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Old 01-21-2008, 04:32 AM   #1
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Dirt Bike History 101

Hello everyone. Iím on a mission and Iím hoping you can help me out. My mission is to learn about the history of dirt bikes on the market from the 60ís through the 80ís. Why? Just curiosity mostly, and my ever growing love for all things dirty and muddy on two wheels. Iíve ridden for about 8 years solid now, some street, but mostly off road (trail and woods riding and some dual sporting). My first dirt bike was a 1981 RM125 and presently I have a 2002 KX100 and a 2007 TE250. Iím considering trying the Family Enduro series this spring and Iím fascinated by the trials bikes and would love to try one at some point. In short, I started in the dirt and thatís where my interests lie. So thereís my very brief history and now Iím curious about your roots. So hereís what I would like to know if youíre willing:

What dirt bikes did you own during the 60ís through the 80ís?
What can you tell me about the history of those bikes ( i.e. how many years was it produced [from when to when], what characteristics or quirks were unique to it, what was itís demise, what model superseded or replaced it, what famous riders of the day also rode it, etc.).
What kind of riding were you into on these bikes and did you compete with it and if so, what (hare scrambles, motocross, enduros, trials, flat trackers, etc.)?

Lastly, would love to see pictures of those bikes you owned or representative examples. Iím sure Iím leaving out things, but I hope you get the idea. Thanks!
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Old 01-21-2008, 05:07 AM   #2
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great thread title and its high time something like this got rolling. the last thing I need is another diversion to stare at a computer screen but what the heck. by the time we get done here they'll print it as a book over on smugmug.

as the captions in Dirt Bike used to say, "when the green flag drops the bullshit stops", although it never worked that way.

hey my firts bike was 5 up not one down 4 up. you know you used to tell people your gear shift pattern when they were taking your bike for a first ride?
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Old 01-21-2008, 09:30 AM   #3
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before we get rolling...one of the things that I pondered whilst driving to work today about this topic, was the role the dealer (or lack of) played, meaning, not everybody had access to all 4 major japanese brands "back in the day" (some place still don't even now) on top of the very random chance close proximity of a european brand dealer.

We cut our teeth at a Kawasaki/Bultaco dealer, and also Yamaha, although we did also have a Suzuki dealer in town who was selling Penton and Husqvarna.

I could be wrong but I heard Moroneys was the 1st Suzuki dealer in the US?

We never had a Maico or a CZ dealer locally, so seeing lots of CZ's and Maicos at the races was really captivating given the aura of unobtanium about them.

couple with that, the Honda factor.

even though we didn't have a Honda dealer close by it wouldn't have mattered, as Honda (from my perspective of 1970/71/72) was not considered a "real dirt bike" until the 1973 Elsinore came out and changed everything overnight.

they really were considered a...soft,.... not serious,....geek bike?

But I know that Honda's weren't totally out of it pre 1973 as Rod Peck has posted some SWEET pics of him on his 350 circa early 70's. But I think that was more out west as modifying a 350 for dirt use would have been much more practical than in the east given the terrain.

which brings up another point about California and the role it played in the course of...Dirt Bike History 101.

Has anyone seen Gary Chaplin? Bruce MacDougal?

We've got a lot of material to cover.
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Old 01-21-2008, 09:39 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nachtflug
But I know that Honda's weren't totally out of it pre 1973 as Ron Peck has posted some SWEET pics of him on his 350 circa early 70's.


thats what I'm talking about. an advrider since 2003 with 63 posts and has stuff like this in his dossier.

just a stunning vintage shot that sums up a LOT about circa 1970 japanese bikes competing against european bikes as seen in the backround of this superb shot.

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Old 01-22-2008, 04:01 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nachtflug
even though we didn't have a Honda dealer close by it wouldn't have mattered, as Honda (from my perspective of 1970/71/72) was not considered a "real dirt bike" until the 1973 Elsinore came out and changed everything overnight.
Did the Elsinore line starting in 1973 evolve into the CR that we have today?

It's interesting that engine displacement seems to be all over the place with the older bikes. Any particular reason for that or was it just a period of trial and error and growth? How did they lump bikes together for races? Why is there so little off size displacement presently available? KTM is the only one I can think of off hand that has any substantial off size offering with their 105, 200, 300, 530 (I think itĎs 530 now?).

When the jap bikes were first introduced in the states, how were they received; were people excited about them or were they looked upon with distain like the Chinese bikes now entering our market, some of both?
At what point were aftermarket parts readily available (a different pipe for example)? It sounds like there wasnít much and there was a lot of homemade fabrication going on.
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Old 01-22-2008, 07:28 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kittycactus
Did the Elsinore line starting in 1973 evolve into the CR that we have today?

It's interesting that engine displacement seems to be all over the place with the older bikes. Any particular reason for that or was it just a period of trial and error and growth? How did they lump bikes together for races? Why is there so little off size displacement presently available? KTM is the only one I can think of off hand that has any substantial off size offering with their 105, 200, 300, 530 (I think itĎs 530 now?).

When the jap bikes were first introduced in the states, how were they received; were people excited about them or were they looked upon with distain like the Chinese bikes now entering our market, some of both?
At what point were aftermarket parts readily available (a different pipe for example)? It sounds like there wasnít much and there was a lot of homemade fabrication going on.
'73 is when it really took off, the Elsinore, (I had 2 of them, the tranny was good for about 50 hours. Then the shift dogs would round off and it would pop out of gear) was the first Japanese bike that could and did put it to the Europeans.

In a drag race, a 250 Elsinore would just walk away from a Husky or CZ. Nothing had what would you call 'handling', except for a Maico. And the Maico was so good because they had figured out you needed to be sitting as far forward as possible. Super Hunky described it as 'The forks seem like they're coming out of your crotch'. Getting the weight on the front tire made it able to carve a turn.

Elsinores didn't turn for shit, I cut 1 1/2" out of the frame to try to get it to turn. Another Dirt Bike mod. They did it and used a CR 125 gas tank, because it was shorter. We just cut the front of the seat off and did it cheap. The tank was $150 or so.

I think the 150, 160, 175, was a marketing gimmick. It didn't cost any more to bore it out, but they could get 10% more for it. Back then Honda built in-line fours of 350,400,500,550,650,750,900 displacement. Other than the amount of metal used, the labor and machining time was the same for all those bikes. But you could buy the 350 for $1100 when the 750 was $1900. So you can see it cost about $500 to build all those displacements, they just made a ton of money on the bigger ones.

They had the same thing at the bottom of the line, you could get 50, 55, 75, 90, 100. It was really different back then.

Where is Wolvertucky? I was thinking Allen Park, Southgate, somewhere down there. But you have dial up, so it's got to be out in the boonies, like me.
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Old 01-22-2008, 09:27 AM   #7
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My contribution. My first bike was a 1966 Yamaha 80 YG1. This is it after I bobbed the rear fender, added a J&R pipe, GYT cylinder, Pirelli MT53 tires and a fork brace. Bought it at Long Beach Triumph on PCH. Raced it a couple of times at the Elsinore TT races and found it wouldn't keep up with the 100cc bikes.

I also drag raced it a bit at Lions Drag strip in Long Beach and Irwindale. This is it in drag race trim.

When I got out of the Coast Guard, I went to work for Dale Brown Motors on Long Beach Blvd. They let me ride the "Shop" racer at Trojan Raceway in South Gate. I was hooked. Bought my second bike, a 1968 Suzuki A100 and installed the hop-up kit. Raced Elsinore, Perris, Adelanto, and South Gate a lot.
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Old 01-22-2008, 09:59 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El Hombre
Where is Wolvertucky? I was thinking Allen Park, Southgate, somewhere down there. But you have dial up, so it's got to be out in the boonies, like me.
Thanks for your info El Hombre, very good reading. This is the kind of history you don't find every day!

We live about 40 miles from the Mackinaw Bridge. Our town's name is Wolverine, but I call it Wolvertucky because there are some real characters that live around there. Love being out in the country next to state land, hate dial up.
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Old 01-22-2008, 09:44 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kittycactus
Did the Elsinore line starting in 1973 evolve into the CR that we have today?
most definitely.

and once again thanks for starting this thread, it has the makings of a classic.

the first 1973 silver tank down pipe elsinores were from the start designated CR's.



Honda only offered (to the public) the 125 and 250 however until the 1982(?) 450 which was only one year, then the 480 for a couple of years, maybe only 2(?) and then the mighty CR500 which had a very long run.

but as others have stated the first CR's really changed the game.

I'll disagree with one of the posts in as far as the Suzuki TM's and the 1972 Yamaha DT2 and RT2 MX's were pushing the euro's around and even winning, but the Elsinores blew them out of the water for a few years. But in 1975/76 they went to an up pipe on the 250 and slipped back a bit in terms of their place at the top of the heap. The 125's were for the most part neck and neck with each other from the big 4, though the sheer numbers of the Elsinores gave them an edge if for that reason alone. Back then 125's could and were ridden by a lot of skinny wide eyed teenagers WFO. Just keep shifting.

It was a matter of who backed of first, and some just never did.

But no matter the brand if you could keep it pegged in the 125 class you would get results.

The riders of the mid 70's era 125cc bikes may have been the only riders who ever could truly keep a legitimate motocross bike pegged virtually non stop. You weren't doing that on a 250 or open class bike, and you certainly couldn't do it (as much) on later generation bikes. There was and is just too much power and tractability on the later bikes that the speeds would dictate a little prudence.

as Dice Clay would say, "thats what I think anyway"...

great thread for all who are pitching in!
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Old 01-22-2008, 09:51 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nachtflug

I'll disagree with one of the posts in as far as the Suzuki TM's and the 1972 Yamaha DT2 and RT2 MX's were pushing the euro's around and even winning, but the Elsinores blew them out of the water for a few years.

That's the way I remember it too, except the '75 YZ 125/250 were killing everyone because of the suspension travel (and power). I think the Elsinores were faster but Yamaha's monoshock kept them hooked up better. They really closed the gap with the Europeans because of suspension technology. I guess '74 was the end of the classic age
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Old 01-22-2008, 09:52 AM   #11
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Here's an unlabeled bike from nachtflugs motorcycle thread, fifth page in, what year and model is it, was it any good?

Edit: I’m guessing this is late 70’s early 80’s since it still has the twin rear shocks, it’s a two stroke – obviously it’s a Kawasaki – what other features are a give away as to what it is? It’s got a low slung pipe which is odd looking. It has the older style front forks (telescopic?). I haven’t really got that figured out entirely though (difference between the forks).

kittycactus screwed with this post 01-22-2008 at 10:25 AM
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Old 01-22-2008, 10:08 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nachtflug

but as others have stated the first CR's really changed the game.



But no matter the brand if you could keep it pegged in the 125 class you would get results.
Maybe because of where I lived or because I owned a 125 Elsinore, I recall that it was the 125 more than the 250 that really had an impact. The Maicos, Huskys and CZ's still seemed to rule the bigger classes in our area up untill the Japanese stuff really developed the suspension technology.
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Old 01-22-2008, 03:15 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kittycactus
It's interesting that engine displacement seems to be all over the place with the older bikes. Any particular reason for that or was it just a period of trial and error and growth? How did they lump bikes together for races?
I think it might be a little misleading. things were either 125-250, or open class, sometimes referred to as the 500 class.

but anything bigger than a 250 went there and they all knew the deal. there were few real 500's except the thumpers, BSA's etc, but then again it all depends when you were talking about. For me, starting point of reference 1970, the 500 class was an endless procession of 350's, 360's, 370's 380's 390's, 400's galore, 420's, 440's, 450's, 480's, 490's the legendary 501 Maico, and then the big boys on the BSA's and even Triumphs.

You run what you brought in the 500 class. too bad they killed it.

and we're talking more MX here. In scrambles there would be also a 200 class chock full of Bultaco's with a few stragglers thrown in on Pentons or hotted up Jap.

and of course lets not forget the 100 class chock full of Hodaka's and more hotted up Jap with the Kawasaki Centurion as a bonafide race bike circa 1970. the 100 class made the 125's sound like thumpers in comparision.

then of course in enduro's there would be a 175 class....

and of course todays 250 class where you can run a 450. :ymca

and the 125 class where you can run a 250 :ymca :ymca

but they've finally changed it to legitamize the cheaters. to "lights"
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Old 01-22-2008, 03:18 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nachtflug
Iendless procession of 350's, 360's, 370's 380's 390's, 400's galore, 420's, 440's, 450's, 480's, 490's the legendary 501 Maico,
as I sit here with a 465 Yamaha 100 feet away from me albeit outdoors in a garage.

I knew I left somebody out.

hey what about the 430 Husky's! The 495 KTM's!!
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Old 01-23-2008, 01:13 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nachtflug

then of course in enduro's there would be a 175 class....
I understood about the other classes, but not this one?
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