Meet the Outlaws Who Race Bikes on the Beach in New Jersey Every Summer
“This looks like the best thing happening on the planet today.”
The message I got from a colleague after sharing a few pictures from this year’s Race of Gentlemen.
He was right. It was.
Every summer, the beach beyond the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey transforms into a yesteryear of gasoline, leather, sailor tattoos and redblooded American heritage. And despite our penchant for nostalgia, we can unbiasedly say it doesn’t just morph into a different time — it morphs into a better time.
On our weekend punchlist: traveling daredevil Rhett Rotten circling the Wall of Death, a wooden “stadium” 20-feet wide and 12-feet tall, without a helmet (or hands); pre-’35 roadsters and pre-’47 tank-shifter bikes going head-to-head down an eighth-of-a-mile stretch of pristine New Jersey shoreline; and at least one darling Flag Girl.
But the competition itself falls a far second to just havin’ a damn good time. The days are filled with the undulating of waves and the sweet smell of exhaust, the nights with rock ‘n’ roll and bonfires.
And while we know there’s no place on Earth we’d rather be, we wanted to know what it means to all the racers and makers who make the pilgrimmage from far and wide each year. So we took to the pit and chatted ‘em up.
1926 Model T Ford Roadster
“It’s something special for sure. It’s fun. It’s tough. I can drive and people don’t know me, don’t know what it is, become interested — in the race, in the car, in me. And it becomes a community.”
1942 Harley Flathead WLA named Butt the Bike
“Bucket list, and I love bikes. I’ve been coming to Wildwood for ages. If you would have told me 20 years ago that I would be riding here at 50 on the beach, I wouldn’t have believed it. No one would have believed me. But here I am, being a badass racing on the beach.”
1932 Ford 3-window Coupe
“This car was a lifelong dream. To race here with likeminded people brings that dream home, completes the full circle.”
“TRoG represents a bygone era. A time when young kids were just building cars to go fast and have fun. Good and simple. And I get to live that out on the weekends. Not so bad, eh?”
Kingston, Rhode Island
1925 Model T Roadster
“I can do anything that anyone else can do. It’s empowering. I’ve won a couple of times today, so hey, maybe I can even do it better. But this race isn’t just a race. It’s not just period correct. For me, it’s capturing and celebrating a great moment in time.”
1927 Model T
“That I can be a badass.”
Binghamton, New York
“Look at this thing. She’s a thing of beauty. A one of a kind. That feeling you get when you look at her — that’s what it means to me.”
Randy B. Hayward (Nickname: Detroit)
1926 Harley named Slow Roll (‘cause it wasn’t exactly breaking records that day)
“It’s a vintage motorcycle amusement park. Actually quite literally. There’s excitement and fellowship. It breeds new friendship. Everyone helps each other out. It’s a celebration not just of an era, but the camaraderie of that era.”
“In Japan, there aren’t the roads to really open it up and let loose. I come here to let it loose. I love it.”
Milford, New Jersey
1929 Model A Roadster named Frankencedar Special
“My father Bob Sr. over there and I worked together on this car every weekend for the past five months or so. Picked it up eight months ago and it wasn’t running at all. This race and this car represent history and family — two of the biggest things and two of my favorite things.”
Wildwood, New Jersey
1929 Ford Phaeton named Cassie after his late Mother
“The camaraderie here is unbelievable. It might look a little seedy, but it’s not. It was serendipitous how this race and this car all came together for me. Even my helmet that I found on eBay is a TRoG original. The first owner saw it on the Oilers Club site yesterday and emailed me to say how overjoyed he was that his helmet was living in the race once again. It’s its destiny. Overall, it’s just an honor and privilege to be a part of something so special.”
Josh Kohn (Amateur Daredevil, Wall of Death)
Flemington, New Jersey
1937 Beach Racer
“It means freedom.”
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