Racing With the Old Timers

By Monty Graves, Photography by Unknown

About that time I came up with a German machine, N.S.U., which was a 61 inch job. It had a belt drive, the belt being 3 ½ inches wide. The pulley was about 5 ½ inches wide. The motor was very fast but it was hung high in the frame and therefore the outfit had a very high center of gravity. At first I was discouraged. Then I found I could lay the machine over toward the pole and the pulley would not only hit the track but would hold. That meant I could take a turn wide open without a bit of slide. A pulley would wear out in about three meets but I won a lot of races that way.

Finally Freddie Hyck showed up on the West Coast, from Chicago, to break some records. He saw my tactics with the pulley and worked up some match races. He had a machine with a much lower center of gravity. We were to have French starts. That meant the pole man could set the pace and if the outside man could be made to cross the starting line ahead of him the event was considered lost right there.

He knew I had to take the corners fast with the N.S.U. so, he rode as slow as he could coming out of the last turn and on the way up to the line for the start. We were to have 5 heats in the match. The first day I couldn’t go around as slow as he did and three times I was made to cross the line ahead of him.

We were to continue the match the following Sunday. The first heat he drew the pole and I fell off trying to keep from crossing the start ahead of him. I lost that heat. Then I drew the pole and set a fast start after which I rode on the pulley and beat him. The next heat I drew the pole again and repeated. Then he drew the pole and of course set a slow pace. For once I managed to stay behind and we got the gun after which I gave that pulley the ride of its life and thus managed to win three heats. Things like that were considered fair in those days but often the wins or losses were on the basis of things outside the actual riding or racing.

A new track was built in 1908 which was so fast that all the existing records were broken. It fell my lot to break everything from the two-miles at 1.17 to the twenty-five miles at 16.36 4/5. I set a new high of 45 1/5 seconds for the mile. (Approximately 80 m.p.h.) We were shooting then for the 90 m.p.h. mark.

The first factory teams began to appear in 1909. A t the Point Breeze track near Philadelphia, at a national championship event, we had Indian, Merkle, Thor, N. S. U., Purgeot, Manerva, Anzannies and Clement teams. The last five were foreign. We found that teams could work pretty well together so the practice was improved and continued.

We rode on that basis for the next couple years. We were constantly getting more speed, more experimental equipment and more experiences. At Huston, in 1913, an odd incident happened. Tex Richard had his front wheel clipped by Spot Bruggerman right near the finish. Tex. who was going wide open, turned toward the grand stand. He cleared the crash wall and about 14 rows of seats and then disappeared from sight over the top. The ground outside had just been plowed and there was Tex so far buried that it was difficult to pick him out. He left an imprint of his whole body in the ground to the depth of several inches. It turned out that not a bone was broken and he was walking around the next afternoon.

By Monty Graves
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