Inspired by the movie, World’s Fastest Indian, Grady Chance, Alvin Mendez and friends from Lakeland Motorcycle Parts in Lakeville, FL took a trip to Bonneville Speed Weeks a couple of years ago to see what it was all about. The guys were surprised not to see big budget, factory-supported race teams and professional riders but instead saw grass-roots teams and hand-built machines. Right then they decided “we can do this” and Grady began the quest to find the best class and machine for them to make their speed record attempt. After careful research, Grady decided a 1977 Yamaha RD400 running in the Classic Modified under 500cc class was their best shot. Although most teams chose a 500cc bike for this class, Grady chose the Yamaha RD400 for its superior power-to-weight ratio and out-of-the-box top speed of 108 mph. The existing record for this class was 113 mph set in 2016 so the team felt a new record was within their grasp.
The bike build began with the engine, Grady being an experienced engine builder, put together an engine he felt was capable of propelling rider Alvin Mendez to recording-setting speeds. From there the team worked out the seat and tank layout and other details as Alvin was test-fitted to the bike along the way. The little Yamaha was completed a mere 2 weeks from their departure date with only time for a quick back-road test run. The bike had plenty of power- pulling the front wheel in 2nd and 3rd gear and reaching a 4th gear speed of 90 mph. Unfortunately, one last 7 AM test run of 125 mph in 5th gear ended in a holed piston 3 days from their drop-dead departure date. After overnight shipping and late-night work, the engine was back together, and the team was on their way to Bonneville!
Most Bonneville speed record machines are beautiful in function only and details like paint jobs are forgone to concentrate on speed only. That wasn’t the case for this bike as painter, Glenn Peterson stepped up to provide a spectacular paint job. The bike looked so good in fact that the guys were a little self-conscience showing up at their first Bonneville speed record attempt with such a beautiful machine. They later proved the bike and rider had the performance to back up the stunning good looks.
Tires are a key component to any speed record attempt and after consulting with other teams there was no clear consensus as to what type of tires were best. The Bonneville Salt Flats pose a tough task for tires- too much rolling resistance cost speed and too little traction can cause wheel spin at high speeds. Alvin had previous good experience with Continental tires on both motorcycles and automobiles and suggested they check out the Conti Classic Attack series. The Classic Attack is available in sizes ideally suited to the RD400 and it’s speed rating, tread design and radial construction made it the perfect choice. “The Classic Attack was exactly what we needed for tires, “they were great!” stated Alvin. “I was really amazed by the stability and traction available,” he added.
Grady Chance, Alvin Mendez and the Grady Chance racing team set a class speed record of 128.344 mph on 8/31/2021 on their first speed record trip to Bonneville! What’s next for the team? Team pilot, Alvin says there 3-4 other records they could go for with only minor configurations regarding fuel and aerodynamic mods so that’s their plan for 2022.
We’ll be watching and cheering them on for more speed records on Continental tires!