In the Course of Racing

By Miny Waln, Photography by Unknown

From the May 1936 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine

Racing caught up with me when I was about eighteen. Up until then I had more or less divided my attention between motorcycles and the piccolo. Or maybe it was a clarinet. But after I bought a band uniform and the music still sounded the same I took to two wheels and stayed there.

My first racing machine was a Pope. The two of us fought for recognition on the race tracks of different Iowa fair grounds. The results were varied, though I always managed to find something encouraging in them.

About that time I met up with a fellow by the name of O’Brien. We designed a motordrome and joined the Gold Medal Shows, following the fairs. When I first started on the drome I found that it made me dizzy and I could turn only two or three laps. Centrifugal force was such that I was crushed down upon my motor and even at the speeds of 35 or 40 m.p.h. the experience left me with muscles so sore I could hardly raise my arms the first few days. O’Brien would call out the number of laps and each day I would try to get in a few more.

One night O’Brien called out “eight, nine, ten.” I noticed that I felt swell. I wasn’t tired, nor was I dizzy. So I added about three more laps. When I gave out it was all at once. Down to the bottom I went, across it and straight up the other side. Of course I got the motor shut off and then motor and I dropped to the bottom in a pile. After about 20 or 30 rides a fellow got used to it and could ride indefinitely. Then came the matter of learning stunts.

Fellows often ask what effect drome riding had and whether it helped any toward racing. Frankly it did not. To illustrate, O’Brien learned to ride in a drome. I took him out to ride my stock machine on the street and he couldn’t ride at all. He could hardly let go long enough to shift.

Just the same, in another way, the drome riding did have an effect upon my racing career. O’Brien was quite a glib talker. In every town we hit there was bound to be several of the boys who thought they were good and before long would ‘low that they could ride a drome just as well as O’Brien. At that point O’Brien would make some bets, not for riding the drome but for a race right on the fair ground track. When all bets were made he would get it worked around so that I had to do the racing. I had a Harley-Davidson that I took around with me and it was pretty fast. So, I got a chance to get in a lot of racing, against all kinds of competition. When the racing season rolled around I was really right in trim.

In 1922 I managed to come in first 38 times out of 44 starts. That brought my first trophy, which was donated by the Cedar Rapids Sports Club. By that time I had tried out various equipment but was still riding a Harley-Davidson.

Naturally in those early days of my racing I had many spills, and unlike some of the others, I did not always come through without injuries. I recall one race at Marion, Iowa, that really opend my eyes to some of the possibilities of racing. We were riding a half-mile dirt track. One fellow who was a little wilder than the rest of us took off at a tremendous speed. He got into the lead and we all fell in behind him, close to the pole. The fellow was riding faster than he could hope to last and sure enough went down in a turn. Of course there was so much dust you could not see. Out of the 14 starters, 11 of us ran over the poor fellow. Only two riders who happened to be way to the outside missed him.

By Miny Waln
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