Wherever the Seattle Cossacks ride, people watch and wonder in fascination,
waiting for the next man to climb higher. No ropes, no props, no skyhooks, no
gimmicks-they just climb. How can they do that on motorcycles? The crowd bursts
into cheers and applause as the team glides past. The stunts, motorcycles (and
the applause) have been going on for over 70 years.
It began in the 30's with a group of racers and hill climbers who developed stunts to entertain themselves between events; entertaining fans came later. The first organizational meeting took place in January 1938 with a group of Seattle racers, riders, delivery personnel, business men, and other interested folks. By April they had a formal organization and a set of by-laws that included "to entertain and promote the positive image of motorcycling" (the emphasis on Promoting rider safety came later) but what to call themselves? Russia's cavalry members, the Cossacks, were known the world over for their masterful horsemanship, and bikes were often called "Iron Horses" in those days. Thus, the name "Seattle Cossacks" was coined.
Formal practices began and by the end of 1938 the group was well-known in the Seattle area. They disbanded temporarily during World War II, since many members were young men who went to serve their country, and reorganized in the spring of 1946.
We still ride vintage Harleys of the 30's and 40's. The oldest is a 1930 VL and the newest a 1949 45 CI. There are 74" and 80" VL's, UL's, and 45's, and 61" and 74" Knuckleheads. All bikes are stock except for the handlebars, which are late-50's Flanders, these great old bikes are sturdy and stable enough to bear the weight of multiple riders.
Perspective riders must be sponsored by a team member and have to own and maintain their own motorcycles. Attendance at all practice is mandatory. New riders spend one year as rookies, riding in drills and progressing to stunts at the close of that year, they are either voted onto the team or asked to ride another rookie year. Riders posses no special physical characteristics, though some work out to keep in shape. The most important attribute riders need is the ability to control their "iron horses" during performances! Every member can recount at least one harrowing experience when a bike threatened to get away from him.
Experience on the current team is extensive and impressive, and contributes much to the groups cohesiveness. One member has devoted 46 years to the Cossacks; 4 others have over 30 years each and the remainder have 1 to 26 years experience. Current members are from 27 to 74 years old, and the roster has included brothers, as well as fathers and sons.
We perform in about 20-30 shows each year, ranging from small town festivals to Worlds Fairs. We plan to entertain and promote a positive image of motorcycling & motorcycle safety for many years to come.