Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hall Of Fame pt 1 - Erwin 'Cannonball' Baker

Been traveling the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame site for the last couple weeks and it has me hooked. All of the inductees and the info on them is overwhelming, but worth a look if you get a chance. So, from time to time I'm gonna be posting here on S&G about some of the inductees who interest me, just to give you all a taste if you don't browse the site yourself.

I'm not claiming to know this info off-hand, I'm only transferring the interesting facts from the AMA site to here. Pretty cool shit for anyone interested in two wheel history...

The first guy I want to post about is Erwin 'Cannonball' Baker. Being a rider myself, and a guy who enjoys blasting across the country, I was immediately captivated by this dude.

Baker won the very first race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909 at the age of 27 on an Indian he had bought a year earlier. Soon after, he began riding endurance runs from town to town, usually racing passenger trains on shitty, un-maintained roads.

In 1912, he was commissioned by Indian Motorcycles to ride their 2-speed, 7-horse model through Cuba and Central America on a "demonstration tour". In 1913, he completed a record transcontinental run on his Indian to Savannah, Georgia.. then immediately rode in a 300-mile national championship on the same two wheels. For all of you "Iron Butt" riders out there, bow down.

Soon after, his stories were recognized by newspapers across the country which compared him to the Cannonball express train, hence the nickname.

According to the AMA Hall of Fame site, "Baker accumulated his share of scars as well as trophies during his years of setting records. He also had a slew of interesting stories of things that happened to him during his record runs. In one three-flags record attempt in 1916, Baker had to change routes several times to avoid vast forest fires. In another run he came around a curve at a high rate of speed and came upon a herd of cattle in the road. In trying to miss the herd, Baker turned sharply, hit a hole in the road and was thrown off his motorcycle into a fence which in turn bounced him right onto the back of one of the cows. The surprised cow bucked him off and he ultimately landed in a ditch off the side of the road".

He also entered economy runs. On one run, he went 3,364 miles on 45 gallons of gas(roughly 75 miles/gallon). What amazes me the most, is that this guy did this in the early 1900's! For those of us now who have the luxury of swing-arms, gel-padded seats, highway pegs, windshields, gas stations every 50 miles, and well paved roads just to name a few helpful commodities...damn, this guy makes me feel like a sally.

He was definitely a pioneer, and one hell of a cross-country record holder. Remember this next time you want to complain about your seat being too stiff, leaving your windshield at home before a long rainy trip, or whatever else you may want to bitch about... things could be a lot worse.

Baker went on to set multiple records overseas as well, most in Australia and New Zealand. At the end of it all, he was believed to have ridden or driven over 5 million miles and undertook more than 143 timed, long-distance records.


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