Racing With the Old Timers

By Monty Graves, Photography by Unknown

From the July 1935 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine

Mine was not an office boy to president sort of racing career. Contrary to the experience of many racing men, I had not spent a lot of time on a motorcycle prior to the time I started racing. I rode first at the age of sixteen in 1906 and I started right out to race. Of course my early races were not victorious ones. But as I learned to ride and to control a machine I also learned to race.

In those early days, before a mile-a-minute had become an actuality we used wood rims with bicycle spokes. They were really sulky rims. We also used open ports which would uncover about one half inch from the bottom of the stroke. The ports helped the escapement of gas and also helped to keep your legs warm. The valves in those machines were not so large as in later designs and the ports were considered quite a help.

My first equipment was strictly stock. Then I got into the semi-stock class and finally acquired my first real factory racing job, a Hedstrom motor built at the Indian factory, in 1907. While I had been working up to this motor a fellow by the name of Collins, in November, 1906, turned a mile-a-minute at the old Agricultural Park, in Los Angeles. He had ridden a Pugeot, a French 5 horse twin.

So with the new machine I really went out to win and my first attempt was at 65 m.p.h. in a race on old Ascot. My competition that day included men from the ranks of the popular racer s such as: Eddie Hasha, Lee Humiston, Al Ward, Johnnie Albright, Ray Seymour, Al Earhart, Chas. Balke, Wm. Samuelson, Paul Serkum, Walter Collins, Dave Kinney, Billy Hoag, Gal Blaeylock, Jack Fletcher, Arthur Mitchel, Fred Whittier, Irwin Knappe, Jake De Rosier, J. Howard Schaeffer, Spot Bruggerman, Percy Powers, and Roy Artley. My 65 mile average brought me a victory.

With that as encouragement I was to ride in many events during the next few years, mostly dirt track races, some road races and a few enduros.

As event followed event I was also to run into some funny experiences. One incident which always stuck in my mind happened during a one-hour race at Santa Ana, California. We started the race with between twenty and twenty-five riders. The tracks were always very dusty. With that big a field it was only a moment until we were all riding blind. Then Spot Bruggerman fell on the north turn. Everyone in the whole field missed him in spite of all that dust. I ran over his machine and was spilled. Spot jumped up and running to a track guard who was mounted on a horse, he dragged the guard off. Jumping on the horse he started to ride on around the track toward the pits. He urged the horse to its utmost, while whizzing by on all sides were the fast going motors. It was an odd sight. Arriving at the pits Spot discarded the horse and grabbed a new motor on which he started out. However, he was disqualified by the F.A.M. officials. It was later found he had broken a bone in his foot.

At that time n early every spill meant being in the hospital or being laid up for a while. At Del Rey we all rode in stocking caps and wore tights. It was a showmanship angle and appealed to the crowds. The boards were all unsurfaced lumber and when a fellow fell in one of those outfits he really took on some splinters to say nothing of burns.

The board tracks had about a 50 degree bank on the turns and a s much as 32 degrees on the straightaways. We worked up to the break neck speed of a mile in 48.2 which was some going for that equipment. (Approximately 75 m.p.h.)

By Monty Graves
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