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A Real Formula for Disaster - Part I

As motorcycle engines increased in power, so did their speed. A modified V-twin of the nineteen-teens could produce 30 to 45 horsepower; strong enough to propel a machine just a bit larger than a bicyle over 90 mph. Matter of fact, a V-twin Cyclone built in 1913 was timed at 108 mph in a Minneapolis motordrome. The next year it was timed at 111.1 mph at Omaha, Nebraska. These were astounding speeds given the simplicity of design of the motorcycles. This caught the eye of opportunistic promoters who went to work getting investors to fund the building of two dozen of the huge wooden motordromes. These steeply banked ovals were made of 2x4s. The pictured Los Angeles track was circular. The largest of the board tracks were in Chicago and Cincinnati at 2 miles. Spectator capacity was in the tens of thousands, with a record attendance of 80,000 at Chicago's Speedway Park. Part II will look at the machines, Part III will look at the racers and the danger they faced.

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