Craig Hansen's theory is that we are all wild animals caged in by our big brains.

Craig Hansen's theory is that we are all wild animals caged in by our big brains.

So why not let our inner beast out and take a ride on the wild side — say, at 170 mph or more?

Hansen, who owns Hansen Motorcycles in Phoenix, and other Jackson County speed demons ride some of the fastest production motorcycles in the world, capable of screaming close to 200 mph.

You don't have to be young to enjoy those speeds. Hansen's 66, and his age doesn't stand in the way of a full-throttle streak on a super fast, sleek Ducati, BMW or other exotic jet on wheels.

If you think rocketing to insanely high speeds in less than a mile is the next closest thing to death itself, Hansen insists the sensation actually makes you feel more alive.

"It literally enhances all the senses," Hansen says.

Primitive survival instincts kick in, opening you up to a world of experience as your synapses contemplate a magic carpet of asphalt inches below your feet. At the same time, you try to take in the eye-popping blur buzzing in your peripheral vision. Looking forward, you channel a jungle cat pouncing on its prey.

Interstate 5 appears straight enough to let all that horsepower run free, but the experts say don't try it. Not only will you get a hefty fine, but you could find yourself in jail.

A better idea is to take your need-for-speed to a track.

H. Dashper Wood III, or "Woody" as he is known, rides his Triumph Daytona at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma County, Calif.

"When you get used to it, it doesn't seem fast anymore," says the 64-year-old.

Last year, he crashed the bike at the track after following too close to another rider, sliding along the asphalt at about 70 mph.

"It was actually pretty slow," he says.

Wood escaped unharmed, but his bike required repairs and still has a few scratches that help underscore his story. Though he has faster bikes, Wood says his favorite is the nimble three-cylinder Triumph.

Though collecting fast bikes is something of a hobby for Wood, he says he thinks more about how to execute a turn properly, when to shift gears and when to brake than how fast he's going.

"The only time I take a look at the speedometer is at the end of a straightaway," Woods says.

A thrill for Wood is steering his bike through dense traffic in Los Angeles. On a recent trip to Southern California, Wood weaved through cars from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles.

"One of the things I love about California is lane-splitting," he says. "You have to develop a sense of what the drivers ahead are going to do."

Wood survived helicopter crashes in the jungles of Vietnam when he was in the military, so he learned early on that he wasn't invulnerable. He is the chief helicopter pilot for Mercy Flights.

In his 30s, he gave up riding on a regular basis, but then got back into it in his 50s.

He recommends that anyone interested in riding a motorcycle head to the track to get used to riding.

"One of the problems with people who have accidents on the street is that it generally happens early in their riding career," he says.

Despite what most people think, Wood believes a motorcycle can be as safe as a car.

"They're far more maneuverable," he says. "You have to pay attention all the time on a bike. And, you're not on a cell phone, eating a cheeseburger and all the other crazy things that you do in a car."

Craig Hansen's son, Mason, who helps run Hansen Motorcycles, says fast bikes can easily attain 150 mph or so with a flick of the throttle. The trick is handling the curves — knowing when you can power out of a corner and knowing when to throttle down and brake for the turn.

"You have to be nimble and flick through corners," he says.

He's taken his own bike, a super exotic Ducati Desmosedici RR, up to 186 mph. The limited-production panther on wheels is owned by the Hollywood elite and is known for the animal growl from its exhaust pipes.

Ducati promises that in 16.59 seconds, the red demon is capable of hitting 180 mph.

Despite the seductive thrill of a "sedici," the younger Hansen says he has been too busy lately to connect with his own wild animal.

"I haven't been on that bike forever," he says.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email