2017 Sons of Speed Racer

Here’s what you’ll see Buzz racing in his Team American Iron leathers at the New Smyrna Speedway in Daytona. Direct-drive–that means no clutch, no gearbox. Tug the wheel while in the stand and off they go!

1915 Harley Special

Inside A Sons Of Speed Boardtrack-Style Racer

Text by Billy Lane

Photos by Jim Arbogast

What do you envision when someone describes a motorcycle as a boardtrack racer? The term has been applied to so many styles of motorcycles over the years, we’d like to define the term for you and share this replica racer AIM Editor in Chief Buzz Kanter will be competing on in March for Team American Iron.

Button on left grounds the magneto to slow down. Right side throttle to speed up. Hand operated oil pump on left tank, gas on the right.

There is no denying that motorcycle racing rapidly advanced the development of the motorcycle engine. Roads in the first decade of the 20th century were not conducive to high speeds. Worse, the surfaces were so rough they often destroyed the motorcycles that rode over the dirt, mud, and gravel surfaces. But that seldom mattered when two sporting riders found themselves side by side on the same road.

Visionaries like Jack Prince saw the potential of a smooth surface for high-speed motorcycle racing. So they modeled their banked board racetracks after the wildly popular bicycle velodromes. The first recognized motorcycle board track, built in 1910, was the Los Angeles Motordrome. And, as you might expect, it didn’t take long for motorcycles, designed for speeds of 25 mph on the road, to exceed 100 mph on the boards.

This new sport was so popular, motorcycle boardtrack racing quickly influenced the young manufacturers and privateers to increase speed through greater engine horsepower, creating some of the most ingenious and beautiful engine designs by way of their makers’ desire for glory on the racetrack.

Billy tailored each specific frame to accept a variety of old motors. Here’s Buzz’s 102-year-old motor.

Billy bent the top tube of Buzz’s frame to mimic the lines of an original 1915 Harley-Davidson, and then bent and welded a set of 0.045″ aluminum fuel and oil tanks

But progress did not happen without problems. Rough, unpaved roads broke the brazed and soldered frames, forks, fuel tanks, and wheels of early motorcycles. Owners would remove and repurpose the engines, trashing the remainder of the motorcycle in favor of lighter and sometimes stronger designs for the track. Boardtrackers were some of the first motorcycle racers in organized events.

Stripped of all unnecessary weight or parts, they were raw performance. Big muscular engines clamped low in skinny keystone frames with braced forks and drop bar handlebars; slim wheels and skinny tires with no brakes to get in the way or slow you down; magneto ignitions, a skinny seat, and no fenders. Direct drive removed any need for transmission or clutch. The only controls on true boardtrack racers were the twist grip throttle (either cable or rod actuated), a magneto kill button, and a hand pump to override the oiling system. These were purpose-built, fire-breathing, all-out race machines!

A century later, we have a few surviving engines patiently waiting for their revival. The last boardtracks were closed in the early 1930s when motorcycle racing was relegated to flat dirt tracks. Dirt track racing required more horsepower at speeds well below those achievable on the boards.

I created Sons of Speed (SOS) to put the engines that survived two world wars and The Great Depression back on the banked track. Sons of Speed maintains as much of the raw purity of motorcycle boardtrack racing as possible, the way it was done a century ago, while promoting the sharing of information, education, diversity of brand, and safety that was absent during the sport’s peak in 1915.

At the core of Sons of Speed are vintage 1000cc twin-cylinder, air-cooled motorcycle engines from manufacturers like Excelsior, Harley-Davidson, Indian, Merkel, P.E.M., Reading-Standard, and Thor. I, along with several carefully chosen others, have rebuilt these engines to withstand the rigors of high-speed racing. Most of the troubles associated with early engines were due to carburetion and ignition irregularities, which we have overcome by improving carburetor design and modifying or replacing the magneto ignitions.

To carry these original engines around the track, I designed and built a modern version of early motorcycle half-mile racing chassis. My Sons of Speed frames employee a universal keystone design, in which most early V-twin motorcycle engines fit. The various manufacturers’ engines are bolted in the identical keystone frames via engine cradle plates. By simply replacing the aluminum engine cradle plates, an Indian or Excelsior Sons of Speed race engine can quickly be swapped into a Harley-Davidson- or Reading-Standard-powered Sons of Speed chassis. Each chassis shares the same countershaft and rear drive sprockets, forks, handlebars, wheels, seats, and tires. The only significant variation in the chassis is the shape of the fuel/oil tanks, which I created to mimic the original style of the original Flying Merkel, Harley-Davidson, or Thor designs.

Our use of lightweight aluminum parts wherever possible helps translate the limited horsepower of the early engines up to track speed. I constructed my Sons of Speed frames and forks from 1020 mild steel, seamless tubing that is drawn over a mandrel. All joints are coped and hand-fit before TIG welded in the jig to ensure joint strength. Aluminum wheel hubs feature modern sealed wheel bearings, supporting rims with 28″ clincher racing tires made from Firestone’s original molds. The result is simple, reliable, and relatively affordable race bikes, complete with interchangeable components, and all in a package that weighs less than 170 pounds.

To build a half-mile banked wooden track would cost over a million dollars—well beyond the Sons of Speed budget. But we do have a lease with New Smyrna Beach Speedway for March 17 and 18, 2017, during the 76th Daytona Beach Bike Week. The Speedway is a half-mile asphalt track with 20-degree banking, well suited for Sons of Speed racers. The Speedway’s surface may not be made of wood, but it offers so much more in the way of speed and excitement than a dirt track. We could have more than 20 Sons of Speed racers ready to go in March, so the action will be fast and furious.

In addition to racing, I am currently working on organizing a vintage custom car and motorcycle show at the track, with vendor spaces and camping. For advance tickets (tickets are limited), videos, and information, please go to our Facebook page (Choppers Inc) and follow us on Instagram @Choppers.Inc.

Shown here is Buzz Kanter’s 1915 Harley-Davidson-powered Sons of Speed racer. RetroCycle, in Boonton, New Jersey, rebuilt Buzz’s 102-year-old engine and shipped the engine to me after some test runs. I bent the top tube of Buzz’s frame to mimic the lines of an original 1915 Harley-Davidson, and then I bent and welded a set of 0.045″ aluminum fuel and oil tanks.

Prior to building Buzz’s racer, I’d built and been running another 1915 Harley-powered SOS racer belonging to Shelly Rossmeyer-Pepe. Shelly’s and Buzz’s racers are virtually identical, except for the tanks and a few small details. Both bikes share identical sprocket ratios from front-to-rear, seating, footpeg, and handlebar locations.

The original boardtrack racers ran with the pedal cranks fixed in place and used as foot rests for the rider. Since pedal cranks are of no use to us, I eliminated them from the SOS racers. The footpegs are in an exaggerated configuration, like a pedal crank, with the left peg forward of center and the right peg aft, near the rear axle. Because the riders sit so far rearward on these bikes, the unusual foot positioning makes it easier to lean our body weight inward and forward over the front wheel, which is necessary to maintain both control and speed in the turns.

My race bikes are direct-drive machines, with no clutch and no gearbox. So starting them takes some thought. We can start them with a tug on the rear wheel on a stand, or by dropping in from the top of the banked track. These engines fire to life immediately, sending us into turn number one at an alarming pace. Braking is achieved by a combination of throttling down or ignition kill and steering the bike to fight gravity on the track’s banked surface.

Throttling up on another bike from behind through a turn at 70 mph—with no brakes—will make your heart beat harder than the thumping engine a few inches beneath your chest. Because these racers are geared tall for high speeds, they decelerate fairly quickly with engine braking. But from top speed, it might take up to a half-mile to come to a complete stop. AIM

Find this story and more great articles in Issue #347 of American Iron Magazine.

2017 Daytona Beach Bike Week Preview

Bikers at Bike Week

Bikers by the thousands will soon be rolling into Daytona Beach for Bike Week.

Ahh, Daytona Beach Bike Week. The annual motorcycle rally is a spring time rite of passage, a reason to remove the trickle charger, gas up the tank, put air in the tires and heed the call of the white sandy beaches of Daytona Beach. By the time Bike Week rolls around each March, most American riders have had their fill of frost and cold and are eager to fire their bikes up once again. Yearly the rally attracts almost a half million motorcyclists eager to get make the exodus to Bike Week with the prospect of sunny days and a chance to feel warmth on their skin again foremost on their minds. Bikers are ready to swarm the bars of Main Street, to take up their favorite position in front of the Boot Hill or Full Moon Saloons to people watch while others are ready to return to the Iron Horse for some unabashed biker revelry. Seeing how the rally celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2016, this might be the perfect year to check it out because years that follow a big anniversary tend to be less crowded and more easy going.

If you haven’t heard, American Iron had the honor of putting together the Official Motorcycle of Bike Week 2017. We’ve been chronicling the customization process of a 2010 Harley Ultra by the team at Street Stuff Cycles in a series of articles both in print and online. We can’t wait to see this beauty given away March 18 at Riverfront Park in Daytona Beach. Good thing is, you can still get in on the action as tickets for the raffle are still available. As of 2/26, only 2,228 tickets have been sold, so odds are pretty damn good. Sure, tickets are $50, but you can’t buy a fully customized Harley tourer for that price, and if you buy two tickets they’ll throw in an extra entry for free. Top to bottom, this thing is a real runner, primed to log long miles in style and comfort, so what are you waiting for? Go to OfficialBikeWeek.com and get your tickets!

Sons of Speed Warren Lane (Photo courtesy of Rise Above Consulting)

The Sons of Speed races will soon be resurrecting the racing spirit that founded Daytona Beach Bike Week. (Photo courtesy of Rise Above Consulting)

We’re also super excited about participating in Billy Lane’s Sons of Speed motorcycle boardtrack races. After all, the history of Daytona Beach Bike Week is rooted in racing, the first Daytona 200 being held on the beach on January 24, 1937. The Sons of Speed races will rekindle the passion of those early races as 20 brave riders battle on Pre-1925 boardtrack-style motorcycles at New Smyrna Speedway March 18, American Iron’s fearless leader Buzz Kanter among them. Buzz will be competing on a 1915 Harley boardtracker against a talented field of riders that includes Lane, Rick Petko, Brittney Olsen, Paul Cox, Matt Walksler and others. Be sure to check out American Iron’s Facebook page for some live streams from the race as well as posts on our Instagram and Twitter accounts.

While Buzz might not be bombing down the beach, the original Daytona motorcycle racers did. Imagine the sound of big bikes at full tilt barreling down the beach for a mile-and-a-half before sliding around the quarter-mile long sandy bank that served as the first turn. Then it was on to the highway for the run south before hitting another big banked turn that spit racers back onto the sand for another run up the beach. When the rumbling finally faded back in January 24, 1937, it was Ed Kretz on an Indian who etched his name in the record books as the first winner of the Daytona 200. And one of the world’s most prestigious motorcycle races was born.

Hypersona at the Full Moon Saloon Bike Week 2016

Hypersona rocks the Full Moon Saloon!

And racing still provides the pulse of Daytona Beach Bike Week. Granted, the Daytona 200 doesn’t quite have the same luster as before, but don’t tell that to the riders who will be putting it all on the line March 18th in the 76th annual race. The greatest show on two wheels, AMA Supercross, kicks off the week of motorcycle racing action March 11 as riders compete on a course designed by the man known as the GOAT, Ricky Carmichael. In nearby Palatka, Florida, the second round of the Grand National Cross Country season will take place as some of the best off-road riders in the country tackle the demanding Florida terrain in the Moose Racing Wild Boar GNCC March 11-12. Daytona also kicks off the 2017 American Flat Track season. It’s an exciting year for flat track as Indian Motorcycle Racing returns to the dirt to rekindle its rivalry with Harley-Davidson. The Daytona race also sees a new wrinkle as it will be a TT race and the track has been moved to the infield of the Speedway instead of the former quarter-mile limestone oval just outside the stadium. American Iron will be on-hand covering the races so be sure to check out our social channels for coverage of the Daytona TT March 16.

Steeped in racing history, Daytona has evolved into a spectacle with an identity of its own. No trip to Bike Week is complete without making a trip or two down Main Street. It’s going to be loud, the crowd elbow-to-elbow, and at times it’s going to be seedy, but damn there’s fun to be had. Be it boogieing at Froggy’s or listening to the blues at Boot Hill, there’s something for everybody on Main Street. Inevitably you run into someone you haven’t seen forever or even spot a celebrity or two wandering the streets. Just picking a spot to post up, people watch and scope out the bikes cruising by is a popular pastime. When it’s time to get your party on, head on out to Main Street Daytona Beach.

American Picker Mike Wolfe in Daytona Beach

Who knows, you might even run into an American Picker on Main Street Daytona Beach. 

We suggest setting a day aside to check out the happenings at the Speedway, too, even if you’re not going to the races. Just about every manufacturer sets up shop just outside the gates, most offering demo rides, so there’s no better place to inspect all the latest motorcycles in one place. You can also hit up row upon row of vendors on the Midway where you’ll find the latest parts, accessories and apparel. At Harley-Davidson’s Thunder Alley you can catch some live music, enjoy drink specials, and get your grub on at one of the numerous food vendors.

Mark one day on your calendar to visit Destination Daytona as well. And we do mean a full day, as there’s so much going at Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson empire that you’ll need a day to take it all in. There’s bike shows planned just about every day of the week, including the Perewitz Paint Bike Show Wednesday, March 15, the Official Harley-Davidson Ride In Bike Show Thursday, March 16, and the Baddest Bagger Daytona competition Friday, March 17. The Russ Brown Pavilion at Destination Daytona will be hosting bands all week long, the “Southern Revival Concert Series” featuring a full slate of southern rock and country concerts. Destination Daytona has its own hotel, the Saints & Sinners Pub, a tattoo parlor, and is surrounded by big name vendors. J&P Cycles has a superstore there as well, and it’s worth a trip inside just to check out all the cool collectible motorcycles.

Iron Horse Saloon Daytona Beach Bike Week

The Iron Horse Saloon is a Daytona Beach Bike Week institution. 

While you’re in the Ormond Beach area, hop on US 1 – South because the Broken Spoke Saloon is just down the road. The one and only Jay Allen is back as the master of ceremonies this year, and Jay always knows how to get the crowd going. Friday night, March 17, the Broken Spoke will light it up with a “Burnout Contest,” the winner receiving a Grand Champion trophy and a fresh set of Metzeler Tires (because they’re undoubtedly going to need them). If you’ve never visited the Spoke, you need to. It provides unique biker ambience, from Spanish moss covered oaks spread about the property to choppers hanging from the trees. While you’re in that neck of the woods, be sure to stop by the Iron Horse Saloon, too, as the Horse is another Bike Week institution with a long and storied history. The Iron Horse will be rockin’ nightly, highlighted by performances by David Allan Coe and The Kentucky Headhunters during the week topped off by former Bad Co. front man Brian Howe Saturday, March 18. On Monday, March 13, it hosts the 3rd annual Antique Bike Show with trophies for “Oldest Bike,” Longest Ride In” and “Best of Show.” The Wall of Death team will also be doing shows daily, rounding out an action-packed lineup of biker fun at the Iron Horse Saloon.

Another legendary Daytona Beach Bike Week institution is Sopotnick’s Cabbage Patch. If you’ve never seen coleslaw wrestling before, check it out. The Cabbage Patch spreads out blue plastic sheets over a giant earthen mound, oils up a couple thousand pounds of shredded green slaw, and puts up a healthy cash prize to the winner. While the silly contest is worthy of a Larry the Cable Guy punchline, it has grown into a Bike Week staple. But don’t tell the ladies wrestling for the cash prize it’s just a silly sideshow. The girls are all business when it comes time to wrestle. This will be the first Bike Week without longtime owner Ronnie Luznar around as Luznar died in an auto accident back in October. We sympathize with all parties involved and reason Sopotnick’s could use a show of support from the biker community about now.

Willie's Tropical Tattoo Old School Chopper Time Show Bike Week

Willie’s Tropical Tattoo Old School Chopper Time Show is always a party!

Rat's Hole Custom Bike Show Daytona Beach

The Rat’s Hole will be holding its 45th annual Custom Bike Show this year in Daytona Beach.

Another big attraction at Bike Week are the bike shows. Many builders use the rally as a platform to unveil their latest projects. We’ve already mentioned the Harley-Davidson and Perewitz Paint Shows at Destination Daytona. Willie’s Tropical Tattoo Old School Chopper Time Show is always one of our favorites. It’s a true roll-back-the-clock affair, from the garage builds entered in the show to the bawdy behavior encouraged by emcee Roadside Marty. Then there’s the granddaddy of all Bike Week competitions, the Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show. The 45th annual show will be held at Indian Motorcycle of Daytona Beach Saturday, March 18. It is a true family affair that was founded by Karl Smith, AKA Big Daddy Rat, and carried on by his son Ted. The Rat’s Hole started out as a Daytona t-shirt shop but has grown into one of the most prestigious custom bike shows around.

With so much to see and do, don’t forget to get some riding in while you’re there. Everyone needs to cruise down Main Street at least once in their life. They also need to take a ride on the beach itself. Pack a lunch, post up, and enjoy an afternoon catching rays and listening to the waves. A spin on “The Loop” is also a great way to escape the craziness of Main Street and get away from the traffic jam around the Speedway. Beginning on John Anderson Drive in Ormond Beach, in merely minutes you’re out of town and into the serenity of salty marshes and moss-draped trees. Be sure to stop at Highbridge Park to see if you can spot a manatee in the Halifax River. A great way to clear the mind, it even has a few curves in the road! Just be sure to obey the speed limits because the area is usually heavily patrolled.

Willie G at Daytona Beach

There’s no shortage of colorful characters at Bike Week!

If you’re looking for a day trip, the Kennedy Space Center is a 70 mile ride south. Home to America’s space program, it houses wonderful exhibits, has an IMAX 3D theater, offers guided tours, and is rife with space exploration history. You can even schedule to have lunch with an astronaut. Head in the opposite direction and you can visit the oldest city in the nation, St. Augustine. It has a historic masonry fort called Castillo de San Marcos and other cool landmarks like a lighthouse and Ponce de Leon’s “Fountain of Youth.” (Be sure to check out our Top Ten Daytona Beach Bike Week Motorcycle Rides article for more tips on places to ride at the rally!)

Taking in all of these activities will make you work up a hunger so here’s a few places we like to frequent while we’re at the rally. For a unique breakfast experience be sure to check out the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill & Griddle House located inside the DeLeon Springs State Park Recreation Area. Each table has its own griddle, the staff brings out pitchers of homemade pancake batters, there’s blueberries, bananas and chocolate chips to spice your ‘cakes with, and you grill them yourself at the table. There’s plenty of sides like bacon and sausage to choose from as well. The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill is one of the hidden gems for Bike Week foodies.

Main St. Daytona Beach during Bike Week

Every biker should cruise down Main St. Daytona Beach at least once during their life. 

A couple other places we highly recommend include Hull’s Seafood Market/Restaurant. Another lesser known eatery, you won’t find any fresher, tastier seafood at the rally. Pulled out of the Atlantic that morning and on your plate by lunch. Honest prices and regional side dishes like greens and hush puppies seal the deal. Ker’s WingHouse Daytona Beach is a great place to meet up with friends, chow on some spicy chicken wings, and enjoy a frosty beverage. There’s plenty of BBQ joints to choose from too, but if you’re in the Main Street area, Hog Heaven Real Pit BBQ across from the Ocean Center can’t be beat for lip-smackin’ brisket and zesty sauces. If you’re looking for a great little dockside bar filled with plenty of tropical Florida feel head out to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and pop into the Hidden Treasure Rum Bar & Grill. Located right on the water, we’ve watched dolphins swimming close by while grubbing on fried gator tail and enjoying a cocktail at the Hidden Treasure. It’s another one of those places slightly off the beaten path you might not know about unless you heard about it from a friend.

With the 75th rally a distant memory, this might be the perfect time to take in the Daytona Beach Bike Week experience. Why not kick off the 2017 motorcycle rally season with a bang? But if you don’t plan on attending this year, American Iron Magazine will be there in force to bring you daily reports, photo and video streams from the heart of the action.

Top Ten Daytona Beach Bike Week Motorcycle Rides

Welcome Riders to Daytona Beach!

Welcome Riders to Daytona Beach!

Oh, yeah! Daytona Beach Bike Week is right around the corner, bringing with it the promise of sunny days as it kicks off the new riding season. With that in mind, we’ve put together a handy little Top Ten Bike Week Motorcycle Rides guide to help with your Daytona Beach schedule planning. But we can’t take full credit. A few years back, Victory Motorcycles put together a list which included several rides or day trips around Daytona Beach, but we expanded it to a Top 10 by adding a few of our personal favorites, too. Considering the current situation with Victory Motorcycles, we figured we’d honor our friends at Victory by running this list and to give readers some ideas on fun things to do at Bike Week. (Just click on the page numbers below!)

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11