Sunday, January 23, 2011

Epic battles: Roberts vs. his own bike, 1975 Indy Mile

Kenny Roberts had been frustrated that his YamahaXS650-based flat tracker was nowhere near as fast on mile tracks as the Harleys. Then Kel Carruthers stuffed a four-cylinder TZ750 road racing motor in a flat track frame. The bike had far too much power even for Roberts. Carruthers had to rig it with a “kill switch” that shut off one of the cylinders, or it would spin the rear tire all the way down the straightaways. Still, the one time Roberts rode it, he won on it.

That was at the 1975 Indy Mile. After wrestling with it the entire race, Roberts somehow found traction coming off the very last turn. The bike shot down the track and Roberts passed a shocked Jay Springsteen a few feet before the finish line. After the race, he blurted, “They don’t pay me enough to ride that thing!” He needn’t have worried, the AMA soon banned it.

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