poppet valve uniflow scavenged 2-stroke cycle.

The Winton Engine Corporation unitized injector, U.S. Patent 1,864,860. Filed Feb 11, 1931

Winton fabricated engine construction, U.S. Patent 1836,189. Filed Feb 14, 1930

One of the major issues to be solved in developing the 201 engine involved cooling the piston crown and ring belt.  Winton’s solution to this problem is instructive as it is a problem I expect to face as well.

winton piston

An early Winton 201 series piston. Not the large number of compression rings, heavy wall crown and ring belt. Also note the even temperature distribution between the crown and ring belt. lllustration Credit: “History and Development of the 567 Series General Motors Locomotive Engine” Page 11.

Initial development in the single-cylinder test engine concluded that conventional piston design was not appropriate.  As power approached 82 1/2 HP per cylinder, the piston rings began sticking, presumably due to oil coking.  Piston seizure soon followed after about 100 hours of operation.  It was discovered that increasing the cooling oil flow to the piston crown did not necessarily reduce ring belt temperatures and that the piston shed almost 70% of it’s waste heat to the cylinder liner through the top ring.  EMD’s solution to the problem was the heat dam piston.

late winton piston

A revised Winton 201 piston design. Note the much lighter construction, higher crown temperature and lower ring belt temperature. Illustration credit: “History and Development of the 567 Series General Motors Locomotive Engine” Page 13

The heat dam piston reduces the ability of the crown to transfer heat to the ring belt by limiting the area of metal connecting the two surfaces.  This substantially reduced the ring belt temperature, but increased the crown temperature.  A material change to cast iron was made at that time, presumably for it’s lower thermal conductivity and it’s capacity to resist the higher temperatures in the crown area.  Piston cooling oil was used to cool the underside of the piston crown.

While the 201 and 201A series engines were variously plagued with problems related to piston cooling, crankcase stiffness and coolant leaks, the lessons learned from the Winton 8-201 and it’s larger cousins the 12-201 and 16-201 would directly produce the engine that finished “Dieselizing” the railroads of the world.  It’s an engine which can still be heard running the iron today:  The EMD 567 series.  It is this engine that first introduced me to the 2-cycle uniflow design.

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Motorcycling and aviation have a lot in common.  At their core, both highly reward the skilled and severely punish those without skill or discipline.  I think that’s why so many people in aviation are attracted to motorcycles and vice versa.

It wouldn’t be possible to provide a complete picture of my inspiration for this project without taking a moment to talk of Glenn Curtiss, a motorcycling and aviation pioneer.  During my time at the Curtiss Museum in 2007 I realized that Curtiss and I have much in common, although separated by over a century.

Curtiss, a fellow speed addict, started with motorcycles and transferred his motorcycle engine knowledge to aviation.  Aviation caught Curtiss’ eye when motorcycles no longer satisfied his cravings for speed.  I can’t help but laugh.  A century later I’m doing the opposite, transferring my knowledge of aviation to motorcycles, to chase the same thing:  Going faster!

Glenn Curtiss, The Early Years

Curtiss was born in 1878 in Hammondsport, NY.  Early on, he demonstrated an interest in going fast.  He won his first bicycle, which was offered by the Hammondsport Herald, to the paper carrier who could cover the paper delivery route in the fastest time.  He crashed though the finish line, literally, but the bike was his.

Curtiss dropped out of school in the 8th grade to be with his deaf sister in Rochester, NY where he got work in the Kodak film plant stenciling numbers on film.  However, he continued riding his bike, making the 70-mile trip from Rochester to Hammondsport regularly on it.  Little more is known about Glenn’s riding until he was around 18 years old.

It was on one of these trips home that he hooked up with “The Hammondsport Boys”, a group of local bicycle racers.  Glenn quickly rose to the top of this group and attracted the attention of local business owners who were sponsoring the bicycle races.  In 1900, one of those business owners sold Glenn his bicycle shop.  By 1901 Glenn was building his own brand of bicycles.

Glenn’s first motorcycle, the “Happy Hooligan”

Not long after he began building his own bicycles he ordered a set of engine castings from the E.R. Thomas company, manufacturers of one of the first American motorcycles.  The castings were apparently of horribly quality, but though the use of his wife’s uncle’s machine tools he was able to fashion an engine out of them.

Bigger and Faster Bikes

Characteristically, Curtiss immediately contacted the E.R. Thomas company again, asking for and receiving the castings for the largest engine they could supply.   Weighing in at 180 lbs it was a “terror” and Curtiss said it “exploded only occasionally, but when it did it tore itself loose from the frame.” It still wasn’t enough.  Curtiss decided only he was capable of building a more powerful motorcycle engine, as nobody else was supplying one at the time.

A series of motorcycles were produced by him both personally and later by his shops, each more powerful than the last, culminating the record-winning V-8 motorcycle.  It is this bike, a faithful reproduction of which is in the entrance to the Curtiss Museum that caught my attention.

The V-8 Motorcycle

Glenn Curtiss on his V-8 motorcycle. The photo was originally published in the February, 1907 issue of “The Motorcycle Illustrated.”

The V-8 motorcycle began in 1903, as a result of his interest in building an aircraft engine.  While most other motorcycle manufacturers were still busying themselves with singles and narrow angle twins, Curtiss wondered what would happen if an airplane engine were put in a motorcycle frame. Naturally, he had to find out.

It was on this motorcycle, making 40HP, that Curtiss won the title of “World’s fastest man” in 1907, going 136.3 MPH.  It wasn’t until 1911 that a human traveled faster, going 141.7 MPH in a car.   It wasn’t until 1930 that a motorcycle went faster.

The 1907  motorcycle “satisfied his craving for speed” in his words, but would never be ridden again.  His attention shifted to going even faster, except this time in airplanes.

To learn more about  Curtiss I recommend reading:

“Glenn Curtiss, Pioneer of Flight” by C. R. Roseberry

Also, if you’re ever in New York, take a trip to the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, NY.  It’s worth the visit!

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The story of my interest in motorcycles starts around 1998 when I was in the 7th or 8th grade and taking flying lessons at the local airport.  One of my instructors, Steve Pickup, had a cherry Honda CB550 he’d brought over from England which was his only transportation.  Steve, a motorcycle mechanic and London bus driver turned flight instructor and I became good friends.  Not having any mechanic’s tools of his own here in America he asked to use mine.  In return, I began to learn about motorcycles.  At the time they didn’t make a big impression on me, perhaps because I was too busy flying and learning about airplanes.  That would change.

Five years went by.  Then, In 2003 I took a trip to London, England.  This is really where my fascination with motorcycles begins. While in London I remember walking down the street one afternoon near Foyles Books on Charing Cross.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I heard a strange new sound.  It was nothing like the burdened, obnoxious  popping of the Harley Davidson cruisers that populate the American Midwest, but a pure and perfect wail.  It was like music and it came from a sleek black motorcycle which moved though traffic like everyone else on the road was driving backwards.

As I later learned, the bike I saw and heard was probably a grey market Honda CBR-250RR privately imported from Japan.  Whatever it was, it sold my mind to the devil.


A Honda CBR-250RR “Baby Blade”. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

I thought to myself:  “If that’s what it sounds like, it has to be even more amazing to ride!”  My one and only obsession became learning how to ride.  Once back home I got my motorcycle license.  Much to my dismay, the CBR-250RR isn’t sold in America.  Instead, I bought a Suzuki GS-500 and “made do.”    Make do I did.  The first year I owned it I wore out two sets of sport-touring tires, a difficult feat for a bike with only 48 HP.  The only limitation on my riding was the price of gas.


My first bike, a ’96 Suzuki GS-500. Gone, but not forgotten.

It was on one of my many trips on the GS in late 2007 that I discovered the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, NY.  It was within the walls of the Curtiss Museum that I discovered I wasn’t the only airplane nut with a motorcycle addiction.

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I’ll begin this blog by offering a welcome to all those who will read my ramblings now and in the future.  Through this blog I plan to document the inspiration, design, testing and building of my dream, an extremely fast motorcycle.  This machine isn’t a drag racing bike, or a salt flat bike, but one meant for road racing.  Unlike most of the bikes built for racing this one won’t be built to or hampered by the rules of a racing class, it will be in a class of its own.  Anything goes.

As I begin this project I can’t help but look back at how I got here.  I consider myself to be a student of history, although perhaps not a good one.  My inspiration started early as my parents were more than willing to do anything within their power to provide me with the tools to gain knowledge, no matter the cost or inconvenience.  If it wasn’t for their patience and guidance in my formative years none of this would be possible, nor would I have ever had the opportunity to discover what I love.

Thanks Mom and Dad, I owe you more than you know.

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