A lot of brave men came back from World War I with a passion for motorcycles and the culture surrounding them. Not only were many exposed to bikes in the war overseas, but riding them provided an escape from reality with a simple twist of the wrist. While motocross wasn't quite a thing yet (motorcycle Polo was), a lot of guys were riding their Indians, Harleys and Excelsior's off-road often jumping these heavy machines like you would a Scrambler. But the real test of moto prowess was the mighty hill-climb where riders hauled ass up a steep slope. The idea seemed easy in theory but near impossible in practice with a lot rogue, ghost-ridden bikes and pulled-over wheelies. 

Across America hill-climbs were all the rage in the 1920s and 1930s shown in these found photos. These shots are pretty accurate for the culture at the time where the uniform of choice was a shawl collar wool sweater, Jodphurs and a newsboy cap—no helmet! The knee-length boots were about the only thing that offered any protection from looping a 265 lb. bike, which happened often. Instead of knobbies, street tires were retrofitted with chains to help with that extra bite. 

Out of the many clubs scattered across America, the Oakland Motorcycle Club: Hill-Climb Hellcats & Dirt Devils was one of the more famous. While we can't confirm if these shots were from one of their raucous hill-climbs, it looks pretty damn close and references a time when men did just about anything to prove themselves.

Words by: Dustin A. Beatty 

September 12, 2016

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