SONS OF SPEED– A RACE OF PRE-1925 BOARD TRACK MOTORCYCLES | PHOTOGRAPHY AND WORDS BY BRYAN HELM

Matt Harris of 40 Cal Customs racing his 1923 Harley-Davidson – Sons of Speed

Billy Lane of Choppers Inc. had a vision to race vintage board-track motorcycles with his friends, family, and other respected builders and racers. Sons of Speed finally kicked off in Daytona during the 76th Bike Week at the New Smyrna Speedway on March 18th, 2017, after having been cancelled due to Hurricane Matthew.

Waiting outside the New Smyrna gates, there was definitely some anticipation and excitement to see these bikes perform on the track. Since these vintage bikes have no clutch or gearbox, the four riders are positioned at the top of the banked track and are push-started with the help of gravity and some manpower. It’s so great to hear the bikes fire up once the twin engines roar to life, propelling the riders down the paved track.

Billy Lane, the man behind Sons of Speed

Billy and his team have built several bikes for this race. They have had all excess taken off, and are very lean, have no brakes, and their staggered foot pegs reposition the rider to lean easier into the left turns. Controls-wise only needing a throttle and a magneto kill switch, these bikes are built only to race.

The practice day on Friday was great, everyone figuring out their bikes and getting a feel for the half-mile banked track. Lots of smiles, and lots of wrenching on the bikes between runs. Near the end of the day, Rhett Rotten took a bit of a spill as something dislodged in his rear wheel and he went into a skid. Luckily he was ok, but his bike will need some quick repair before race day.

Sons of Speed racer, Matt Harris of 40 Cal Customs

Friday night, Choppers Inc. was bustling with the repairs and modifications on several of the bikes that were raced and one that crashed. Paul Cox was still fabricating some parts for his 1917 Indian Powerplus, “Centurion.” It’s great to see all the Choppers Inc. team and Rick Petko come together and help each other out with the bikes, and really impressive to be surrounded by so much bike building and mechanical knowledge. The only thing these guys couldn’t do was fabricate more time. I told Paul “No Sleep Till Brooklyn!” and left at 2am. The crew were all still hustling. Passion and drive never sleeps. I had my fingers crossed that Paul and Rhett would have their bikes running on the track that morning.

Race Day

All the bikes and riders have made it back to the infield of the raceway. Many of the bikes have been rejuvenated and repaired. Paul Cox fires up the 100-year-old Indian Powerplus for the first time, and Rhett’s bike has a new rear end.

Willie G. Davidson of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles

The full grandstands are graced by Willie G. and Bruce Davidson; you may have heard of their company. Hundred-year-old bikes racing around, the thundering engines, and roaring crowd made for quite an atmosphere at the speedway. Billy’s vision has finally come to fruition. It’s nice to spend a minute with him at the side of the track as he is watching the other racers zoom by and absorbing the day with a big smile on his face.

After several great heats of neck and neck racing, Brittney Olsen took first, besting Matt Harris and Shelly Rossmeyer in the final. I always love the story that the engine in her winning Harley was actually a motor Matt Olsen bought from Buzz Kanter, which he gave to Brittney in place of an engagement ring when he proposed. He definitely knew the way to her heart and podium. In the winner’s circle she thanked Billy and her fellow racers for the great competition, her pit crew, family, and of course the fans. She’s a great ambassador for vintage racing. I look forward to seeing what’s next for her.

Thank you Billy, and everyone who helped him put on this great event. The next Sons of Speed will be at the Full Throttle dirt track in Sturgis during the 77th Rally.

Rick Petko, New Smyrna Speedway USA – Sons of Speed

Rick Petko’s Racer X 1919 Indian Powerplus – Sons of Speed

Stephen Webb gives Billy Lane a push – Sons of Speed

Billy Lane on his Harley 1910 Model 6 Belt Drive – Sons of Speed

Xavier Muriel, 1913 Perry Mack – Sons of Speed

Warren Lane 1920 Indian Powerplus – Sons of Speed

Paul Cox finishing up his 1917 Indian Powerplus – Sons of Speed

Paul Cox on his Indian Powerplus “Centurion” – Sons of Speed

Billy Lane tearing up the track on his 1924 Harley-Davidson – Sons of Speed

Shelly Rossmeyer 1915 Harley-Davidson – Sons of Speed

Matt Harris racing in the final heat – Sons of Speed

Brittney Olsen on her victory lap – Sons of Speed

Brittney Olsen’s 1923 Harley-Davidson & Sons of Speed trophy, sculpted by Bill McCann

Racers:

  • Billy Lane – 1924 Harley
  • Warren Lane – 1920 Indian Powerplus
  • Brittney Olsen – 1923 Harley J Model
  • Buzz Kanter – 1915 Harley
  • Paul Cox – 1917 Indian Powerplus
  • Matt Harris – 1923 Harley
  • Shelly Rossmeyer – 1915 Harley
  • Rick Petko – Indian 1919 Powerplus
  • Rhett Rotten – 1919 Harley
  • Xavier Muriel – 1913 P.E.M
  • Josh Owens – 1919 Harley
  • Bill Rodencal – 1915 Harley
  • Ken Curtis – 1914 Harley
  • Steve Coe on the pace bike

Bryan Helm is a New York-based photographer.

His site: BRYANHELM.COM

Fine Art Site: HELMGALLERY.COM

Words and photos by Bryan Helm