Bonneville Salt Flats: Dino Romano Experience

Published: 20 August 2018

The journey of a lifetime at Bonneville Speed Week

A story about the power of Dreams

Dino Romano is many things, a mechanic, a man who made epic journeys by motorcycle, a customizer, an inventor of new bikes and engines. He is the kind of man dreaming more than one dream at the same time. That's the reason why going to Salt Flats in Bonneville is quite spontaneous to him, like going back home, chasing records. He's probably found the fountain of youth (or he eventually made a deal with the devil) since he looks 20 years younger and has a 20-year old spirit (!) but indeed his formula is easy to love and hard to get: heart, authenticity and strong will. Being young and foolish is a state of mind and a statement in itself.

To get into his beautiful mind you have to dive into his world in the heart of Tuscany where the air smells like cypress, rosemary and maritime pine mixed with an intoxicating sense of freedom. Once you get there you immediately empathize with the choice to live and establish his workshop Motodalcuore over there. Dino Romano is a young sixtysomething (but he'd rather say +59) who lived many lives in a lifetime, always using the heart as a guiding force. He was born in Argentina, where living or surviving was an adventure in itself at the time. He's been a comics artist, a fish seller, a baker, an electrician and many other things. But engines were always there, close to the heart. Everything he does, he does it his own way. That's an occupational hazard since he tries to alter objects to his will: being it a dragster, an hot rod car or an endurance motorcycle.

Another creature of his imagination came to life from his workshop. It's a GPL-prototype that would accompany him at the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats Speed Week where speed records are meant to be broken. 

L’ennesima creatura immaginaria sta prendendo vita nella sua officina. È il prototipo moto a GPL che lo porterà ancora a tentare il record di velocità sulla distesa salata più leggendaria al mondo alla Bonneville Speed Week. Con il suo spirito di sempre: affamato di emozioni, visionario, innamorato di tutto ciò che fa.

Dino, when did you start customizing motorcycles and doing prototypes?

I've always been a mechanic. I entered my father's motorcycle workshop at the age of 10 and.. I think I'm still there. I've been a Triumph dealer for 25 years and my company's name is Motodalcuore which basically means Bikes from the heart because.. I've always done things by heart.

What's your father legacy apart from the taste for journeys and fast motorcycles?

My father was an Italian soldier. At the end of WWII he decided to seek for his fortune, like many others, in South America. He hid himself on a boat leaving from Genoa to Argentina. In the 1950s, before I was born, he made a lot of journeys all alone on a motorcycle like when he explored the Andes on a Matchless. When I was a child I used to watch the pictures of those adventures and I grew a lot of admiration for my father. His itineraries were like crazy. He worked for a truck company along the Pan-American Highway, for a icebreaker in the Antarctica, for oil wells and helping people get electricity in remote places. He always had an adventurous spirit, that's the true legacy he left me.

Then you landed in Italy...

Yes, it was 1968. I was raised in Milano where my father opened a car workshop. He thought that motorcycles were just for fun, but I've always believed that they could actually be my job.

Phonz: I miei ricordi più vividi sono legati a mio padre, che negli anni ‘70 era un pilota di motocross. Un vero ribelle. Quando ero piccolo, a casa dei nonni, amavo andare nella sua vecchia cameretta, e osservare le foto delle sue gare appese alle pareti…

When did you discover your talent in customization?

They called me by many names: artist, designer, creative.. I've always defined myself as motorcycle mechanic. Who lessens the importance of this role doesn't know anything about mechanics. Yes, I constantly change things. It's a great mess sometimes. It happens with everything, not only with bike prototypes, but I do what I need to do inside. 

Do you remember your first bike customization?

There was a sparkle, with which everything began. When I was a boy I went to the cinema to watch Easy Rider, the movie. It was a Saturday night. The next morning I cut a Lambretta to obtain a sort of chopper. It never worked! A real disaster. But something started to change in me. Shortly after I tried to elaborate the postman's motorcycle: a Bianchi Aquilotto. It caught fire (Dino laughs to tears recalling it!) Mechanics rhymes with a little bit of craziness to me: it's like finding the Neverland. That's what I love of the customization world.

From these first trials, to dragsters, to Bonneville. Why did you create the Open Eyes Dream project and why Bonneville Salt Flats?

The idea of chasing a record at Bonneville Salt Flats has been engraved in me since many years, but it came true only last year when I decided that it was my last call to go, engaging 101% to make it happen. I did whatever I could to find the budget. Even Pakelo Lubricants gave me a little hand among the other sponsors. The team was made of 20 people and everybody invested a piece of dream to build a bigger common dream. The project had a 2-year incubation period. 

What's the atmosphere there? Was the Bonneville Salt Flats like you expected?

Bonneville Salt Flats is something else. The situation, the context... you are at 4265 ft, 122°F (50°C) by average by day. It's like making sauna 20 hours a day. You get slowly grilled. Everything is shockingly bright, no reference point to help you. Imagine a skii slope, but made of salt. And here you find people from all over the world, top teams that are more than eager to help you and exchange ideas with you. There is a tremendous respect among riders, mechanics.. everybody knows that apart from the fancy facade life is at stake. At the Speed Week it's not the rider the protagonist, but the vehicle. Records are vehicles' records. That's the correct point of view. 

What did you feel just before trying to break the record?

When you reach maximum speed you need to go as straight as possible. When you change gears you feel the rear wheel abandoning you and if you enter a pool of water you get goosebumps. It's difficult to see the rev counter. Ahead of you the endless White. White is the soil, white is the sky because of the heat. You try to search for the fluorescent signs to keep the right direction. You don't have to think about speed, there's no time for that. You only need to check the bike. And open it all. The most intense moment is at the end of it. When you stop and you find yourself alone, in the nowhere, in the silence, where nobody could see you. You feel small in that immensity, part of the lake. 

The dream broke when you had an issue with the prototype. What happened?

It was the last day. The lithium battery caught fire. I am far the most emotional person of the team and I cried. Everybody was down but I want to see the glass half-full: we got a record in the GPL category, we passed the five licenses. We'll come back to make the official record... without lithium battery!

Who contributed most to this adventure?

My partner in crime Rosaria Fiorentino, that dealt with logistics. Federico Rizzo the engineer that studied the aerodynamics of the bodywork, Francesco Bellesi who organized our communication. But there are many people to thank lie Fabrizio "Vetroresina" (Fiberglass) like I call him and Eleonora Tiezzi who painted the bike and my son that made the airbrushing. And then there's my work, 20h a day for the previous six months.

Why did you choose liquid propane?

Picking GPL was meant to make a choice different from all the others. At Bonneville Salt Flats you see so many kind of vehicles and novelties get the attention. We were the firsts with an exclusively GPL motorcycle. I forgot to mention a special thanks to Alessio Bigatti, which made a fantastic job with the electronic management of GPL.

Please give us a preview of the prototype you're going to bring next time.

Here you are: 250 kg, 240 hp, 3 control units, 345 cm of lenght, 109 cm of height and 90 cm of width. 17'' wheels. Exhaust 4 in 2 in 1 created by Zard and Pakelo Oil (Engine Oil: Pakelo Krypton Racing MBK 5w50)

Last question: what's your secret dream?

I have plenty of secret dreams, but one of them is special. I wish I could create a sort of mechanic school for youngsters to help them find the way to make things by the heart. 

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