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Backmarker Features Photo Gallery

Find the latest photos from our backmarker photogallery at Motorcycle USA.

In the mid-'90s, there were intriguing rumors that an Australian investor planned to buy up the Indian trademark and hire John Britten to design a new Indian Chief.
The original Indian 'motocycle' logo; the company dates itself to before we'd even settled on the spelling of the word motorcycle.
Ace custom builder Shinya Kimura rode his 1915 Indian big twin almost all the way across the U.S. in last year's epic 'Cannonball' motorcycle rally. By the time this bike was built, Indian's best years were already behind it.
Peter Gagan's 1911 Indian replica is based off the design that won the first Senior race at the Isle of Man and will be piloted by Dave Roper at the upcoming 2011 event.
Dave Roper will have a lot to contend with as he rides Gagan's 1911 Indian, including a left-hand throttle, a clutch lever on the right handlebar, a hand shift and two rear brakes.
Dave Roper: "Being invited to lap in the Parade of Honor sounds like great fun, but this is more like lapping the course while simultaneously rubbing your stomach and patting your head!"
Also at the 2011 Isle of Man TT will be Lennon Rodgers' MIT EV team, which developed an electric motorcycle for the competition out of a S1000RR chassis.
In conjuction with Motorrad's top R&D engineers, the MIT EV crew came up with a design for the 2010 Isle of Man, but delays forced the project back another year.
As a result of MIT's prestige the team received support from high-tech companies including A123 founder, Yet-Ming Chiang.
An off-the-shelf motor controller from Kelly Controls was used along with a pair of air-cooled, brushed, DC, Lynch motors.
The design was taken to New Hampshire International Speedway for testing where Lennon Rodgers got a feel for the bike.
Just as the internal combustion engine did for racing, MIT's EV team hopes that its electric bike can pave the way for future high-performance designs.
Dave Roper (left) and Lennon Rodgers (right) will be competing with radically different technologies over the mountain course.
Peter Gagan's 1911 Indian contrasted with Lennon Rodgers' MIT EV project.
Mert Lawwill is seen here in the pits at Terre Haute in August of 1975.
Chuck Palmgren (#38) leading Mert Lawwill (#7) and Hank Scott (#14) at the Syracuse Mile in September of 1975.
1970 AMA Grand National Champion Gene Romero (#3) and Mert Lawwill (#7) at Terre Haute.
Rick Hockings (#13), Paul Bostrom (#46) and Mert Lawwill (#7) during the start of a heat race in Terre Haute in 1975.
Parker, at his home in New Mexico, with his personal GTS1000. He's never given up on the RADD front end. He's currently working on a Moto2-eligible version of the design and told me about other cool projects that must - for now - stay off the record.
London, 1972. There were the Mods, there were the Rockers, and then there were these guys... Thacker flashes the peace sign with local chopper-builders Guy Carter (on left) and Chris Boyle.
Thacker today, with a couple of flat trackers on display at the Wally Parks Museum. It's only a couple minutes' walk from the Pomona flat track to the museum.
Tony built this chopper in his parent's basement in 1969. He paid about five bucks for the sprung-hub Triumph donor bike.
Dig the furniture, eh? John Stein at home in L.A. Before becoming a motorcycle historian, he was one of America’s top advertising creative directors. Like many niche authors, he was dismayed to realize that while he was writing, the publishing industry had collapsed. His response was to create his own publishing company called, appropriately, Gearhead Publishing. Although he was advised to print his book in China, he insisted on North American production.
John says he’s never, ever, thrown away a motorcycle magazine. His enormous magazine archive was a good place to begin the basic research that grew into his new book. Note that while the motorcycle media pays scant attention to drag racing nowadays, drag bikes were worthy of covers in ‘60s and ‘70s.
Drag racing is not just the purest American motorsport; thanks to John Stein’s history of the sport, it’s also a lens through which all of America’s pop culture can be examined. This is Tommy Smith on Saint, a bike built by Joe Fernandez in the early ‘50s.
Besides interviewing countless stars (and bit players) in the world of drag racing, John also sourced hundreds of photos from dozens of photographers. Here’s Sonny Scott’s photo of Priness Perry, on Stagefright -- its 9.70 ET made it the quickest bike in its day (mid-‘60s.)
As John says, "They didn’t know what they couldn’t do." Several bikes were built with automotive V-8s motors. Here Joe Teresi (standing) and Mil Blair get ready to run their Buick-powered bike, nicknamed 'Italiano'.
Stein’s book weighs three pounds. It’s a ‘coffee table’ format, combining a comprehensive text with amazing pics. Since he’s acting as his own publisher, Stein gets to set the price, too. It’s a bargain at $40 (price includes postage.) To order it, go to www.gearheadpublishing.com
If you can identify this instrument by sight, you may be one of the few Backmarker readers who’s already heard of Matt Wadsworth.
Matt Wadsworth will hardly know he’s blindfolded. He’s been blind since birth. Thanks are due to Leatt, and Troy Lee Designs, for the safety gear visible in this shot.
The setting’s not exactly picturesque, but that won’t bother him...
Micky Dymond is the most naturally talented motorcycle rider that I’ve ever personally ridden with. (Some day, you should remind me to tell you the story of the first time he ever rode in a road race.) It’s strange to say that a multi-time AMA MX and SM champ failed to live up to his potential, but he’s the first to admit that he 'pissed it all away.' I get the feeling that by helping Matt Wadsworth achieve his goals, Micky’s hoping for some kind of redemption of his own.
Old Blue is now parked in a New Jersey collector's bedroom.
Cycle Editor Cook Neilson in the Daytona winner's circle, 1977, with Dave Emde and Wes Cooley.
Gone but not forgotten. Cycle Magazine was a seminal publication in '70s motorycle journalism with Cook Neilson at the helm.
Neilson and Phil Schilling, who largely built Cycle's Ducati race bike, were invited to parade it at Daytona on the 20th anniversary of their win; that was one of the last time's it was ever seen in public.
Beautiful? Absolutely. Affordable? Not so much.
World economic conditions in recent years have greatly impacted the motorcycle industry as brands struggle to cope with reduced demand.
Entry-level mounts like the Kawasaki Ninja 250 and Honda CBR250R are on a path toward becoming top-selling models. For the moment, however, even these are out of reach for the American middle class.
Instead of developing affordable machines for younger riders, the industry has been targeting baby boomers who have deeper pockets.
The increasing economic divide between classes may have some interesting ramifications for riders and their culture.
Eirik Nielsen to Munns: "Pass me like that one more time and, I swear, I'll karate chop you right in the gut!"
Munns races his little Honda in classes up to 250GP. Here, he's dicing with Canada's Paul Germain at Miller. On a more flowing, technical track like Barber, his lap times on his Honda 175 are almost as fast as his times on his other race bike, which is a highly-developed Sportsman 350-class Honda twin.
Jon Munns' AHRMA 200GP championship-winning Honda is tidy but not fancy. He sinks his budget into the motor, because it's a class where even a couple of extra horsepower make a big difference.
The recession has had a major impact on racing motorcycles as rising costs have led to shrinking grids in amateur classes.
The Yamaha TZ750 changed the AMA racing scene and provided amateurs with an affordable yet competitive race bike.
The World Moto Clash web site has more umbrella girls than hard info; should that make me skeptical?
Robbie Petersen, late in the 1990 season, on one of the bikes Wayne Rainey had just ridden to the 500cc World Championship for Kenny Roberts. Petersen and Rich Oliver dominated the '91 season on Roberts' bikes; in hindsight, that was probably the beginning of the end for Formula USA
Stuhler caught Fritz Kling, a winner in the F-USA class at IRP in '92, on the Gold Hill 'Yamamonster'.
Mike 'Stu' Stuhler's amazing photo archive yielded this shot, taken at Indianapolis Raceway Park in the early '90s. Chuck Graves (24) is riding one of John Ulrich's 'Valvoline-sponsored, methanol-fueled GSX-R1100s. Keith Perry, who prepped these machines, punched them out to 1180cc. Running on alcohol didn't boost power that much, but the bikes produced a ton of torque and ran cool. Chris D'Alusio, on bike #2, is competing with about 1/4 the displacement, on a TZ-250 two-stroke.
Towards the end of Formula-USA's glory days in 1994, Dave Sadowski campaigned this CBR900RR prepared by Mike Velasco.
Mike (in flat cap), 'Tank' (in ball cap), and Chris Hoge, with the crew who built the sidecar. Javier, at far right, owned the shop. No one's ever seen a sidecar in the Andes. It attracted so much attention that Chris felt like the Pope in his Popemobile as peasants stopped what they were doing, gawked, then smiled and waved.
This nice graphic (thanks, Wikipedia Commons) illustrates the way that at all launch angles less than 45 degrees, a lower trajectory results in a shorter flight. That means that at any given speed, a lower trajectory allows a rider to land and get on the power sooner. It’s equally true that a lower trajectory allows a rider to hit jumps faster without overjumping his landing. The much crappier drawing below is my own illustration of the way a scrub lowers the trajectory vis-a-vis the launch ramp.
Overloaded? Not much. As you can see, the trio was not popular at all and made a very bad impression on the locals.
Improvising new teeth on the 250's output shaft. Not the first time the lads had to channel MacGyver.
Mike and Tank on the Uyuni Salt Flat, in southwestern Bolivia. If the bikes weren't about to die before being soaked in brine, they were done in afterward.
Wausau Harley-Davidson’s Willie McCoy didn’t realize how narrow his victory was until he saw this photo.
Responsibility for his wife and kids weighs on the racer’s mind, but McCoy believes his fate is in another’s hands.
Motorcyclepedia features an extensive collection of Indian Motorcycles.
From left to right are Kate, Ted and Gerald Doering.
Vern Wallis, a Velocette expert who lives on the Isle of Man.
Mark Wilsmore, who resurrected the Ace Café was a biker who had to learn the restaurant business. Mark McKee, (pictured) has lots of restaurant experience but if he’s to tap into the Ace Café’s essence, he’ll have to develop a genuine grasp of the Café racer scene.
Mark Wilsmore was cop in the UK, and an avid biker. After organizing a 25th reunion of Rocker-era bikers on the old Ace Café’s parking lot in 1994, he set about reopening the biker’s landmark. The new Ace Café opened in 2001 and hasn’t looked back. Now the brand and it’s famous Ace-of-Clubs logo is set to appear here in the U.S.
Although it was pronounced ‘kaff’ by Brits in the ‘60s, even Mark Wilsmore now pronounces it ‘café.'
My friend Ken Gross, who is an automotive journalist & historian, curated the LeMay’s first exhibition. He’s also an avid biker, and incorporated a few motorcycles. All in all, the museum’s well worth the detour for any gearhead. It’s just off the I-5 in downtown Tacoma, which is about half-an-hour south of Seattle.
Although it calls itself ‘America’s Car Museum’, the LeMay has incorporated a few motorcycles into its exhibits, and plans to make the August motorcycle concours and vintage ride an annual event.
The museum launched its fund-raising program right at the worst possible time, as the economy was cratering. So, they’ve ‘settled’ for building only one of two planned buildings. This one is spectacular enough. There are two levels below this one, connected by ramps. Unlike the Barber, however, the LeMay does little or no restoration on its own, so visitors can’t peek in on works-in-progress.
Andreas Kaindl came all the way from Germany, and rode this barn-find beauty all the way.
When Buck Carson told me that his BSA had seized repeatedly in the Black Hills, I knew that it wouldn’t make it across the Rockies. No Class 1 bikes (of less than 500cc displacement) completed the ride with perfect scores. While it’s true that even the backroads of the Cannonball route are far better than the roads of the 1920s, today’s better roads actually make the event harder on the bikes. None of them were engineered to hammer along at 40-50 miles an hour for hours on end.
How did Cannonball Baker do it before the invention of the Amex gold card? LA-based film industry workers Bill Buckingham (left) and Sean Duggan (right) rode a pair of 1928 Harley-Davidson JD models. That was the most common single motorcycle choice in this year’s event.
Mark Hill (left) built eight of the four-cylinder Hendersons entered in the race, including Frank Westfall’s (right) book.
Ex-fighter pilot Josh Wilson rode a ’29 Indian 101 Scout that had been fitted with later-model Sport Scout cylinders.
Riding in the Cannonball is an exercise in sleep deprivation for competitors who ride all day and rebuild their bikes all night.
This year’s edition of the Cannonball followed a nearly 4,000-mile route from Newburgh, NY to San Francisco. “California or bust” indeed; barely a third of the pre-1930 bikes that started the ride completed all the miles.
Lonnie Isam Jr. is the organizer of the Cannonball event. He didn’t want to be quoted on it, but I’m guessing that it will be a biennial event.
It’s great when the coolest guy in the event is also the nicest guy. Shinya Kimura rode a 1915 Indian similar to one that had been in his family, long ago, in Japan.
Legendary race bike painter Mike Vils split the use of his Harley with sculptor Jeff Decker. On the days that Vils rode, his wife rode pillion.
And the winner is... Brad Wilmarth. Once again, the Richmond restorer proved his mettle by covering all the miles on the oldest motorcycle in the event -- a 1913 Excelsior that he’s been riding for decades. You can see the brake he added, at the top of the front wheel.
Carmelo Ezpeleta: As a communications strategist, I've been on the inside of a few mergers. The easy ones involve merging similar businesses that operate in different markets (Fiat absorbing Chrysler) or merging a manufacturer with a distributor to create more vertical integration. Merging competitors is harder. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta will find that the problem is not rationalizing the business, it's merging two very different corporate cultures.
Paolo Flammini, with his brother Mauricio, operated WorldSBK as a family business for years, before selling out and becoming an executive at InFront. You can bet that in his heart, the Superbike championship is still his. Some observers have already said, 'Before long there will be one series.' I say, Flammini will throw himself on his sword before he'll allow the Superbikes to become a MotoGP support class.
Fans throng the pit lane before a WorldSBK race at Miller Motorsports Park, in 2010. Both racers and fans love the relaxed attitude in the Italian-run series, compared to Dorna' uptight paddock, where even Moto2 riders can barely get this kind of access. It would suck if Dorna influenced the friendly vibe in WorldSBK.
Since we're all fascinated by the bikes we wanted to have as we came of age, I ogled an elegant Bultaco short tracker.
The coolest thing about Ralph’s party is that it’s free, although bikers donate enough to pretty much cover the cost of beer and brats.
While the bottom was falling out of the U.S. moto-magazine business, Gary Inman (seen here with Dave Aldana) launched a very cool flat track magazine. The catch: it's British. The U.K. flat track racing organizers occasionally bring over past and present GNC stars, both to promote races and teach workshops. Chris Carr's been over a couple of times.
"I'd really like to point out that Sideburn isn't a normal kind of magazine," Inman told me. "The quality of paper and print is better than any bike magazine on the planet (I'd argue), we don't have results or race reports. It's about the feeling. It is anti-mainstream, but it is made with love." If that appeals to you, you can subscribe at sideburnmagazine.com.
Let's make 2013 the year that the motorcycle industry stops acting as if spinal injuries aren't a real problem. Injuries like the one that sidelined Joan Lascorz are tantalizingly close to becoming treatable. That's urgent research that we all need to support.
This meticulously restored ’38 Speed Twin would be worthy of a much snootier show...
...as would this ‘20s Harley.
But, Ralph’s egalitarian. There was a place under the tent for Whizzers, too.
Meanwhile, these end-of-an-era two-strokes were condemned to the ‘Salon des Refusees’ just outside the tent.
On the first Saturday in October, the working-class suburb of Loma Vista is overrun with bikers. Strangely, Ralph’s neighbors don’t seem to mind that much.
Locke was portrayed, as the character Sean Monahan. In Jack Kerouac’s 1958 novel ‘The Dharma Bums’.
Sex? Locke literally wrote the book on it.
Has Kansas City really seen the last-ever ‘Backyard National’? It seems so, but hope springs eternal. (And besides, Ralph’s said that before.)
Kansas City’s Ralph Wayne has held his Vintage Backyard Nationals for 20 years.
Benzina is another upstart UK magazine. The bikes featured in Benzina are of Italian origin, like the slow-food movement. Magazines like Sideburn, Benzina, and (soon) Iron & Air, are all about slowing down, too. Their publishers are not trying to compete with the Internet; rather, they're trying to turn print's disadvantages into advantages. Strategically, that makes great sense.
Locke McCorkle at home in Palo Alto, as photographed by Stephen Kennedy (www.stephenkennedy.com). When I finally grow up and hit my 80s, I hope to have an S1000RR in the garage, too.
Kassie Graves and Stephanie Adams made a quick pilgrimage to Vils’ shop, and brought back this great photo of Mike holding Kenny Roberts’ and Gene Romero’s fairings, from their 1974 TZ-750 factory racers. If you look closely, Kenny’s still has a Daytona technical inspection sticker on it. Talk about a piece of history!
Kassie is about to make the transition from the parking lot to the streets around her house. “I’m more relaxed and smiling on the bike,” she told me.
Professor Gardiner explains the Bubba Scrub
This is the FIM's special gold medal. There are many years in which no one does anything worthy of being awarded this medal. In 1999, it was awarded, posthumously, to Pierlucio 'Spadino' Tinazzi for the rescue of a dozen people during the Mont Blanc tunnel fire.
This plaque was placed at the Italian end of the tunnel, by the motorcyclists who gathered here on the first anniversary of the fire.
Thousands of feet under Mont Blanc, the middle of the tunnel is always about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mauro Branche described Pierlucio as a quiet guy whose principal hobby outside work was tending his garden. The locals all remembered Spadino as a kid who’d always loved motorcycles.
Pierlucio ‘Spadino’ Tinazzi (27 December 1962-24 March 1999)
It was easy to find the cemetery. Everyone in town was slowly walking in the same direction. I just joined the flow.
We talked for a couple of hours, and when I left it was like two high school kids with a crush on each other getting off the phone. We stood looking at each other across the threshold, and said ‘Good-bye’ to each other 15 times.
This was where he planted his garden.
Of course, I interviewed the tunnel administrators even though I knew they wouldn’t cooperate because liability for the fire is still a point of contention. At one point, Michele Troppiano (seen here in the tunnel control room) phoned down to some lackey to ask a point of clarification. He referred to the tunnel fire only as, ‘the incident’.
If The Clandestine survives, I suppose a lot of the credit will go to writer Kieran Doherty, for having created a memorable cast of characters.
Marcus (left, played by actor Bennett Warden) and Freddy (Michael Lavery) portray the founding members of The Clandestine gang. Let’s just say, they don’t have the right stuff for the Hells Angels.
Is this the formula for success? The Clandestine isn’t a show for bikers; it’s trying to reach the far larger audience of would-be bikers. That said, the first people who’ll watch it are motorcyclists, which is why Video Hacker, the production company, was able to attract a motorcycle industry sponsor.
Joe Campo, at right, on the set with the actors who play the core members of the gang. Besides Bennett and Lavery, there’s the insufferable bosses’ nephew Will (far left, played by Dermott Hickson) and the utterly inarticulate Alfie (John Render). A total of 20-30 actors and extras appeared in the series, with about an equal number of people on the crew. Everyone got paid. “We weren’t some big movie crew with trailers,” Campo told me, “but we weren’t two guys with a camcorder, either.”
Andrew Wheeler is one of the top motorcycle racing photographers and has captured some legendary moments in MotoGP competition over the years.
This is the line for the toilets. Maybe it’s a good thing beer’s $8.50, eh?
In Shakespeare’s day, the people too poor to sit in any of the three tiers of seats at the famous Globe Theatre were dubbed ‘groundlings’. Here, MotoGP groundlings such as your humble scribe find a patch of grass in Tilke’s ‘Stadium section’ -- an homage to Hockenheim.
A random fan, plunked on the grass in front of me. Coincidentally his t-shirt commemorates the last race I’d attended as a regular fan.
The observation tower dominates the track. Trip to top: $25. I think it should be free if you want to climb the stairs.
Food prices at COTA were steep, to say the least.
No outside food or drink allowed, and healthy choices were nearly non-existent.
By race time on Sunday this hillside was thick with fans. Still, there was lots of good viewing for General Admission fans.
This Deus airhead Beemer might show where The One Show’s ‘cool factor’ is headed.
Alan Stulberg is a designer and partner in Austin’s Revival Cycles shop. This heavily breathed-upon Moto Guzzi 850T is a prime example of their work.
Revival’s style is influenced by Art Deco. Here’s a nice touch, in the form of an extensively hand-worked fuel filler cap.
Portland’s Thor Drake drove all the way to Austin, towing a trailer with about a dozen ‘One Show’ bikes, but most of the machines on display in Austin were sourced through Alan Stulberg’s network of friends and clients.
Driver: Karl Bennett, Passenger: Lee Cain
You can't get a decent kipper anywhere these days. Except here. Kipper Bap and tea; breakfast at the Crab Shack in Peel, on the west coast of The Island.
Driver: Julie Hanks, Passenger: Michael Lines
Putting on the TT involves a massive volunteer effort by hundreds and hundreds of marshals.
This is what a ticket to ride on closed roads looks like, around here.
Driver: John Saunders, Passenger: Shaun Parker
Driver: Deb Barron, Passenger: Karl Schofield
Owner: Keith Walters, Driver: Andy Williams, Passenger: Alun Thomas. Not shown, Thomas' crutches. He broke his heel in a short circuit race earlier this spring. He had the cast removed last week, and boarded the ferry the next day.
A lot of nice bikes come out around TT time. This stylin' custom-framed Vincent was parked up at the Crab Shack last Sunday when we ate breakfast.
Driver: Michael Grabmuller. A newcomer, he spent ten days here over the winter, putting in 5,000 miles around the course by car. Passenger: Manfred Wechselberger. ("I'm pretty sure he knows his way around.")
The homeowner, a gracious and friendly woman who preferred to remain anonymous, pointed out that the spot we watched from -- lying on our bellies with our heads poked out past her hedge -- was the precise spot where Agostini and Valentino Rossi had watched from, when Ago returned to the TT a couple of years ago to show Rossi around.
Keith Shawcross, with the 1962 Velocette Venom he rode, when he came to watch the TT in 1978, carrying his 10 year-old son as a passenger. The day Mike Hailwood made his famous comeback, they watched at Ballaugh Bridge.
Laxey Train controls.
The train was built for 19th-century passengers. By the time there were two 21st-century-width fans in every seat and another dozen or so standees, it was cozy to say the least.
There was no bitterness between the two riders' signallers. I heard them making good-natured side bets during the race. At the end, one said, "That's 1£10p you owe me, plus the change from last night's fish and chips."
Then the sun comes out, and changes everything.
The Tynwald Inn is a pub about a mile west of Ballacraine, so it’s off the current course, but only about 20 yards from the start line of the course used for the first few years of the TT. Tom and I wandered in there, and chose the room where this traditional Celtic music group met, instead of the room where, in typical TT fashion, they were pounding out ‘80s rock music.
“So, is this your first motorcycle trip, then?” “No.”
By the day of the Senior, the media center was overflowing. With the increased success the organizers have had lately, it’s probably time to upgrade facilities.
No racer crosses this bridge without saying ‘Hello’ to the fairies. Many stop to drop coins in the small stream below, or to add a little note or special request.
During the TT fortnight, ex-TT racers can always wander in to the 38th Milestone, for a cup of tea, a cookie, and soft chair out of the wind, cold, rain (or, as was the case on Senior day, out of the sun).
Roger Willis, seen here at the Karl Gall memorial in Ballaugh, Isle of Man, is the author of The Nazi TT, available at Amazon.
TT winners used to take the trophy home with them, and return it the next year. The TT organizers learned their lesson after losing track of this iconic trophy for six long years during WWII. Nowadays, this permanent trophy spends almost all its time under tight security; winners leave only with a smaller replica.
It was an emotional moment when John McGuinness hoisted this 106 year-old piece of silverware, last month
The Nazi TT is authored by Roger Wills
In 1962, Degner gave Suzuki engineers a running start by bringing them the secrets of the two-stroke expansion chamber.
In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, the East German GP drew the largest crowds in motorcycle racing history. The trackside banners read, “Go MZ”.
Walter Kaaden, left, invented the expansion chamber exhaust. In this photo, he’s chatting with legendary motorcycle journalist Vic Willoughby.
While the vast majority of MZ production capacity was devoted to the manufacture of plebian two-strokes for day-to-day transport, the race bikes were things of beauty.
The current Sachsenring track is in the same location as the old course, which was laid out on real roads. The old lap was about twice as long, and included a cobblestone section!
Sire has had a life-long fascination with American hot rod culture.
The photo of Nira Johnson was turned into this illustration of fictional racer ‘Bill Carbu’.
This grainy image, pulled from a 1967 edition of the French car magazine L’automobile, served as the only reference for an illustration that appeared in Sire’s graphic novel 6T Melodies.
Denis Sire, a French graphic novelist, in his studio in Paris.
Laurent Romuald, one of the top motorcycle restorers in France, looks on as artist Denis Sire tries out le monster du lac salé.
I finally met the real Nira Johnson and saw the original ‘monster’ at Miller Motorsports Park, in 2008.
The real Monster.
This image from the 2014 edition of the Milestones TT Calendar was shot in Parliament Square, which for the record is the busiest intersection in the Island’s second-biggest town. Suffice to say, getting a shot like this is not for the bashful! The choice of image is tied to a story about Joey Dunlop stopping to check his tires at Parliament Square, and still having enough time to win the ‘Jubilee TT’ in 1977.
The enormous audience that watched the Stratos Jump will surely encourage a shift from racing sponsorship, in which there’s only a return on investment when your team wins, towards branded content.
Rachael Clegg, producer of and model for the Milestones TT Calendars.
Rachael, her brother, and her grandfather Tom Clegg wait for her dad, Noel Clegg, to finish a lap of the TT some time in the early ‘90s.
“Are you sure these things are tame?” Rachael had a photographer on hand, and an assistant charged with “crotch-watch, nipple-watch, and perv-watch” but there was no wrangler on hand when they went to get a photo commemorating an incident between John Surtees and a cow. “I was just a part of the furniture,” she told me, as she recalled growing up listening to motorcycle racers’ stories. Many of those stories now inspire the images in her calendars.
Bob Hansen (left) and Bob Jamieson were Mann's crew chief and mechanic, for the Daytona 200. I interviewed them at length ten years ago. Hansen died earlier this year.
The bike Mann rode is often described as a CR750, but that's not accurate. It was an infinitely rarer beast: the Honda CB750 Racing Type.
Coupes Motos Legende is sort of France’s equivalent of AMA Vintage Days. It used to be held at a fabulous old race track on the outskirts of Paris.
Patrick Bodden looks on as Daniel prepares to fire up bike. So was it really Dick Mann’s 1970 Daytona-winning bike, or just a replica good enough to fool an expert like Bodden? Check back in two weeks, and I’ll tell you what Bob Hansen, Bob Jamieson, and Ron Robbins – Mann’s Crew Chief and mechanics – concluded.
The circuit is, sadly, no longer ever open to the public. The event I attended with Patrick Bodden was its last hurrah.
My Facebook pal Karl Magnus Wathne is the current owner of the motorcycle that Honda’s Racing Service Center built for Mr. Stigfelt, in exchange for, presumably, one of the CB750 Racing Types from Daytona. Karl describes it as a ‘CR750’. If you’re a stickler for details, that term applies to a CB750 set up with the full CR race kit; the real Daytona bikes were ‘CB750 Racing Type’ models. The Daytona bikes had chrome-molybdenum frames that were presumably stronger and/or lighter than stock. In any case, the bike seen here now has a mild-steel frame since Mr. Stigfelt’s original frame was wrecked in a crash.
Ron Robbins remembered welding on the bike’s frame. The characteristic smell made it easy for him to tell the factory frame was chrome-molybdenum steel, not the mild steel used in the stock CB750 frames.
This cool hand-tinted photo from the early ‘70s shows a well-attended race at Anderstorp, in Sweden. Peter Williams/Norton (#6) and Kent Andersson/Yamaha (#41) were major stars. Kenneth Stigfelt (#20) is racing the Honda that, so the story goes, he traded for the Dick Mann bike.
Mann’s 1970 team, reunited in Paris in 2003, with Daniel’s motorcycle. L-R: Ron Robbins, mechanic; Bob Hansen, crew chief; Bob Jamieson, mechanic.
“I tell my girls,” Daniel laughed, “when I die, this is what you’ll inherit.”
Vancouver-based graphic designer Matthew Warburton was actually on the Isle of Man this spring, on the day his stamp designs officially went on sale.
Canada Post’s marketing plan for the new motorcycle stamps included this First Day Cover, with a cool cancelation stamp inspired by a beautiful WWII-era recruiting poster.
Canada Post’s marketing plan for the new motorcycle stamps included this First Day Cover, with a cool cancelation stamp inspired by a beautiful WWII-era recruiting poster.
Canada Post’s marketing plan for the new motorcycle stamps included this First Day Cover, with a cool cancelation stamp inspired by a beautiful WWII-era recruiting poster.
Warburton and photographer Paul Joseph found the first two motorcycles at the Deeley motorcycle collection and museum in Vancouver. That’s a place you must visit, if you’re ever in that part of Canada.
Even though I don’t know Jeremy Burgess, I can guarantee you that he too is very competitive, and I’m 100% sure that when Marquez stepped up from Moto2, Burgess didn’t quietly approach him and say, “If you’re looking for a crew chief, I’m looking for a faster rider.”
These stamps — the first Canadian stamps to ever feature motorcycles — are currently available in Canadian post offices.
If things go according to plan, the next pair of stamps in the series will feature Michael Uhlarik’s Amarok P1 electric motorcycle. This picture was taken a year ago, during a test session at Atlantic Motorsports Park in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. The rider is eastern Canadian young gun Austin Shaw-Leary. In the background is Andrew Murray, of FOGI Racing.
My bike’s corroded cases fool even pretty experienced motorcyclists into believing that it’s a genuine vintage machine. It’s actually new, but sadly it handles like a machine at least 50 years old! (I have a friend in France who has built a few fast modern Bonnies, and he’s warned me that the frame is made of, as he says, “saucisse” — sausage.) Making this thing handle will provide fodder for a few future Backmarker columns, I’m sure...
The decision to go racing has meaning precisely because of the risks it entails. Racers learn things about themselves that are very hard to learn in our otherwise-civilized existence. Caselli, a national Hare and Hound stalwart, will be remembered at the final race of the 2013 championship, this Saturday at the Johnson Valley OHV area near Lucerne Valley CA. Meet up at the Blais Racing/KTM pit, at 2 p.m. to honor a fallen champion.
Brad’s been racing almost every weekend since winning the Grand National Championship in Pomona. When he’s not on a motorcycle, the Washington-state resident prefers his mountain bike to the gym. Barcelona? He’s ready if Marquez is.
Throughout the 1980s, the Spanish magazine Solo Moto promoted the post-season ‘Superprestigio’ invitation races at Calafat. The races attracted lots of media attention and top riders. Nowadays, most GP riders contracts would probably forbid such a race, but that hasn’t stopped Marc Marquez from resurrecting it as a flat track race, and charity fund-raiser.
Brad’s going to be Harley-Davidson’s official rider in 2014, racing an XR750 on half-miles and miles. He’ll race a KTM on short tracks. Both brands stand to score a PR coup if Baker’s invited to participate in Marquez’ Superprestigio race.
Thanks to social media, Brad "The Bullet" Baker now has an invite to Marc Marquez's Superprestigio race in Spain.
More from the news of Baker's invite to Marquez's Superprestigio.
Marc Marquez has taken on the task of resurrecting the Superprestigio as a charity fundraiser, although this time it will be a dirt track race held in the Palau St. Jordi, the spectacular indoor arena built for the ’92 Olympics.
They reached their top of their respective championships within a month of each other. They were born one day apart. Are Brad Baker and Marc Marquez twins from different mothers? Will we see some wicked sibling rivalry in Barcelona on January 11?
They reached their top of their respective championships within a month of each other. They were born one day apart. Are Brad Baker and Marc Marquez twins from different mothers? Will we see some wicked sibling rivalry in Barcelona on January 11?
Two champions will face off in the Superprestigio.
Now, the Europeans train like Americans, and Americans train like Europeans.
Bubba Shobert was the last rider to win the AMA’s #1 plate by scoring points on asphalt and dirt.
Barcelona’s sidewalks are wide, and the cops tolerate scooter and motorcycle parking pretty much anywhere.
When was the last time you saw a MotoGP rider carrying his own wheels back from the tire truck? In that sense, it was a pretty authentic dirt track race; lots of aptitude, not so much attitude.
The nuts-and-bolts of the event were handled by Jordi Castels. I asked him if he’d ever made a dirt track before. “Yes,” he replied, “in 1991.”
Montjuic Park is also the site of the Catalunya ‘National’ Art Museum, seen here. Palau St. Jordi, where the race was held, was just on the other side of this building. (It was no Daytona Municipal Stadium!)
Marquez puts on his boots. Film at 11.
Brad Baker talks dirt with the organizers. By following his advice, they improved the track a lot between practice and racing. But, in addition to bringing over AMA Pro’s flagman, they should have brought in an experienced track guy. You know the way Eskimos are supposed to have 50 words for snow? Pro flat trackers have that same nuanced appreciation of ‘dirt’.
We’ve all been there. Just not on national TV, with millions watching.
Marc Marquez films Brad, with his GoPro, for a future home video.
Kid’s got skillz.
Abadie also posted this photo of her ticket on Google+. In the comments below she wrote, “I don’t use it much while driving”, i.e., she does use it. One lawyer in her circle added, “The problem here seems to be that there is no way he could know what was displayed at the time. That's probably your best argument.”
In this photo from Cecilia Abadie’s public Google+ profile you can see her selfie. Note that Google put the electronics on the right side of the glasses, which will make it harder for motorcyclists to tell whether the driver beside them is watching the road or Pornhub.
Baker kept it close in the early going, but this is nothing compared to the way Marquez consistently pushed him right to the wall on corner entries every time he got the chance. It was kind of a fight between a pit bull and a spaniel, but you had to admire the smaller dog’s spirit.
Judging from the look on his face, Baker’s getting into his zone. No champion has a “just for fun” setting.
Nice work, if you can get it.
The stands weren’t full, but the media center was.
Until the 1980s, the Spanish market was closed to the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. In order to get access to it, every Japanese brand ended up buying a Spanish company. Honda bought Montesa. Since trials is still a major sport in Spain, Honda’s chosen to leave the Montesa brand on its trials bikes.
Kenny Tolbert shows one of the restrictor plates that was in use in Chris Carr’s Harley-Davidson XR750 (Prescott, AZ, 2010).
One of the first metric bikes to give the Harley teams fits was this brutal looking Kawasaki 650-powered framer, built in 2010 by none other than Bill Werner. After decades running the H-D factory race shop, he shook them up by switching brands.
Bridgestone disc-valve two-stroke 175cc twins. These were some of the best-performing Japanese bikes in the mid-‘60s, until the other Japanese manufacturers told Bridgestone, “Either you compete with us, or you supply tires to us, but you can’t do both. They decided to abandon the bike business and focus on tires.” There’s probably enough of these to make one runner.
For a while, Frasier raced a Ducati 450 at the Burr Oak Sprockets MC’s motocross track.
Rohn Grotenhuis (left) is the Kansas City architect and bike collector who led me to the Burr Oak trove.
Wards Riverside motorcycles were bikes that the Montgomery-Ward department store chain imported from Italy. Lots of them were made by Benelli.
Another friend discovered this satellite image, that seemed to show a bunch of motorcycles exposed to the weather.
This view pretty much shows all of Burr Oak, KS. Yes, this podunk town had a Ducati dealership in the ‘60s. Different times...
There’s lots of ‘70s aftermarket dirt bike love to be found here. Bassani, Preston Petty...
How often have you driven past a barn this innocuous, out in the countryside? Ever wonder what might be hidden away inside?
Doug Frasier was a Ducati dealer at 14.
Just the thing, when you want to hold a romantic candlelit dinner in the pits at an AHRMA event. Sold online for $18.
Eric Bess opened Flying Tiger in 2010. The shop’s moved and expanded twice, and become a key resource for anyone in St. Louis who’s got an old motorcycle they’re trying to keep running.
Four of these were built for the Motogiro, but never used. The event was a grueling, multi-day affair, and racers were sometimes on the road in darkness. A neat feature of this bike was a dual-battery setup, to reduce the risk of a lighting failure.
Although his persona’s gruff, while we were talking two guys walked in from the neighborhood with an old chain that they needed shortened by one link. Kiernan broke off our conversation, wandered back into the shop, and shortened the chain free of charge. He holds an informal bike show and BBQ every spring. If you’re in the St. Louis area on April 19, you should drop by the shop at 3537 Chouteau Avenue.
The philospher Thomas Hobbes once described the life of the common man as “nasty, brutish, and short”. The same description could be said to apply to most race bikes. This one’s life’s been longer than most, but Lyster’s design has all the subtlety of a set of brass knuckles.
I remember trying to explain racers’ fascination with risk to a golfer who said, “That’s the way I feel when I’m trying to make a critical putt in golf.” I smiled and nodded, but thought, You idiot. I mean, picture a playoff hole at The Masters: some guy misses his putt. For an instant, he might wish he was dead. But there was never any risk of actual death.
Neil deGrasse Tyson says there may be a whole universe inside each black hole. Marquez has ridden over an edge that causes others to crash, and found his own universe. Who will dare to join him?
I forgot to ask what year this bike was made; not that it matters, since Scotts hardly changed for decades. Alfred Angus Scott was the holder of more than sixty patents. His eponymous motorcycles were among the first to feature kick-starters, chain drives, and multi-speed gearboxes. He usually used simple two-stroke motors that were water-cooled – about 60 years before such cooling was “pioneered” by Suzuki and introduced with great fanfare on the GT 750.
Hillier coming down off the Mountain, at Creg-ny-Bar, victorious in the 2013 Lightweight TT.
Hillier follows Michael Dunlop, Bruce Anstey, and John McGuinness into Ramsey. By starting in first place, he gets to learn from the fastest guys as they come past. That said, they’ll be coming past less frequently this year.
The “Supertwins” podium included Dean Harrison and local-amazing-comeback-story Conor Cummins. The top 10 finishers were all on Kawasakis.
Andy Goldfine, who runs RideToWork.org, believes that over and above improving traffic and parking congestion, riding motorcycles makes us better people. “Riding is a social good,” he says. No argument there.
Ayrton Senna was one of the greatest racing drivers of all time. This is the 20th anniversary of his death. You should stream documentary ‘Senna’ on Netflix in his honor tonight. It’s the best racing film of all time.
The last man to win a TT on a real BMW was Georg Meier. His win in the 1939 Senior TT was also a propaganda victory for the Nazi party.
Berthold “Bertie” Hauser is BMW Motorrad’s Motorsport Director. He’s been with BMW for over 30 years, and supervised racing programs from the Dakar rally to World Superbike.
Michael Dunlop won the Superbike race to begin his 2014 TT campaign. It was the first TT win for the BMW S1000RR, and it came on the 75th anniversary of BMW’s most famous TT victory.
Ride To Work Day logo.
For $25, RideToWork.org will send you a stencil.
In the late ‘90s, Dave Morris’ Chrysalis machines represented the pinnacle of the Supermono class.
Michael Dunlop on his way to the 2014 Isle of Man TT Superbike race win.
Three races into a ten-race championship, it’s still too early to say that Kenny’s got it made in the shade. Still, it’s always nice to be winning.
With two wins in three races so far, Kenny Noyes leads the Superbike class in Spain’s CEV championship.
There were some highlights in his Moto2 World Championship career, including qualifying on pole at Le Mans in 2010. (The kid on the right is Nicolas Terol; I’m not sure who the guy in the middle is.) Overall though, Kenny’s often had bad luck. Sponsorship and team ‘downs’ have often followed on-track ‘ups’.
This air view of MotorLand Aragon shows the tell-tale short track of Kenny’s “Noyes Camp”. It’s basically ‘American Supercamp’ for Europeans; he’s done a lot to popularize dirt track over there.
Kenny got a late start. He was still racing XR100s at Lodi Cycle Bowl at 18. (Sort of the opposite of growing up as a Red Bull Rookie.)
You know what else would make an eye catching around-town bike with racy handling and a low c.g.? A 1966 Harley Sprint.
By the early 1970s, bikes like this Harley Baja were neither as good, nor as affordable, as Japanese entries like the Hodaka Super Rat.
Harley-Davidson also sold a production racer version, the CR250.
This unrestored Hummer still resembles its DKW RT125 antecedent. The simple piston-port two-stroke was cheap to produce, and it introduced tens of thousands of Americans to motorcycling.
It wasn’t just a case of Harley importing ideas to the U.S. market. Beginning in the 1930s, Harley licensed production of its bikes to Japanese manufacturers, including Rikuo. Rikuo imported an entire Harley-Davidson assembly line to Japan, so Harley effectively introduced Japan to mass production (and thus helped to improve Japan’s war effort a few years later.)
The 250 & 350cc Sprint models are the most-loved of the Harley ‘imports’.
In the early ‘60s, the Topper was a strange mix of advanced ideas like a CVT transmission, with a primitive lawnmower-style cord start. Harley only sold a few thousand of them.
Ironically, just about the time Harley was getting out of the small two-stroke business, Walter Villa won a string of 250 & 350cc World Championships on ‘Harley-Davidson’ motorcycles built in the Aermacchi race shop.
You know another bike destined to introduce thousands of new riders to the sport of motorcycling? The Harley-Davidson Model 125.
Ex-MX and Supermoto champ Micky Dymond (left) and ex-AMA and World Superbike star Ben Bostrom teamed with Dave Mirra and Dave Zabriskie to race across the U.S. on bicycles. Dymond and Bostrom were both stars of the original AMA Pro Racing Supermoto series. Micky’s being lured out of ‘retirement’ to race at Sturgis later this year
The most recent round of the AMA National Supermoto Championship was held at Colorado National Speedway, motorcycles raced in front of 10,000 Nascar fans.
Beginning about 10 years ago, the sport of Supermoto took off. But it flew too high, too fast. The result was that in 2009, the AMA Pro Racing Supermoto series disappeared altogether. Now, there’s a national championship again.
California State Fairground, July 26. The sun’s been down for hours, but it’s still nearly 100º.
George Latus, who owns motorcycle dealerships in Oregon, has sponsored both Triumph and Harley riders in the GNC. When he saw the success of Gately’s Triumph, he arranged to borrow a bike and got Joe Kopp, a fellow Pacific Northwesterner to try the machine out. Kopp came away impressed, and Latus became one of Gately’s customers, although the two teams set up the bikes a little differently. So far this year, Latus’ principal rider, Shayna Texter, has been plagued by a disconcerting speed wobble.
The Contender.
Bill Gately.
Before worrying about how to develop American road racing talent, we need a plan to identify it. I propose an interlocking program of local and national or regional ‘Novices’ Cup’ races. Here’s a shot from one of OMRRA’s Ninja 250 Cup races last year. You could build all of these bikes—and likely run them all season—for what it would cost to field one competitive DSB bike in AMA Pro Racing.
Chris Page is an engineer at Nike, as well as being OMRRA’s chief instructor. He built his Ninja Cup race bike out of a lightly-crashed street bike that he found on Craigslist. Even with ‘deluxe’ paint, his bike cost less than six grand. The class actually offers decent contingencies, too; Chris got enough tire money to pay all his tire bills, and his wife Patty’s tire bills, too.
At Indy, Carmelo Ezpeleta told Bob Varsha, “We are talking with relevant people here in the U.S., and we have a plan to develop—this is something that must start at the beginning. Half an hour ago, we have some meetings to create several ideas—to develop American riders from the very beginning... We will work with many people in America, especially Wayne Rainey to try to develop new talents in America.”
In the late ‘70s, 500cc Grand Prix motorcycles had become tire-spinning monsters. Team managers looked to Americans like Kenny Roberts, who’d grown up sliding flat track bikes, to tame the 500s. Americans deserved World Championship rides in the 1980s, but they don’t now. You can get mad at me for saying that, or you can read my next couple of columns and learn what needs to be done to put the U.S. back on top.
Affordable, grassroots racing doesn’t mean “slow” or “uncompetitive”. Chris Page won the OMRRA Clubman championship on points scored on this slick-shod Ninja 250.
The CEV Moto3 class appeared at one race in France this year. All CEV classes also race over seven weekends in Spain and Portugal. Most of those weekends are doubleheaders for most classes.
Marc Marquez has made flat trackin’ cool again, in Europe. A comprehensive American MotoGP strategy should leverage U.S. strength in its traditional racing discipline.
Wayne Rainey was an interested spectator when the Pro Singles class ran at the Sacramento Mile. Was he wondering whether any of those kids could make the jump to Europe, as he once did?
Two weeks ago, OMRRA’s Chris Page told me that as far as he was concerned the perfect bike for a regional feeder class would be the KTM RC390. It’s already the basis of a spec class in the IDM series, which is a German-based regional series in Northern Europe. As if on cue, we got word a few days ago that KTM would be bringing the street version to the U.S. in 2015.
Most people scan from side to side, in near, middle, and distant arcs. I prefer to scan in rays (green lines) flicking my attention between near, middle distance, and distant traffic.

The conditions in this photo – light traffic and good visibility, with no immediate threats visible – make this a good time to play, “What if?..” The red car just ahead could change lanes into the gap ahead of us, but it’s not likely, as there’s no exit visible. But is that truck safely loaded? If a ladder suddenly fell off, would the Saturn swerve and brake into our lane? Now’s the time to notice that nice wide shoulder.
When you’re lane splitting, you should basically be in Condition Orange all the time. This is a perfect example of identifying primary threats, while keeping some bandwidth available for secondary, less immediate, threats. Everyone who safely lane splits knows that you have to pay special attention to a gap in one lane, because it’s an invitation for cagers to change lanes. So as you approach a gap, you watch the adjacent driver like a hawk. But you should still flick your attention up ahead to look for brake lights, too.
AMA Pro Racing has lost the road racing series. For better or for worse, that’s a great chance to reboot flat track.
Spot the racer. Bryan Smith is both a rider and team owner/manager, so he sees the sport from a broad perspective. Like most of the people I talked to about this, he’s grateful for the sponsorship there is, but he knows that even a little more support will go a long way.
Once he was a punk that got under the old guard’s skin, now he’s an elder statesman. Chris Carr’s often said that a good first step towards brand revitalization would be changing the official name of the sport from ‘flat track’ to ‘dirt track’. “‘Flat,’” he once told me, “is not a good word. Tires go flat, that’s bad; The economy’s flat, that’s bad. Why do we call our sport ‘flat’?” Backmarker’s take on it is that, a.) some of the tracks aren’t flat at all, and b.) we use ‘flat track’ and ‘dirt track’ interchangeably. It wouldn’t hurt to settle on ‘dirt track’.
Mike (white t-shirt) and David Lloyd (on bike) made history in 2010 – They put Joe Kopp on this Ducati, and became the first non-Harley team to win a GNC Twins race in decades.
One of the keys to really raising flat track’s profile is going to be marketing the athletes as personalities, and telling their stories. That has to be AMA Pro’s job; it can’t be up to 16 different promoters.
The AMA conflated the CDC stumble to thwart the Ebola outbreak with 'mission creep' from pursuing causes like supporting mandatory helmet usage.
Atsugi Road Brothers. The club's members were U.S. Navy men and local bikers.
Mike told me that the annual scrambles race on the slopes of Mount Fuji was “their Daytona”.
He’s E31 in the photo, on the factory Lilac. It didn’t come close to finishing the race.
After a few big wins, Mike was invited to join the Tokyo Otokichi Club, and given the rare chance of test-riding a Honda RC160 250cc four-cylinder factory racer. Soichiro Honda presented him with a tie-tac and cufflink set.
Mike, on a 250 Meguro, and Tomio Aosabi on Mike’s Honda 350 Dream single (a model that’s now vanishingly rare!) They’re outside Aoki Motors, which was the local Honda and Yamaha dealer. This was a photo that Mike sent back to his mom in the U.S. Referring to Tomio as a ‘Jap’ is politically incorrect now, but the term’s offset by the note to his mom explaining that he’s his best pal. After he was repatriated, he never saw any of his Japanese ‘road brothers’ again.
Mike, on a 250 Meguro, and Tomio Aosabi on Mike’s Honda 350 Dream single (a model that’s now vanishingly rare!) They’re outside Aoki Motors, which was the local Honda and Yamaha dealer. This was a photo that Mike sent back to his mom in the U.S. Referring to Tomio as a ‘Jap’ is politically incorrect now, but the term’s offset by the note to his mom explaining that he’s his best pal. After he was repatriated, he never saw any of his Japanese ‘road brothers’ again.
This was a "lime run". Riders followed a series of white lime markings, along an unknown route.
Mike Harper today.
Chris Hill has three passions: Vintage Ferraris, vintage Yamaha race bikes, and dogs like these. There were about a dozen of them running around the shop when I was there.
Carruthers rode the 350cc TR2 to Yamaha’s first-ever premier-class win in a road race National.
This close-up shows both distinctive frame mods. There’s an extra section of tubing welded into the lower frame rails towards the back of the motor. The motor’s been pushed forward, necessitating much larger engine mounting plates at the back. And if you look closely, you can see that the swingarm was cut just forward of the pivot, and a box section was welded in, adding about two inches of length.
The TR2 in its current habitat. A subsequent owner must’ve replaced the original forks with Cerianis and the fuel tank is not original, but all in all it survived remarkably unscathed. Carruthers told us that he sold it after his ’71 campaign, but could not recall who he sold it to.
A 250cc Expert-class winner’s circle pic from Kel’s privateer season in 1971. Everyone in this photo has an important connection to the southern hemisphere. From left: Kel (Australia, World Champion, 250cc class, 1969), Ginger Molloy (New Zealand, second in championship, 500cc class, 1970) and ex-San Diego motorcycle courier, Cal Rayborn. Rayborn was probably the best American road racer of his generation. He won three Trans-Atlantic Match Races against some of the best European racers and may well have become the first American world champion, but for his premature death... in New Zealand in 1973.
One of my friends asked, “Did he have his engineer’s rule in his breast pocket?” Yes, he did. And a multicolor Bic pen of a type I haven’t seen since Preston Petty Products was a going concern. After all these years, his curiosity, humor, and innate desire to tweak motorcycles to make them better and faster are all still intact.
Nowadays, every barn-find ‘70s dirt bike has a Preston Petty fender (or two). They were sold with an absolutely unconditional one-year guarantee; race it, crash it,.. they were indestructible.
Nowadays, every barn-find ‘70s dirt bike has a Preston Petty fender (or two). They were sold with an absolutely unconditional one-year guarantee; race it, crash it,.. they were indestructible.
Preston was a factory rider for Suzuki, in the late ‘60s. This pic shows him on a now-rare twin-port RH67. When the Suzuki representatives saw a photo of him winning a race on an obviously modified bike, they said, “But it’s not a Suzuki.” He replied, “All the parts that work well are still on it.” They requested that in future, he race the machine exactly as they provided it, and that was the end of his tenure as a factory rider.
Preston with the Zero flat-tracker. He races in that same blue boiler suit that he’s wearing in this photo.
Punch November 1938: 'Going home for Christmas when Grandfather was young'
If this basement starts to resemble a workshop in 2015, as I’ve resolved, expect to read a few Backmarkers about resurrecting and improving some cool old and not-so-old bikes.
Although I’ll go to my grave arguing that the best thing for U.S. motorcycle racing would be to reunite the road racing and flat track championship, I also know that splitting the ownership of the national road racing and flat track championships gives flat track the opportunity to position itself as the real U.S. racing discipline. And I hope that the arrival of the Yamaha MT-07 increases manufacturer interest again.
A few years ago, I tracked Jerry Griffith to his ranch in Northern California. Thirty years earlier, he’d spearheaded Honda’s official effort to build a competitive flat track Twin.
Jerry in about 1981, with an NS750 prepared for Freddie Spencer.
Griffith was a sucker for punishment when he accepted the assignment of turning the plebian CX500 commuter into the star-crossed NS750 racer.
Here’s an early prototype, with the transverse-twin motor turned 90 degrees and converted from shaft to chain drive.
I guess Freddie thought Jerry had too much time on his hands, and needed something to work on.
Honda bought the #1 plate in the 1982 season, when it hired GNC Champion Mike Kidd to continue development of the NS750. Here he is at the legendary Ascot half-mile track in Gardena.
Sometimes even the props have stunt doubles. This is the Norton Model 30 ‘International’ rolling chassis that appeared in ‘The Master’. Deemed too fragile for the desert scenes, it was replaced by a BSA M20 in Norton guise.
For decades, Bud Ekins was the go-to guy when movie studios needed a motorcycle stunt man. But for all the fame he earned – for example, it was Ekins who stood in for Steve McQueen, and performed this famous scene in ‘The Great Escape’ – Bud made most of his money supplying bikes to film studios.
Who knows what’s in the crates? Last year, when the Harley-Davidson Livewire was still the industry’s best-kept secret, H-D sent bikes to Glory, for use in Universal Pictures’ next Avengers flick.
Justin Kell with a Triton build-in-progress in the shop. “I lose money on every project like this,” he noted ruefully. But, the work he does for film studios allows him to indulge in projects for a select group of clients—mostly Hollywood ‘A-listers’ whose names he leaves out of conversation.
‘Oblivion’s’ Production Designer was Darren Gilford. His sketches for the off-road motorcycle included a few touches – such as the single-sided fork and swingarm – that must’ve been sacrificed to the Budget God. Still, Kell managed to deliver a rideable machine that was pretty faithful to the initial concept. (In our interview, he told me that the machine was based on a CRF450X, although on the Glory web site it’s described as having been built on an XL650 chassis.)
"The Master"
Getting the real story behind Bob Dylan’s famous motorcycle crash might be my ultimate ‘bucket list’ column.
Elena Filatova’s story was too good to be true. And, she wouldn’t return my emails or letter anyway. I’m sure Johnny Rock Page knows what that kind of rejection feels like.
Ducati’s own website touts the flat-track inspiration for one Scrambler model.
Steve McLaughlin originally imagined that Bayliss would come and cut a few demonstration laps. When Bayliss decided he wanted to win a GNC Mile, there were a few whiners who complained that the ex-SBK champ should have to come up through the singles class, like everyone else. AMA Pro Racing quickly instituted a rule that specified that FIM ‘Expert’ licensed riders would have reciprocal rights in flat track.
David Lloyd (seated) on the bike Joe Kopp used to score the first non-Harley Twins victory in ages, back in 2010. When he and Troy Bayliss started trading messages, David looked at the 2015 GNC schedule and realized that Troy could do Springfield I and Sacramento back-to-back, then take a month off before doing Du Quoin and Indy, then take one more month off before going back to Springfield.
The bike’s ready to win. Running a full season at this level costs $175-200k. Even “just” running all the mile races will require a budget of at least half that. Ducati?
I can think of at least a couple of Aussies that have made main events in AMA nationals in recent years—Mick Kirkness (left, with Brad Baker and Jake Johnson) can be fast on his day, though he rarely has the best luck and/or machinery. Jared Mees came back from the 2015 Troy Bayliss Classic impressed not just with Bayliss’ speed, but with the depth of the Australian field.
Strangely, if you go to the TMZ web site and watch the interview with JRP, he comes across as this charming naïf. But, when you match that persona with a few years’ worth of JRP’s rambling, egomaniacal press releases, you know why even a media addict like Paris Hilton would seek a restraining order.
Mike Duff at 15 in Toronto.
Mike Duff with the Canadian Race Trophy at 16.
Michelle Duff enjoying the lake next to her small cottage north of Toronto.
Michelle Duff with her Yamaha FZR600.
Mike Duff in third at the 1964 Jr. TT.
Michelle Duff.
Michelle Duff, still fast as hell.
Peronnard raced enduros, Motocross and Supercross when he was young. He came to the U.S.in 1985, chasing the American Dream. He’s paid back American motorcycle sport several times over, by promoting races and a whole new sport: EnduroCross. He also played a key role in getting America’s most traditional motorcycle racing discipline – Flat Track – onto the X-Games schedule.
Johnny Lewis will be one of the Flat Track regulars on hand to compete in the upcoming X Games event.
As far as Backmarker’s concerned, a big part of the sport’s appeal is that the challenges are ones ordinary trail riders can relate to.
This is what the invitation looked like, when thrilled GNC stars opened their email a few days ago. “It’s the best thing that could happen to any sport,” says EnduroCross founder Eric Peronnard, and he should know. But, he warns, Flat Trackers won’t see huge benefits right away.
“I think EnduroCross was the best thing that ever happened to trials riders,” Peronnard told me. “It’s almost impossible to win an EnduroCross event if you don’t have trials skills. Colton Haaker (seen here), Cody Webb... They came out of trials. It’s not like I want them to leave trials, but at least we gave them a platform where they can make a living. Because unfortunately trials doesn’t feed many people. Maybe ten guys are making a living out of trials in the world; we have as many making a living out of EnduroCross right here in the ‘States.”
Bobby Foxworth started working for Bud Ekins when he was just a kid, sweeping up the shop and running the occasional errand. He followed Bud into Hollywood stunt work, and had a long career as a stunt man and stunt coordinator. He retired to Arizona, and still rides his Yamaha 450 dirt bike daily.
Dave Ekins comforts Steve, after his ‘Six Days’ turns out to be only three days long. Dave went on to earn an individual Gold Medal.
The first-ever official U.S. team in the ISDT. Clockwise from Steve McQueen: John Steen, Cliff Coleman, Bud Ekins, Dave Ekins.
They say, “If you remember the ‘60s, you weren’t really there.” But it was a perfect storm of miniskirts, birth control, and effective antibiotics. You kids these days think you invented sex, but you have no idea.
The 1964 Paris Match story about Steve McQueen ran under the headline, “See how the new young-persons’ hero lives his life”.
The 1964 Paris Match story about Steve McQueen ran under the headline, “See how the new young-persons’ hero lives his life”.
Steve and Cliff started on the same minute in the ISDT, so they were together a lot until Steve crashed out late on the third day. A few years later, Cliff crashed in Baja, and nearly severed a foot. Although under Mexican law he was forbidden from leaving the country, Steve and Bud smuggled him out.
Donny Brookshire was one of the few people who Jerry Lewis trusted enough that he let him see what he had, down on the farm. When I asked him where Lewis is, now, Donny told me, “I call it the nuthouse.”
Even Jerry Wood was surprised. He recently wrote on his web site, “I believe that you will find that this is the new market value especially for barn-find bikes with a nice patina.”
The room was full of little “easter eggs” like this scooter, which had originally been sold by Hall of Famer Ed ‘Iron Man’ Kretz. (He won the first-ever Daytona 200.)
Although there were many plebian bikes for sale, there were also some genuinely desirable bikes, like this 1938 bevel-drive OHC twin-port NSU. It sold for $30,000.
The story I heard was that “the good stuff” had been burned up in a fire a year or two earlier.
There were hundreds of frames and rusted hulks auctioned off en masse, on the second day of the auction.
By all accounts, visitors were rare at Jerry L. Lewis’ farm in Cuba, MO.
Several hundred bikes, more or less intact, were moved from the farm to Steelville.
There were so many parts that only the rarest stuff could be sold by the piece. Most of the parts were sold off by the pallet. One of my friends had the genius idea that they should’ve held a swap meet right outside over the next couple of days.