Would you let your 16-year-old daughter race a motorcycle going faster than 100 mph? Well, Laura Klock, a 40-year-old mother of two girls raised a few eyebrows in 2007 when she allowed her daughter Erika (16 at the time) to compete for a land speed record at the Speed Trials by BUB, held at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah's northwest corner. Then in September of 2008, her youngest, Karlee, 15, joined her sister and mother on the Salt Flats gunning for a record of her own. What inspires and motivates a mother to watch her two children participate in what many consider a very dangerous endeavor? Laura's response, "To see them out there riding is such a blessing, I'm so proud of them, just to have the courage to go out there and even try it."
The whole Klock clan on the Holy Grail of Land Speed Racing, the Bonneville Salt Flats (left to right) Laura, Karlee, Brian, and Erika.
"Huh?" you may be asking yourself. "What is Laura made of?" To put her answer in context, it helps to know Laura's background. In 2006 Laura became well-known in motorcycling circles when she set a world record racing a customized Harley-Davidson Road Glide on the Bonneville Salt Flats going 143.659 mph in 2006. She was racing for Klock Werks Kustom Cycles, the company she owns with her husband, Brian Klock. In 2008, she broke her own record with a top speed of 153.906 mph, and a new record of 153.592 going into the books. Speed is in her blood, something she has no problem passing on to her children. But where did Laura's love of speed come from?
Laura (background) takes some time with Karlee to go over some of the finer points of operating a motorcycle on the salt. "It's way different than riding on the asphalt," Laura says.
As a young girl growing up in the Wisconsin countryside Laura was surrounded by motorcycles, ATVs, and snowmobiles. She not only loved to ride, both she and her brother loved to take apart anything they could get their hands on to see what made them tick. "My dad loved stock car racing, and spent many hours in the garage working on his racecars and hot rods," Laura remembers. "Starting at a very young age, hanging out in the garage with my dad became one activity that brought some closeness between us."
This relationship was important to Laura since her folks were divorced when she was in the 3rd grade. "I come from a dysfunctional family," she shares. "There was alcoholism, and fighting -- just bad stuff, but I didn't come out of that not having love for my mom and dad. In fact, I've been able to use those less fortunate life experiences to help others who are struggling. God never wastes a hurt."
Erika making a timed pass on a Buell S2. When the event was over, Erika set a new AMA record of 130.392 mph in the P-PP 1350 class. Erika says about making a run, "It's not scary, it's a rush." (Photo courtesy of Scooter Grub)
Just like their mother, the girls became fond of motorized things at an early age. It wasn't long before they had their own dirt bikes spending countless hours exploring the nearby wilderness. Karlee was just 5 years old the first time she rode. Laura's marriage to the girls' father did not work out. She became a single mother when the girls were just 3 and 6 years old.
In 2008 Karlee rode a modified version of the bike her sister set a record on in 2007. Karlee was a quick learner, starting out slowly and gradually adding speed with each consecutive pass. She finished the week with two separate AMA records: 107.391 mph in the M-PG 500 class, and 110.724 mph in the MPS-PG 500 class. (Photo courtesy of Scooter Grub)
She met her current husband, Brian Klock, in 2003 in Milwaukee at Harley-Davidson's 100th Anniversary celebration. In 2005 she packed up and moved to Mitchell, South Dakota, a place she and the girls now call home with Brian. The move some 300 miles west did not dampen the girls' appetite for motorcycles. It only amplified it. Laura explains, "The girls showed an interest in circle track racing --I guess they just have it in their blood," she laughs. "Brian and I took them to see what it would take to get involved in that type of racing. After watching some of the ATVs on the track it really scared me as a mom. Those are pretty big machines, and they're bumping into each other. For the most part they are all pretty capable riders, but they're riding right next to each other and accidents do happen."
Laura is very proud of her girls. "It's great to be able to watch them become more confident as riders, and young ladies. Out there you're challenging yourself, you're challenging your machine. This is pretty good stuff for young women to learn." Speaking of proud, the entire Klock family and crew was brimming with pride as they watched Laura nab an AMA record of 153.592 mph in the MPS-PF 3000 class riding a Klock Werks Kustom Cycles creation dubbed the "Worlds Fastest Bagger."
That was in the summer of 2006. By September 2006 Laura was participating in her first land speed racing campaign on the bike the Klock Werks Krew built for the Discovery Channel's Biker Build Off
TV Series. Knowing that some form of racing was in the girls' future Laura and Brian kicked around the idea of having them participate in land speed racing.
Karlee (left) and Erika (right) take a few moments of downtime to ride around the pits, to see what was going on with the other teams competing at the event.
For those unfamiliar with motorcycle land speed racing at Bonneville, the competition is held on a five-mile-long, wide, straight track, with a surface that is -- you guessed it -- salt. A single competitor leaves the starting line (there is only one racer on the track at any given time), and brings his or her machine through the gears and up to speed. By the time the bike reaches the beginning of the two-mile mark the rider should be running at top speed. If all goes as planned the rider keeps this speed constant between mile two and mile three, (the measured mile as it's called) where the motorcycle is timed by officials who preside over the event. Once the rider reaches the beginning of mile three he or she backs out of the throttle and has a two-mile stretch in which to slow the motorcycle down.
Prior to one of Karlee's runs, Laura gives her encouragement and a kiss.
If the run was fast enough to challenge the existing record, the rider then makes a return pass in the opposite direction. Upon completion of the second pass, the speed of the two runs is averaged. If the average speed is higher than the existing record, a new record is established pending a technical inspection of the motorcycle, and certification of the governing body that oversees the record.
At home, Erika is no different than any other high school teenager. She's on the basketball team, helps out the volleyball team, and hangs with her friends.
After Laura's first racing endeavor on the salt she felt confident in exploring the possibility of her daughters participating in this type of racing. "After doing it myself I told the girls that although you can reach some high speeds this is a pretty safe form of racing. You're not right next some one. There's not a wall next to you to run into. It's a very controlled environment." With this explanation barely out of Laura's mouth, Erika and Karlee whole-heartedly agreed that it was something they wanted to be part of.
Karlee blowing off a little extra energy at the Klock home in Mitchell, South Dakota.
Laura learned all that's required to race at Bonneville is a valid state issued drivers license. In addition your motorcycle needs to meet certain minimum safety requirements and you're required to wear approved riding gear. This meant that for the 2007 Bonneville event Erika could race since you only need to be 14-years-old to obtain a drivers license in South Dakota - which she did. Karlee would have to wait another year before she had a license.
With all the excitement that comes with land sped racing, the girls find themselves quickly back in the swing of things once they get back home. Here they pose with their 1-1/2 year old collie, Q.
In 2007 when Erika was ready to make her first pass on the salt, Laura remembers she felt sick to her stomach asking herself, "What am I doing putting her out there? I was scared to death, but I didn't want her to be scared. If it's not meant to be, her bike won't start or there will be some other type of divine intervention."
Whether it's school sports, or motorcycle racing, Laura wants her daughters to experience all life has to offer. "I love the fact that they are out there racing. They could have taken a wrong turn along the way. There are plenty of kids out there in trouble, doing drugs. To see them doing this makes me feel good."
Laura continues, "I've grown a lot in my faith and I pray a lot, especially out there. I have to turn it over to God. We had done the practicing, they knew their bikes, and their gear was good and safe. You just have to let them do their thing because if you make them nervous because you are, that's worse. I just give them a kiss on their helmets and let them go. I'll admit I hold my breath until I know they've cleared the mile. It becomes a faith and a trust thing, you have to trust in them, and everything you taught them about riding.”
Erika and her boyfriend, Jordan, all decked-out and ready for the Junior Prom.
Laura sees her daughters racing experience as much more than trying to set records. "They learn so much about themselves. They learn about other people; these are things they are gong to use in their lives. It's not just about motorcycling and that's the part that I really love as a mom."
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