Oscar Lenz was better known as the "Old Jack Piner" for his close association with Michigan’s Jack Pine Endurance Run (now known as Enduros), which became an American classic motorcycling event. Lenz rode in the first 14 Jack Pines, and won the event seven times. He later became the chief organizer of the event, laying out the 500-mile course every year from 1937 through the 1960s. Lenz was also a Harley-Davidson dealer in Lansing, Michigan, and a member of the AMA competition committee.
Lenz was born on January 9, 1894 in Bay City, Michigan, and rode his first motorcycle – a belt-driven Harley-Davidson single – in 1912. He and his brother, Oswald, both purchased Thors in 1913. Oscar promptly inserted studs in the tires of his bike and entered his first endurance run. By 1914, Lenz was helping lay out the local Bay City endurance run.
In 1915, Lenz quit his office job and started a motorcycle delivery business. In 1916, he opened a Thor and Henderson dealership in Lansing, and a year later, he picked up Harley-Davidson.
During World War I, Michigan State University was converted into a military training center. Lenz served as a motorcycle mechanic instructor during the war while maintaining his dealership with the help of his wife, Elizabeth, who was said to be the fastest wheel lacer in all of Michigan. The Lenzes had two children, June and Donald.
Lenz competed in all forms of motorcycle racing and did quite well in hillclimbing on a national level, but he loved endurance runs the most. In those days, the bikes used for endurance (enduro) racing were nothing more than street bikes stripped of non-essentials and fitted with studded or knobby tires. The bikes were heavy and had little or no suspension. To even finish an endurance run was a major accomplishment and Lenz seemed to relish the challenge.
Lenz competed in the classic Jack Pine Endurance Run from its beginnings in 1923. The Jack Pine was originally a three-day, 800-mile (later reduced to two days and 500 miles) off-road event forcing the competitors to average 24 mph, checking in at check points, fording rivers, going through sand and every other type of terrain imaginable. Lenz was a master of the Jack Pine, winning for the first time in 1923. He won the event six more times through 1936.
In 1937, Lenz became the trailblazer for the Jack Pine. The job of laying out the 500-mile course normally took him two weeks working from early morning to the end of the day. One of his favorite things to do while laying out the course was to stop whenever the crew came across a wild berry patch and have an impromptu snack.
Lenz became an institution among avid off-road motorcyclists and earned the nickname of the "Old Jack Piner." In his later years, Lenz would host a dinner every year on the night before the start of the Jack Pine and his stories about the old races and racers became legendary.
Lenz served on the AMA’s competition committee for many years, helping to guide the rules of competition for the association. He was one of the earliest Harley-Davidson dealers in the country and ran that business through the mid-1960s. After selling the dealership, Lenz retired to Florida, but always managed to come back to Michigan for the Jack Pine.
Lenz died on September 3, 1972.
<--back to Heroes