SPEED’S PERFORMANCE PLUS
There’s a lot Going On at Speed’s Performance Plus
We Sat Down with Wayne “Speed” Hanson to See What’s New
By Jeff Deasey
Photography: John Sullivan
We first met Wayne “Speed” Hanson when his traveling motorcycle tuning rig came to our small Southern California town in the latter part of 2001. At the time, his caravan included a large motor-home with a mobile dyno tuning center in tow.
We’ve bumped into the Speed’s Performance Plus crew at the past few major events, but they were always so swamped with work that they weren’t able to take some time to let us know how they business was doing. After a few months of trying to catch up with him, Speed was finally able to relax after turning dozens of bikes during Daytona Bike Week 2003 and spent a couple of hours on the telephone with us to tell us what was new with his company.
HRB: The last time we saw your mobile tuning rig, we were very impressed. Now it looks as though you’ve upgraded everything from the dyno trailer to a much larger motor home, and you have a lot more tools than you did before. Business must be going well for you.
Speed: It is! We are so busy that we can hardly keep up. We found that people all around the country needed someone with lots of tuning experience to make their bikes run the way they should. You’d be surprised at the amount of people out there who are completely frustrated with the inability of their local shop to get their bike running properly after hopping them up. I hear things like: “My bike would have a lot more miles on it, but the guy at my local shop could never get the bike running well enough to make it fun.” I had one guy with a two-year-old blower bike, but it had only 400 miles on it because it just didn’t run as well as the guy wanted it to. We convinced him to let us remove the blower and tuned it to the point that it actually made more power at the bottom end than it did before. He was so happy that the next time we saw him just a few days later, the bike had over 1,100 miles on it.
HRB: Tell us about your unique tuning approach.
Speed: I’ll usually take out a stopwatch if I’m on the road, and I’ll do a 5th-gear pull from about 2,500 rpm and stop the clock at about 4,500 rpm. I don’t need to use the stopwatch on the dyno, because it has its own built-in timer. Since Harleys are big bikes, it’s far more important to tune them for maximum acceleration than it is for top-end power. I’m not satisfied until I can make a bike run as fast as possible from 2,500 to 4,500, with the best all-around performance. I have no problem with losing a couple of horsepower at the top if it means that a customer’s bike will perform better overall, and I’ve had no complaints. I’ve been trying to educate people about the fact that faster acceleration and top-end horsepower are two different things entirely. With a heavy bike like a Harley, you really want to concentrate more on bottom-and midrange performance, since those are the areas of the power-band that are the most important. I’ve had over 35 years of tuning and racing experience, and I find that the faster acceleration and smoother power curve is always better than chasing a few extra ponies at the top. That’s how the best racing crews do it and it works.
HRB: We hear that you sold your house in South Dakota and have made the new motor-home your permanent residence.
Speed: We just got far too busy to continuously run back to our home base in Watertown, South Dakota, and found it to be a lot easier to live in our rig. My wife, Patty, and our sons, Jason and Jamie, also live in the rig, along with a dog or two to accompany us. We also have a friend named Jim McConnell who travels with us and helps out from time to time. Since the last time we saw you, we sold the house and bought the bigger rig. Our new 37-foot motor-home has a large living room inside and is so big that we really don’t miss the house all that much.
HRB: So the entire family is involved. Just how exactly does that work?
Speed: We find that it works out just great for us. I do all the tuning, while my sons do all the installation work. I’ll push a bike up to the dyno trailer, plug in a Power Commander and tune it. When I’m finished, the boys will take the bike out of the trailer and actually install the Power Commander in the correct place, while I start to tune the next bike.
HRB: Sounds a little like an assembly line.
Speed: It really is. Some of our customers like to add components and see how each one improved the performance of their bike separately, so I might have the boys install a new carb and then do a few dyno passes to chart any improvements. Then, I’ll work on tuning another bike while Jason and Jamie install an exhaust system on the bike with the new carb, and when they finish, I’ll wheel it back into the rig to see how much the exhaust system affected the horsepower and torque figures. We just keep doing that all day long if that’s what customer wants, and it keeps us very busy. We never seem to have a free minute for ourselves at any of the bigger events.
HRB: Just how many bikes do you guys tune on average, say during a big even like Sturgis?
Speed: We tune a lot more than you might think. At the last Sturgis run, we tuned about 300 bikes and 256 of them were fuel-injected. We also installed something like 79 Power Commanders on some of those injected bikes. I’ve tunes something in the area of 30,000 bikes over the past five years and things just keep picking up. We’re also working on adding a few more sponsors to our list. We already have Dynojet, K&N, Comp Cams, Mikuni, Force Motor Products, Holley, and Drag Specialties. There are about four of five more sponsors that we’re working on bringing on board and they sound very promising.
HRB: You seem to know a great deal about the inner workings of fuel injection systems.
Speed: I used to install and repair industrial computer equipment in a rubber factory that I worked at. I’ve had so much experience with computers, that the move to servicing and tuning injected bikes seemed like the natural thing to do. I’m really into injection and it won’t be long until every new bike on the road has it from the factory. I’m still a little surprised that bike injection isn’t at the level of the systems used in the automotive world, but it’s advanced a lot in the past couple of years. I am also working on a few of my own ideas for fuel-injected bike parts, which I find to be both challenging and fun.
HRB: Can you tell us about those?
Speed: I can’t just yet, but we do have a really unique new single runner intake manifold for the new Holley two-barrel carburetor. It curves around and places the carburetor throats forward, and besides helping the bike to run much better, it also makes the bike look a lot better in the process. The new Holley manifold is just the tip of the iceberg. Patty and I plan on buying another home in about four years and starting up a manufacturing plant to produce some of the products I’m developing.
HRB: Does that mean that Speed’s will no longer be a mobile company?
Speed: Not at all. Jason and Jamie will probably take over the mobile part of the company, when the time comes, so that I’ll be able to spend more time doing design and development work. Of course, Patty and I will still go to events once in a while to keep up with what’s going on with the motorcycle world.
HRB: What else have you been working on besides the injection and carb components?
Speed: We just recently started working with Mid-USA to see what we can do with its Power House engine. The Power House is a great motor and we’re having a good time with it. I’ve also been working on a little V-Rod stuff and some new tuning software that I recently got my hands on. You’re going to see a lot of nice stuff with the Speed’s Performance Plus name on it in the very near future, if things continue to go as well as they are now.
HRB: Thanks for taking the time to let us know what’s going on with you.
Speed: It’s been fun. I love to talk about this stuff with just about anyone who’ll listen. My main passion is making any bike that rolls into my dyno trailer leaving running much better than it did when it came in. I’ll call you guys in a few weeks when I can talk a little bit more about some of the secret projects that we’ve been working on.
Article reprinted with permission from Hot Rod Bikes magazine, July, 2003 Volume 10, #7