Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Today, Harley-Davidson trades on the New York Stock Exchange as HOG. Yes, it was an acronym for the Harley Owners Group, but that is not how they got their nickname. The original riders were a group of rough farm boys that rode for the Harley Davidson racing team in the 1910s-1920s. They would take their little pig mascot on a victory lap after every race their team name, giving them the pseudonym "Hog Boys." 
Safety was merely an afterthought during those days, and some of the early riders sacrificed their lives in pursing their dreams of going fast. What is impressive, though, is in spite of the tragedy, the rest of the community came together to support the families. In the case of Ray “Kansas Cyclone” Weishaar (pictured about), it meant raising money to pay off the mortgage of the family home so his wife and six month old could live there without worry.
Albert "Shrimp" Burns (above) was known as a gritty and tenacious racer who wouldn't think twice about racing injured. His fiercely competitive heart made him a legendary crowd favorite. I typical Burns' style, he once took a hard fall racing in Marysville, California but was unfettered. Still shook-up, he managed to get his bike back in shape and ready for the next race. He hopped back on and won the five mile final, which worked the crowd into a frenzy, all with a fractured collarbone and broken shoulder. In 1920, he switched from Harley Davidson to Indian, which was no small move in those days. He proved himself by taking home the very first national title of the 1920 season, winning the 25-mile national at Ascot in Los Angeles. According to reports, the crowd swarmed the track and carried Burns on their shoulders, cheering until they were horse. Burns was one of, if not the, most popular rider of his day.
Otto Walker, (above) was a leading motorcycle racer in the 1920s and early 1920s and one of Harley Davidson's first factory riders. Walker won the first major race for the Harley Davidson factory team on April of 1925: an FAM 300-mile road race in Venice, California. Walker set numerous speed records during his eight years of professional racing. In 1921, he earned the impressive distinction of the first rider ever to win a motorcycle race at an average speed of over 100 mph.
Many of these guys went on to advance the world of motorsports and promote motorcycles in other venues. The rider Jim Davis helped the Ohio State Highway Patrol to form their motorcycle enforcement division. They deserve a great deal of respect. More than one paid the ultimate price and left it all on the track for the sport that was their life: racing motorcycles. Many of us cannot begin to fathom the depth of their personal commitment and sacrifices. We wouldn’t be where we are today without their efforts.

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