Sunday, April 1, 2012
In the early 1900's one of the most popular forms of racing was track bicycles in wooden floored velodromes. Well, it would seem that some unhinged individual in the audience was at one of these events and decided it sure would be fun to get a motorcycle out on those high banks. In 1910 the first board track opened in Playa del rey California using the same construction techniques, although beefed up, as found in the french style bicycle velodromes. Over the next 30 years many more tracks popped up all over the nation ranging from 1/8th to 2 miles in length. Because of the high banking, the riders were able to achieve very high cornering speeds, allowing them to carry more speed down the straights as well, an architectural development we still see today in NASCAR. The machines spectators saw flying around the high-banked wooden ovals were as unique as the tracks themselves. Stripped down to be as light as possible and and as sleek and streamlined as anything ever seen during the era, one look made it extremely clear these machines were built for speed. The spartan nature of these motorcycles, combined with the fact that motorcycle development was still in its early years, made the designs of the day look something akin to a bicycle built around the largest motor possible. The purity of the pursuit of speed and simplicity of the early racers really combines to create a motorcycle that attracts the eye in a way that few others do. In a time when some of the most legendary american motorcycle manufacturers, such as Harley Davidson and Indian, went up against the smaller but hungry builders, like Henderson-Excelsior, and Coker, the motorcycles produced for this unique style of racing truly are stunning. They have even inspired some of today's builders to produce some amazing creations.