Dick Chance, a 64-year-old Wichita native, is transitioning into retirement, handing over the family’s amusement ride company to his son.
But Chance isn’t ready for the joy rides to end. Now instead of roller coasters, Chance gets his fill of adrenaline rushes from racing his 1940 Indian Bonneville Sport Scout motorcycle.
The goal was always to set the American Motorcyclist Association land speed record in the 750cc Modified Vintage Gas division. After four years of trying, Chance succeeded with an average speed of 101.144 mph last week at the BUB Speed Trials on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
“I’m a believer in that in life you always have to have something that gives you a thrill,” Chance said. “Going to Bonneville kind of does that for me.”
In order for a valid attempt at a record, racers must complete the track at Bonneville twice — once in each direction. Motorcyclists are given two miles to build their speed before the third mile, where their average speed is registered.
In Chance’s vintage division, modifications were only allowed with parts, or exact replicas, available in 1940. The record for a stock Indian model was 72 mph before Chance obliterated it.
“One-hundred one mph doesn’t sound like a real high speed, but these bikes weren’t made to go that fast,” Chance said. “To get it to go 101 mph, it takes a little creativity and ingenuity to make it run and perform to its optimum performance.”
The ingenuity part came mostly with the engine, which Chance overhauled with the help of Jim Moser after three years of disaster striking on lap three. The original engine packed 16 horsepower; Moser nearly doubled it.
While several minute details had to align, Chance believes the difference in the engine was most crucial.
“You could just hear it and feel the engine pulling hard at the end of the mile,” Chance said. “All I had to do was hold on. I was just along for the ride.”
Four years of nitpicking at every possible part on the bike to gain a sliver of speed was justified. As Chance said, “It was all worth it.”
“I knew when he called me from the Salt Flats something exciting happened or else he wouldn’t have called,” said Jerry Ottaway, Chance’s cousin who helped in the process. “A lot of guys go out there for years and years and never set a record, so that was pretty exciting for him.”
Chance’s closest friends weren’t surprised the record fell to Chance.
“Guys like him, guys that love motorcycles and engines, they’re just a different breed,” said Derek Park, part of Chance’s crew. “It’s what they live and breathe. Dick just has antique motorcycles in his blood and he loves it.”
But now his obsession has been conquered, Chance is dealing with the aftermath. He’s convinced he can continue to tweak his current Indian model for a few extra miles an hour, but he’s unsure of what’s next for him after the national record.
“I’m sure I can find a new one to go after,” Chance said. “It’s demanding, but it’s certainly something I find very enjoyable and very satisfying. It’s always fun to try to come up with a new way to go a little faster.”