- Sunday 17 March, 2013
NORWALK, Ohio – After 35 years of racing motorcycles Larry “Spiderman” McBride still lines up at the tree on one of the fastest, meanest machines on the planet.
His one-year-older brother, Steve McBride, builds them.
Together this daredevil duo aims at every speed and elapsed time threshold, logging a 5.79-second elapsed time at 248 mph on a 1511 cc Suzuki Top Fuel motorcycle supercharged on nitro methane.
“Motorcycle racing is a passion,” said Larry McBride, a 10-time Top Fuel motorcycle world champion. “And it’s the people. I just love what I do. You get to meet a lot of cool people, and be involved with the sponsors, and go out and meet the employees. Just doing the extra stuff you do is a lot of fun.”
Custom-built at Larry McBride’s shop, Cycle Specialist, 11115 Jefferson Avenue, Newport News, Va., the motorcycle measures 17-feet-five-inches from the front wheel to the tip of the wheelie bars.
And as if almost 250 mph on a motorcycle weren’t scary enough, Larry McBride weathered other hazards of racing Top Fuel.
“I’ve been on fire three or four times in my 35 years of racing,” Larry McBride said.
Speaking of explosions, fireworks, and mind-dazzling speed…a first visit as a spectator at Night Under Fire in 1986 at what is now Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio left an impression on Larry McBride.
“That’s when all the pits were gravel,” Larry McBride said. “Bill Bader Sr. was doing all the announcing. Bill Junior was working hard just learning the ropes, just like I was. I was a young racer then.”
The next year, Larry McBride fired up his nitrous wheels for his own match race in the Night Under Fire.
He's raced there every year ever since then.
“I’ve watched the place build,” Larry McBride said. “The tower used to be on the right side of the track, and it was just a little wooden tower. Nothing on the left.
“The stands were wooden bleachers. We have the stadium style, now,” Larry McBride said. “I’ve been racing there so long, it’s like coming home. I know every place in Norwalk, and how to get there.”
The youngest of three brothers – Lamar, Steve and Larry -- born a year apart, Larry’s lifelong preparation for fearless motorcycle drag racing began in the brutal boot camp of brotherhood.
Larry recalls a most memorable boyhood ride in a little red wagon.
“I was the daredevil,” Larry McBride said. “Steve was always the guy that built stuff. It was so crazy. I was three or four years old.
“They put me in a little red wagon, took me up a hill and let me go,” Larry McBride said. “I crashed in my driveway, knocked my two front teeth out.”
Did that put an end to it? Nope. It was only the beginning for the McBride brothers.
“Steve built go carts; I was always driving them,” Larry McBride said. “Before we did engines and stuff, Lamar was a big ol’ boy. He was our motor. He would have to push us.
The more the boys grew, the bigger their dares.
“We all did ride motorcycles,” Larry McBride said. “We competed in motorcross races, but never against each other. I won a lot of races in motorcross. Steve did my motors and stuff. Me and Steve always worked together.
“We all got separated when Lamar joined the Marine Corps at age 17,” Larry McBride said.
The boys grew up mostly in Alabama, Larry McBride said. Their mom stayed in Alabama when the United States Army transferred their father to Virginia.
“My brother was in Norfolk in the Marines,” Larry McBride said. “Steve said, ‘I’m going to Virginia.’ He left me in Alabama. That didn’t last long. Probably one of my best moves was coming to Virginia.”
There in 1975 the top thrill of the day was drag racing in the dirt on a T 500 Suzuki drag bike.
“We raced that all over Virginia,” Larry McBride said. “I won everything you could possibly win in the dirt. In three years I never lost a race.
“Then in 1977 Squeeky Bell crashed a dirt drag bike,” Larry McBride said. “He came to me and asked if I would like to ride a Nitro Harley. I rode Harleys for years. Later in 1978, Squeeky Bell built me a fuel Harley. I raced that.
“In 1980 he was moving to Florida and buying a campground,” Larry McBride said. “And I didn’t have a ride. He made a phone call to Danny Johnson. He was a world class drag racer with many number ones, racing double engine Harleys. He traveled back and forth to California.
“In 1980 he hired me,” Larry McBride said. “He had been in a crash in California. Just a month later was the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. He called. We met him in Indy.
“This was a supercharged 4-cylindar like I’m riding now, a Kawasaki,” Larry McBride said. “I had never ridden the bike. I had never seen the bike. I got to Indy, sat on the bike. They only qualified eight bikes. I qualified number four in the first ever six-second motorcycle field.
“I got runner up.”
Runner up and a Superhero identity, that is.
“In Indy in 1980, the bikes weren’t quite as long,” Larry McBride said. “I’m a tall guy. I moved around on the bike. The announcer in Indy said, ‘This guy moves around on the bike like Spiderman.’
“It stuck,” Larry McBride said. “Ever since then they’ve called me, ‘Spiderman.’”
At first the helmet was painted like Spiderman. Then more and more of Larry’s gear reflected the Spiderman theme, including a red fire suit.
As children in Alabama, the McBride brothers read Marvel Comic Books, and the heroics of Spiderman.
“But I didn’t dress like him,” Larry McBride said. “It’s to the point where it’s out of control.”
His reason for the costume betrays his heart.
“Kids,” Larry McBride said. “It’s absolutely unbelievable. I’m blown away. There are times when I have to put my helmet on for kids.
“They’re our future. I always try to go out of my way to take care of the kids,” Larry McBride said.
This includes visits to local children’s hospitals. Also, once a year Larry “Spiderman” McBride journeys to Chicago with the Wish Upon a Star program for young cancer patients.
From 1983 when Larry McBride won a National Hot Rod Association Wally in Atlanta, through competitions in the National Motorcycle Racers Association, the American Motorcycle Association Pro Star circuit, the American Motorcycle Association Drag Bike circuit, to the Manufacturer’s Cup, the brothers thrilled to each race.
“We’ve been running around the world here,” Larry McBride said. “I’ve been through every drag bike sanctioning body in the world.”
The Newport News, Va. area bustles with government offices and military goings on, Larry McBride said, so the economy is good.
While Larry raced bigger, better, faster, more expensive motorcycles, he opened Cycle Specialist, a custom motorcycle fabrication shop in Newport News, with Steve as his crew chief. To find Cycle Specialist on the Web, click on custom drag bikes.
“We do engines, but we also work on motorcycles, and sales,” Larry McBride said. “We customize them mainly for drag racing. And we restore bikes. We just finished a 1977 KZ 1000 Kawasaki. We do whatever to keep going racing.
“And we have a lot of great sponsors who have helped us get there,” Larry McBride said. “That’s another thing you can’t race without.”
On August 10, 2013, Larry “Spiderman” McBride fires up the fun of the 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Auto Plus Night Under Fire presented by Kelly Services at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. For more information click on family fun party.
Remembering old times at Summit Motorsports Park, Larry McBride spoke of wake boarding behind pit bikes, and never going into a sand pit. At least, not until recently.
The reason had to do with new safety equipment, as motorcycle racers installed parachutes on their bikes.
“I was a hard head,” Larry McBride said. “I didn’t want to. I finally put one on. Up until that point I had never been in the sand trap. But last year at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, I went in the sand trap.
“So I called the guy about the parachute,” said Larry McBride. “I said, ‘You need to redo your instructions. You didn’t put anything in the instructions about using your brakes.”
Sometimes, when life slows down too much, or the ruts dig in too deep, Larry McBride catches a thrill by sky diving or bungee jumping.
“I still do things I shouldn’t be doing at 55, it’s to keep myself young,” Larry McBride said. “That’s what it’s all about. You have got to have fun. We’re only here for such a short period of time. Why not have fun while you can?”