A broad stretch of golden sand is being raked to perfection, backed by a set of whirring wind turbines. Bikinis and board shorts are replaced by branded leather jackets, full-face helmets and biker boots, itching to kick sand in the face of rev-head rivals. This is the beach break motorcycle enthusiasts dream of. This 7 mile stretch of sand is the UK's answer to the Bonneville Salt flats of Utah where more famously know land speed titles are claimed. The first person to use Pendine Sands for a world land speed record attempt was Malcolm Campbell. On September 25, 1924 he set a world land speed record of 146.16 mph in his Sunbeam 350HP Blue Bird. So it is here on these historic sand flats where the bi-annual Straightliner contest is where heroes are made. The Pendine “Daredevils travelling at the speed of sand,” grins Phil Betty as he knocks back another tin cupful of tar thick coffee, Phil is constantly tweaking and honing his Triumph in the attempt to squeeze another few milliseconds off his existing time.
Straightliners founder, 72-yr-old Trevor Ducksworth, is busy measuring out the track on the hard-packed sand with all the attention to detail you'd expect from a man who earned his first world record in 1981 and now has 27 to his name. “We should be able to go for the two-mile today. When you have rough seas at night it leaves the beach beautifully flat” he tells me.
Straightliners at Pendine is only in it's 4th year as contestants come from all over the UK and a spattering from Europe to try and beat personal bests and smash new landspeed records.
Conditions are critical, on-shore winds and moisture density of the sand along with the willingness of often, very temperamental machines will bear influence on track times.
The event simply is open to anybodywishing to compete and attracts a die hard breed of speed hungry bikers who have whilled away hundreds of hours in oily garages tinkering and modifying their beloved machines. Trevor tells me that once there were fewer categories for various engine sizes, but now there are upto 52 different categories which compromise of hybrid fuels like methanoyl and varying degrees of sub classes, the event also attracts a diversity of physical abilities. 'One man, one arm, one dream' is the slogan emblazoned across Andy 'swingarm' Slade's trailor. Andy was amputated from the shoulder socket in a forklift accident.
“Racing, it's like flying, but you never leave the ground”. Andy doesn't need to beat two arms like a bird to do just that. With the support from his adoring wife and three children, and found the strength and courage to start riding again, and a year later, and after some intricate modifications he was back on his bike. He's passion for riding became more extreme when he heard about Straightliners, and has been hooked ever since. Andy is proud to be regarded as a role model and inspiration for other disabled riders joining the event.
With over 100 landspeed trophies to his name, Chris Illman still thinks there are more records to be had. At 70yrs old Chris still considers himself young compared to his ageing bike which is 10 years his senior, a 1930's vintage Triumph, also among this unlikely bunch of everyday speed hero's I meet Helen Lincoln, also dubbed 'The fastest woman on sand' sitting proudly next to her machine aptly named 'Sand Fever'.
It doesn't take long to realize that for most, this is more than just serious competition, it's offers a sense of community where everyone is happy to share tips and tricks and indulge pure escapism far away from the monotony of the everyday.