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Nov 26, 2012

A Slightly Longer History

Iconic American motorcycle racing and my attraction to it.

During the first two decades of the twentieth century dozens of motorcycle manufacturers began selling bikes. At one point in America’s early motoring history there were more motorcycles registered than automobiles. Technology was advancing rapidly these early bikes quickly became faster and faster and more reliable.

Competitions sprang up and motorcycles raced on banked tracks constructed of wood planks.

These tracks were easy to build and proliferated throughout the country from 1919 to 1930, but began to dwindle with the onset of the Great Depression. Racing continued however, but now it was mostly on oval tracks with a hard-packed clay surface.

The Great Depression took its toll on most of the American motorcycle manufacturers, and soon there were only two major names left standing. Harley Davidson and Indian dominated dirt track racing during the 30s, 40s and 50s.


In 1967, as a sophomore in high school, I began to go to the races to watch a neighborhood hero mix it up with the big boys at Southbay Speedway near San Diego. The thunder of the roaring Triumphs, BSAs and Harleys from just a few feet away has left me in awe to this day. My high school buddies and I had little two-stroke scramblers and motocross bikes and would spend hours after school trying to learn the techniques of the masters we’d watch on Sunday.

A couple of years ago, I toyed with the idea of taking the vintage Triumph I was building to the track and racing it. It was a  fancy idea, but with no skills and no amateur class to start gaining any, I let that idea fade as soon as it came. Besides, I had invested too much money and time to risk crashing that bike and was lucky to sell it for the price it brought.

About this time last year I learned there was local amateur racing at the Salem Oregon fairgrounds. My wife and I went to check it out, and while I was hoping she’d think favorably on my desire to join in, I was blown away at her encouragement to get going!

The man who helped me build my two Triumphs is an old timey, retired professional flat track racer who was willing to help me build a race bike that would be affordable, competitive and possibly within my abilities to handle. We kicked around some ideas, but my desire to stay within the class rules of American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association’s – AHRMA – Sportsman 250 class allowed us to focus on the 1973 Yamaha 250 bike I had purchased as a practice bike, and try to develop it into a real racer.

Could we do it? I had a bike that didn’t even run and a picture of what I wanted it to be.

Let us begin >


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