Beverly Hills Board Track Racing (1921)

This board track competition took place on April 24, 1921, at the Beverly Hills Speedway in Los Angeles, California. Although created at the time to promote Indian bikes, the film survives today as an important document for the history of motorcycle racing. Not only does it capture the short-lived Beverly Hills Speedway (1920–24), hyped as the world’s greatest speedway at the time of its construction, it also affords a glimpse of the charismatic Albert “Shrimp” Burns, one of the top dirt and board track racers of the time. In this particular event, he set a new speed record—102.5 miles per hour—for a stock motorcycle in competition. And this occurred after Burns had crashed in a previous race earlier that day and unexpectedly returned from the hospital in bandages to compete in the final race with a borrowed bike!

16 Responses to “Beverly Hills Board Track Racing (1921)”

  1. 1 JohnnySpeed Mar 24th, 2016 at 8:25 am

    Very cool film! It’s amazing to see these bikes in motion. I’ve seen plenty of still photos, but I’ve never seen period film of them going round a proper track. It looks terrifying and awesome at the same

  2. 2 Bob Athey Mar 24th, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Sure would have been cool to have sound on these old reels of film. Man, those guy’s really had the stuff, and just jersey’s and leather helmuts.

  3. 3 Kenny Hart Mar 24th, 2016 at 8:54 am

    wow,wow, wow.

  4. 4 James just another crazy kiwi Mar 24th, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Wooden tracks and Iron men , no helicopter trips to a modern hospital back then

  5. 5 Woody's Mar 24th, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Reading the copy before seeing the video, the first thing I was thinking was, “100+mph on a closed course? What kind of track was it?”. Impressive banking and width for 1921, and those riders deserved no less. Those speeds take plenty guts and I can’t imagine getting back up after a crash with the minimal protection they had and heading back to the track. Iron men, indeed.

  6. 6 rcupp Mar 24th, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Holy crap, I had no idea board tracks were so big!! Thats nuts! Big nuts!

  7. 7 nicker Mar 24th, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Wood tracks were originally built for bicycle racing while the motorcycles were used to pace the bicycles.
    In the end people wanted to see the motorcycles race…. 🙂

    As usual, increased yammering about the dangers and riders being injured & killed shut that racing down. Always has been, always will be someone telling you what you can and can’t do.

    Something to remember when ya vote…. 🙂


  8. 8 Dale Mar 25th, 2016 at 7:17 am

    Very cool and nicker I agree with you.

  9. 9 Woody's Mar 25th, 2016 at 7:30 am

    Aw c’mon Nicker. If voting made a difference it’d be illegal. ; )

  10. 10 Mike Kiwi Tomas Mar 25th, 2016 at 9:06 am

    1916 saw the introduction of the Powerplus engine which was an awesome engine at the time. Board tracking attendence was in the tens of thousand back then and SoCal had many tracks. Coming off was dangerous as the boards in the tracks would become rough resulting in splinters to the dismounted rider.
    Board track racing came to an end with an accident at an east coast track (NY track going off memory) that killed several spectators.

  11. 11 Chris Mar 25th, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Nicker, you’re suffering from a case of historical revisionism.

    Increasing cost of maintaining tracks, piles of mangled and dead bodies, a public losing interest in the spectacle, and sanctioning bodies pulling their support is what killed board track racing. I’m not aware of board track racing being outlawed in any jurisdiction, though I’m open to being proven wrong on that point.

    @Woody, your joke isn’t so far from the truth. Voting does make a difference as evidenced by the increase in laws making it more and more difficult to do. Funny how stuffed suits can convince reasonable people that the only way to protect the vote is to limit our ability to exercise our right to do it.

  12. 12 Woody's Mar 25th, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    @Chris, I didn’t mean to take credit for it, borrowed it from Mark Twain, “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.” and accidently hit send before finishing the post. I’ve also seen it attributed to Emma Goldman, but I happen to be a Twain fan so I’ll chose that “truth” ☺

  13. 13 Hillbilly Jim Mar 25th, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    As I remember the story the death knoll for board track racing was a big crash at (and the city may be wrong) Dodge city or Kansas city that killed several spectators. Also the looming great depression if memory serves had something to do with it also. But something else seems plain to me, at one time Indian seemed to be the leader in new technology. What happened? After the 36 OHV Harley engine Indian never caught up.

  14. 14 nicker Mar 26th, 2016 at 8:06 pm


    “…I’m not aware of board track racing being outlawed in any jurisdiction…”

    I’d say that when a yammering press and sanctioning body “banned all competition” an activity has been effectively “outlawed”…

    “… and the press started calling the short 1/4 and 1/3 mile circuits “murderdromes”.[18] The 1913 motorcycle championship races were moved to a dirt track because dirt was safer.[29] The national organization overseeing motorcycle racing banned all competitions on board tracks shorter than 1-mile (1.6 km) in 1919.[30] One by one, the manufacturers withdrew their support due to the negative publicity.[…”

    When Governments and newspapers get involved in anything the pressure is on for change regardless of participant interests:

    “…The first decade of the 20th century, with the advent of automobiles and motorcycles, saw an explosion of race track construction. The mention of motordromes in newspapers began as early as 1901. In the July 18, 1901 edition of the Kansas City Star there was news from Europe of government officials threatening to exclude automobile racing from all public roads and that motordromes could be the solution….”


  15. 15 Dean Mar 28th, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    That was awesome. The low bars, made those guys lay on the tank. Huge banked turns what a rush.

  16. 16 Melia Aug 3rd, 2016 at 12:43 am

    We cov’dlue done with that insight early on.

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Cyril Huze