Billy Lane Pulled It Off

Shifting Gears with Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

In spite of long odds Las Vegas bookies would never take, in spite of the worst Mother Nature could throw at him, in spite of countless people saying it can’t be done, in spite of struggling to get century-old racing motorcycles to even run, Billy Lane pulled it off. The first-ever Sons of Speed races in March gave a full grandstand and tens of thousands of online followers a view of motorcycle history in the making. Photos, videos, and messages from the usually low-tech New Smyrna Speedway blew up the Internet and most platforms of social media.

To everyone’s surprise and delight, Sons of Speed was a handful of guys (and a couple of very fast gals) pushing spindly old race bikes harder than they have been ridden in almost a hundred years. As one of the racers, I can tell you firsthand, it was so much more than that. If all you want to know is the winners: young Brittney Olsen captured a hard-fought first, Matt Harris a close second, Shelly Rossmeyer-Pepe third, and I managed to hold on to fourth place in the final race. If you are curious about what the event was like from a racer’s perspective, read part one of Sons of Speed starting on page 66.

We at American Iron Magazine feel fortunate to have been a small part of the inaugural Sons of Speed, an amazing event that is sure to rapidly grow in size and popularity. If you missed the first Sons of Speed races, you have two more opportunities to check out the action this year. We will be racing these old motorcycles at the Full Throttle property during the Sturgis Rally in August, and then it’s back to New Smyrna Speedway for Biketoberfest.

I know it is still a long way away, but you might want to make a note. In October, we are adding a show to the Sons of Speed parking lot for handcrafted custom and competition bikes, as well as a few select hot rods, called the Old Speed Show. More details to follow here in AIM and at www.OldSpeedShow.com.

Great Events Coming Soon
I can’t be the only one looking for interesting, motorcycle-friendly events and destinations to ride to. While there is no way I could share (or even know) about them all, here are a few in the next month or so:

Rolling Thunder in Washington, DC Sunday, May 28. Held every Memorial Day, this is a great event to honor our brave men and women in uniform. We cover this event every year in the magazine.

Greenwich Concours in Greenwich, Connecticut, June 3-4. This is a high-quality two-day show for exceptional classic and antique cars and motor-cycles. American Iron Magazine is a sponsor this year, so I will be there, and we expect some great old American street and race motorcycles on display.

Race of Gentlemen in Wildwood, New Jersey, June 9-11. This is a flashback event for classic two- and four-wheeled beach drag racers—lots of old-time fun and some great vintage race bikes and racers on the sand and in the parking lots.
Laconia Rally in and around Laconia, New Hampshire, June 10-18. One of the Big Three motorcycle rallies, Laconia is must-attend for all serious motorcycle enthusiasts.


USCRA FIM Vintage Motorcycle Road Race, New Hampshire Speedway, June 10-11. If you love classic motorcycle road racing, you need to check out this USCRA event tied in with the Laconia rally. If my schedule allows, I plan to race my 1937 Indian Sport Scout in the tank shifter class.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz

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Sons of Speed From A Racer’s View

Professionally I am a motojournalist. For fun I am a vintage motorcycle enthusiast. And I was able to combine the two this past week at the first ever Sons of Speed race at the tail end of Daytona Bike Week. As the only journalist crazy enough to get out on a high banked race track on a 100-year-old motorcycle with no brakes, suspension, transmission or clutch, I wanted to share some of my experiences and observations here. Most journalists hang around the pits or track looking for a good story, I wanted to experience racing Sons of Speed for myself.

Buzz Kanter being interviewed with his 1915 Harley racer at the first ever Sons of Speed races at New Smyrna Speedway

I will be going into a lot more detail about the behind the scenes and actual Sons of Speed races in the pages of American Iron Magazine, but I wanted to share a bit of the story here and now.

These motorcycles are all direct drive, meaning if the engine is running, the rear wheel is spinning. So we could not practice anywhere but literally on the track. The first day of practice we all were trying to figure out how to ride the bikes and the fastest way around the track. We’d push the bike up on the high banking – often with the spearkplugs out to make pushing easier. Then we roll down the banking to spin the engine enough to start. The starting was brutal on the bike and rider as you are trying to balance the bike and get it to fire as you lift up your feet and get them on the pegs.

Rhett Rotten sliding out at the Sons of Speed practice. He broke 2 ribs and was back racing the next day

To our surprise there was only one accident on the track. And that was when Rhett Rotten, a Wall of Death rider, suffered a rear tire blow out. He and the bike slid, jumped and bounced down the track at close to 60+ mph. He broke two ribs and after a visit to the local hospital was back on the track for the races.

All the Sons of Speed racers on race day. Notice the crowded stands.

When we finally got out to race Saturday, they had us in four heat races. The plan was the winners of the four move to the finals. And the 2nd place racers in each heat raced for a spot in the main.

I am not going to go blow by blow here, but in the first heat Billy Lane jumped out at the start and took the lead with me following and two others behind me.

Buzz Kanter (white leathers) and Billy Lane (black leathers) at the Sons of Speed races.

I was able to stay within 10 bike lengths or so of Billy until the last lap when I was able to slide past him and hold the lead for the win.

Made it to the main where I was able to hold on to 4th place with Brittney Olsen taking the win with her fast bike and smooth riding. Full report with lots more photos in an upcoming issue of American Iron Magazine. If you don’t currently subscribe, do it now to make sure you get the issue with the race coverage AND save money too. SUBSCRIBE & SAVE

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.

Sons Of Speed Antique Motorcycle Boardtrack-Style Racing

There is a good chance that no one alive has ever actually ridden a real motorcycle boardtrack race. The last one we are aware of was a century ago. While the Sons of Speed race is not technically a full on boardtrack race, it is as close any is practicle in today’s world.

Buzz Kanter’s 1915 harley. Skinny and fast, you can see how narrow these stripped down racers are.

Inspired by early twentieth-century boardtrack racers, the Sons of Speed race echoes the stripped down, wide-open approach to motorcycle riding. The inaugural race takes place during Daytona Bike Week at New Smyrna Speedway’s half-mile, banked racetrack.

It will feature up to twenty riders in a number of heat races. The winners of the heats will advance to a championship round. Each racer will sit astride identical hand-built racing chassis holding pre-1925 1000cc American V-Twin engines, and most racers will customize their machines by fabricating handlebars, exhaust, fenders, foot pegs, and fuel/oil tanks.

Nothing that does not add speed. These 100 year old boardtrack racers were pretty basic and fast!

Sons of Speed is the idea of Billy Lane, who has spent countless hours in the last year pulling together the bikes, rides, location and all the logistics needed to make it happen. And the Sons of Speed race will happen in New Smyrna Speedway Friday, March 17 (practice) and Saturday, March 18 (the actual races) as part of the annual Daytona Bike Week.

“I’m both thrilled and humbled by the enthusiasm we’re seeing for Sons of Speed,” says Billy Lane. “It has really taken off–so much excitement. There’s talk of expansion at Sturgis and Daytona Biketoberfest later in the year. Everyone has been so generous and enthusiastic–it’s all a bit mind blowing.”

While the majority of the race bikes are Harley powered, others are signed up to race, including Indian, Pope, Thor and others.

American Iron Magazine is proud to be associated with this first running of the Sons of Speed event. Our Publisher Buzz Kanter, a long time vintage motorcycle enthusiast, owner and racer, will be piloting his 1915 Harley-Davidson, which is featured in the issue of American Iron Magazine that goes on sale at the start of Daytona Bike Week. If you can not find a copy locally, they are for sale at www.Greaserag.com.

American Iron Magazine will cover the Sons of Speed event from many perspectives – Buzz Kanter as a racer on the track, as well as staff writers and photographers covering the action. We will share it on-line and in print. Subscribe today to get your copy of the magazine to read all about it at SUBSCRIBE & SAVE

For more information and on-line purchase of tickets please click on Sons Of Speed

Win a VIP Tour of Billy Lane’s Shop: Buy Sons Of Speed Boardtrack Racing Tickets Online

Sons Of Speed Debut Race Set For Biketoberfest 2016 – American Iron’s Buzz Kanter to Compete

Tickets are on sale online for the Sons of Speed Inaugural Race, set to commence mid-October of this year. The Sons Of Speed debut race features eight venerated motorcyclists and will run Saturday October 15, 2016, during Biketoberfest at New Smyrna Speedway just south of Daytona Beach, Florida.

Buy tickets before October 1, and you automatically are entered in a drawing for a tour of Billy’s Shop ($250 value) on October 15, prior to the race. Racers in the Sons of Speed race will compete for the Grand Prize of a brand new Shovelhead motor donated by S&S motors.

“There has been so much enthusiasm from sponsors, fans and potential participants since we first announced the concept,” said Billy Lane, renowned bike builder and founder of Sons of Speed. “Now the date’s set, tickets are selling fast, we have a full slate of riders and we can’t wait for October.”

Inspired by early twentieth-century board-track racers, the Sons of Speed race hearkens back to a stripped down, wide-open approach to motorcycle riding. Held at New Smyrna Speedway’s half-mile, banked racetrack, the inaugural race will feature eight riders in several different heats. Winners of the heats will advance to a championship round, competing for a brand new shovelhead motor.

Each racer will sit astride identical hand-built racing chassis holding pre-1925 1,000cc American V-Twin engines, and most racers will customize their machines by fabricating handlebars, exhaust, fenders, foot pegs, and fuel/oil tanks.

Billy Lane Sons of Speed

Win a VIP tour of Billy Lane’s shop by purchasing your Sons of Speed tickets online.

Patrons have three ticket options:

(1) Special presale pricing for single-day tickets: $15 for adults, $5 for kids until October 1—these tickets get you in the gate JUST on the 15th (after 10/1, single-day presale tickets are $20 per-person)

(2) $50 presale gets you VIP access and choice seating, allowing you to watch the practice session on the 14th and attend the race on the 15th

(3) $250 presale gets you a 1-hour VIP group tour of Billy’s shop and choice seating for both days

Check out the Sons of Speed Facebook Event Page for updates and breaking news. The Sons of Speed vintage race would not be possible without the support of Choppers Inc., S&S Cycle, Rise Above Consulting and Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson.

Ticket link: https://sons-of-speed.eventbrite.com/

About Sons Of Speed
Sons of Speed is a motorcycle race inspired by early twentieth-century board-track racing. Featuring stripped-down bikes with pre-1925 American V-Twin engines and a steeply banked racetrack, Sons of Speed hearkens back to a wide-open, full-throttle, thrilling style of motorcycle racing.

The inaugural Sons of Speed race will take place in Florida at New Smyrna Speedway during Biketoberfest in October 2016. Co-founded by veteran motorcycle bike builder Billy Lane, the first Sons of Speed race will feature eight of the sport’s most accomplished riders, builders, and enthusiasts, including Jay Allen (motorcycle racer/promoter), Buzz Kanter (publisher,American Iron Magazine), Shelley Rossmeyer-Pepe (GM, Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson), vintage racer Brittney Olsen, Warren Lane (of Atomic Metalsmith), Billy Lane, Rick Petko (of American Chopper fame and master mechanic at Orange County Choppers) and Matt Walksler (builder/racer and Associate Director of Wheels Through Time).

For more information on the debut race and to buy tickets, check out the Facebook event page.

Eight Daring Motorcyclists to Put Everything on the Line at Sons Of Speed Inaugural Race

Sons of Speed

Sons Of Speed Debut Race Set For Biketoberfest 2016—Tickets Now on Sale, Selling Briskly

Tickets are on sale for the Sons of Speed inaugural race, set for October of this year. The SOS debut race features eight daredevil motorcycle racers (including our own Buzz Kanter) and will run Saturday, October 15, 2016, during Biketoberfest at New Smyrna Speedway just sound of Daytona Beach, Florida. The Grand Prize is a brand new shovelhead motor donated by S&S Cycle.

“There has been so much enthusiasm from sponsors, fans and potential participants since we first announced the concept,” said Billy Lane, renowned bike builder and founder of Sons of Speed. “Now the date’s set, tickets are selling fast, we have a full slate of riders and we can’t wait for October.”

Inspired by early twentieth-century board-track racers, the Sons of Speed race hearkens back to a stripped down, wide-open approach to motorcycle riding. Held at New Smyrna Speedway’s half-mile, banked racetrack, the inaugural race will feature eight riders in several different heats, and winners of the heats will advance to a championship round. Each racer will sit astride identical hand-built racing chassis holding pre-1925 1000cc American V-Twin engines, and most racers will customize their machines by fabricating handlebars, exhaust, fenders, foot pegs and fuel/oil tanks.

Sons of Speed Racers

These three Sons of Speed racers will soon be spinning fast laps around New Smyrna Speedway during the inaugural Sons of Speed event.

Patrons have three ticket options:

(1) Special presale pricing for single-day tickets: $15 for adults, $5 for kids until September 1—these tickets get you in the gate JUST on the 15th (after 9/1, single-day presale tickets are $20 per-person)

(2) $50 presale gets you VIP access and choice seating, allowing you to watch the practice session on the 14th and attend the race on the 15th

(3) $250 presale gets you a 1-hour group tour of Billy’s shop and choice seating for both days

Check out the Sons of Speed Facebook Event Page for updates and breaking news. The Sons of Speed vintage race would not be possible without the support of Choppers Inc., S&S Cycle, Rise Above Consulting and Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson.

Buy tickets at https://sons-of-speed.eventbrite.com/

Billy Lane Freed from Florida Prison

Free Billy Lane!

Billy Lane

Billy Lane around 2004, at the height of his popularity.

The phrase is now more than just a rallying cry for thousands of Facebook followers; it’s a statement of fact. The celebrity bike builder was released from an Orlando work release program today as part of his 2009 plea deal, the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed to Florida Today.

Lane, 44, best known for his appearances on “Monster Garage” and “Biker Build-Off” reality television shows, was convicted in a September 2006 accident that killed another motorcyclist. He was sentenced in 2009 to state prison and later assigned to the work release program. Lane, whose is still prominently featured on the Choppers Inc. website, pleaded no contest in June 2009 to one count of vehicular homicide.

Billy 2

Lane at his 2009 sentencing hearing.

 

Interestingly, a Facebook group named “Free Billy Lane!” that boasts more than 3,500 members has gained more than 300 new followers in the last 24 hours.