Vodka-powered 1980 Yamaha XS850 breaks speed record at Bonneville

A 1980 Yamaha XS650 was restored to be able to run on ethanol that was based on Vodka. The bike went on to break a land speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats in its category.

By:Updated: September 4, 2018 6:02:59 PM
1980 Yamaha XS650 'Sudden Wisdom'1980 Yamaha XS650 ‘Sudden Wisdom’

1980 Yamaha XS650 ‘Sudden Wisdom’ (Photo: Montgomery Distillery)The holy grail for speed nuts, legendary Bonneville Salt Flats, is witnessing a lot of action this week. One of them is a tale of a man who restored a 1980 Yamaha XS650 he found abandoned in a field, fired it up with some Vodka and went on to break a speed record. So, where did the inspiration come from? Well, if you’re an alcohol distillery owner, coming by a highly combustible alternative fuel seems to be easy. Ryan Montgomery, owner and operator of Missoula, Montana’s Montgomery Distillery, had the same idea.

Ryan built the Yamaha-based, vodka-fueled land speed racer at home and headed to Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials. He found an abandoned 1980 Yamaha XS650 and he obviously had all the raw material to make ethanol. A local Bonneville expert Neil ‘Mort’ Olson helped out with technical bits about racing.

It runs on Vodka heads based ethanol.

The Vodka used for powering this Yamaha XS650 is Vodka heads. So, long story short – Vodka head is the first by-product that flows out during distillation and isn’t fit for drinking. Not good enough for drinking, but makes a great clean-burning ethanol.

Vodka heads are discarded, but Ryan thought of this over the winter and so then they saved up to 10 gallons of heads for the Yamaha. Breaking a land speed record is pretty much a tall order for someone who has never built a race bike or even raced before, but Ryan is a man with a vision.

Also read: Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 aims for speed record before India launch: Heads to Bonneville Salt Flats

The major change that had to be made to make the Yamaha XS650 capable of running on ethanol was tweaking and re-jetting the carbs. But the bike was finished in time for the run with help from friends and sponsors. Ryan also built it new bodywork, gave it a new paint job and named it ‘Sudden Wisdom’.

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