Racing With the Old Timers

By Monty Graves, Photography by Unknown

On the Maywood Speedway in Chicago, a Henderson racing job showed up for some tests. We had had no experience with fours. The first man out went into the turn with the motor well over. When he went to pick it up he found he couldn’t. So he went through the infield fence. The machine was rebuilt and brought back out. I was selected to give it a trial. Not knowing much about the first man’s problem I went into the turn fast and when I came to pick it up for the straightaway I found it was just the same as nailed down. So I too crashed the infield fence. Several attempts were made with different riders. And everyone went through the fence at the same spot. We just couldn’t overcome the torque.

A rather humorous happening was at the Point Breeze track. Arthur Chappel, who was on the Merkle team with Cannonball Baker, showed up for a race. The track there was triangle shaped. It was tricky and most new riders tried it out before racing. I guess Chappel, who was a very good dirt track man, felt kind of a big shot that day. He passed up the try-out, having someone else run his motor around for him. When it came time for the race he even showed up in a dressing gown. It was all very impressive with the crowd. He got on his machine. Then he came down past the stand for the flag. An arm of the bay came in past the first turn. Chappel missed the turn and went into the bay. He got tangled up in the weeds and almost drowned. That was the end of the boy for that day. In that same meet my brake, which was the oldstyle coaster brake, locked throwing me in front of the field. They ran over everything but me.

I was not so lucky at Oklahoma City. We were in the final stages of a road race. I was in third place with a chance of getting second. If I could gain a little on one turn I thought I’d make it. So I decided to use the curb as a bank. A slight bump made me miss the curb entirely. I went into the front of a store and stopped with the muffler pipe on my chest. This was my worst accident, the hot pipe giving me a burn which kept me in for sometime.

In September, 1915, I retired from racing. I had a seven mile lead and then at the end of 299 miles in a 300-mile event the bottom dropped out of my gas tank. I had been thinking of retiring for some months and this disgusted me to the point that I actually quit. I enjoyed racing and it was primarily for that reason that I rode. I made and lost a lot of money while riding. Although I still ride motorcycles I am past racing age. I made many friends during that period and it is a real pleasure to meet again those old timers, or to read about them in the annals of motorcycling.

Many of the old records have since been broken as new riders and new equipment came along. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the opportunity of breaking records and setting new world marks, and I still think some of those marks were good ones considering the track conditions and equipment we had.

Flat Tire Petrali

Many who have always heard the champ referred to as ‘”Smoky Joe’’ are wondering about the new handle, ‘’Flat Tire.” Is there any inference there about his ability or does the monicker have a more deep seated meaning?

By Monty Graves
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