You can summarize Jay Allen’s life by saying “he did it with passion,” whether it was the first Broken Spoke, the 55 land speed records, or emceeing events around the company.
Jay Allen described his early childhood as wonderful. He spent summers with his grandfather at the ranch. His grandfather, a veteran of the Spanish-American war, was one of Jay’s first mentors. Early on, Jay’s life was a balancing act, from running free when he was with his mom in Southern California, to the guardrails and structure of living with his dad.
Jay didn’t grow up in a motorcycling family but when he was 12, he bought his first motorcycle. An $8 Suzuki 50. Jay recalled that the bike did not run, but he coasted over to a neighbor, Mr. Drayton, who could fix anything mechanical. In short order, he removed years of neglect, and the bike ran. Jay had his first taste of motorcycling and of the true freedom all riders know.
That Suzuki was liberating for Jay. He could jump on and “just go.” Jay had a life-changing event one night, when his mom asked him to run to the store for a pack of smokes. He was hit by a 1963 Impala and did not walk for a year. He went from being an active, athletic kid to being humbled by his accident and the healing process.
He got a small settlement from the accident, which he used to buy a 1959 Sportster. That Sportster and a black and white quarter horse paint were his sole means of transportation. After being kicked out of the house at 16, he went to work as a farrier apprentice and at 7-11.
Jay kept searching for a meaning and purpose in life. He bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii. His first act of faith started when he got on the plane at LAX with zero money. All he had saved was in his windbreaker and the jacket was stolen at the airport. Once he landed in Hawaii, he hitchhiked to Lahaina and found a place to stay. He met Ardella, who put him to work in the diner within a week, he was hired as the head banquet waiter at the Sheraton Maui. All the time, he was living in a cave.
He came back to the mainland and reconnected with Claudia. They had a daughter, Andrea, together. Jay had been without a bike for a while. Then, another life-changing moment.
Jay had run to town to get propane. There, at the gas station, was Arlen Ness. He ran over and talked with Arlen. Jay recalled, Arlen was so kind, patient, and informative. “Arlen really ignited the spark in me,” he said.
Jay went straight home to Claudia and committed they ride the Redwood Run the following year on a Panhead, and that they would never be without a bike again.
Jay and Claudia transformed that dream into the Broken Spoke. The Spoke became a large enterprise, with locations at all the big bike rallies. Jay’s background in customer service and customer experience paid off. The 10-day long production focused on delivering a fun, safe experience and fostering camaraderie for all the people there. Jay said, “If I can deliver on that, and I’m good at what I do, I will help you make memories.”
Jay made the jump into land speed racing, when he bought a 1946 Indian Chief from Buck Lovell. The bike was originally intended as decoration. After 10 years of being an ornament, Jay took the bike to Bonneville. He was bitten by the land speed bug and now is in his 20th year of land speed racing and holds 55 land speed records.
Motorcycling has been the greatest influence in Jay’s life. His heroes have become family and he has been able to help people make memories that last a lifetime. He’s no longer an empty vessel, but filled with the experiences from the industry, heritage, and history of motorcycling.
“Every night, I go to bed knowing tomorrow I’m going to get to ride my motorcycle. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Jay thanks Claudia, Andrea, and all who supported him in his journey. He is humbled to be inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum’s Hall of Fame.