Not so long ago we made up three custom Motorcycle Sweaters for BMW. Each sweater was decorated with "Orignal Motodrome" across the back, a BMW patch on one sleeve, and a Dehen patch on the other, as well as a rider's name embroidered on each chest. These riders, El Clemente, Peter Petersen, and Cpt. Donald are all showman in what is commonly known as the Wall of Death.
The Wall of Death evolved out of motordrome racing which came along in the early 1900's shortly after the first mass produced bikes were made. Motordromes, or board tracks, were race tracks made of rough-cut 2x4's. The track was typically banked at 45 degrees, but sometimes as much as 60, which allowed racers to reach speeds as high as 100/mph. Motordrome racing quickly gained popularity, however, it was extremely dangerous. The mix of high speeds, bikes with no brakes, and crude slick tracks, meant accidents happened often and many times with fatal outcomes. Injuries and fatalities were not only confined to riders. With spectators so close to the track the carnage could often spill over the rails and into the audience.
Evolving from board tracks were "silodromes" which had walls at an even steeper 90 degree bank for an even greater spectacle. These traveling structures quickly became popular carnival attractions as riders would perform death defying tricks as they'd ride at dizzying speed around what would become known as the Wall of Death. Check out still imagery below as El Clemente, Peter Petersen, and Cpt. Donald take to the track. Also take a look at photographs from the early days of Motordrome racing from board tracker turned photographer A.F. Van Order.