“Before Michael Jordan, Jackie Robinson, or Jesse Owens, there was Marshall “Major” Taylor. The greatest athlete the world ever forgot.”
In 1896, 18-year-old “Major” Taylor dominated the competitive cycling scene as “the most formidable racer in America,” earning up to $15,000 per race. In 1898, at age 20, he set seven world records. In 1899, at age 21, he was the first black World Champion in Montreal, and the American Sprint Champion that year and the next year, 1900.
Major Taylor was undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes of his time, but cycling soon declined thanks to the new found fascination with the automobile. The Great Depression, personal trials, and health woes took their toll on Taylor and he soon slipped away into the fog of forgotten memories. Sadly, in 1932 he died a lonely pauper in a Chicago YMCA. In 1948, Taylor was re-buried in Glenview Cemetery, Chicago thanks to the rallying support of Frank Schwinn of the Schwinn Bicycle Company.viaCheck out that amazing Fearnhead bevel-wheel gear shaft-drive bicycle he’s on!
This is the one event that I seriously regret missing this year!
Dirtquake USA, brought to you by See See Motorcycles & Sideburn Magazine is the self-described “…go fast, turn left celebration made for anyone and everyone with motorcycle unfit for the half-mile Castle Rock Dirt Circle. A spectacle that cannot be unseen, an event that will leave you trembling in anticipation as world class racers compete in four uncommon categories: Inappropriate Road Bike; Street Tracker; Kitchen Sink; and everyone’s favorite Chopper Flat Track.”
Check out the amazing recap film by Ray Gordon’s Throttled Films which somehow captures the spirit of the event that to me feels like the epic The Bad News Bears bike scene on Rocket Fuel. “It sure was a hoot, and I can’t believe we pulled it off! I don’t think a group of people could’ve had more fun. It’s just impossible.” ~ Ray Gordon
“After losing his wife (and mother of their 3 boys) in 1958, John Penton went on an absolute tear on the enduro circuit trying to outrun his grief. Family members cared for his boys while Penton dismissed the winter cold and rode off for Daytona on his 175cc NSU motorcycle. Stopping in Atlanta, Penton won the Stone Mountain Enduro, then rode the NSU to Florida winning the Alligator Enduro, and racked up a few more wins across the Midwest– including his first victory at the Jack Pine.
Penton closed out 1958 with a road trip to Mexico. Upon hitting California on the way up the Pacific Coast, he decided it was time to return home to Ohio and did so non-stop– inspiring his brother Ted to challenge him to break the New York to Los Angeles transcontinental record.”
“On June 8th, 1959 John Penton recorded his time and location with Western Union in New York City and set off for California on a BMW R69S outfitted with an oversized gas tank. On June 10th, just Fifty-two hours and eleven minutes later, Penton rolled into Los Angeles. His record was heavily advertised by BMW, and newspapers all over the world covered the record run. Penton was now a legend in motorcycling.”via
Sideburnand 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!
“I was a senior in high school. I remember thinking Sonny Liston was the meanest, baddest man on the planet. He was an ex-con, controlled by the mob, and one look at him could shrink a man into a boy. Clay was the glib, smack-talking pretty boy. Most fans predicted his early demise. The fight was talked about for weeks after it was over. I was hooked. Boxing became my favorite sport.” –Jackie Kallen, fight manager
It was an epic, wierd-ass time for this country. It just was. February, 1964 and just a few months earlier America had seen it’s golden boy, President Kennedy the King of Camelot, shot down in the street like a dog, in broad daylight, in Dallas Goddamn Texas. The state would feel the impact for decades, as the entire country just could not forgive Texas for letting this happen to the President on their watch. America still had a collective black eye from the tragic loss and desperately needed something to rally around. And boy did we get it– the fight that would change boxing forever. The invincible, stoic champ, Sonny Liston vs. the young, brash showman (AKA the Louisville Lip) Cassius Clay. To add to the pandemonium, The Beatles had landed on our shore at JFK February 7th for their historic, record-breaking performances that would change music forever. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like to be alive during such an epic time in history.
“The Beatles were royally pissed. They were brought to the beach first for a photo op with the champ. Liston took one look and said, ‘I won’t pose with those sissies.’ So they’re brought to meet Clay instead. I’m at the gym. Clay’s late. The Beatles are cursing. He finally shows up and says, ‘Come on Beatles. Let’s go make some money.’ They strike a pose in the ring where he taps George and the rest go down like dominoes. Clay says, ‘You boys aren’t as stupid as you look.’ John Lennon says, ‘No, but you are.’ Then they go off to their destiny and Ali goes off to his.”–Robert Lipsyte, who covered the fight for the New York Times
TSY recenty received a scan of this great old Wall of death rider, along with the below note from the sender, Brian in Kansas City, MO. Anyone with knowledge of the rider, and/or this particular Wall of Death motordrome is kindly asked to chime in:
“…I am a collector of postcards and a while back I purchased a postcard of a man on a motorcycle riding in some kind of spectator show. Your article helped clarify a lot about the photo. I have attached the photo and thought maybe you have seen it before or could provide some more info. The back of the card is particularly interesting. It reads: ‘About 1912– Later he was killed– Someone threw a peanut at him– caused him to dodge and lose balance, falling with cycle to bottom of pit killing him.’ Sounds likes sport spectators were not much different then as they are today. I thought maybe the motorcycle may have been a Cyclone, however I don’t think it is. The lettering on his shirt may bring some clue as well…”
Back In Dec. ’09 TSY posted what remains today one of our more popular stories– Wall of Death riders with a lion, no less. I mean, really…old photos of a lion riding the Wall of Death is damn hard to beat…unless you have a video of said lion riding the Wall of Death! At that time there wasn’t a moving image to be found, but British Pathe, an amazing archive of historic film clips, uncovered a little gem of ‘Fearless Egbert’ giving his lion named Monarch a spin back in 1934. They also uncovered incredible film footage of ‘Tornado Smith’ with his Lion, ‘Briton’. It’s definitely worth a look…
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
One thing that Triumph figured out a long time ago in their quest for power and speed– if one engine is good, then 2 engines is even better. In the ’50s & ’60s Triumph motorcycles dominated the Salt Flats, even naming their 1959 T120 ‘Bonneville’ after the famed proving grounds. Now Triumph is back in a bid to reclaim Bonneville with the fierce as f**k twin-engined ‘Castrol Rocket’ developed by Castrol, Hot Rod Conspiracy, Carpenter Racing, and Triumph North America. The result is hands-down the world’s most technologically-advanced streamlined motorcycle.
“Niki Lauda had raised concerns about the safety of the track at the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring, but couldn’t convince other drivers to join him in protest. Due to a reported rear suspension failure, coupled with a wet track, his car swerved off course, hit an embankment, and burst into flames. Trapped inside the car, Lauda inhaled toxic gases and suffered severe burns to his entire head, including his scalp and eyelids. Lauda lapsed into a coma and nearly died. Yet just six weeks later, he was back on the track—and on James Hunt’s tail.”via
This past week, Lee Raskin (motorsports historian, author, and vintage racer) wrote and said he’d recently gotten some racing friends together for a Rush viewing night in Baltimore. He shared his educated theory on a deeply intriguing scene that seems to nod to an old school racing superstition. So with all due respect, esteemed Director Ron Howard, there’s a question that begs to be asked here…
So there’s this little festival called Chopped put on each year in Country Victoria – Australia. The guys were kind enough to send TSY a note as they thought we would appreciate the madness that they create down under… Enjoy!
Drag racing where it started– in the dirt!
A throwback in time to a 1950s – ’60s Hop Up Carnival! Hundreds of cars and bikes rattled by the sounds of 25+ bands belting the roots of rock music to thousands of Rockers, Petrol Heads, Hipsters & Greasers! This is Chopped the only festival of its type it in the world!