Friday, February 27, 2015

Today in motorcycle history, February 27, 1929




  The legend that is Les Archer Jr is born in his grandfather's garage in Farnham, Surrey.

  Les Archer Jr starts his life story off, "I was born with a "Silver Spoon in my mouth". How else do you describe a kid born into a family so dedicated to our sport. My grandfather competed in motorcycle events on the actual ground where the first motocross took place in 1924. Follow this with a father who won his first race on a 250cc New Imperial at Brooklands in 1926. Little wonder that my first memories are of the roar of racing engines coupled with the smell of Castrol 'R'..."

  Les was known for competing in long distance speed trials, road racing and scrambles (motocross), riding/racing/winning in Algiers, France, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Sweden and, of course, England.

  Archer rode in the 1947 Isle of Man TT, the 1950 International Six Days Trial (ISDT) as a member of the British Army team. He competed alongside his travelling companion Eric Cheney (Aerial), who went on to become one of the top British motorcycle designers. Archer was also a member of the victorious British team at the 1953 Motocross des Nations. Winner of the 1956 F.I.M. 500cc European Motocross Championship on a highly modified Manx Norton. He would help further the development of the Manx Norton with the famed motorman, Ray Petty.

  Les Archer Jr has some of his winning motorcycles featured at The National Motorcycle Museum (Solihull, West Midlands), Sammy Millers Motorcycle Museum (New Milton, Hampshire) and the AMA Motorcycle Museum (Pickerington, Ohio USA). Plan a trip.

  Today in motorcycle history proudly supports the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Today in motorcycle history, February 25, 1939




  Bathurst (NSW Australia) Speedway racing legend, Bluey Wilkinson poses for his first motorcycle advertisement, the German built 'Victoria'. The bike is their new lightweight, two-stroke V 99 Fix.

  Riding/racing in England for the West Ham Hammers (1929-1938), Wilkinson would win the 1937 National League Championship with them. However the pinnacle of his career was becoming Solo World Champion in 1938 at Wembley Stadium.

  Bluey's 1938 championship win was considered a real ballsy effort considering he had actually broken his left collarbone in a match for West Ham the night before the World Final. Determined not to miss the final, Bluey had the Tottenham Hotspur club doctor put his arm and shoulder in plaster. He ignored the pain he was in to win his first four rides before finishing a safe second in his fifth and last to clinch the World Championship before a crowd of 95,000.

  Shortly after winning the 1938 World Championship Wilkinson would become the first Speedway rider to appear in Madame Tussaud's London wax museum. 

  During his career, Wilkinson also rode for Australia in test matches against England and the United States. He scored a maximum 18 points in each of the five Tests against England staged in Australia in the 1937/38 season, a feat he failed to duplicate the following season by only a single point.

   He retired from riding in 1939 to become the promoter at the Sheffield Speedway. Tragically, less than a year later on July 27, 1940, Bluey Wilkinson would be killed in a road accident in the Sydney suburb of Bondi.

  Arthur George "Bluey" Wilkinson was inducted into the Australian Speedway Hall of Fame in 2008.

  Today in motorcycle history proudly supports the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Today in motorcycle history, February 24, 1998



  Robbie Knievel jumps more than two-thirds the length of an NFL football field, breaking his own record of 230 feet by a single foot.

  Nevada Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren, a neurosurgeon, headed the medical team on hand at the Tropicana Hotel for the Fox network's big two-hour television special "Daredevils Live: Shattering the Records". 
More than 70 stunts, most previously taped across the country, were included in the show.

  The wind was a major concern for Knievel. Butch Laswell, a friend and fellow stuntman, was killed in March 1996 when crosswinds pushed his motorcycle off course as he tried a 65-foot leap over a suspended walkway at the Oasis resort in Mesquite, Nev., 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

  Wind had remained the stuntman's greatest fear by nightfall Monday as wicked winds whipped through the valley shortly before the sky opened and rain poured down. But by Tuesday afternoon, the wind had calmed to a breeze and the rain was gone. By sundown, the show was set to go on.

  It was Evel Knievel who fired up the crowd, traveling by wheelchair the length of the limos to a limited edition Harley-Davidson that he rode up the landing ramp to address the masses.

  "Every child watching this event should know," the crippled older daredevil began. "Neither Rob nor I believe in the words 'no fear' ... If you have no fear, you're thinking the wrong way. Have fear, and have a great life."

   "Robbie's one of the finest ever on two wheels," said stuntman Bubba Blackwell*, who showed up to support Knievel. At the time Blackwell was gearing up to jump 20 cars in Boston on a Harley-Davidson XR75, the same type bike Evel Knievel jumped 19 cars with and almost twice as heavy as what Robbie Knievel rides.

  "Awesome!" New Yorker Vincent Notarstefano ecstatically exclaimed as Knievel hit a perfect landing, easily clearing the 30 limos. "Even if there were more cars, he could have done it, no problem."

  Few left the Tropicana  as ecstatic as Tim Connick.

  The longtime resident of Las Vegas and a fellow motorcycle rider, Connick has followed the Knievels from as far back as he can remember. Tim was the first spectator to reach Robbie Knievel after the jump waving his well-worn paperback edition of "The Cycle Jumpers" detailing the careers of Evel Knievel and Gary Wells. Robbie autographed it right next to his father's signature.

  "I hung out with Matthew McConaughey tonight, he offered to buy me a beer. I've met Bon Jovi," Connick said. "None of it means as much to me as meeting Evel and Robbie."

  Bon Jovi?

  *Bubba Blackwell broke Knievel's last remaining jump record on a Harley-Davidson XR-750 by jumping 52 stacked cars on October 4, 2008. The jump took place at the Deep South Speedway located between Pensacola, Florida and Mobile, Alabama.

  Today in motorcycle history proudly supports the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD).

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Today in motorcycle history, February 22, 1904



  One of the greatest American motorcycle racers of all time, Joseph "Smokin' Joe" Petrali is born in San Francisco.

  Joe Petrali was known as one of the last great Class A racing stars who competed in board track racing, dirt track, speed records and hillclimbs. From the mid-1920's to the mid-30's Joe Petrali won an amazing 49 AMA National Championship races, a record that stood for 55 years.

  On March 13, 1937 at Daytona Beach,  Joe rode a specially built streamlined 61" Harley-Davidson knucklehead to a new one-mile motorcycle speed record of 136.183 mph. That record would stand for 11 years until Rollie Free finally broke the mark on a Vincent at the Bonneville Salt Flats. 

  Joseph A. Petrali was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 1998.

  Today in motorcycle history proudly supports the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Today in motorcycle history, February 21, 2003


  Celebrity motorcycle crashes #19:"Baywatch" star David Hasselhoff crashes his Harley-Davidson on Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles.

  David Hasselhoff and his wife, Pamela, were riding on Sepulveda Boulevard aboard his custom-built 2003 Harley-Davidson when they were hit by a gust of wind (seriously). Hasselhoff lost control of the bike and collided with a curb, throwing both of them from the motorcycle. Hasselhoff struck a light pole as his wife landed on the soft shoulder of the road.

  According to Los Angeles police spokesman Jason Lee, David Hasselhoff suffered a fractured lower back and several ribs as well as minor abrasions and contusions. Pamela Hasselhoff suffered possible fractures of her left ankle and right wrist. After a quick 'hair and make-up' they were both taken to nearby UCLA Medical Center for treatment, where both were listed in stable condition, Lee said in a statement.

  A spokesman for Hasselhoff, who starred as the studly Chief Lifeguard Mitch Buchannon on the syndicated hit "Baywatch", could not immediately be reached for comment on the accident.

  "Baywatch" debuted on NBC in 1989 and was canceled after one season. But Hasselhoff and his partners acquired rights to the show and brought it back as a syndicated series in 1991 based on its insane popularity overseas.

  The beach drama also made household names of Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra and Yasmine Bleeth. Okay, maybe not Yasmine.

  David Hasselhoff also starred in the 1980's crime-fighting series "Knight Rider, which featured the uber intelligent 1986 Firebird, "KITT".

  Today in motorcycle history proudly supports the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD).

Friday, February 20, 2015

Today in motorcycle history, February 20, 2006



  Four-time Isle of Man TT winner, Raymond Pickrell dies at 67.

  Ray Pickrell learned to ride fast on the north London roads around the Ace Cafe and the Busy Bee where bikers used to hold impromptu races.

  After acquiring a second-hand 500cc Manx Norton, Ray competed in his first race, at Brands Hatch, in March of 1961. A long and expensive apprenticeship followed with his father maintaining his ex-Bob McIntyre 350cc Manx. Gradually Pickrell's results improved, helped in part by having the engines rebuilt each winter by the legendary engine tuner, Francis Beart.

  In 1964, he suffered his first major crash. He awoke in the hospital with a broken thigh; a massive pin driven down the center of the bone holding it in place.

  The following season, struggling financially with racing becoming increasingly expensive, he was on the verge of giving up when ex-racer Geoff Monty offered Ray a sponsorship deal which involved him racing a 250cc Bultaco, a 350cc Aermacchi and a Triumph-engined 500cc "Monard" (bastard bike built by Geoff Monty/Dudley Ward).

  Without having to worry about the expense of maintaining the bikes, Pickrell continued to impress, and in 1967 he caught the eye of the south London Norton dealer Paul Dunstall.

  Pickrell responded with a string of successes, and he scored his first major win in the big-bike final at Snetterton, riding a 750cc Domiracer. The results prompted Dunstall to offer him full sponsorship for 1968, and Pickrell responded by winning an astounding 17 races!

  He jumped at the chance to ride for the Triumph/BSA team in 1971 and was an immediate success on their three-cylinder 750cc racers.

  Pickrell teamed with Percy Tait riding the famous Triumph Trident "Slippery Sam"; and finished the year by winning the world's premier endurance race, the 24 hour Bol d'Or in France.

  He won two TT races in June 1972 - the Production Machine Race on "Slippery Sam", and the Formula 750 race on a Triumph.

  The last big race of the year for the Triumph team was the Mallory Park Race of the Year meeting in September.

  Pickrell finished fourth in the feature event, and the team seemed set to take the first four places in the supporting 1000cc event, until his bike locked as he negotiated the "Devil's Elbow" at more than 90 mph.

  "There was nothing I could do," he reflected. "I went flying and when I landed Tony Jefferies' bike came out of the air and fell on me. It smashed my pelvis into six pieces and left me screaming in agony."

  Raymond Pickrell would eventually recover, although he never raced again.

  Today in motorcycle history proudly supports the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Today in motorcycle history, February 19, 1984



  Russian Ice Speedway rider, Anatoly Vasilievich Gladyshev, dies after getting tangled with another rider while making a pass on an inner lane during a race in Moscow. Anatoly was thrown from his bike directly into the path of oncoming riders. He is killed instantly.

   A master mechanic, the 37 year-old Gladyshev was offered the position of mechanic for the Russian national team if he retired, but twisting a wrench couldn't compare to twisting the throttle. So, he continued competing, mostly as a sub replacing injured teammates.

  After Anatoly Gladyshev's death an annual race was held in his honor in Irkutsk (Siberia).

  A two-time World Champion, Gladyshev won a Gold Medal in 1979 (the first Team World Championship) with team Inzell and again in 1981 as a member of Assen.


  Also on this day in 1980, Bon Scott dies in South London.

  Today in motorcycle history proudly supports the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD).

Friday, February 13, 2015

Today in motorcycle history, February 13, 1970

Black Sabbath motorcycle    Black Sabbath motorcycle

Black Sabbath motorcycle  Black Sabbath motorcycle


  Black Sabbath release their debut album, "Black Sabbath". The album will go on to "change the face of rock music."


  The images their lyrics (and sound) evoke are that of skulls, smoke and demons, perfectly suited for motorcycle paint jobs.

  I was in a "biker bar" in Maine that only had Black Sabbath on their jukebox. Only Sabbath CD's. It was great.  I used to work with a guy that had a 1965 ironhead Sportster. He had  the image of the album "Paranoid" on the tank and "Ironman" painted on the oil tank. Man, he thought that was so cool.

  Rolling Stone '​s Lester Bangs described the band as, "just like Cream! But worse," and he dismissed the album as "a shuck – despite the murky song titles and some inane lyrics that sound like Vanilla Fudge paying doggerel tribute to Aleister Crowley...."

  Forty-five years later Black Sabbath's music can still be heard cranked-up in bike bars worldwide. 


  Today in motorcycle history proudly supports the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD).

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Today in motorcycle history, February 12, 1972




  The 15,007,034th VW Beetle rolls off the assembly line, breaking the record for total production set by the Model T Ford. 
  Now, what to do with all those old's trike time!

  Join the rearend of a Volkswagen with the frontend of a motorcycle, cover it with a body painted primer grey or candy apple red, chrome-out the motor and fit it with a couple of big-ass Weber carbs, throw on some fat tires and you have yourself a trike!

  The VW trike is fast, lightweight and damn good on gas. Why, it's the perfect blend of car and bike. Whether you're doing the mild, a DIY VW trike kit or the wild, such as "The Bug Eye", a 1966 chopped Beetle body with a 96" Harley-Davidson shovelhead motor, 14" over twisted springer front end with a 21" front wheel. The Beetle is the perfect starting point for a trike conversion.

  Today in motorcycle history proudly supports the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Today in motorcycle history, February 11, 2007

   I came across this on one of my internet travels in search of a motorcycle tech or tale.  From "Transversality" by Robert O'Toole, University of Warwick in Coventry, UK, dated February 11, 2007. Maybe it will inspire someone out there to go for a a library.

  One of the best accounts of a motorcycle ride, by a great writer and diarist: T.E. Lawrence, from his RAF journals, The Mint.

  The Road

  The extravagance in which my surplus emotion expressed itself lay on the road. So long as roads were tarred blue and straight; not hedged; and empty and dry, so long I was rich.

  Nightly I’d run up from the hangar, upon the last stroke of work, spurring my tired feet to be nimble. The very movement refreshed them, after the day-long restraint of service. In five minutes my bed would be down, ready for the night: in four more I was in breeches and puttees, pulling on my gauntlets as I walked over to my bike, which lived in a garage-hut, opposite. Its tyres never wanted air, its engine had a habit of starting at second kick: a good habit, for only by frantic plunges upon the starting pedal could my puny weight force the engine over the seven atmospheres of its compression.

  Boanerges’ first glad roar at being alive again nightly jarred the huts of Cadet College into life. ‘There he goes, the noisy bugger,’ someone would say enviously in every flight. It is part of an airman’s profession to be knowing with engines: and a thoroughbred engine is our undying satisfaction. The camp wore the virtue of my Brough like a flower in its cap. Tonight Tug and Dusty came to the step of our hut to see me off. ‘Running down to Smoke, perhaps?’ jeered Dusty; hitting at my regular game of London and back for tea on fine Wednesday afternoons.

  Boa is a top-gear machine, as sweet in that as most single-cylinders in middle. I chug lordlily past the guard-room and through the speed limit at no more than sixteen. Round the bend, past the farm, and the way straightens. Now for it. The engine’s final development is fifty-two horse-power. A miracle that all this docile strength waits behind one tiny lever for the pleasure of my hand....

  Today in motorcycle history proudly supports the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD).