One of the most captivating chapters in the evolution of American motorcycle culture is the era of the Motordrome. These circular wooden tracks, typically between 1/3 of a mile and 1 mile in length, steeply banked up to 65 degrees first appeared in 1909. Though they were a natural progression from the smaller wooden bicycle tracks, or velodromes, the Motordrome provided an intense new level of excitement for spectators. 

Opened in July of 1908 the Clifton Stadium in Patterson, NJ was the first of the bicycle tracks to be constructed with consideration of motorcycle matches. Though it was considerably wider and longer than the Velodromes of the day, still only two machines could fit on the boards at one time. Clifton showed manufacturers like Indian and the track's builder Jack Prince that interest in motorcycle events was bubbling, there was money to be made. Prince then set off for Los Angeles to build the first specific motorcycle racing track in America. A 1/3 of a mile wooden oval with 45 degree banked turns and flat straights was completed in March of 1909 and named the Los Angeles Coliseum. Though the track was an immediate success, Prince learned from the riders that negotiating the incline shift from the banked turns onto the flat straights was difficult and limiting. 

Meanwhile founders of the Indian motorcycle company, George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom were no strangers to the value of racing their motorcycles. As early as 1908 specifically engineered racing machines were being developed by Hedstrom and an official racing team was assembled. In a brilliant business move George Hendee saw to it that the next Motordrome would be built close to their headquarters in Springfield, MA. He then, in early 1909 secured a 10 year lease on a plot of land 3 miles north of downtown and contracted Prince to begin construction as soon as he completed the LA Coliseum. On July 31st 1909 Prince unveiled the most state of the art racing facility the world had ever seen. Like the LA Coliseum, the Springfield Stadium was 1/3 of a mile in length, however learning from the racers in LA Prince made the Springfield track circular, with a consistent banking. This new design made an instant impact on the speedsand when Indian's Indian's star riders like Fred Huyck and Jake DeRosier fired their machines up for the first time they smashed all existing records, some by as much as 19 seconds.

The success of the Springfield design in the summer of 1909 set the foundation for an explosion of short, circular board track Motordromes across the country. Though the extremely dangerous nature and high maintenance cost would limit the era of the circular Motordrome to less than a decade, it continues to be one of the most idolized periods in motorcycle culture. One of the aims of Archive Moto is to thoroughly document each of these remarkable tracks and the men who fearlessly competed on them, stay tuned! In the meantime enjoy this iconic shot of Morty Graves and Frank Ward thrilling the crowd at the LA Cloiseum in 1910.

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