By Bobby Haas
By Bobby Haas
Riding is a religion that has no faith other than its own. When any biker today kicks his machine into gear, everything else follows almost precisely the same blueprint as it did a century ago when crude engines were mounted on the top bar of a bicycle frame. You simply twist the throttle and allow the wind to part your hair. Then as now, bikers are more than willing to underwrite the risks in favor of the thrill of unencumbered motion and breakneck speed.
Just as the characters in the classic film Easy Rider defined an emerging culture that cut against the grain of entrenched establishment, the bikers of today are also a distinct breed at odds with the cultural drift of the nation. We have become a nation of cellphone-gazers, head tilted down with eyes transfixed on a tiny screen. But not the American biker—like Peter Fonda’s iconic pose, his head proudly faces forward, inhaling all there is to see ahead. We have become a nation whose attention span parallels the life expectancy of a mayfly. But not the American biker—his attention span must never be shorter than the time between engine on and engine off. And worst of all, we have become a nation of multi-taskers, raising a whole new generation for whom multi-tasking is the norm and not a pernicious invention of modern times. But not the American biker, who can ill afford the luxury of a second task lest the first be compromised with dire consequences.
And the land speed racer—a sub-species within the genus biker who takes to the mud flats of El Mirage or the salt ripples of Bonneville—has become the ultimate single-tasker, laser-focused on doing one thing at a time, for only a few seconds but at velocities measured in the hundreds of miles per hour. Unlike the multi-headed dragon of distraction that tangles up much of society today, this one task is plenty enough for the land speed racer. There is no foothold for a second task … the first has all the thrills and all the risk anyone could possibly tolerate at one time.
Even casual bikers find nourishment in the way that riding with 1700cc of thrust between our loins feeds the soul—we have all the data we could possibly crave in the gauges between our hands and the kaleidoscope before our eyes.
Land speed racers take it to another level entirely—their nourishment has the exquisite taste of both life and death on the tips of their tongue at exactly the same moment. As with Max Hazan in his record-setting run at Bonneville in the video clip below, there is only one task worthy of their attention—steering a ship that careens between the twin rails of mortality and immortality.