For 1916, Ray Creviston was Indian's most successful advertisement.
On track after track, Creviston kept the Indian name at the top of the page
in the trade publications. Although he came from a farm in Indiana,
Creviston talked and acted like someone from the New York Bowery -- a tough
kid who had found his niche in life racing motorcycles.
Ray Creviston in 1912
Even Don Johns had to admit that the Springfield company star was extremely
skillful, although he didn't like his Indian teammate. Creviston's
strategy was to exploit the former Cyclone pilot by riding his pace for
lap after lap, waiting for Johns' bike or motor to fail, as it often would.
Then Creviston would take the lead to the finish, claiming the prize money for
A man riding pace was drafted in the wake of the leading rider with the
consequence that the following rider's motor did not have to work as hard
as the leader. In addition, the second place rider could execute a
maneuver known as "running the pace."
The following rider would drop back about ten feet or so, and then blast up
the tunnel of low wind resistance left by the front runner. At the
last second, just before crashing into the machine ahead of him, the 2nd
place rider would swerve aside and pass the leader. Even with a
slightly slower machine, the new front runner could hold the lead for a
second or two, and if he timed his maneuver precisely, he could stay ahead
to the finish.
In 1916, it was Bob Perry and Glen Stokes who kept the Excelsior name in
the news. Stokes led off by winning a 10-mile National Championship
in May, and then he and Perry followed up with a one-two finish at a 100-mile
flat track event in June. Schwinn's Big-Valve X had vanquished both
Indian's top rider, Ray Creviston, as well as several examples of the
new H-D 8-valve. With great anticipation, the entire motorcycle
fraternity awaited the final "showdown" at the 3rd running of the Dodge
City officials pulled out all the stops for what was being "billed" as the
most important race of the year. The streets of the frontier town
were decorated with flags and bunting, and a parade was organized to
welcome the 30,000 visitors that "streamed" into the city. Several
floors of Dodge City's largest hotel, the Harvey House, were reserved
as race headquarters. Riders, team managers and their personnel,
motorcycle manufacturers, accessory and tire suppliers, along with a
legion of sports writers, were all in attendance.
Although the smaller races throughout the year were reported by the
trade papers and widely followed by an enthusiastic legion of race fans,
Harley-Davidson had gained greatly from the reams of publicity generated
by winning major events. Consequently, H-D's focused effort in
1916 was to stage a repeat of their previous year's victory at the Dodge
Ottaway, with the help of Sir Harry Ricardo, had completed the 8-valve
cylinder development in time for the 1916 racing season, but it took
the first half of the year to perfect the new combustion chamber and
multi-valve design. By the time Dodge City came around, Ottaway's
riders had logged countless miles (with the half-twin, 4-valve version)
on numerous 1/2-mile dirt tracks across the Midwest.
With less than two weeks to go before the race, Otto Walker fell while
testing one of the new Harley-8's at the Chicago motordrome. Traveling
at nearly a hundred miles an hour, Walker's front tire burst in the middle
of a turn, throwing the H-D team captain down on the rough boards where he
picked up a mass of horrendous splinters. Walker's injuries were
serious and he was forced to remain in the hospital for several months.
As Harley-Davidson's competition manager, Ottaway had done more than
just prepare a fast motorcycle for the July race. The Harley
crew chief instituted a rigorous physical training program and drilled
his men in team tactics, practiced pit stops with the accompanying factory
mechanics, and perfected the flag signaling system that had already paid
off in dividends. But with 300 miles at full throttle in the hot
summer sun ahead of each rider, it was still anyone's race.
Predictably, Don Johns jumped ahead at the start. By the second
lap, Floyd Clymer, a new member of the H-D team, overhauled and passed
the popular leader. Clymer (who would later become famous as a
publisher of motor-sport magazines) set a furious pace on one of the new
Harley-8's with Bob Perry on a fast Big-Valve Excelsior just behind.
Riding more cautiously to preserve his machine, Johns followed in 3rd place.
On the 5th lap, Perry dropped out with a broken valve. Clymer now widened
his lead when Johns' Indian developed a slipping sprocket which required him
to make a pit stop for an adjustment.
Floyd Clymer - 1920
Then, Irving Janke, a H-D factory employee from Milwaukee, received a signal
to move up from his position at the rear of the pack. Floyd Clymer,
the 21 year-old Harley-Davidson dealer from Denver, stayed out in front,
pulling the 19 year-old Janke along in his slip stream. At the
100-mile mark, the Colorado motorcycle dealer had set a new track record
for that distance. Shortly thereafter, Janke, having received
another signal from the pits, pulled ahead of Clymer who stopped to refuel.
After his pit stop, Clymer resumed the race, reclaiming the lead when
Janke stopped for fuel. Clymer then suffered a flat tire.
Quickly replaced by Ottaway's highly-trained pit crew, he went out
again, caught Janke and battled mile after mile for the lead.
At the 150th mile, the timekeeper announced that the two rider's elapsed
times were identical.
Irving Janke after winning Dodge City in 1916
Don Johns' sprocket problems had taken him out of contention, but he still
battled with the leaders until about the 200th mile when his motor finally
failed. With the famous Indian rider out, Janke and Clymer pulled
far ahead of the pack. In the lead, with only 2 laps to go,
Clymer's motor broke a valve, relegating him to the sidelines as well.
At the finish, Irving Janke, who had also been riding one of the new
Harley-8's, received the checkered flag two minutes ahead of Excelsior's
Joe Wolters, and more than a half-hour ahead of the nearest Indian.
Although Wolters Big-Valve X turned a time that was nearly 8 minutes
faster than Otto Walker's winning time for the previous year's race,
it was evident that in the 1916 race for technical superiority,
Ottaway's new design had vanquished the competition.
On July 25th, the H-D team reiterated their advantage by claiming the first
four places in the race held for professionals at the newly opened Sheepshead
Bay board track in Brooklyn, New York. In spite of a pit stop to
fix a flat tire, the winner, Leslie "Red" Parkhurst completed the race
at a speed in excess of 89 mph. In a follow up 2-mile National
Championship over the same course, a three man Harley team swept the boards
at speeds of over 90 mph.
It was the same throughout the country, the Ottaway-led team winning 15
National Championships for the year.