STURGIS AND MOTORCYCLE HISTORY ON THE JERSEY SHORE

Brittney Olsen, 27, a mom and a vintage motorcycle racer from Aberdeen, S.D., on her 1938 Indian Sport Scout, as told to A.J. Baime.

When I was three, my dad showed me the movie Heart Like a Wheel, about the female drag racer Shirley Muldowney. Then, he took me to a drag race in Nebraska and introduced me to her. From that time on, I’ve always wanted to be a racer. I raced four wheelers, and at 14, I started drag racing a 1969 Camaro my dad rebuilt. But eventually, I fell in love with antique motorcycles—Excelsior boardtrackers, Wall of Death Indians and Harley-Davidson Panheads and Knuckleheads.

In 2011, I met Matt [Olsen]. He wanted me to do some pinstriping on a motorcycle he was building. We hit it off, and when he asked me to marry him, he said he couldn’t afford a ring. He asked if he could give me a 1923 Harley-Davidson motor instead. I always knew someday I would meet the perfect man for me. In 2012, we married and, a year later, we started 20th Century Racing. We travel around the country racing old bikes and raising awareness about the history of motorcycle racing in America. Right now, in our garage, we have a few Harley-Davidsons from the 1930s through the 1950s.

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The pictures here were taken at an event called The Race of Gentlemen, in Wildwood, N.J. in early June. It’s like an amazing time hop. You see the boardwalk, and you’re like, hey, I’m in the 1950s. Then you see the old cars and motorcycles and the ocean—there’s nothing more antique than the ocean.

The bike is a 1938 Indian Sport Scout I named The Spirit of Sturgis, a tribute bike to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the largest motorcycle rally in the world, which takes place annually in my home state. It’s a purpose-built race bike, with the original frame and the original 45-cubic inch motor. The gas tank and the handlebars are custom made.

Before this race, I got goosebumps thinking of all the people back in the day who raced their bikes and cars on this beach. But once the flag dropped, I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about speed.


Report by A.J. Baime for The Wall Street Journal