We're Into Custom Bike Engines

Custom motorcycle builder Mark “Makr” Atkinson, in his own words. “My name’s Mark Atkinson. My friends call me ‘Makr.’ We’re...

August 5, 2020

Custom motorcycle builder Mark “Makr” Atkinson, in his own words.

“My name’s Mark Atkinson. My friends call me ‘Makr.’ We’re in Woods Cross, Utah, just north of Salt Lake City, in an airport hangar. And this is my shop.

“I have a CNC machine shop, and I do mostly custom automotive motorcycle stuff. I’ve done a few cars, but motorcycles are mostly my thing. Probably the best-known one is the BMW Alpha, which was very artistic. It’s not necessarily much of a rider. I’ve got all sorts of bikes here that are riders. But I wanted to do something that really stretched my own abilities, and what I saw a motorcycle could be.

“And the Racer-X electric bike is kind of the same way. I approached it from the standpoint of what I would do if I didn’t have any idea of what a motorcycle was supposed to look like. So, yeah, it was just a fun project.”

An eye for engineering

“For the most part, we have CNC equipment. And it’s set up doing these feet, which is a ‘JackDaddy’ jack for those razor side-by-sides. If you have a flat tire or you need to change tires, you just basically drive up on it. So, it’s just super-simple and easy and kind of an elegant little piece.

“The other thing we’re making over here is a really cool two-piece, two-stroke piston. It has a trapped ring that doesn’t allow it to expand all the way. A normal ring kind of floats around; my ring doesn’t do that. It’s trapped, and it doesn’t allow it to go all the way out. It’s kind of an ongoing project. It’s what I’m running in my land-speed bike. Hopefully, over this Speed Week, we’ll really prove how well they work.”

Need for Speed Week

“Speed Week on the Bonneville Salt Flats 2019 starts today. It rained last night, so my guess is that we’re probably going to be delayed a day in racing because I think it’s really wet out there. Bonneville Salt Flats – I race every year, and my first year on the salt was 1971, so I was just a little teeny kid. It was a family affair.

“I’ve been racing this motorcycle since ’06. So, what are we talking about, 13 years? This is a mid-’70s Yamaha RD400, and so I’ve kind of stuck with racing these and building them. Obviously, I’ve got one, two, three, four of them. And, basically, I’ve just got to do a little bit of wiring and put the tank on and we’ll be ready to go.”

Builds his own engines from the ground up

“This particular engine I build entirely myself. The case is stock. It keeps me in my class. I have to keep the stock case. But the crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons – the entire engine – everything is all manufactured by me.

“I designed my own assembly, and the first year I built my own was 2013 and went out and it ran like a top; set a record at 140.5, or whatever. And now this is on the third revision of my particular builds. And this thing makes world-class power. I get on my dyno 140 horsepower out of this little 500-cc engine.

The great thing about Bonneville…

“The Bonneville Salt Flats is kind of a surreal environment. The scenery and everything it’s just mind-blowing. One great thing about why we race there – besides that it’s a nice, flat surface – is it holds the moisture up at the surface. The thing about land-speed racing is that you don’t just go that speed. You have to hold that speed for a full mile. You can’t keep a rubber tire cool enough on any other surface. Even dirt gets too hot. So the salt is just kind of the perfect surface.”

“I think that the racing is just the cherry on top. I like the engineering and the building part of it. That’s really where I get the kick out of it. You know, it’s the freedom and the ability to do anything. I don’t have any limitations other than what’s in my mind.”