The Vincent Bathing Suit Bike
WHAT'S A BATHING SUIT BIKE?
was calling themselves "The World's Fastest Motorcycle, and they weren't kidding. On September 13, 1948, Rolland “Rollie” Free piloted his modified Black Lightning into the history books at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah USA. At the time, the 150 mph-barrier seemed unreachable for motorcycles. Rollie tried several times, but never quite touched “The Big 150”. He determined that it was the wind resistance of his clothing that was slowing him down. So he stripped down to a bathing suit, a bathing cap and a pair of borrowed sneakers, he removed the seat and laid prone on the back fender. His 2-way average jumped to 150.313 mph. The picture of him breaking the record is one of the most iconic photos in all of motorcycledom. The record-breaking Black Shadow forever became known as “The Bathing Suit Bike”.
INSIDE THE VINCENT BATHING SUIT BIKE
The now-famous Bathing Suit Bike was custom-ordered owned by California sportsman John Edgar from the Vincent factory with many new and/or custom features. These included Vincent's first use of a rear suspension (their Cantilever Frame), the first Mk II racing cams, and horizontally-mounted racing carbs. The Black Lightning was supposed to be some 100 pounds lighter than a stock Black Shadow with about 25 more horsepower. Vincent's chief engineer Phil Irving and one of its designers said that there were only about 16 produced. The Black Lightning is the fastest Vincent ever produced, and was indeed the not just "The World's Fastest Production Motorcycle", it was, for a brief time "The World's Fastest Motorcycle"-period.
ABOVE: The might 998cc Vincent V-twin engine. Note that the engine is a stressed member, it acts like part of the frame, eliminating the need for traditional downtube and cradles. Mobil Oil was a sponsor, hence the "Flying Horse" on the tank.
BELOW: This shows the Cantilever rear suspension. Note that the entire rear section of the frame, which looks very much like a rigid frame, pivots on a swing arm, supported by two shock absorbers under where the seat would normally go.
ABOVE: Lightweight alloy rims, no front brake, streamlined forks, a red-hot engine and no seat were all part of the winning formula of the Vincent Bathing Suit Bike.
BELOW: This statue was on display with the actual, original Bathing Suit Bike at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering
in Carmel Valley CA. The Vincent Bathing Suit Bike has been named "The World's Most Famous Motorcycle".
Check out these VINCENT BOOKS
ILLUSTRATED VINCENT BUYERS GUIDE
VINCENT MOTORCYCLES: THE UNTOLD STORY SINCE 1946
ORIGINAL VINCENT MOTORCYCLE RESTORER’S GUIDE
THE ORIGINAL VINCENT MOTORCYCLE
VINCENT: FIFTY YEARS OF THE PARK, by Phillip Vincent himself!
THE VINCENT IN THE BARN
VINCENT BLACK LIGHTNING 1952, KINDLE
VINCENT 1935-1955 OWNER’S HANDBOOK OF MAINTENANCE & REPAIR
VINCENT, By Osprey
VINCENT FROM 1938
VINCENT TWINS, SUPER PORTFOLIO
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