As the weathered door of the cinderblock garage rumbles open, the sunlight reflects off the gold lettering on the angular gas tank and side panels. The look is unmistakable. It’s a board tracker.
Joseph Heltzinger, who goes by Joe, walks up to the bike and tosses on the ignition switch. With a foot planted firmly on the bike pedal, he lightly twists the throttle and kicks it over. The unmuffled motor cracks to life. The smell of a running two-stroke motor fills the dark garage. Both he and the cameraman filming him grin.
“Since it’s done, I’ve been taking it to shows and have already gotten some first and best in shows,” said Joe, who recently moved to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. “I had been researching this for a couple of years before I started building one, getting different products from different people, I didn’t just jump into it. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing.”
The bike is a tribute bike, meaning a home-made replica, of a 1909 Indian Board Track Racer.
“I can’t afford a real one at $100,000 so I built this one just to have something that kind of represents a board track racer,” he said.
Board track racing was an American style of racing popular in the 1910s through the 1920s. It was called this because the oval track was constructed of wooden planks. While both cars and motorcycles raced on them, some of the motorcycle tracks had banked turns of up to 60 degrees.
The tracks were cheap to build but expensive to maintain and the sport fell out of favor during the Great Depression.
The motorized bicycle Joe built goes about 35 mph and legally classifies as a bicycle, not a motorcycle.
Joe built the bike while he was living in New Mexico, where he sourced many of the parts at his local Lowe’s. From wiring to paint to hardware, he was able to assemble the bike using off-the-shelf parts.
“I have to thank Lowe’s for the people at the store, the kindness the helpfulness… it’s a really customer-friendly store.”
When asked what is next, he replied, “I’m not sure yet. It will be probably be similar but maybe a British version. I’m looking forward to that build.”