AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, Day 3
"These were street motorcycles. They were not designed from the beginning to be for the trail, and that's what I wanted."
~ John Penton, on bikes built prior to his.
Penton was arguably the most influential person to develop off road motorcycles, building bikes that bore his name, which later became KTMs. John hailed from Ohio too. His bikes were light, agile and dependable.
Surely you've seen 'On Any Sunday,' haven't you? It is the most iconic motorcycle movie of all time. Mostly documentary, it highlighted riding and racing motorcycles and sold a ton of bikes. Malcolm Smith, ISDE champion, Baja 1,000 racer and owner of MSR Racing Gear, starred in that film and droves of people loved him.
This bike, a Swedish 1971 Husqvarna Cross, starred in the movie, his ride of choice. Yes, Quilter Girl, Husqvarna makes sewing machines too.
Earl Bowlby took this 1967 BSA 650 Lightning and bored and stroked it to 782 ccs, then extended the swingarm himself. He rode this and later another BSA to ten AMA hillclimbing championships. The chains on the rear tire helped too. The irony is he built it into a race machine in 1976; four years after BSA closed its doors.
'The Wheelie King,' Doug Domokos, could take a bike and wheelie it seemingly forever. His record, set in the Guinness Book of World Records, is a whopping 145 miles at Talladega Speedway in Alabama in 1984. On a $10,000 bet, he wheelied a complete lap, over the jumps and through the whoop de doos at the Anaheim Stadium for a complete lap.
Doug fitted this Honda CR500 with an electric motor to keep his front wheel spinning during his wheelies, and a vent on his gas tank to vent the fuel while running at steep angles.
Tragically, he died in an accident of his ultralight plane in 2000.
Denis Manning builds some crazy stuff. Part motorcycle, part airplane, his streamliners have raced across dry lake beds and Bonneville at crazy speeds- including the land speed record, 367.382 miles per hour, in 2009. "A motorcycle ceases to be a motorcycle at around 200 miles per hour. At that point it becomes an airplane."
Denis put an ad out, looking for a rider to pilot the bike. Dirt track champion Chris Carr offered his services, and together they set records. After his 2006 record run, Carr said, "I'm 5 foot 5, but I'm feeling 5-8."
Thanks for touring with me. Tomorrow we'll check out someone who in the 1940s, worked as a US Army motorcycle dispatch rider. Yes, she did. And another, a championship racer that helped me win my own championship, and another who may well be the winningest team owner. And another movie star bike.
Oh, and let's not forget the guy who rode around the world on a motorcycle, without...oh, I won't give it away. It'll be fun.