799 Miles, New 24-Hour Lightweight Record By Indian

By Unknown, Photography by Unknown

From the May 1918 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine

Tacoma, Wash., May 23. - “The King is dead! Long live the King!” Referring, of course, to the new Lightweight King Elmer Bergstrom, who buzzed around the Tacoma speedway on an Indian lightweight for the past twenty-four hours to the tune of 799 miles.

To be exact, Bergstrom made 411 laps, but as the speedway is 297 feet short of two miles, this cut his mileage to 798 miles, 4643 feet, according to the arithmetical sharks present, which is near enough to call 799 miles. There was much groaning because they could not dig up another mile somewhere to make it an even 800-it looks just about 100 bigger than 799.

Ray E. Day, Tacoma Indian dealer, aided by his expert mechanic, Geo. Austin, who set the first lightweight record, on a Cleveland, got together recently and figured there was no reason in the world why an Indian light twin could not roll up 1000 miles on the Tacoma speedway in twenty-four hours, providing everything went all right. Incidentally they still think so, though the record falls 200 miles short of ten centuries.

At 5:01 p.m. L.A. Hoskins of the Tacoma News, in the presence of Sergeant Nelson of the Tacoma motorcycle force, started the record chasers on their long grind.

She began to hit a fifty-mile clip from the first and it looked like all was over but the shouting. Bergstrom reeled off lap after lap with painful regularity, stopping every hour or so-mostly “so” for oil and gas.

Around 9:00 p.m. it began to get dark. then the moon came out to help things along. And with the moon came the cold. We had a warm April, but a cold May, and this was one of the coldest nights of the month. Bergstrom shivered and shook, but stuck it out until time for oil and gas, when he borrowed a jersey from some kindly soul. His hands were in bearskin gloves.

From time to time rider s would come out from Tacoma, stand around awhile, then hurry home to bed. A few who wanted to make a night of it curled up about the fire and were soon letting down a “barrage” of snores. Even shouts of “change the record” failed to awaken them.

Others, including Max Steinhart, the mechanicalengineer, Geo. Austin, remained awake all night. So did Mrs. Bergstrom, who was as bright as a dollar after her twenty-four “watch.” W. H. Williams, from the Henderson-Excelsior-Cleveland agency at Tacoma, was the official checker and he stood by his guns, making the little mark every few minutes that indicated a lap, for the entire 24 hours. There’s a lot of credit due that sport.

Frequently some outsider would accompany him around the track on a big machine and it was on one of these trips, shortly before the moon went down, that they discovered the speedway covered with frost. After that no one could ride without falling.

Bergstrom tried riding wide open after the frost became heavy, but found it impossible. Even on the straightaways he skidded about considerably, while on the turns it was a case of nurse the machine along and pray.

Then the moon called it a night and lights became a necessity. Austin, profiting by his own experience, took no chances on small batteries this time. There was a husky battery on hand for lighting purposes and no trouble was experienced along that line. In the wee small hours of morning, a good old-fashioned Puget Sound fog made its appearance.

On previous runs both Austin and “Shrimp” Burns had their troubles with fog. and Bergstrom qualified along the same line. It was so thick he had to ride by the sense of feel. To slip off of the speedway on either side meant disaster, for in places there is a high bank, and on the inside a heavy guard rail capable of breaking up either man or machine.

By Unknown
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