The man himself, Mr. Ashley Franklin Van Order posted up on his good friend Otto Walker’s factory racer at Ascot Park, January 1920. A child of the great American midwest, Van moved his family to the sun-rich land of Los Angeles in 1911 in order to pursue a life on two wheels. A tenacious yet easy going man, Van was driven to immerse himself in the bustling motorcycle culture of southern California at the turn of the century, and as such became a staple player in the very creation of American motorcycle culture. A master rider, novice racer, and successful salesman, Van’s life was quickly consumed with all things motorcycling. He became an officer of the LAMC, coordinating countless rides and races, often acting in whatever role was lacking at the event. Sometimes he was an official for the FAM, or manned the flags and stopwatches, if needed he even held things down in the pit crew for his professional racer pals.
The first half of Van’s life was spent in the saddle pursuing good times, that familiar motivation in which we all share a stake. Van then dedicated his remaining years to preserving and sharing the stories of those early days so that future generations would know right where they came from. By the 1930’s Van had begun trying his hand at journalism, recounting the glory days of American motorcycle racing for Motorcyclist Magazine, illustrating his articles with images snapped and collected over the years past. It is those images, amassed by Van Order over decades, combined with his drive to preserve the stories of his culture that has given us such a rich understanding of our heritage. His collection of photographs define the spirit of American motorcycling and his efforts as the first great champion of our culture have earned him his place amongst the founding fathers of our sport.
I have been honored with the opportunity to tell Van’s story and share his remarkable collection of photographs in my next book. His is a legacy to which we are all indebted and I am excited to move into the next phase of this project, hopefully having a release date in the middle of next year. Until then keep an eye out for #TheVanOrderCollection tag in my IG posts for an exclusive peek at the iconic photographs from the project.