Zef Eisenberg, 1973-2020
Multiple world and British speed record holder Zef Eisenberg tragically lost his life in an accident during a record attempt at Elvington airfield on Thursday, October 1. Zef, 47, was a businessman, TV presenter and keen motorsport competitor, having amassed more than 70 speed records across two wheeled and four wheeled disciplines.
Read more about Zef Eisenberg
- Video: 176mph on ice with Zef Eisenberg
- Riding a turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa on sand
- Sunday social interview with Zef Eisenberg
As a young man, Zef was a keen bodybuilder and founded the Maximuscle supplement brand in 1995. He built the business over 15 years, ultimately selling it to pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKlein for £162million. Just one year later, he founded the Madmax racing team with a vision of building the fastest racing machines possible.
This pioneering spirit resulted in considerable personal success with his records including the fastest turbine powered bike (234mph), the fastest naked bike (225.6mph) and the fastest man on sand on two wheels (201.5mph) and four (210.33mph). Along the way he presented numerous TV shows documenting his record attempts and love of speed.
A huge fan of the Isle of Man TT, Zef also sponsored rider Daley Mathison in three TT Zeros with big hopes for 2019 on the Nottingham University electric bike. However, Mathison was killed in the Superbike race the day before he was due to ride. To honour Daley’s life, Zef reengineered the bike, setting four world speed records on it in September 2019.
Outside of racing Zef remained a keen businessman having opened Madmax Pizza in July while also finishing the Eisenberg V8 – a 480bhp production bike built from two Hayabusa engines. Such was his prowess both in team sport, personal racing and motorcycle engineering that he was presented with the Simms Medal by the RAC in October last year.
It was Zef’s unrelenting pursuit of speed that brought him once more to Elvington on Thursday, October 1, with an attempt on the British Land Speed Record in his highly tuned Porsche 911 Turbo S.
Zef was well aware of the hazard of top speed racing, having previously lost control of a motorcycle at Elvington, resulting in a 230mph crash in 2016 where he broke 11 bones. Undeterred, he made a full recovery and despite fears he may never walk, made a return to high speed racing.
Local police and ambulance crews were called to Elvington late afternoon on Thursday, after Zef lost control at high speed at the end of a timed run, but he died at the scene. Motorsport UK, together with the event organiser and the local police, have begun an investigation into the accident with their findings to be published in due course.
Zef leaves behind a huge legacy of records, his partner Mirella D’Antonio, and two children.
Eisenberg V8: 480bhp twin 'Busa-engined beast
First Published on 9 December, 2019 by Jordan Gibbons
Speed record breaking superstar and general madman Zef Eisenberg has taken all of his high-speed learnings and poured them into a limited run production bike – the Eisenberg V8.
Built from two Suzuki Hayabusa engines and housed in a custom steel trellis frame, the machine is unlike anything that’s come before. We met up with Zef recently and he gave us the inside line on the project.
"I can’t quite remember when but I had this idea once of having a V8 engine in a motorbike," says Zef. "We know it’s not the first one done but I like things that look correct – that look like a motorcycle should. I also wanted it to be quite light, so I ended up working with RPE engines.
"They’d already done work with mating two Hayabusa heads to a sandcast bottom end but I wanted something more compact. We ended up creating this naturally aspirated V8, which produces 480hp at 10,500 rpm. Running a flat plane crank, the same configuration that Ferarri use, because we wanted it to sing and howl just like an F1 car."
Unlike most of the other companies that produce bikes like this, Zef’s main concern was that it looks and handles just like a regular motorcycle. Key to this was keeping the weight down, so they worked hard on producing an engine that doesn’t require a balance shaft, which means the whole engine, in ready to run trim, weighs just 80kg.
Bolted to the back of it is a Quaife gearbox, that operates just like a regular bike. Such a big engine has other clear issues.
"We wanted the engine inline but we had obviously concerns about torque reaction," adds Zef. "To combat that the gearbox has been created with a counter-rotating centrifugal clutch. The result is that the clutch rotating in the opposite direction to the crank reduces torque steer to nil. There’s virtually no vibration – you could put a coin on the block and it wouldn’t fall off.
"The real work and challenge, from when we started this project four years ago, was that we didn’t realise the amount of work required for heat reduction. It’s a major problem. So to sort it, we put a radiator underneath, which is designed for low speed riding, as well as one on the front for high-speed riding.
"The radiator has almost no effect on aerodynamics at all – most of it bypasses the frontal area off the mudguard - it’s only the air in the deadzone that goes in the radiator. We’ve teamed up with ProDrive to do full Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and flow analysis of water and air flow around the engine."
The team’s work hasn’t just been mechanical – they’ve been doing a lot of work on the electronics too, including Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) controlled fans that slowly ramp up their speed as the temperature increases, so it doesn’t just sound like a hoover as soon as it gets hot.
They’ve also wound their own alternator to supply all the electricity it needs to run, while the really fun stuff is run through a Motec ECU, with a ride by wire Jenvey fuel injection system that operates eight independent throttle bodies.
This allows them to create an electronic safety net that can shut down cylinders to calm the throttle response down – rain mode chops it to 240bhp for instance. Even the small stuff has had real attention.
"For this sort of power you should really use a 630 chain but 630 chains are heavy, suck more power and are generally more cumbersome," says Zef. "I wanted to use a 530 chain but the problem with a bike such as this would be the stresses on the chain as the tension changes through the suspension movement.
"To prevent this we’ve used a concentric swingarm, which pivots on the sprocket, but we’ve done a lot of work to prevent the chain pull affecting the suspension movement."
As you’d imagine with a bike like this the spec-sheet is dripping with top spec parts including BST carbon wheels, custom Nitron shock, ISR brakes and a bespoke ceramic coated exhaust by Akrapovic.
Nothing like this comes cheap however, and while the price hasn’t been set just yet, when it goes on sale earlier next year it’s expected to sell for £150,000.
Multiple speed record holder Zef Eisenberg awarded prestigious Simms Medal
First published 31 October 2019 by Dan Sutherland
Presented to the Maximuscle founder on Wednesday, October 30, in Pall Mall, London, the award is only given in years when the club’s Dewar and Simms Technical Committee believes there have been contenders of 'sufficient merit.'
Holding over 52 British, world, ACU, FIM and Guinness records, Eisenberg made headlines in September this year when he set four new FIM World Speed Records at Elvington, North Yorkshire, aboard the University of Nottingham TT Zero electric bike, formerly ridden by the late Daley Mathison.
"I'm very proud to have been awarded the Simms Medal," Zef Eisenberg said in a statement. "I’ve worked for the last eight years pushing the boundaries of engineering to deliver the most extreme and powerful motorbikes and cars, not just for show, but real performance racing, whether it’s our 480hp EISENBERG V8 motorbike, 564hp Rolls Royce Turbine powered motorbike, 400hp sand and ice motorbike, world’s fastest electric motorbike or even our record setting 1500hp 'Porsche Sand racer'."
"Pushing engineering and performance to a superior level is our DNA. To be recognised by the prestigious Royal Automobile Club for what we have achieved is the icing on the cake."
Alongside speed records, Eisenberg also holds the record for 'Britain’s fastest-ever motorcycle crash,' which occurred at 230mph aboard a 564hp Rolls-Royce jet turbine-powered bike.
Braking 11 bones, he was hospitalised for three months, before spending a further three months in a wheelchair and had learning to walk again. He then went on to race again exactly one year after the crash.
Eisenberg’s comments were further added to by Chairman of the Simms Medal Committee, John Wood MBE, who said: "The Royal Automobile Club has celebrated many Land Speed Record holders over the decades, from Segrave to Cobb; Campbell, Noble, Green, Drayson and now Eisenberg who joins this illustrious list.
"Zef’s multiple speed record exploits on two and four wheels exemplifies 'the spirit of adventure' which is at the heart of the Simms Medal. Zef is a man driven by technology and daring and very successfully - demonstrating its potential in the most extreme manner."
New Flying Mile speed record for Zef Eisenberg at Pendine Sands
First published on 8 April, 2019 by Ben Clarke
Riding a 400bhp supercharged Suzuki Hayabusa prepared by his own Mad Max Racing Team, Eisenberg set a two-way average of 182.40mph on Saturday, April 6 - breaking the previous record of 180.361, set by actor Idris Elba in 2015.
Elba set the previous record aboard a 650bhp Bentley Continental Super Sport twin-turbo W12, however Eisenberg needed just one run on his 'Green Monster' to surpass that benchmark.
Off again for high speed testing on runway 26. Been checking the weather, and it looks like rain, sleet and hail stones, which is great news, as this will replicate driving on the wet sand. I'll be happy with 200mph + in the rain...#zefeisenberg #madmax #pendine #speedfreaks pic.twitter.com/a5w9qwhRt0— MADMAX Race Team (@MADMAXautosport) April 2, 2019
His rear tyre showed signs of falling apart after just one run and so the team switched it for a new one for the return journey, insuring a record. Not satisfied with this, the team then changed to a harder compound to attempt a 200mph record.
Unfortunately, after around three miles at maximum revs with constant wheel spin, the bike's engine blew up at 195mph, covering Zef in a spray of engine oil. Thankfully, he was able to bring it safely to a stop, however the damage curtailed any hopes of a faster speed.
"The bike had been spinning the rear wheel for two miles at 240mph. We were using a GP racing tyre, too – the best you can get, but I assume it’s not used to that much power or wheelspin. That’s why these records are so hard to achieve. You’re pushing human and engineering boundaries," Eisenberg said.
"I was doing 195mph approaching the end of the mile and my helmet visor and leathers were sprayed with black engine oil, obscuring my vision. I lost sight of the finish flags, but I couldn’t just slam on the brakes due to the sand. Fortunately, I managed to keep it straight and bring it to a stop."
The team will now return during Speed Week on May 18 and 19, with Zef driving their 1200bhp Porsche Sand Racer, which was developed from a 2015 911 Turbo.
Being the fastest-ever
Zef Eisenberg wants to break his own land speed record of 201.5mph to set a new benchmark for the highest speed ever achieved at Pendine by a wheeled-powered vehicle. He previously attempted to do this over between September 22 and 23 2018. Unfortunately, bad weather prevented him from topping that speed.
Despite the rain and cross winds, Eisenberg still managed an incredible 142.4mph on the Saturday, which represented the fastest speed of that day. By the time the conditions improved on the Sunday, Eisenberg's Suzuki Hayabusa had developed a problem caused by sand getting into the supercharger.
"Pendine Sands has such an illustrious history of land speed racing, it’s a real test of man and machine against the elements," said Eisenberg after the event. "Racing on sand is notoriously difficult at the best of times, let alone when you have the weather to contend with.
"The motorbike behaves very differently than on tarmac and at higher speeds you risk bike losing grip or the wheels digging into the sand which can throws riders off. What’s more you also have the conditions of the course to contend with - when that tide rolls out it leaves behind debris of seaweed, giant jellyfish to even bullet shells. But if record breaking was that easy, everyone would be doing it."
Eisenberg set the record for the fastest road bike on sand at Pendine in May riding a 350bhp supercharged Suzuki Hayabusa run by his Mad Max Race Team.
The bike's engine was rebuilt ahead of the Pendine attempt and it was put through its paces on tarmac at Elvington airfield the weekend before to make sure everything worked. It was a successful trial run, the team managed to set four ACU speed records and a personal best top speed of 229.8mph.
MCN spoke to Zef and asked him what travelling at over 200mph on sand feels like.
"Scary! The bike is dancing underneath you, it’s wagging the rear like a dog and the front is doing a sort of continuous, gentle tank slapper so you just let the bike do what it wants and go with it. To the uninitiated, it’s terrifying."
Before the 201.5mph run on sand in May, the bike managed 217mph on tarmac. Since it has now managed almost 230mph on tarmac, the team is hopeful that they can beat the record if the conditions allow but it’s not a sure thing.
"You can have all the power in the world but if you can’t put the power down on the sand because you just have wheel-slip there’s no point. It’s going to require a lot of control with the throttle. Traction control doesn’t work at all on sand, so there’s no electronic rider aids on the bike, you just use feel."
Despite the fact the Hayabusa is so fast and powerful, it is still completely road legal, a fact that Zef and the team are proud of.
"We love the fact that we can nip down to buy a paper on a Sunday and then, the very next day, break a land speed record. We don’t mind the extra weight of lights and switch gear to keep it that way, it’s all part of the magic of land speed racing."
Video: Onboard with Zef Eisenberg at 176mph on ice
First published on 27 Faebruary, 2019 by Ben Clarke
He and the MADMAX Race Team were aiming to break the 200mph speed barrier on ice, which would have broken the current world record of 187.5mph but tyre problems hindered the attempt.
Eisenberg rode the team’s supercharged Suzuki Hayabusa specially adapted for the challenge with hundreds of handmade titanium spikes bolted into stainless steel carcasses in the tyres.
Unfortunately, the steel structure in the tyres broke on the first practice run of the weekend, puncturing both inner-tubes. Despite having two flat tyres, Eisenberg still managed an astonishing 160mph on that first run.
Following several more punctures and now using a front tyre with no steel banding, he headed back onto the ice. The lack of a steel structure in this tyre meant that it expanded far enough for the spikes to rip of the front brake hoses, causing a big wobble at 143mph.
The tyre blew again after the 176mph run, slicing the bike’s radiator open and bringing a premature end to the record attempting runs.
"The bike was performing in the cold weather really well and there was an easy 300kmph (187mph) and more awaiting, but without strong enough tyres or a working radiator, it was game over," says a post on the MADMAX Race Team Facebook page.
Unwilling to call it a day, Eisenberg borrowed a 1000cc ice racer. "On the first run with 260kmph (161.5mph) on the clock, the rear tyre exploded, hitting me in the back with tyre, bolts and shrapnel," he said.
"I managed to control the bike well and brought it to a stop, without coming off or dropping it. Then the emergency vehicles and ambulance arrived. Fortunately, due to a very strong Dianese back protector I was uninjured and was dropped off back to the race start to everyone's relief and applause.
"It's been the craziest, maddest race event ever. I love the people, they are super friendly. Next year team MADMAX will be back with far more knowledge, insight and bullet proof tyres and radiator, so we can hit the big 300kmph (187mph) speeds and beyond."
Zef Eisenberg's speed record attempts in 2018
The supercharged 350bhp Hayabusa managed 230mph on tarmac back in September 2018 before bad weather scuppered a speed record attempt at Pendine Sands. This will be the team’s first attempt at a high speed run on ice.
"Arsunda presents a whole new set of challenges," said Eisenberg before the event, "but we’ve put a lot of time and effort into the preparations – even my girlfriend (Mirella) has been helping put the titanium spikes into the tyres for nights on end! We are excited to get out there and see how the bike performs."
The pursuit of speed records almost came at the ultimate price in 2016 when Eisenberg crashed a jet turbine-powered motorbike at 230mph. He broke 11 bones in the crash (the fastest ever on two wheels) and spent three months in hospital followed by a further three months in a wheelchair.
"I’m well and truly a speed addict," concludes Eisenberg. "It’s in my blood. Those who are addicted to speed, will understand – it’s all about the quest to overcome the challenge and battle the laws of physics."
Sunday social with Zef Eisenberg
First published on 17 September, 2017 by Liam Marsden
How are you doing, Zef?
"Good, thank you."
So you have a record attempt coming up next weekend is that right?
"Tomorrow. Oh, sorry. We’re at the speed trials tomorrow where I’ll be back for the first time on my jet turbine bike and we’re also taking our land speed bike called the Green Monster, which is our 300bhp supercharged Hayabusa which we’re going to tweak and tune to make sure everything is set up ready for next weekend at Pendine Sands. I already hold the production bike record at Pendine Sands, which I got last year at 184mph with our ZX-14. We’ll be looking to exceed that and go for the speed that nobody’s ever done – car or bike – and that’s the magic 200mph."
Nobody’s ever done that on sand?
"Nobody’s ever done that on a car or bike before at Pendine Sands, so that will be a really super exciting goal to try and achieve. What makes the sand speed trials so challenging is that nothing you learn on tarmac or drag racing, anywhere, works on sand. As you can appreciate from a biker’s perspective, you can have 500bhp drag bikes at Santa Pod, they’re not going to work on the sand because if the tyre just spins then you’re not going anywhere. Nobody cares if you’ve got a sticky tyre or a flat tyre because it doesn’t give any grip."
Have you got something like a paddle tyre then?
"No, they don’t work, they just dig a big hole for you. Those paddle tyres are designed for sand dunes. If you start putting on nitrous and turbo power that’s also useless because it’s just like an RD350 when the powerband kicks in and the tyre just spins. There are real challenges going fast on sand that just surprise everyone. It’s the most challenging, frustrating and exciting form of racing I’ve ever done."
And what about slowing down, obviously that’s going to be completely different as well?
"The simple rule is you don’t ever touch the front brake. A lot of people just remove the front brake lever to avoid that automatic impulse to touch the front brake. If you’re on track or a runway the first thing you do is grab a handful of front brake to slow down. Not on sand you don’t unless you want to wipe out big time. Another problem as well is that if you crash on sand, it’s not a good thing because you don’t slide. On tarmac or a racetrack the whole idea of wearing leathers is that you slide, and that takes away a lot of the problems. On sand it’s a little bit like coming off on water, beyond 40mph it bloody hurts and you don’t go anywhere. It’s definitely I think the most extreme form of racing but it also gives me the most buzz."
When did you start getting involved with the straight line and sand racing?
"The sand racing was 2015. They haven’t allowed racing at Pendine at all recently. It used to be really popular with people like Donald Campbell in the 1920s and ‘30s. It had a huge history and then it got closed during the war and was used as an MOD test firing centre. That was it, it was out of bounds for all the public and it only opened up a few years ago. We’re all really dipping our toe in the water in terms of what you can do down there.
"One of the most amazing things about it is that it’s a natural track, so you wake up in the morning, the tide goes out, and you don’t know what you’re going to find. You might find unexploded ordnance, which happened last year for us! Literally an unexploded bomb on the sand that had to be removed. When I was there in 2015 they had the most monster jellyfish all the way down the track. I’m talking half a metre wide and 40cm high of rotting detritus. If you hit that with your tyre it explodes like a water bomb, covering you in rotting liquid. So it’s the most extreme, crazy form of riding I’ve ever done. You could end up with completely rippled sand that’s not a nice place to run. Or you could have it completely billiard smooth - it all depends on the waves and the storms the night before."
How did you get involved with the straight line stuff originally?
"I’ve been riding since 16-years-old. As soon as I could get a licence I got a 50cc Yamaha and worked my way up, you know, in the old school way until I got my first slabside GSX-R. Got involved doing wheelies, as one does, then turned it into a streetfighter and got involved in the stunt scene and it just went from there really. Then I decided that I’d go to one of the speed trials in 2011 I think with one of our turbine bike projects and it bit me hard and I absolutely loved it. It either gets you or it doesn’t.
"What you find, is the amount of passion in people trying to find that tenth of a second at Santa Pod, or that extra 1mph. You might do 199mph, but you haven’t got 200, and you walk away massively frustrated. You might get 299mph, but you haven’t got 300. 10.01 seconds at Santa Pod, but you haven’t got 9.9 seconds. That’s what I love about it, the camaraderie, the non-money glorification of it is what’s great. We all do this for the true passion and excitement of the racing. We don’t do it for money or accolades. It’s just to try and push the boundaries."
How does a turbine bike compare to a standard bike?
"It’s beautiful. We’ve developed our turbine bike over the last five years and it will deliver 560bhp at the rear wheel, not at the crank. The torque curve is completely flat and linear, there is no powerband, anything. The trick is not to be afraid to open the throttle. No gears or anything, it puts over 1000ftlb of torque down through the rear wheel."
You must go through rear tyres quite quickly, then!
"Yeah, it will go through a rear tyre in a day. If you open that throttle too quickly you’ll just spin the rear wheel up and it’ll do a 200mph burnout in four seconds. It will literally melt the tyre, so you’ve got to feed in the power really carefully. Often, when we’re racing, we spin the tyre out at 200mph."
"It delivers so much torque it’s hysterical, so you’ve got to feed it in really gradually, there’s no gearbox at all. We have an F1 carbon clutch to feed in the power."
It’s a jet turbine engine, is that right?
"Yes, it’s a Rolls Royce C20W engine which comes from the Agusta 109 helicopter. The big helicopter that takes six people in comfort, we’ve put one of those in a bike."
It sounds mad. Is it still a conventional throttle on a turbine bike?
"Absolutely. Obviously we’ve done quite a lot of modifications to the engine, so we actually manually throttle it. There are two types of turbines. There’s a thrust turbine, which you might find in something like an F-16 fighter jet, which just gives you tonnes of big blue flame, tonnes of thrust, and forces you through the sky with thrust. There’s no direct drive. We’re using a shaft turbine from a helicopter, so you’ve got a turbine which effectively goes through a gearbox and turns the blades. So, in the crudest possible way, imagine chopping the blades off, and putting a sprocket on it and then mount that in a bike on its side. We’ve got a sprocket mounted on the turbine going to the rear wheel sprocket like a conventional motorbike. Then we’ve modified to use a conventional throttle from a bike. There’s a little bit more to it than that but that’s it in the crudest form.
"One of the biggest challenge is the massive lag. You’ve probably even seen it from planes and helicopters – they don’t exactly rev like Formula One engines. They’re like a massive turbo with massive lag, and it takes a couple of seconds for it to do anything. So I can be at the start line, open up the turbine and I’m waiting for the power to come in. People always say at the start line ‘why don’t you go?’ and it’s just that the power hasn’t come on yet. The funniest thing is I’ve got to stop the turbine, half a second before the finish line otherwise it keeps making power for another 500 feet.
"That was the problem with my crash last year. The turbine’s making so much power that you shut the throttle off and it’s still making power. You can grab the brakes and it doesn’t care you’ve put the brakes on. You’ve got zero engine braking. The bike idles with 80bhp, so it’s a bit like having reverse engine braking. When I start the turbine and it’s slightly damp I can hold the front brake on and it will still drag the bike forward along the ground. It’s quite freaky, and a bit off putting, which is why most people say no when I offer them a go!"
I think I’d say the same!
"It’s crazy stuff!"
Why did you go for a turbine bike in the first place?
"Firstly it’s different, and I get turned on by the engineering challenge. I get turned on by trying to push the boundaries of common sense. We do race other things – we do a lot of quad bike racing and hill climbs with conventional engines, but when it comes to land speed racing once you perfect the turbine engine it’s just incredible. It delivers power and torque and noise like nothing else.
"You’ve got to remember these Rolls Royce turbine engines are designed to fly 1000s of hours in the sky. So it’s the funniest thing at the end of a race meeting when everybody else is rebuilding engines and checking pistons I literally stick a hose pipe in the front of the compressor, do a little spin for 10 seconds and go home. That’s it, the servicing is done and it’s ready for the next race. And it runs normal diesel! It’s fully road legal that takes normal road fuel."
Wow, I expected it to need aviation fuel.
"Yeah. It will take kerosene, Jet A, or pump diesel. So when I did the record last time I actually rode it upto Elvington with a rucksack."
Does the type of fuel you use make any difference to how well it runs?
"Obviously it prefers kerosene or Jet A because they’re cleaner. There are a lot of additives in pump diesel, which the turbine doesn’t care about. It quite likes diesel because it’s quite high energy, but it just creates more smoke. I prefer to run the kerosene because you have to put less water in afterwards to clean it. People are always amazed because the drag bikes are always running that fancy race fuel, which is super expensive and we just syphon it out of the van! It has its pros and cons in many ways but that’s definitely one of the pros!"
Do you ride it on the road often?
"Yeah. There’s a wonderful video of me riding it up the M6 last year, stopping at the service stations."
So how far will it go on one tank?
"Ah, well, this is one of the negatives. It doesn’t do miles per gallon, it does time. Effectively once you turn the turbine on it burns a litre a minute. If you’re sitting in traffic, it’s still burning a litre a minute, but if you’re doing 200mph it’s got great miles per gallon! It’s exactly like a plane. A plane likes to be up high, 30,000ft in the sky, cruising in the jet stream, what it hates is short hopes, you know, taking off, taxiing. When a plane is sat on the runway at Heathrow it’s burning tonnes of fuel and it’s exactly the same thing with the turbine bike. So my range is actually a stopwatch, which counts down from 32 minutes. The tank takes 32 litres of fuel. I literally just press that and pause it every time I turn the turbine off and that tells me how much fuel I’ve got left."
Maybe not the most practical then!
"I wouldn’t suggest it as a commuter bike, no."
Have you got anything else coming up with the turbine bike?
"We’ve got some super crazy stuff. Once I get these two challenges out of the way we’re going to reveal a project so crazy they’re not going to believe us."
Is 200mph on sand not crazy enough?
"Well, the team’s name pretty much gives a clue to what we do, which is building totally mad, extreme vehicles for the hell of it."
Living the dream then.
"Exactly. As we all know we’re going down the route of electric vehicles in the future so we might as well put our legacy on the world of mad piston and turbine engines as long as we’re allowed to."
Have you got one eye on electric bikes in the future?
"There is no doubt about it. We are super excited about the electric side of things, especially now the technology is improving so rapidly. The way things are going now, for example with the Isle of Man TT electric bikes that are starting to chase the lap times of the piston bikes, we’re seeing some phenomenal improvements in lithium battery technology and with very high-powered motors.
"You don’t need gearboxes, they have huge amounts of torque – they’re like turbines in a way with a very linear power curve. I think when people experience that they’re going to think it’s amazing. The only problem is the sound. I think one’s got to create a sound that people like, because I believe one of the exciting things about riding a motorbike is that it stimulates all your sense, you know? The noise, the vibration – everything about it. Electric bikes may accelerate incredibly but they’re silent."
I’ve ridden a couple that have that electric whine, and it’s quite cool, but it’s definitely no replacement for a big v-twin or an inline-four.
"I’ve been at Ballaugh Bridge a few times and I’ve watched the Zero TT there. John McGuinness came past on the Mugen. All you could hear was the chain flopping and the transmission noises. It’s not the same thing as the other bikes! But we’re definitely excited by that and we all know it’s the direction that things are heading, especially now they’ve announced we’re not even going to be allowed to ride what we can now by 2040."
I thought that was just sales of new cars and vans?
"Well they’re saying that you won’t be allowed to drive any motorbike or petrol, piston or diesel car in London. They’ve thrown the gauntlet down to all the manufacturers."
Well they’ve got 23 years.
"It soon creeps up though. The year 2000 doesn’t seem long ago."
I noticed on your social media you’ve got a V8 bike as well, that you want to put into production?
"Absolutely, it’s fantastic! It’s got a 480bhp naturally-aspirated V8 in it. Every single thing on the bike is bespoke built by us. We tested it in May last year. We did 209mph in a mile just running the engine in. We’re going straight back into that after these two record challenges and getting straight back into the production side of things. As a race bike it’s totally proven, but it needs a team around it to tweak and tune and make sure it all works. Our goal now is to take it to production level, which means it’s got to do 45 minutes in London traffic, it’s got to cope with the heat and the cooling and the plumbing, and everything has to work.
"We can’t give people a 480bhp bike because they’ll sh*t themselves, so we’ve got to do what they do with Ferraris – and like motorbikes now – and the power modes. Give them an urban, a town and a race mode. We’ve got to do all that and make it not scary to the general consumer. The next thing is to get one of you guys to ride it at Bruntingthorpe. At the moment it’s running eight independent throttle bodies, it’s a flat crank V8, which means it sounds like an F1 race engine, it’s not like a lazy Chevy, it’s full on revving to 11,000rpm. You just touch the throttle and it screams! It’s got a five speed gearbox, not that you really need first or second gear in the slightest, you just use the clutch in town riding to control the power."
Has riding all these crazy bikes diluted normal bikes and road riding for you?
"No, not at all! I love all kinds of bikes. What might surprise people is the first thing I did when I came out of hospital in the wheelchair - well obviously I learnt to walk again with crutches – is I went and bought a Suzuki VanVan 200. It’s got a really low, comfortable seat and I built myself a crutch holder. I’d walk to it on the crutches, put them in the frame and ride everywhere. Before I could even walk properly I was biking riding a bike again. I’ve got a massive affection for small bikes. I hadn’t ridden a 200cc bike since I was 17-years-old, and I’d forgot how fun small cc bikes are because you just scream it everywhere and it’s a laugh a minute!
"Obviously I customised it as I can’t resist mucking about with bikes. I let my mates, who ride GSX-Rs and things, have a go and they all loved it. Two of them went out and bought their own! We live in this world know where all new bikes have 200bhp, and we forget the old days of screaming round on these small bikes that are actually great fun. I’m a bike junkie. I’ve got the Multistrada for touring and riding with the girlfriend, and I’ve got small bikes for cruising round Guernsey where there’s a 25mph speed limit. The problem with motorbikes is there’s no perfect motorbike, so it will take a lot to get me off bikes, for sure."
Was there ever a point after your accident last year when you thought you wouldn’t get back on a bike?
"I never thought I wouldn’t get back on a bike, but I definitely thought I wouldn’t race again. The doctors were telling me I’d never walk again, my friends and family wanted me to take up knitting or something safe. I went to some very dark places, got quite depressed. I was in a six foot by three foot prison bed in hospital for three months. All I could move was my left arm, everything else was broken. I broke both pelvises, pubic bones, hip, femur, ankle, three bones in both hands, ripped the rotator cuff off the shoulder, everything. I couldn’t see for about three weeks because I had minus 25G deceleration. It was pretty torturous, so, yeah, you do think ‘screw racing’.
"But then I got better and I couldn’t help it. It’s a bit like Rossi. He’s an old boy like me and he’s broken his leg. Is he going to stop? Of course not. Racing is in his DNA, bumps are part and parcel. Look at Guy Martin, he’s probably the best advocate for bashing yourself and getting back on. I think that’s why he’s so popular, because he doesn’t give up, he dusts himself off and goes out again. I found Guy very inspirational when I was recovering. I’m also one of those people who, when people say ‘no, you’re never going to do that again’, I say ‘screw you’, and I go out and do it."