SI Vault
 
HITTING THE KILL BUTTON
Kenneth Rudeen
August 20, 1962
Motorcycle road racing is not just riding around. It unites man and machine in a wonderfully complex sequence of conditioned reflexes, involving front and rear wheel brakes, a whole series of shifts and, on occasion, killing the engine at high speed
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
August 20, 1962

Hitting The Kill Button

Motorcycle road racing is not just riding around. It unites man and machine in a wonderfully complex sequence of conditioned reflexes, involving front and rear wheel brakes, a whole series of shifts and, on occasion, killing the engine at high speed

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

"Your right-hand grip is the throttle and in front of it is the front-brake lever. In front of the left grip is the clutch lever. Your right foot is on the gearshift pedal—under it, I should say—and your left foot is on the rear-brake pedal. Here comes the chicane. You sit up into the wind to help slow the bike and you hit the front and rear brakes simultaneously. You shift down from fourth gear to third. You do this by squeezing the clutch lever, rolling the throttle—revving it—with your right thumb while still holding the front-wheel brake on and lifting the gear lever with your right boot toe. As you complete this, you slack pressure on the rear brake just a little so the rear wheel won't break loose as it takes hold in the lower gear. But you still have the front brake on hard. An instant later you repeat all this, shifting down to second, and then to low. Just before you get into low you start leaning into the turn. You don't steer the bike except a little bit; mostly you just lean. In the turn you start getting back on the throttle, opening up and backing off as you go through the rest of the chicane.

"Coming out of it, you want to go flat out. You throttle up to 7,000 rpms in first gear. When you shifted down, you toed up on the shift pedal. Shifting up, you kick the pedal down a notch at a time. At 7,000 rpms, the maximum I've set for myself here, you push what we call the "kill" button with the left hand and momentarily kill the engine. Without using the clutch, you simultaneously kick down into second, then rev up again, kick into third and finally into high. We use the kill button to save a fraction of a second while shifting gears. Shutting off for that little time lets you shift without using the clutch and yet not damaging the gears. No, sir, you are not just riding around.

"My bike is an English Matchless. It weighs just under 300 pounds, has a displacement of 30� cubic inches in one cylinder, with a single overhead camshaft. Resweber rides the hottest Harley-Davidson in the country. They're the only make produced in the States, and in our championship racing they're allowed 45 cubic inches displacement because of their less efficient side-valve arrangement. Watch Resweber."

But it was Resweber who had to watch Mann's tailpipe for 23 of those 66 laps as Mann sprinted away at the start. Then, sadly, his motor died not for a split second but for keeps, and in the end Resweber won like the champion he is. With only one lap to go, he put his violent little bike into the lead and slammed across the finish line a few seconds ahead of his closest pursuer. Although Mann received no points, he held his advantage in the championship chase—by a single point over Carroll Resweber.

1 2