Monday, February 12, 2018


While it is often claimed that history has the benefit of 20/20 hindsight vision, that's simply not always the case. Take the introduction of motocross to America, for example. While opinions vary on how the sport first came to the USA, in the eyes of many of the sport's insiders, it was a race dubbed Hopetown that truly put the sport on the map here. An event held in Southern California just short of Thanksgiving in the year 1967, Europe's premiere motocross racers came to Hopetown to show the American race fans what the sport was all about. Not really prepared for what they were to see that sunny afternoon, the style, technique and brilliance displayed by the Grand Prix racers not only spellbound the American fans, it left many of them slack jawed in astonishment. Roger DeCoster, Ake Johnsson, Torsten Hallman, and especially Joel Robert, simply blew the minds of the 25,000 fans present on Bob Hope's movie that epic day. Check out the lead of the story featured in the November 23, 1967 issue of Cycle News: “Would you believe that we could have a real moto-cross here in this country with huge crowds like Europe? We did Sunday at Hopetown where come 2 p.m. we were told 25,000 paid admissions had come through the gate.”

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


“You just don’t go over to Europe and win a World Championship, you’ve got to pay your dues,” said Brad Lackey a few days after becoming the first American to ever win a 500cc World Championship Grand Prix. It was a long time in coming for the then 24 year-old. After winning the 1972 AMA 500cc National Championship, Lackey packed up his belongings and took off for Europe. Determined to fulfill a dream of making a run at a Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme World Championship, half a decade later it all came right when on July 3, 1977 at Farleigh Castle, Wilts, England, Lackey rode his full-on factory Honda RC-400 Elsinore to an impressive triumph over GP stalwarts Gerrit Wolsink and Bengt Aberg.

Friday, January 26, 2018


Here’s a tragic story that caught our eye: it’s the tale of 71 Gooding Street in the City of Lockport, Niagara County in New York, where motorcycle enthusiast David Cuff managed to discover the holy grail of motorcycle barn finds. We’re not talking about a nice vintage motorcycle tucked away in an old garage…we’re talking about three floors of vintage motorcycles left to rot and decay. But don’t worry, this story has a (kind of) happy ending…


Thursday, January 18, 2018


The AMA National Motocross Championship Series came to life in the infield of Daytona International Speedway on March 11, 1972. While a Team Yamaha racer named Jimmy Weinert, back in California, a rock 'n' roll promoter named Mike Goodwin was dreaming and scheming up a new idea: stadium motocross.
“There was a motorcycle magazine that wrote up a guy name Dom Briber’s success in selling out Madison Square Garden for short track racing, which I think is about exciting as watching paint dry,” Mike Goodwin said of the light bulb that went off in his head. “I saw that he sold it out! I thought to myself, This new sport motocross would be really exciting in a stadium. So I talked to my wife about it and said, 'Let’s see if I can package this.' I put together a proposal, sent it to Olympia Beer, and they amazingly said yes! But then I had to figure out how to do it. So I met with Mr. Nicholson, manager of the Los Angeles Coliseum at that time. I was scared to death because I knew he was going to say no. Luckily, his kid rode motocross. We went across the street to a restaurant-bar called Julie’s, and we drew a sketch of the track on a cocktail napkin.”

Thus, what was to be called the Superbowl of Motocross was brought to life on a cocktail napkin in a restaurant in south central Los Angeles. Vic Wilson and his crack crew from Saddleback Park—down Orange County way—were brought up to the Los Angeles Coliseum and presented with the unique task of creating a motocross track inside the same 101,574-seat edifice that hosted the 1932 Summer Olympic Games. The end result was a tight circuit that consisted of a four-foot jump on the start straight, followed by a sharp left and right switchback that sent the racers on a 17-turn circuit graced with ruts, sand and mud, jumps, and whoop-de-doos.

Come race day, Saturday, July 8, 1972, Jimmy Weinert was not especially fond of the racetrack: “The jumps were atrocious because there was no landing or landing ramps on the back side and the track was all confined, so there was no room for error.”

However, Marty Tripes, a rider from San Diego who had turned 16 years old just 10 days prior to the race, saw it all much differently: “Walking around and seeing the narrow turns and jumps and all was just incredible. I couldn’t wait to get out there. I always rode in the hills around where I grew up in Santee, right next to El Cajon, and did the trick stuff. The track at the Coliseum was perfect for me.”

And what of the Europeans who were flown into L.A. to compete? What did Grand Prix stars such as four-time 250cc World Champion Torsten Hallman and future World Champion Hakan Andersson think of the race that Mike built? “The Europeans thought, Oh, this is stupid,” Weinert said. “This is not motocross. Motocross, you go outside, up the hill, through the mud. This is not motocross! They weren’t real happy with Goodwin.”

When the lights went up and the fans sat down, all 35,000 of them waited for the gate to drop on not only the Superbowl of Motocross, but on round two of the then-named Inter-Am Motocross Series. After the 40-rider, two-row field raced down the start straight and over the “4-foot bozo” jump, it was Swedish rider Torlief Hansen finding his way to the front on a #19 Husqvarna. Hansen would win the first of three motos, followed across the finish line by Tripes. Arne Kring, yet another Husqvarna-mounted Swede, won the second moto, Tripes working his way up to second after a lackluster start.

Ever the showman, Mike Goodwin had exactly what he wanted going into the third and final moto: a tie between European rider Hansen and teenage American Tripes. Hakan Andersson grabbed the holeshot and led while Hansen settled into second after trading moves with Kring. With Tripes was back in 10th, it didn’t look good for the home team. Standing atop the pegs of his Yamaha and motoring along, he kept his cool and methodically picked off riders, finding third at the halfway mark. With less than five minutes left in the moto, Marty slipped beneath Hansen, the Coliseum erupting in a roar. Tripes held station, and in doing so, won the first true American supercross.

“The ‘Wonder Kid’ Marty Tripes just stole the whole show,” said Weinert, who would win the 1976 Supercross Championship, two years after supercross became an official AMA championship series. “He was very talented, and he had that patented style of standing on the pegs almost the whole time. He was talented and this kind of racing was something that he really liked.”

Today, Marty Tripes, still lives in his native San Diego, where he owns and operates a private motorcycle shop and is an accomplished chef. “We never knew what we had just started would turn into such an awesome sport,” he said. “Now I see how big supercross is, and I just can’t believe it. What stands out was that I set a record for myself that nobody in the world will ever break. I won the first supercross, which was very special.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


On Sunday, August 17, 1997, two very cool things happened in global motorcycle racing. In the United States of America, Team Kawasaki rookie Ricky Carmichael clinched his first AMA 125cc National Championship at the Washougal Motocross Park in Washington State. Meanwhile, over in Europe, Italian-born 125cc Grand Prix contender Valentino Rossi won the British Grand Prix at Donington. A few weeks later, he'd clinch his first FIM World Championship.

Friday, December 8, 2017


Cycle World Magazine: June 1964
Steve McQueen’s 1963 Triumph Bonneville Desert Sled race bike.
Winning desert races is what this machine was set up for. It is the mount of actor Steve McQueen, who recently won the novice class in a one-hour desert scrambles. The victory only proved what a close look at his Triumph Bonneville suggests: McQueen takes his motorcycling seriously. It takes some modifications to wing the rough, dusty hare ‘n hounds, scrambles and enduros that are popular in the southwestern desert. McQueen’s machine was prepared in Bud Ekins’ Sherman Oaks, California shop. They started by replacing the stock wheel with a 1956 Triumph hub and 19″ wheel to reduce unsprung weight. The forks were fitted with sidecar springs and the rake increased slightly by altering the frame at the steering crown. The rear frame hoop was bent upward to accommodate a 4.00 x 18 Dunlop sports knobby, and to it were welded brackets for the Bates cross-country seat. The bars are by Flanders, with leather hand guards, and the throttle cables run over the tank, through alloy brackets to the twin 1 1/8″ Amal carburetors.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Although only 6,000 fans were there that day to witness the feat, what Jean Michel Bayle accomplished on March 5, 1989 at the Gatorback Cycle Park in Gainesville, Florida was, undisputedly, one of the greatest single victories in motocross history. And while that may sound like some very heavy praise, what the Frenchman pulled off in the Sunshine State was not only a tale about where Bayle was going at that point in his young career, but where he had been.

Despite winning the 1988 125cc World Championship and later that summer battling fiercely with American Jeff Ward at the Motocross des Nations in Versenne, France (“I knocked Jean-Michele Bayle down in the last moto to win the overall. It was in France and he was there World Champion or whatever it was,” said Ward of that day) most everyone in the United States of America knew something close to nothing about JMB. Remember, this was the late 1980s, and the American onslaught on global motocross was in full-gear and, for all intents and purposes, be it a United States Grand Prix, an international supercross or a Motocross des Nations, the Yankees won every race they lined up for. Undaunted, Jean-Michele Bayle, even at that point, made it clear to anyone who cared to listen that he had a dream and a dream he refused to let go of.

“In 1989 my goal was to show what I could do in the USA,” said Jean Michele Bayle recently. “The 1989 Grand Prix season for the 250 world championship was not starting up until April so it was okay for me good to start the SX season that January.”

From there, Bayle, be it buy, beg borrow or steal, and sought out any help he could conjure up. “When I arrived in the U.S., I did not have very much help from American Honda. Instead Mitch Payton and Roger DeCoster (who was then overseeing American Honda’s race effort) helped me a lot. Mitch take care of the engines and Roger and Showa took care of my suspension. The bike was a standard base model with a Pro Circuit engine and Factory Showa suspension we took from my practice bike.”

Mitch Payton, who had only started upon creating his Pro Circuit empire at this point, knew Bayle had the right stuff and was highly impressed by Bayle’s attitude and pioneering approach. “Nobody had been at that level in Europe,” reflected Payton. “He had been a 125 champion but his dream was to come to the United States. He was a very independent, strong minded person and was like, ‘I don’t care what, I’m going to the United States.’”

For a rookie Grand Prix refugee, Bayle performed remarkably well during his foray into the supercross stadiums of America. After crashing out heavily in the season opening race at Anaheim, Bayle bounced back – litteraly and figuratively -  to record five straight top 10 finishes (highlighted by a dazzling second at Miami). “The adaptation for supercross was hard due to the close and hard racing,” said Bayle. “However, I was really motivated to show my full potential at the opening round of the 250cc National at Gainesville.”

Back in the 1980s, the American Motorcyclist Association tossed the orphan Gainesville National smack in the middle of the supercross series and so it was eight days after the Atlanta Supercross that Bayle, working out of the back of a large white cargo van that Roger DeCoster had loaned him, that Bayle was about to go head-to-head with the Americans on what he felt was “neutral turf” (read: natural terrain motocross).

That morning during practice, the paddock was rocked heavily with the news that then-dominate rider Rick Johnson had severely dislocated his right wrist. The “Bad Boy” (as he was known at the time) was out of the race. His understudy and American Honda teammate Jeff Stanton was immediately thrust into the Big Red Machine team leader role. Meanwhile, Jean-Michel Bayle began preparing for the opening moto.

When the gate dropped to launch the ’89 National Championship Series, Honda man Stanton aced the holeshot, leading Jeff Ward (there’s that name again) and Bayle out onto the typically sandy Florida track. Stanton would hold sway during the opening phase of the race, while JMB motored up on Ward. Soon, Bayle was through and after Stanton he went. As he began to file away at the American’s lead, Stanton handed the lead over when he slid out over a small jump. Bayle raced away to win the moto by 25 seconds. The pits went quiet.

Bayle found himself in the lead at the start of the second and all conclusive moto, chased by Stanton and Ward. Stanton would find his way past the “Star Buster” (as the back of JMB’s JT Racing pants read) as would Ward (who would win the moto), but Bayle would hold on to a comfortable third place finish, and with it, the overall victory. It was a stunning result and a result heard around the world.

“Of course I realized then i did something very important,” said Bayle, some 25 years later, “because i proved that i was able to race with the best Americans fighting for the USA title. I was also happy for Roger and Micth because they were the two peoples from America to believe in my challenge. I think, to this day, that when I won they were more happy then me! On this day I think the American motocross people understood why I was there. I was there because my goal was just to race with the best riders in the World.”

That spring, Jean Michele Bayle would go back and make a run at the 1989 250cc World Championship. He won it. For the 1990 season, JMB was hired on by American Honda to race in the U.S. on a full-time basis. By 1991, he was the AMA supercross and 250cc and 500cc National Champion. He was also a revolutionary, the first Grand Prix rider of the modern era to fight a war that would allow future champions (and we all know who they are) to come to America in an effort to prove they were, in fact, the world’s best.

“Yes I was the very first to come to USA from the GP circuit,” explained Bayle of his amazing journey. “Of course I had to open many doors and the road to my titles was not easy. However, it was great to realize my goal and my dream, I RACED AGAINS THE BEST! When you are racing you want to win, but you want to win again the best the world has to offer. I was able to do that.”

Friday, October 13, 2017


Team Honda’s Jeff Stanton on his way to winning the 1990 250cc Motocross World Championship race at Unadilla, New York. From 1978 through 1992, the 250cc United States Grand Prix of Motocross ran at the Unadilla Valley Sports Center in New Berlin, New York. Perhaps the greatest natural terrain motocross track in the history of American motocross, the grassy hills, valleys and meadows that made up the place were as world class as the men who lined up to careen around them. Stanton, born and raised in Michigan, won the race in ’90, ’91 and ’92.

Friday, September 29, 2017


Rider introductions at the 1978 Superbowl of Motocross at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (from left to right): Yamaha’s Bob Hannah, Honda’s Marty Smith, Marty Tripes & Jimmy Ellis, Suzuki’s Tony Distefano & Kent Howerton. 
Smith was America's first motocross hero, the first AMA 125cc National Champion. Idloized by kids across the the entire United States of America, Smith would also win a 500cc AMA title. Hannah would race on to become the first supercross superstar, winning the championship three times. Tripes won the very first true supercross race which was held at the L.A. Colseum a few years prior. Ellis was one of the very first AMA Supercross Champions. Distefano and Howerton were both multifold AMA motocross champions.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Backed by the Porsche factory, in 1970 J.W. Automotive Engineering Ltd. set about to race the Porsche 917K. Powered by a 600-horsepower, 300 cubic Inch V12 engine, and the aluminum space frame/fiberglass bodied car astonished all who watched it race. Keenly cognizant of all this, Steve McQueen, then the biggest movie star in the world, took it upon himself to create a film that would feature both the Powder Blue and Marigold Porsche 917K and the world’s biggest race: the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans. A 106-minute film named Le Mans, stared McQueen as Gulf-Porsche 917K driver Michael Delany. The film, Le Mans, took the Powder Blue and Marigold paint scheme and blew it up to help make it the most iconic and recognizable color scheme in motor racing history.
“I was in Le Mans with my dad for four of the months of filming over there,” offered Chad McQueen, who was 10 years-old at the time. “Those colors on the Gulf 917 were so iconic. I mean they’re a big part of my life. Seeing those 917s in the flesh was, and still is, extraordinary.”

Friday, August 25, 2017


Long before Australian-born Chad Reed became a multifold motocross and supercross champion in the United States of America, Perth, Australia’s Jeff Leisk was making international motocross news by first racing the AMA Nationals from 1986 through 1988. A consistent top five finisher in the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc classifications. For the 1989 racing season Leisk decided to head to Europe to fulfill his lifetime dream of racing in the 500cc Motocross World Championship. Aboard a full-on works Honda, Leisk thrilled Grand Prix fans the world over by leading and winning motos along the winning to placing a stunning second overall in the championship to Honda teammate David Thorpe. Shockingly, at the end of the season Leisk announced his retirement and returned to Western Australia. Here, on the cover of Motocross Action, Leisk leads the way at the Hollister Hills, California 500cc USGP of Motocross.

Friday, August 18, 2017


In 1932, the American Motorcyclist Association created Class C for Flat Track motorcycle racing, and in doing so, the prestigious AMA Grand National Championship was fought out in a one day race called the Springfield Mile, and was held on a frighteningly fast, 130-mile-per-hour circuit based at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. During that period, two American motorcycle manufacturers – Harley-Davidson of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Indian of Springfield, Massachusetts – went to war, throwing everything they had at winning the Springfield Mile. From 1947 through 1950, Harley-Davidson held sway, but beginning in 1951, a trio of factory-backed Indian racers got the better of their bitter rivals from Milwaukee. Dubbed the Wrecking Crew, Indian riders Bobby Hill (far right in this photo), Bill Tuman and Ernie Beckman ruled the sport with an American iron fist, Ohioan Hill and his 44.72 cubic inch V-twin Indian Scout winning the title in both 1951 and 1952.

Friday, August 4, 2017


1982 was an amazing year for Americans in global motorcycle racing and the cover of the January 12, 1983 issue of Cycle News certainly illustrated that epic season. In the back row of the cover shot, (from left and all in white) Johnny O’Mara, David Bailey, Danny “Magoo” Chandler and Jim Gibson backed up American success at the 1981 Trophee and Motocross des Nations by winning the ’82 versions of the Olympics of Motocross in Germany and Switzerland, respectively. In the front row (also from left), after over a decade of trying, California’s Brad Lackey (in yellow) won America’s first FIM 500cc Motocross World Championship. In the center, Bruce Penhall won the FIM Speedway World Championship, while to the right, Danny LaPorte, in his first full season in Grand Prix motocross, won the 250cc World Championship. Interestingly, all seven men were born in California.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


I’ve always been a Ducati guy and I’ve never owned anything non-Ducati. This brand is the whole reason why I got into motorcycling. I saw one for the first time and I knew I had to have it, right then and there. It was like seeing the girl of your dreams and all of a sudden, everyone else disappears.

There has always been a temptation to switch to a bigger bike, don’t get me wrong- you know, go to the 1299 or whatever else- but I convinced myself that 160 horse power and 420 pounds fully fuelled was definitely more than my skill level. I’m also the type of person who ends up, to my own discredit, spending more time adding parts to the bike than I enjoy getting to ride it; half because of my busy schedule and the other half is because I turn into a huge poser with these carbon fiber sparkplugs and things of that nature.

So it had to be this 2016 Ducati Panigale. It was way out of my league but still in sight as far as my skill level and at the end of the day, when I look at it, I don’t see any other bike I would rather have.

I’ve been riding for about 10 years now. I wasn’t inspired by anyone in my family. My mom still calls it a “death machine,” and does not know that I ride, to this day. My influence was my childhood best friend, who was a total gear head. He had this 916 poster on his wall and I looked at it and asked, “What’s this?!...Tell me more about it.”

It sort of festered for 9 years until I was financially independent. Then one day I saw a new Ducati 749S and I was completely obsessed with it. I learned everything I could about it. I found one for sale on craigslist and knew it had to be mine. I didn’t even have my motorcycle license at that point. I ended up getting my license and over the weekend I did the MSS course, solely because of this purchase. On Tuesday or Wednesday, I bought a one-way ticket to Seattle. The owner of the bike met me at the airport. I bought it, hopped on the bike and rode 800 miles home along the coast back to California over the next two days.

The first time I had ever ridden down a street was when I swung a leg over the bike at the airport and I took off. The owner knew. As I hopped on, he gave me a look like, “Oh, this is going to be a mess.”

I actually got an email from him asking, “How was the ride back down? Did you crash? Are you in the hospital?”

When I was younger, maybe 7 or 8 years out of college, I was the “Boiler Room” guy and I was always chasing money. I was doing the Wall Street, fun financial job until the great recession hit. I had front row seats. I got to see how some of the policies the company I was working for were negatively affecting mom and pop shops and the like. I was still in New York City by the end of the recession (2011-2012), still working in finance at a major bank.

One day I was sitting on the couch and my fiancĂ© looked up and said, “You look so unhappy. You look so stressed out. Why are you doing this?” and I was looking at a message board or blog about Ducati’s. She goes, “Why don’t you do that? You clearly spend all of your free time on it.”

That following week I quit my job, walked out of the bank and walked straight into Ducati, in New York City. I walked back out and walked back in a handful of times for the next 2 or 3 weeks. I wanted to get into the motorcycle industry and I knew we were moving back to the Bay area, where Ducati North America was located. I figured I might as well try to get some intel on the industry if I’m even going to have a chance. After weeks of borderline criminal harassment of the owner, Steve Rad (of Ducati NYC) he asked me, “What do you want? Why do you keep coming in here?”

I said, “I’ve sent you my resume 4 times and have not received a reply. Here’s my deal; I’m moving back to California… I love Ducati and I’d like to come work for you the next three months that I have left here.”

He said, “I’d love to help you but we just filled our last position.”

To which I replied, “I think you’re not understanding me. I’m not asking to be paid. I just want to come in and learn as much about this business as possible.”

I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse and he said, “I guess I’ll see you on Tuesday.”

He finally gave in.

Steve was great. He had me doing everything from looking over the books to hand washing the bikes. I got to learn the dealership side from the ground up and within two months, Steve called the CFO of DNA and said, “You’ve got to hire this Kurt kid!”

A week later I got a phone call. After that, I eneded up working at DNA for the next four years.

Right now, I’m in a great place in my life. If I’m riding, I will always be in a good place.

Friday, July 28, 2017


1975 AMA 250cc Supercross Champion Jimmy Ellis is a name synonymous with 1970s American motocross and Team CanAm. Ellis, shown here on the cover of the 1976 Texas Supercross race program, signed with the CanAm factory in 1974 to ride the U.S. National Motocross and Supercross Series. And for three straight years Ellis was a perennial threat in any race he lined up for, racing his funky CanAm to a number of top three finishes.