motorcycle memo's w/Tom McCarthy

Pro Street Motorcycles: Modern Marvels

Photos by: Tom McCarthy

Richard Gadson on Brad Mummert’s “Bad Baby.” The 1981 Suzuki GS-based Pro Street bike is a big-inch NOS monster.


AT the Outlaw Street Car Reunion IV event, held on March 24-26 conducted at the Memphis, International Raceway, the Radial Vs World Cars headlined the show. They were amazing by all accounts, modern day street cars, sometimes with a nostalgic twist, laying down amazing numbers -- definitely crowd pleasers. But, interestingly enough, at a drag car racing event a class of motorcycles darn near stole the show.


Twenty-four Pro Street motorcycles showed up to do battle and entertain the faithful at the OSCR IV event and they did so with wheelstanding aggression, tight side-by-side racing and jaw dropping performance numbers. Fans and racers alike expect drag bikes to go fast on the quarter mille, that’s a given. But 210+ MPH speeds achieved in about 6.8 seconds or less by glorified street bikes without wheelie bars and a street DOT tire: that’s just nuts in anyone’s book.

South African Brad Anassis also races Pro Street.


A Pro Street motorcycle has a wheelbase of somewhere between 68 and 73 inches, they weigh in at under 700 pounds with rider, and they produce close to 700 horsepower on any given day. Some are turbocharged or sport a Pro Charger, others are big cubic inch nitrous huffing, fire belching monsters of mayhem. Whatever the combination to accommodate the rules, everyone who sees Pro Street motorcycles run will tell you that they are just bad ass.


I asked the racers who build and race them to describe their drag bikes and descriptions ranged from “Like trying to race a 700-hp motorcycle on a banana peel” to “that crazy girlfriend that you think is fun and exciting, but really, she is trying to kill you.”


Andy Leslie commented in part, “It’s pretty much a marriage, and you can handle it or you can’t. The divorce is expensive too. You spend tens of thousands of dollars to put it all together and then one day when it comes to an end, you have to dang near give it all away to become someone else’s problem.”


Rodney Williford has a more philosophical approach that is spot-on: “Where power and finesse come together in search of the perfect pass.”


All of these comments well describe Pro Street motorcycles, but they fail to address what technological marvels they are because they racers themselves are too close to their own subject matter to fully appreciate what they have all developed in the creation of their modern-era drag bikes.


Today’s Pro Street bikes are high performance machines that are the sum of close to five decades of development. Starting around 1950, if we turn the clock back all the way, it was the motorcycle street bike riders who became drag racers when the sport began around that year. Guys rode their Flat Head and Knucklehead Harleys to the drag strips -- airport runways really -- and their street bikes became their race bikes. They kept pace with and sometimes beat the cars of the day for Top Speed of the Meet. Back then, as in today’s era, the closer the bikes get to a 1:1 power to weight ratio, the more successful they become.


Fast forward and one can see how machining advances, modern materials, and a greater understanding of the bikes has brought them to where they are today – NASA-like creations capable of running speeds and times worthy of Top Fuel Motorcycle numbers from 20 years ago. Yet today’s Pro Street motorcycles have DOT street tires, they are self-starting and have no wheelie bars to support enhanced traction.


It’s staggering to realize today’s Pro Street drag bikes are running times that just a decade ago would have easily qualified at any AMA/PROSTAR race in Top Fuel. While Larry “Spiderman” McBride first ran the first “5” in 1999, it wasn’t until 2006/7 that his bike and others began to run in the five-second elapsed time zone.

VOLUME XIX,  NUMBER 4 - April  2017

Rodney Williford


At the OSCR IV event, Pro Street, during the test and tune on Thursday, motorcycle racer Rodney Williford laid down one of the quickest passes ever made by a Pro Street bike. His second test pass of the day on March 23, 2017, looked like this: with a .029 RT, his 60-foot was a 1.17, his 330-foot 3.019, Eighth Mile 4.471 @ 174.37, 5.67 to the 1,000-foot mark and the quarter mile elapsed time was a stunning 6.680 @ 221.20 MPH. While it’s no record due to it being a test run, it sure got everyone’s attention.


The Williford Pro Street bike is a turbocharged configuration as many of the P/St. bikes are. They run intercoolers that are sometimes chilled by traditional ice/water configurations, but others run compressed CO2. I’ve been told some intercoolers can take a nearly 300 degree/f intake temp and drop it to 150 degrees/f or less. Actual numbers are closely guarded secrets of course, yet the technology is amazing. The intercoolers often hidden under upper fairing mounts, gauges inform the drag bike pilot and the data logger collects the 411 for post-run download.


Looking over a Pro Street bike of today reminds one of the banks of computers necessary to land a man on the moon, July 20, 1969. Yet today an average cell phone has greater computing capacity than the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) that first landed on the Lunar surface. Today’s Pro Street bikes, when compared to the Top Fuel bikes of yesterday, are not unlike this analogy.


Pro Street Motorcycle as a class began in earnest in the late 1980’s, a no wheelie bars, rebel outlaw class of dare-devils who began running in the 8’s and are now well into the 6-second elapsed time zone.


I asked a preeminent expert in the development of these bikes, “If you had no rules, no restrictions, how quick and how fast can today’s technology send a P/St, type, no-bars bike down the 1320?” He smiled and said, “With no restrictions, no rules and no bars, 6.30’s for sure at over 225 mph.”


I’ve no doubt he’s right about that. Now for a scary part: ten years from now, where will technology and experience take these bikes?


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