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Author Topic: Indian's and Board Tracks  (Read 388 times)

Arizoni

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Indian's and Board Tracks
« on: March 21, 2013, 11:47:18 PM »
I've been reading the book "The Iron Redskin", the story of the Indian Motorcycle company thru the years.

Some of the interesting things mentioned about the early engines back in the days
before WW I is the Indian's fast board racer was a 61 cubic inch OHV V-Twin
with 4 valves per cylinder.  Excelsior, not to be outdone was running a overhead
cam V-Twin.

Board racing was a big event in the days prior to and after WW I and the author
goes into some interesting detail about those races.

Anyway, I always pictured the board tracks they raced on back in those days as
maybe 1/4 mile or 1/2 mile tracks.  Not so!

Describing the track built by Jack Prince at Cotati, California, about 50 miles
North of San Francisco the book says it was a 1 1/4 mile oval track.
The straights were slightly banked inward with the corners at a 45 to 50 degree
banking.  The inside of the oval had a 10 foot wide apron which served as an
escape to the pits.

The track was about 100 feet wide with 2" X 12"  board railings at the outer edge.

The surface of the track was made out of 2" X 4" boards laid on edge with 8" X 10"
stringers placed at 8 foot intervals for support.  These stringers rested on heavy
boards that were partially buried in the dirt to keep them from moving.
A tunnel was dug under the track to allow access to the infield.
2 Grandstands for 1250 people each lined the two straights.

Because of the width of the track the races were limited to 6 riders.

The author, who attended this track as a boy says,
"To anyone yet living who was fortunate enough to recall the days of the boards,
the total picture was a thrilling spectacle that can never be forgotten.  The eager
anticipation of the spectators, the bunting-draped stands, and the music of the
American Legion Band, all combined to set the stage for a holiday atmosphere. 
This, combined with the odor of raw lumber, and the pungent perfume of burned
castor oil, was the incense of high adventure of any  speed enthusiast."

The motorcycles weighed less than 300 pounds.
They had no clutches or gearboxes using just a belt or chain drive from a
countershaft to the rear wheel for the drive.

The tires were on 23 inch rims, usually made by Goodyear or Firestone.
Most of the pictures in the book show the tires as being made of white rubber. 
They ran an air pressure of 100 psi.

There was no throttle, the carburetor being a straight thru design which was wide
open at all times.   The only control the rider had was a kill button and the
handlebars.  Overuse of the kill button would foul the sparkplugs so it was used
only when necessary.
There were no brakes and the only way to stop the thing was to hold the kill
button in until the bike stopped.

To start the bikes, they were towed by a sidecar rig with the monkey holding a
rope that went back to be wrapped around the handlebars.  Usually a speed of
about 50 mph was needed before the kill button was released to start the engine.


The race was a rolling start and drafting with your team mate was needed to win.
During this drafting the lead bikes engine would tend to overheat so they would
switch positions every so often to keep the engines from freezing up.

The races ranged from short sprints to 300 mile events.
Average speeds were well over 90 mph.

In the long races to refuel and change tires the kill switch was used to slow down
enough to get onto the apron.  As the rider approached his pit a big guy would
stand in front of the bike and grab it to bring it to a halt.

The races were very dangerous and anyone who went over the outside railing
would almost always die.
Going down on the track wasn't much better because after all, it was raced on boards.  The author mentions surgeons spending hours digging splinters out of
one guy who kept a piece that measured 1 1/2" wide and 14 inches long.
Talk about being brave or crazy.  :o

Between the publicized popularity and the dangers of board track racing the public
learned to take a dim view of motorcycles and their riders so although Indian,
Excelsior, Harley Davidson, Thor and others used these races to keep sales up in
the end it kept a lot of people from buying their bikes.


Jim
2011 G5 Deluxe
1999 Miata 10th Anniversary

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Re: Indian's and Board Tracks
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2013, 12:29:30 AM »
Wow!  That's craziness!  I've never heard of board racing before.  Thanks for the post.
Scottie


The Blackhawk
1958 RE/Indian Trailblazer 711cc

motomataya

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Re: Indian's and Board Tracks
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2013, 10:39:43 AM »
A stagering percentage of those guys didn't live through their racing careers. If you want to get a taste of it, be in Davenport Iowa at the chief Blackhawk antique swap meet over labor day. It's on a dirt track but they race board trackers from the teens through flattrackers from the 70s. Friday night. I raced it once about 15 years ago. My kids raced it until the moved into the grand national circuit.

barenekd

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Re: Indian's and Board Tracks
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2013, 02:50:35 PM »
Some of those good old racing days, I'm glad I missed out on. Those board tracks sounded painful. There were several of them here on SOCal. And now we're hollerin' about using trees up for a little paper!
Bare
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Spitting Bull

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Re: Indian's and Board Tracks
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2013, 06:20:26 PM »
Thanks, Arizoni - I've always admired the early board-track bikes in modern photos, but only had a vague idea of what board-racing was.

Tom
One cylinder is enough for anyone.

Arizoni

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Re: Indian's and Board Tracks
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2013, 04:25:55 PM »
I just found a video of a 1915, 8 valve Indian Board Track racer so I thought I would bump this topic to let you see and hear what these bikes sound like.

Some pretty serious noise if you ask me.  No wonder they ran so fast.

Not sure why the cylinder heads are exhausting directly to the air as well as thru the exhaust but I think some special riding pants might be needed with an asbestos pad?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pm21PYd6fo&feature=endscreen&NR=1
Jim
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1999 Miata 10th Anniversary

Arizoni

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Re: Indian's and Board Tracks
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2013, 05:01:21 PM »
And for you folks with nothing to do for 14 minutes, you might like this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vYYQUz3bjiI
Jim
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1999 Miata 10th Anniversary

Arizoni

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Re: Indian's and Board Tracks
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2013, 11:51:45 PM »
And another 12 minute link for those interested in some of motorcycles history. :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhRTOZV5yfY

And another

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp-9w7f7c60
Jim
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Re: Indian's and Board Tracks
« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2013, 12:00:27 AM »
That flat track racing was sweet!  Where do I sign up?!  Danger is my specialty!

Scottie


The Blackhawk
1958 RE/Indian Trailblazer 711cc

barenekd

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Re: Indian's and Board Tracks
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2013, 06:28:10 PM »
Quote
Not sure why the cylinder heads are exhausting directly to the air as well as thru the exhaust but I think some special riding pants might be needed with an asbestos pad?

Those guys hadn't quite figured out valve overlap and gas flows in those days so the bottom port in the cylinder let the rest of the exhaust out that didn't make it through the port and pipe. The top ones are doing the same although
I don't know how they're timed. I've seen the bottom ports on other engines, some rotary aircraft engines used them.
It is an option you don't see on the street versions of the engines!
Bare
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I refuse to tiptoe through life only to arrive safely at death
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