Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Motorcycle enthusiasts soak in the exhaust at Cannonball Run (09/10/14)

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One of the oldest of the antique motorcycles that sat arrayed on Spanish Street on Tuesday afternoon was a 1916 Harley-Davidson, just a shade lighter than robin’s egg blue with a wide leather seat and broad, rounded handlebars.

Navy, red and gold pinstriping curled finely across the bicycle-looking frame, and the long, boxy gas tank bore the moniker “The Frankfurter.” Across the street, lounging in the shade on a bench outside the Brick Street Gallery antique store was the bike’s owner, Thomas Trapp.

He was one of more than 100 vintage-motorcycle enthusiasts rolling across the country in the motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run. They started in Daytona, Florida, on Friday and made a pit stop in Cape Girardeau on their way to Tacoma, Washington.

Trapp runs a Harley Davidson dealership in Frankfurt, Germany, and says the run is the apex event for old-school gearheads such as himself. As he talked about the run, his blue eyes turned bright with the type of devotion to craft, bikes and lifestyle that motorcyclists are known for.

“Let me tell you,” he said in a round German accent, “I am riding vintage bikes for 40 years. I’m racing vintage for a long time. When you are into vintage stuff, I am always searching for the new thing, a new challenge.”

(Photo)

A 1916 Harley Davidson F owned by Thomas Trapp of Germany is displayed for the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run on Tuesday in Cape Girardeau.
(Fred Lynch)

He explained Erwin “Cannon Ball” Baker’s legacy is one of the most potent allures of the run. Baker set more than 140 driving records in his day, and his reputation for marathon rides is what inspired the event.

“He made it [across the country] in 12 days,” Trapp said, “in 1914 on an Indian [motorcycle].”

The motorcycles turn heads, to be sure, but some followers had traveled a distance to see the classic machines. Dave Sickmeyer has been following the competition online since it left Daytona. He and his wife Cindy came from Steelville, Illinois, to see them. He said the engineering of the Hendersons are his favorite part.

“How long have I been riding? Oh boy,” he said.

“His whole life,” Cindy assured.

(Photo)

Ron Roberts of New Hampshire rides his 1936 Indian Chief across the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge for the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run on Tuesday in Cape Girardeau.
(Fred Lynch)

“Yeah, I’m 63; I’ve been riding since I was 12,” he said. He shifted his weight to ponder the midnight blue four-cylinder Henderson in front of him.

“Boy, I’d like to be able to buy an old bike like this, but you’re talking around 50 grand right off the bat.”

“What intrigues me is that they come from all over the world,” said Cindy. She said she was impressed by the German bike and at how old some of them were.

At 98 years old, Trapp’s bike isn’t much different from Baker’s original Indian, and the similarities don’t stop at the antique V-twin engine. The rules of the run allow for modification in the name of safety, Trapp explained, pointing at another driver rolling off his Henderson four-cylinder to fix a flat.

“See? He’s changed the wheelbase to get modern tires and a front brake from a BMW,” he said. “Which is totally fine for safety.”

But as he detailed his ride’s specs, a smile cracked across his sunburned face. He hadn’t installed a front brake. He hadn’t altered his wheelbase. What he’d done is position himself to compete in the run as a purist.

“There is nothing more in the world than the Cannonball on a Harley Davidson,” he said. “We are just about five or six people whose bikes are 1915 to 1919.”

When he brushed back his weather-beaten white-blonde hair, the inside of his right forearm bore an intricately inked rendering of a motorcycle: a 1916 Harley Davidson with a V-twin engine and a long, boxy gas tank.

“Yes, it’s the same one,” he nodded, beaming with pride.

Source: seMissourian.com: Local News: Motorcycle enthusiasts soak in the exhaust at Cannonball Run (09/10/14)

Dottie Mattern, Seventy-Year-Old Cancer Survivor, Rides 1936 Indian Scout Coast to Coast

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Inspirational Dottie Mattern rides a 1936 Indian Scout motorcycle 4,000 miles coast to coast in her seventies after surviving cancer.

Most people in their seventies are starting to slow down. Not Dottie Mattern. She’s still picking up steam. This fall the world traveler and seasoned rider trucked her beloved 1936 Indian Scout to Daytona Beach, Fla. She did it to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
On Sept. 5, she and 102 other entrants from all over the world departed the famous beach town to begin a two-and-a-half-week sojourn to Tacoma, Wash., on antique motorcycles. She was one of only three females entered in the run that attracted regular Joes and rock stars alike, including Pat Simmons of Doobie Brothers fame.
What prompted her to do it and what was the event that offered the challenge? The second half of that question answers the first: the challenge — which is something Dottie Mattern never shrinks from. The answer to the rest of the question is the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run, which is the brainchild of Lonnie Isam Jr.

Dottie Mattern riding her 1936 Indian Scout

(Photo : Dottie Mattern Official Facebook Page)
Dottie Mattern, Rider #43, rides her 1936 Indian Scout Motorcycle on the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run at the age of 70

There have been three Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Runs since 2010. It’s held every other year in large part because it’s so difficult to coordinate, and most riders need the extra time to get their bikes together between events. The ride is as tough on the 80- to 100-year-old motorycles as it is on the riders.
After hearing about the last two runs, Dottie Mattern was determined to enter herself. She began preparing the Scout in the winter of 2013. It was rebuilt from the ground up by Dennis Craig. Craig serves on The Antique Motorcycle Foundation with her.
Although she’s been riding since she was 19, and owned the Scout for 30 years, she didn’t really start to spread her wings until she retired in her 50s. She took up tennis at 50. She went to a week-long baseball fantasy camp where she was both the oldest and most valuable player at 54. 
In 1999, at age 55, Dottie decided she wanted to become a ball “kid” for the U.S. Tennis Association. After a five-week tryout, she was accepted — along with roughly 100 children aged 12 and under. She did it for six years.
It was in September of 2001 that she’d be diagnosed with colon cancer. Like everything else in her life, she approached it with steely determination.
After beating it, Dottie became active in raising funds and awareness regarding testing. She hoped to raise $70,000 for the cause before, during and after her ride.
Her experience didn’t slow her down. Eight years ago she became a U.S. Tennis Official. In 2007, at age 63, Dottie Mattern set the East Coast Racing Association land speed record in Maxton, N.C., on a stripped down ’37 Indian Scout doing 74.1 mph.
Oh, and somewhere in between all this she found time to become a vice commander with the Coast Guard Auxillary. The moral to the story? Life can begin at any age, if you let it. Ride, Dottie, ride!
Source: Dottie Mattern, Seventy-Year-Old Cancer Survivor, Rides 1936 Indian Scout Coast to Coast On Challenging 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run [EXCLUSIVE] : From A to B : Design & Trend

“Thrills and Funerals”: Researching the Board Track Era of Motorcycle Racing

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Motorcycle board track racing was the deadliest form of racing in the history of motorsports. Hundreds of lives were lost, both racers and spectators, during the relatively short-lived era of the boards. Yet in spite of, or perhaps partly because of, the dangers, motorcycle board track racing in the 1910s was one of the most popular spectator sports in America. Races attracted crowds of up to 10,000 fans. Young riders knew of the dangers, but chose to ignore them because the payoffs were so lucrative. Top racers could make $20,000 per year racing the board tracks, nearly a half-million dollars in today’s currency. From America's Historical Newspapers. The reasons for the lethal nature of motorcycle board track racing were easy to understand. Motorcycles, even in the 1910s, the heyday of the board track era, were capable of speeds approaching 100 miles per hour. The boards were oil soaked and slick due to the engines being of “total loss” design, meaning oil pumped by the riders to lubricate exposed valves and springs sprayed freely into the air behind the speeding bikes. Riders raced with just inches between them, sometimes even touching as riders jockeyed for position. The machines had no brakes, and spectators were separated from the speeding machines by just couple of 2×4 boards nailed between fragile posts.

The first decade of the 20th century, with the advent of automobiles and motorcycles, saw an explosion of race track construction. The mention of motordromes in newspapers began as early as 1901. In the July 18, 1901 edition of the Kansas City Star there was news from Europe of government officials threatening to exclude automobile racing from all public roads and that motordromes could be the solution.

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“Automobile News from Paris,” Kansas City Star, (07-18-1901), 7. America’s Historical Newspapers.  

 

Motorcycle racing in America during the early 1900s was primarily confined to city-to-city runs and races on bicycle velodromes. But as engines became more powerful it was clear that the small bicycle tracks were not large enough to showcase the capabilities of motorcycles.

In 1910 the Los Angeles Motordrome, built in the resort of Playa Del Ray, was the first large board track built in America. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on April 9, 1910, that world records were broken in auto races on the new board track. The Albuquerque Journal on the previous day gave some of the specs of the new track. It reported the track “a perfect circle, a mile in circumference, banked one foot in three. The grand stands are placed above the forty-five feet of the inclined track. The surface consists of two by four planks laid to make a four-inch floor and laminated to give great strength. About 3,000,000 feet of lumber and sixteen tons of nails were used in the construction of the ‘pie-pan,’ as it has been dubbed.”

 


“World’s Records Are Broken On New Board Track,”
Salt Lake Telegram, (04-09-1910), 23.
America’s Historical Newspapers.  

Jack Prince, the builder of the Los Angeles track, traveled the country proposing board tracks to city fathers and motor clubs. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on April 26, 1910, that Prince planned to build a half-mile motordrome in Salt Lake City at a cost of $100,000. The paper later reported, on June 18, 1910, that the new board track at Wandamere Park in Salt Lake City was constructed in less than two weeks.

Soon motordromes were being built across the country. And the races drew large crowds. The Salt Lake Telegram on July 4, 1910, reported a crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 on the grand opening night of the Wandamere Motordrome. The race featured Jake De Rosier, the great Indian Motorcycle factory rider, as the main attraction.

The Philadelphia Inquirer on June 15, 1912, reported the grand opening of Philadelphia’s Pointe Breeze Park Motordrome. Pointe Breeze would become one of the most successful board tracks with a regular weekly program. Two of the leading motorcyclists of the era Morty Graves and Eddie Hasha were the featured riders that opening night at Pointe Breeze.

 

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“Motorcycle Races New Motordrome at Point Breeze Opened Today,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, (06-15-1912), 11. America’s Historical Newspapers.

The safety failings of board track racing became all too obvious not long after the facilities were built. The Salt Lake Telegram on July 5, 1912, reported a serious accident in which a rider named Harry Davis was killed and seven spectators injured when Davis’s motorcycle crashed into and snapped a light pole. Throughout that summer a week rarely went by without reports of a rider or spectators being killed at the motordromes.

Two accidents in particular permanently tainted the reputation of the motordromes and eventually led motorcycle racing’s governing body to no longer sanction board track races. The first was a tragic accident at the motordrome in Newark, New Jersey, on September 8. 1912. The Lexington Herald on Sept. 9, 1912, reported that two racers (Eddie Hasha and Johnny Albright) died when they crashed into the outside rail. Four spectators were killed in the incident as well and 19 others suffered injuries. The story of this accident ran in newspapers across the country.

 

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“Eddie Hasha and Five Others Are Killed Outright. Thirteen More Are Badly Injured in Frightful Motorcycle Accident at Newark Motordrome,” Lexington Herald, (09-09-1912), 1. America’s Historical Newspapers.

The following summer, on July 20, 1913, a freak accident at a board track across the river from Cincinnati in Ludlow, Kentucky, caused more outrage. A racer named Odin Johnson crashed; his motorcycle hit a light pole, kicking off a tragic domino effect. The motorcycle’s gas tank exploded. An exposed electrical wire from the light pole then sparked the fuel, spreading flames into the crowd. The ultimate death toll was eight as reported by the Salt Lake Telegram on August 1, 1913. Afterwards the widow of Johnson vowed to devote her life to ending races on board tracks.

The headline of an editorial in the August 1, 1913, edition of The Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Mich.) put it succinctly—“Thrills and Funerals.” The board tracks were referred to as “Murderdromes.”

 

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“Thrills and Funerals,” Grand Rapids Press, (August 1, 1913), 6. America’s Historical Newspapers.

Salt Lake Telegram article on August 22, 1914, tracked the rise and fall of the motordromes, citing the numerous deaths as well as revelations of fixed races as the causes of the decline of motorcycle board track racing.

By the end of the 1910s the board track era was largely a thing of the past. Besides the dangers of racing the boards, the tracks rapidly deteriorated and many burned down. A thrilling but deadly chapter in American motorsports came to a close.

Source: “Thrills and Funerals”: Researching the Board Track Era of Motorcycle Racing in America’s Historical Newspapers | Readex

1948 Indian Big Base Scout Restoration

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If Invercargill man Hamish Alan idolises anyone, it would be the Indian Wrecking Crew, a group of three motorcycle racing champions who rode their Indian Scouts to victory against Harley-Davidsons in the 1950s. Alan tells reporter Hannah McLeod how images of one of them racing inspired him to build his very own Indian racing bike.

I’m the only gearhead in my family but my love of bikes probably began when I was a kid, riding a little Benelli, or with my dad’s old Indian motorcycle, which was in our garage under a bit of canvas.

My brother, sister and I would pull the sheet off and sit on it, bouncing up and down, pretending we were riding it, as kids do.

I think that old motorbike was a bit of an impulse buy of Dad’s. It never ran during my lifetime, until I was about 18, when I decided to restore it.

I had to outsource a lot of the work because I simply didn’t have the skills.

But a few years ago I saw 1950s race photos of another Indian motorbike, which I decided I wanted to build.

Fortunately, in my 20s, I quit my day job and started an adult apprenticeship as a fitter-turner, purely so that I could develop my skills to work on motorbikes.

I’ve built a 1948 Daytona Scout. The body’s almost entirely original, but the engine is reproduction. I’ve managed to do most of the work on this myself, with a little bit of help from local man Ray McCulloch.

I hate to think how much it’s cost me. There’s a pile of receipts I haven’t even looked at, but that’s not the point.

This weekend, I’ll be racing it for the first time at Teretonga as part of the Burt Munro Challenge. I’ve had a couple of test runs, and I’ve already figured out I’ll never be satisfied.

I’ll probably rebuild this bike three times over to reach my goals of developing the engine and getting to a good top speed.

Racing in the United States. these bikes could do 120mph, but they had been rebuilt in aluminium, not steel.

This bike won’t get up there – it has brakes!

But, eventually, I’ll probably start developing my own skills so that I can work with aluminium and continue working on this bike.

I’ve owned fast road bikes before, a Honda and a Ducati.

Problem was, I was getting faster and faster on the road, and I was probably pushing legal limits.

While I certainly respect and appreciate Burt Munro’s achievements and his Munro Special, his Indian was a land speed bike, not a racing bike.

Mine looks like an everyday motorcycle but it’s built for the track.

You can do things there that you can’t do on the roads legally