Sideburn and See See Motorcycles have joined forces to bring Dirt Quake to the USA! Flat track racing that ain’t pretty or professional, but it sure is a whole helluva lotta fun! And that’s the point!

The original Dirt Quake, back in 2012, was Sideburn magazine’s idea to get novices racing their motorcycles that don’t fit into normal motorcycle sport, and at minimum cost. For 2014 Sideburn has partnered with See See Motorcycles of Portland, OR to take Dirt Quake to a Grand National Championship track in the Pacific Northwest.

Dirt Quake USA is a two-day event with the opportunity to watch the pros and top amateurs race pure flat track bikes on Saturday, then race, or point at complete novices competing on totally unfit-for-purpose bikes, in the special Dirt Quake classes on Sunday. Saturday night is a camp out with live music. Sunday is purely for road bikes and the emphasis is on fun and enjoying the experience, not red mist and race bikes. It’s also a show for spectators of all ages and will include dangerous stunts, live music– and the unforgettable spectacle of watching the exceptionally unprepared try to race the wilfully inappropriate!

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Dave Ekins, 1954 class win at Catalina Grand National Race, on a 250cc NSU Renn Sport Max. Photo courtesy of Bud and Dave Ekins Collection. “Blister goop, castor oil, and blood were soaked into what had been a new pair of gloves. I never rode that motorcycle again. They sent it back to Neckersolm, Germany.” 

The anniversary of Steve McQueen’s passing is on my mind, as well as the Ekins brothers and the incredible motorcycling history that they forged separately and together. May their tales and achievements be retold and marveled-over by many generations to come. It’s that rich. Stories like this one (via budanddaveekins.com) from the lips of Dave Ekins himself, unpacking in firsthand detail what it was like to be on the first American ISDT racing team with Steve McQueen, Cliff Coleman, John Steen, and his brother Bud Ekins as they traveled, prepped, and raced together are utterly priceless.

“When the Erfurt trials was over and the British had finished second to the all conquering East Germans because some ‘Yanks’ had outdone the Limeys in a few of the special tests, an English journalist aired his views of the U.S. Vase team: ‘Those Yanks just came to have fun and were not a bit serious about winning. They were a bloody nuisance to our boys.’ But from Sid Chilton, public relations manager of Triumph of Coventry, came the reply: ‘I think the Yanks had the right idea. After all, nobody paid them to ride the International so why not make a holiday out of it? Even so, two of them won Gold Medals and one a Silver. The only objection I have is that they are all so bloody handsome!’ –Dave Ekins

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sgtoepfer oilers car club

Scott Toepfer, a guy I’m humbled to call my friend, came to the Jersey Shore to shoot the second annual The Race of the Gentlemen organized by Mel Stultz (OCC) and put on by the legendary Oiler’s Car Club. It’s an event that can only be adequately described by someone who was actually there in the thick of it– and Toepfer was kind enough to share his personal thoughts with TSY on the sights, sounds, and experiences had by a California boy in Wildwood, Jersey. Great stuff, Scott!

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© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporation

James Hunt on the winner’s podium (L to R): Patrick Depailler (FRA) Tyrrell, second; race winner James Hunt (GBR) McLaren; John Watson (GBR) Penske, third. French Grand Prix, 1976. — Image © Phipps / Sutton Images / Corbis

I’m stoked to see Rush this weekend– the much anticipated film by Ron Howard on one of Formula One’s most talented and notorious drivers ever, James “The Shunt” Hunt. The seemingly insatiable ladies’ man was estimated to have had 5,000 trysts in his lifetime. History tells of a wicked weekend where buddy and fellow (motorcycle) racing legend Barry Sheene tallied 33 BA stewardesses lined-up at the door of their Tokyo Hilton suite. It’ll be interesting to see if Chris Hemsworth is able to capture his wit and charm, and if he can keep his muscles from overshadowing the memory of Hunt’s lean, lanky frame hard-earned by a physical exercise regiment consisting largely of driving, and shagging. The perfect primer for Rush is the documentary When Playboy’s ruled the World which accurately and colorfully takes you back to the glory days of Hunt & Sheene when driving was dangerous, and sex was safe. More epic photos of James Hunt in action after the video…

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A great article from 1971 unearthed from the Sports Illustrated archives– Steve McQueen discussing desert bike riding with Bud Ekins & Malcolm Smith, Racing in the 12 Hours of Sebring with Pete Revson, The Great Escape, his son Chad, and much more.

McQueen even recalls exactly when he was bitten by the off-road bug– “Well, I was riding along Sepulveda with Dennis Hopper when we saw these guys bopping and bumping through the weeds near there, off the road. It was Keenan Wynn and another guy on these strange machines, dirt bikes they called them. We asked Keenan if he could climb that cliff. ‘Watch this,’ he says. Varoom! Right up to the top. Dennis and I were standing there with our eyes out to here. The very next day I went out and bought me a 500-cc Triumph dirt bike.”

Read on friends, read on.

Steve McQueen riding his Husqvarna 400 motorcycle. Below is an article from SI magazine, 1971.


*  *  *

By Robert F. Jones

By any name, Steve McQueen gets all revved up over dirt bikes.

Slamming one across the California Desert is now his Great Escape.


The opening scene: California’s Mojave Desert at high noon. Dead silence. Through the shimmering heat waves, Mount San Jacinto seems to writhe on the horizon like a dying brontosaurus. The spines of the cactus at foreground right are in sharp focus, the gleaming spearpoints of a vegetable army. In the shadow of a boulder, sudden movement. A Gila monster raises its beadwork head and flicks its tongue, alert to the distant sound that is just beginning to insinuate itself into the desert’s quiet. A sudden, ululating whine, the invading noise rapidly gains strength as four distorted dots on the horizon weave closer. The dots take on color and shape s they approach: a quartet of red and chrome motorcycles, stunting and racketing through the puckerbushes, their riders vaulting the ridges and slaloming through the cactus at 70 mph. Their ominous, mechanical verve sends the Gila monster– descendant of the dinosaurs– scuttling for shelter. The camers zooms in on the lead rider’s face, sun-blackened and jut-jawed under his helmet. Up music and credits: hold onto your popcorn, folks–

Harvey Mushman rides again!

That scenario, or one like it, takes place nearly every weekend in the desert surrounding Palm Springs. Harvey Mushman is the ocassional pseudonym of Steve McQueen, movie actor and motor sportsman, when he goes a-racing. His companions on those fast, racking transits of the wasteland often include the best of the desert-riding breed: Bud Ekins or Roger Riddell, Mert Lawwill or Malcolm Smith. Now and then a smaller figure on a smaller bike trails behind, slower but only a touch less skillful in his handling of the desert’s harsh nuance– Chad McQueen, the actor’s 10-year-old son.

June 13th, 1971 – Steve McQueen riding his Husqvarna 400 motorcycle in the Mojave Desert — Photo by Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

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1960 Lime Rock Nationals– Denise McCluggage sits on the grid  while SCCA gets things straight.

Back in 1955 or so, a young Denise McCluggage had a chance encounter with a then unknown Steve McQueen which led to a brief affair and a long-lasting friendship. They would be separated by their own career ambitions, and the many demands and erratic schedules that come with the territory. That said, McCluggage managed to stay in touch over the years. She herself would go on to become a legend in the world of auto racing– a renowned driver, writer, and photographer for over 50 yrs. McCluggage has won trophies around the world and raced for Porsche, Jaguar, Lotus, Mini Cooper, Alfa, Elva, OSCA, Volvo, among others. In 1961 she won the grand touring category at Sebring in a Ferrari 250 GT, and in 1964 McCluggage scored a class win in the Rallye de Monte Carlo for Ford. She shared her remembrances of McQueen and their relationship years after his passing, published in AutoWeek magazine back in 1981. She recalls a young, lean McQueen who was already obsessed with cars and racing, who swept her off her feet with his searing looks, charm and well… incongruity, as she puts it.

1955, Steve McQueen as he looked back in the day, running around the Village w/ Denise McCluggage – Image by © Roy Schatt

Shortly after our reunion he had sidled up next to me and whispered in my ear: “I’m falling in love all over again,” and given me the full brunt of the smile. My response had been an instantaneous hoot of laughter. –Denise McCluggage

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My friend Matt over at Smoke & Throttle is on a very cool quest to retrace the tracks left behind by his late father, 1987 AHRMA Champ, Robert “Snuffy” Smith. Matt was knee deep in his father’s racing circle as a kid. It was a way of life, plain and simple. But now that Matt has a love of motorcycles all his own, and a new taste for racing– he’s grown a whole new respect and appreciation for his beloved dad’s passion and accomplishments on the track. Armed with a new perspective, it’s pretty meaningful to reflect back on and understand just how special those days were. I’m excited to see this story unfold as Matt shares it with us over the weeks and months to come. Read on.

1996– Robert “Snuffy” Smith on his ’76 Triumph T140 (25) and Jesse Morris (295) at Daytona.

“I grew up going to the races with my father, the late Robert ‘Snuffy’ Smith. I always loved the hustle and bustle of the pit area. Rushing to get the jetting corrected before the next heat race, or trouble shooting timing issues with minutes left before the green flag drops. Multiple people tearing into a bike like doctors working on an accident victim after being wheeled into the E.R.. It excited me then – and as I’ve gotten back into going to races – it excites me even more now. I knew after last weekends trip to Roebling Road that wrenching on my own bike and competing was just something I HAD to experience.”

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Gary Nixon started racing when he was 15-yrs-old– professionally at 17. Short and wiry at only 89 pounds– his slight size gave him an advantage over many of his bigger and more experienced competitors. Nixon would have his break-through year in 1963– winning his first AMA National road race, following-up 3 weeks later with a convincing victory in a short-track National race. He would finish the ’63 season ranked sixth in the Grand National Series.

Nixon’s speed, strength and skills accelerated, and the wins kept coming. In 1966 he was AMA Grand National runner-up to Bart Markel– and took the top honor of National Cycle Champion for 1967 & 1968. Nixon was known as one of the most tenacious and tough competitors ever, who often rode injured. For three years he raced with a battered leg held together by an 18-inch rod of stainless steel. The injuries would soon catch-up with Nixon, and he would be limited to mainly road racing. True to Nixon’s legendary skill and determination to win, he became one of the best pavement racers on the scene.

The history books should also reflect Gary Nixon as the 1976 World Formula 750 series champion, and the first American to win this honor– but Nixon was screwed by the bureaucratic governing board’s late decision to throw out a controversial race during the season. This would cost Nixon precious points, and ultimately the title.

Gary Nixon will not only be remembered  as a great champion who earned the respect and admiration of teammates, competitors, and fans alike– he was also one of the most colorful characters to ever grace the sport.  RIP Gary Nixon.


“Back in the day, you had to do like everything– dirt track, road race, TT, short track, mile, 1/2 mile…  when I was a young kid, I was kind of a sports freak. I liked playing baseball, and playing football– but then everyone got big and I stayed small… Then, playing baseball, I got hit in the head with the bat– and I thought, man this is not it! So, I’d seen a couple [motorcycle] races, and some pictures in magazines, and I thought– Well, I want to do that, you know! Then, it just so happened that a guy came into town and had a bike that needed a rider…”

–Gary Nixon


Gary Nixon, 1967 National Motorcycle Champion– who held the AMA #1 plate in 1967 & 1968. “To those who follow the sport, Nixon is the American dream, the champion– and that’s what earned him the right to blur around tracks this year with No. 1 displayed on anything he rides.” –Baltimore Sun, Sunday Magazine, 1968

“Gary had the ego of a racer, and you need an ego to be a racer. He was known to go to the starting gate before the start of a race and say, ‘Which one of you is coming in second?’ He rode injured, and for his size was a strong man. He did one arm pushups for strength. He said, ‘If you want to go faster– you have to brake harder than anyone else when going into curves.’ And in order to keep the bike from wobbling, he had to have strong arms.”

–Robert Glick

Arguably one of the most iconic and loved images of motorcycle racing legend Gary Nixon. Taken at the old Ascot Park Speedway back in 1967– Nixon, tongue out, sliding into the half-mile oval track turn.

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Early Days — image by Photo Tim

“I was a kid that was enthralled with motorsports.  When I was 11 yrs old or so, a friend from schools parents took me to Ascot Park.  I started sneaking into the pits to be closer to the racers by going around the back where they had a 20m pile of gravel to shield it from the passing cars on the freeway.”

“One issue with sneaking in to the pits is you don’t have anything to do, so I would stand around and talk to one of the guys taking photographs, Dan Mahoney.  One night he handed me a camera and placed a little white pebble on the track.  He said, ‘when the bikes get there push this button.’  I did and the result is the photo below.  I was 12 yrs old at the time.  The next week Dan said I had a natural talent and would I like a job shooting the races.  I was a part of racing!!!  Ok, not on the track, but still…”

–Photo Tim

Early Days — image by Photo Tim

Early Days — image by Photo Tim

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“Your arse, if you’re going fast enough.”

–Barry’s famous retort when asked by BBC, “What goes through your mind during a crash?”

In a brilliant racing career in which he amassed back-to-back World Championships (’76 & ’77), 23 Grand Prix victories, and 52 Podium finishes in all– the late, great Barry Sheene is one of the most loved and remembered motorcycle racing legends to this day. The victories alone, as impressive as they were, would not be enough immortalize the man. It was Sheene’s fearless spirit & iron will, a body that was repeatedly broken but not beaten, and his witty charm & handsome looks, that have eternally endeared him to racing fans around the world. It’s that old cliche– every woman wanted him, and every man wanted to be him.

Barry’s career was no doubt impacted by two major crashes that are forever a part of motorcycle racing history. The 1st occurred in 1975– at the Daytona 200, a locked rear wheel at 170 mph jerked him violently and Barry lost control. It’s a wonder he survived at all– amazingly, he didn’t even lose consciousness. In fact, he later recounted the crash in detail as the unforgiving track pummeled his flailing body. He suffered a shattered left leg, smashed thigh, broke six ribs, a wrist, and his collarbone.  When Barry awoke at the hospital, he didn’t miss a beat– asking the attending nurse for a fag (cigarette, for you Yanks out there). The 2nd came in 1982–  the two-time World Champion crashed (again going 170 mph) at Silverstone during practice for the British Grand Prix. Barry later recalled, “Wasn’t my fault; came over a hill and there was a wreck right in front of me.” They feared he’d never walk again, let alone return to the racetrack. His legs were compared to “crushed eggs,” taking eight hours to piece back together– with the aid of two stainless steel posts, two steel plates and almost 30 steel screws. After Barry was told he might be able to bend his knees in three months time, he did it in two and a half weeks– and returned to racing the following year. Some took to calling him– Bionic Barry. How you like them apples?

October 4th, 1958, Southwark, London– Motorcyclist Frank Sheene here pictured with his young son (the future legend Barry Sheene) at Club Day —Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis. Barry’s old man, Frank Sheene, was no slouch on a bike himself– and could even turn a wrench.  The young and fearless Barry was on a bike at the wee age of 5 yrs old–  a Ducati 50cc motorbike. He entered his first competitive race at the age of 17 at Brands Hatch. He Crashed, (DNF). Wasting no time, Barry entered again the very next weekend and won the bloody thing. The Barry Sheene racing dye was cast.


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