Taking It To The Customers

Drag Specialties Magazine May/June 2004

“It all starts with running the dyno and tuning bikes. The first thing we want to do is get that motorcycle up on the dyno. Now we’re doing anything from just simply tuning that bike, to putting on a performance exhaust system and air cleaner, to maybe selling a whole motor.” – Wayne Hanson Speed’s Performance Plus

If you’ve been to any big rallies during the past six years you’ve undoubtedly seen–and heard–all the action around Speed’s Performance Plus. A full-blown motorcycle performance shop on wheels, Wayne Hanson takes his business right to the customers. At Daytona, Sturgis, Laconia, Myrtle Beach, everywhere motorcycles gather, coast-to-coast, Speed’s Performance Plus is tough to miss. Centered around a big, 18-wheel tractor/trailer rig, and centered right in the middle of the activity wherever they go, Wayne and his mechanics leave a long trail of sweet-running and hard-charging Harleys in their wake.
Now, trailers with a dyno on them are nothing new. Every event has one of those setups seemingly on every street corner. Speed’s Performance Plus is something different. Speed’s is a full-service performance motorcycle shop on wheels. Speed’s Performance Plus will carry upwards of $50,000 worth of inventory on its trucks into a big rally, somewhere like Daytona or Sturgis.

They’ll have carbs and filters and pipes and Dynojet Power Commanders, and most times they’ll leave town with an empty rig, having sold and installed just about everything they brought with them. This happens more than 30 times a year, too, starting with the new product shows in February and then hitting every major event and lots of minor ones right through a New Orleans finale in November. After six years of this, almost constantly on the road tuning Harley-Davidsons, Speed’s has built up quite a reputation, and quite a following.
“Without blowing our own horn too much,” Wayne says, “when it comes to setting up motorcycles we’ve grown to become probably the number one or number two tuners in the country.” That’s no idle boast. Wayne Hanson, his sons Jason and Jamie, and his right-hand-man Jim McConnell, have seen it all when it comes to Harley-Davidsons. And they’ve fixed it all. Depending on the season, Wayne says he and the crew will performance-tune thousands of motorcycles a year. “And we see about every damn combination of motorcycle you can think of out there,” he says. “Wild stuff. Motorcycles with multiple carburetors, everything. And if someone can’t make a bike run right I guarantee it will end up on my trailer. One way or another we’ll make it run, too, or find out why it won’t.”
That kind of experience is invaluable, and in the months to come Wayne Hanson will be sharing some of his tuning knowledge with us right on these pages. Speed’s has made a real specialty of tuning fuel-injected motorcycles, for instance, “really jumping on it,” Wayne says. “It’s the wave of the future, and a lot of shops seem to be afraid of it. They haven’t taken the time to learn about fuel injection.” We will here, listening closely to what Wayne’s learned and is willing to pass on (just like many savvy shop owners already have). “Some shops are so busy selling motorcycles and accessories they really haven’t gotten involved in the tuning aspect of the business,” Wayne observes. “At least the high-performance tuning, and that’s where we come in. Plenty of times a shop owner will send his best mechanic or tuner over to our trucks to spend a couple days with us while we’re in the area. We’ll bring that guy up to speed, no pun intended, on performance tuning the new bikes.”

It isn’t all just fuel-injection with Speed’s, either. There are also all of those motorcycles that get tuned each season, remember? Wayne and the guys have plenty to pass on from the carburetor side of things, too. So naturally we’ll be getting the lowdown on what works best with those needle and jet and slide fuel mixers, as well as what combinations of carb/filter/pipe work best for producing raw power or tractable, all-around street performance. And the lessons might be surprising. Too often, for instance, Wayne’s found that guys tend to over-carburate their bikes, going on the assumption that if big is good then even bigger is better. Not true, at least not on the street. It all comes down to knowing what’s going to produce the best results in what situation. “And honestly,” Wayne says, “I don’t always use the parts that generate the biggest horsepower numbers. What I’m after, and what most riders appreciate the minute they feel it, is that parts combination that gives the best response and performance from off-idle to about 4,000 rpm. For normal street riding that’s what you’re after, a bike that jumps every time you twist the throttle. That’s what makes a customer go away smiling. And coming back for more, or bringing in his buddies. I don’t mind sucking three or four horsepower off a bike’s top-end number to give it seven or eight more foot pounds of torque.”

All of this didn’t happen overnight. Wayne Hanson raced cars and motorcycles since he was a teenager, and he always had a shop catering to racers, but not necessarily the public. In the early 1990s that changed when Wayne opened Speed’s Performance Plus in Watertown, South Dakota. “But let’s face it,” he says, “South Dakota isn’t exactly the most populous place in the country. I was making a living, drawing in customers from a two or three state area, but I figured I could do more by taking it on the road.” At first Wayne went out towing a little shop and a dyno in a trailer. He had a Dodge pickup truck and an 18-foot trailer, and he and his wife Patty would go out to events and just dyno motorcycles, do a little carburetor work and maybe a camshaft change in the evenings. The next year Wayne had a 35-foot converted Greyhound bus, towing a 25-foot trailer, and by then had enlisted the help of his sons Jason and Jamie. An old friend and an excellent mechanic, Jim McConnell, joined the team, too.

These days Speed’s Performance Plus pulls into an event with a stretched FreightLiner semi with a 40-foot traile behind it, a 33-foot motorhome with a 16-foot trailer, and another 26-foot motorhome pulling yet another 8-foot trailer, all stuffed with parts and displays. The shop and dyno is set up inside that double-deck 40-foot trailer behind the FreightLiner, and everything–especially the dyno, a Dynojet Model 250 Load Control model, complete with Tuning Link–is state-of-the-art. Speed’s Performance Plus is an actual Dynojet Power Commander Tuning Center. Amid all this, Speed’s Performance Plus will assemble complete big-bore engines right at a show, too. They’ll take a stock bike, and after dyno-testing it for a baseline, roll it into the shop and by the next afternoon it’s been transformed into a 90- or 100-horsepower big-bore screamer. Speed’s will have changed the cylinders, heads, cams, the works. Before heading home that customer gets a final tuning and a second dyno session. Some customers even load their bikes on Wayne’s trucks and let him take them home for the winter for some really trick big-inch conversions. “I’ll deliver five or six of them every Bike Week,” he says.
Wayne Hanson’s approach to taking his store to where the customers are no doubt isn’t for everyone, but his concept works for him and might work for others. The next time Speed’s Performance Plus is in your area stop by and take a look.

Clockwise: Speed’s Dynojet Model 250 Load Control model complete with Tuning Link is always busy.

As a customer watches on the left, Wayne (right) works with one of his mechanics to solve an engine problem.

Dyno-testing for a baseline.
Wayne uses his many years of experience to help determine the best results in every situation, oftentimes not necessarily going for the parts that pull the biggest horsepower numbers.

(Top) Once the dyno run is over, Wayne reviews the readings with his customer.
(Bottom) Today, Wayne is joined by his wife, Patty, sons Jason (shown here) and Jamie and mechanic Jim McConnell.

Speed’s Performance Plus is one hoppin’ place at rallies!

Speed’s is hard to miss – just look for the stretch FreightLiner semi pulling a 40-foot trailer.

Article reprinted from Drag Specialties Magazine, Volume 11 #5, with permission.

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