Dirt Bike History 101

Discussion in 'Old's Cool' started by kittycactus, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. kittycactus

    kittycactus Banned

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    Hello everyone. I’m on a mission and I’m hoping you can help me out. My mission is to learn about the history of dirt bikes on the market from the 60’s through the 80’s. Why? Just curiosity mostly, and my ever growing love for all things dirty and muddy on two wheels. I’ve 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. I’m considering trying the Family Enduro series this spring and I’m fascinated by the trials bikes and would love to try one at some point. In short, I started in the dirt and that’s where my interests lie. So there’s my very brief history and now I’m curious about your roots. So here’s what I would like to know if you’re willing:

    What dirt bikes did you own during the 60’s through the 80’s?
    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was it produced [from when to when], what characteristics or quirks were unique to it, what was it’s demise, what model superseded or replaced it, what famous riders of the day also rode it, etc.).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. I’m sure I’m leaving out things, but I hope you get the idea. Thanks! :clap
    #1
  2. nachtflug

    nachtflug infidel

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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? :D
    #2
  3. nachtflug

    nachtflug infidel

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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. :D
    #3
  4. Trailing Jack

    Trailing Jack Dr. Acula

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    This thread really hits home.
    First bike - 1970 Honda SL100, orange, low pipe, blew it up trying to climb a wet grassy hill. Wore a white open face Buco helmet.
    Next up - '71 175DT1 Yamaha "enduro". The gold one. Stripped off the lights, painted it silver(?), Preston Petty "mudder" fender on the front. Began to learn motocross skills. Black helmet (can't remember what brand) with the cool snap on face shield.
    [​IMG]
    1974 CR125 Honda Elsinore. Dream bike. $749 out the door. Bought the red/white/blue helmet, jersey,and leathers (they were leather!) so I could pretend to be Marty Smith.
    [​IMG]
    Started racing against my folk's wishes. Moderate success - some of the best times of my life. Best track we had was Central PA Motocross Park, Stormstown (State College) PA. Regulars included John Savitski, Bevo Forte, and on occassion Mickey Kessler.
    During this fertile time, my buddies and I regularly went to Lexington Ohio where they raced the 125 USGP and Trans-AMA races every year at the now long gone Mid-Ohio motocross facility. Saw an epic battle with Marty Smith and Bob Hannah dicing for the lead while they were kicking then-world champ Gaston Rahier's ass. Saw DeCoster come from way behind in a mud bath Trans-AM to challenge for the lead only to lose his rear fender (from the weight of the mud) and have his airbox suck mud causing a DNF. Right in front of us. He was wearing white coveralls over his leathers. Seems like yesterday.
    Also collected all the Dirt Bike and MX Action mags - during the days of Super Hunky and the BAZ. - Still have most of 'em.
    Back to the bikes- next up 1978 Yamaha 125YZE. Changed to the new leather/nylon JT leathers. Still have 'em along with my Full Bore boots.
    Racing career ended about this time corresponding with knee surgury.
    [​IMG]

    Other bikes since have include bigger, faster dirt bikes in the later 80's but nothing can compare (for me) to those days and those bikes.
    Thanks for starting this thread, Flug, and bringing back great times.

    Chuck
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  5. nachtflug

    nachtflug infidel

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    :deal

    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.

    [​IMG]
    #5
  6. nachtflug

    nachtflug infidel

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    dude.

    I knew I could count on you. :strum

    but the credit for the thread goes to catcuskitty who was patient enough to sift through some BS in Jomomma and then asking some good questions about "dirt bikes". I suggested she start a thread here as I thought her relatively newer perspective of "dirt bikes" would provide a good chalk board to work on and with minus the distraction of some of those "idiots" in jomomma. :D

    this will be fun.

    :flug
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  7. Trailing Jack

    Trailing Jack Dr. Acula

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    Amen to that, my brother!
    Try to stay here and away from the morass that is JM!
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  8. Roadslayer

    Roadslayer Adventurer

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  9. kittycactus

    kittycactus Banned

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    Hey thanks for the responses so far! I do realize there are some great threads here and that some of the information I’m looking for is already here, but most of my available free time is at home and we live in BFE and we have dial up ... and after spending a half hour and successfully loading a whooping three pages of a thread that has 1000+ posts, my attention span snaps and I loose heart. I am sincere in wanting to learn and would appreciate your help. I’m doing some reading on my own and trying to educate myself, but hearing about personal experiences with the bikes I’m wanting to learn about and seeing pictures of them really drives it home. Thanks again!<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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  10. modre

    modre Banned

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    my first dirt bike was a 1966 500 triumph T100C single carb 2 into 1 pipe on the left, brother had a BSA 441 Victor...this was before the Japanese dirt bikes cam in.

    then had a 72-3 (the grey one) 360 Yamaha Enduro . nice engine crap for handling but bullet proof

    a '66 Bultaco Sherpa S 125 was a riot...an old race bike that was drilled everywhere for lightness 26 hp at the crank and a flat track slider

    and the last was a 73 Penton Jackpiner w/175 KTM

    Attached Files:

    #10
  11. Trailing Jack

    Trailing Jack Dr. Acula

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    here's one from the mecca of all things vintage dirt bike...Vintage Motorcycle Days in Lexington Ohio. If you've never been there, you're cheating yourself.

    [​IMG]

    and one from last year...Mr Flug and myself spent a couple of days wandering around at VMD collecting these autographs.

    [​IMG]
    #11
  12. kittycactus

    kittycactus Banned

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    Okay, I was able to actually read this in peace and enjoy it. What great information! Thanks for sharing that. Okay, first truely clueless question, who was Super Hunky?
    #12
  13. ADK

    ADK ____

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    Super Hunky (Rick Sieman) is the creator and original editor of Dirt Bike magazine. google his name, there is plenty about him on the web.:deal :beer
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  14. nachtflug

    nachtflug infidel

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    he's kind of like our John Madden...:D
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  15. Solaros1

    Solaros1 Long timer

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    The first "real" dirt bikes that many of us old guys ever experienced were very far removed from what anyone could consider as a dirt bike today. Back before my time the Harley Sportsters and Triumph Trophys were considered dirt bikes except for a few English 350cc and 500cc singles.

    For those of us who entered motorcycling in the mid-sixties the first dirt bike we were exposed to were the Honda CL72's and CL77's (or the Trail 90). The Honda 305 Scrambler was a high piped 350lb twin with a generous 3-1/2" of travel in the front fork. It won Baja, introduced thousands of us to off-road adventures, left burn scars on the inside of our left leg when it fell on us and made a glorious sound unlike any bike before or since. They were big, (relatively) fast and looked cool and it was my first motorcycle. It was true pig off road but when you're sixteen who cares - it was fun.

    Yamaha changed the world when it introduced the DT-1 250cc in 1968. Sure there were other two stoke dirt bikes out there (who can forget Hodakas?) but the DT-1 was the first mass produced, relatively light motorcycle that was available in huge quantities to feed the growing off-road market. At one time almost half the guys I knew who had motorcycles owned a DT-1 (myself included). They didn't handle that well and you fell down a lot but they really dragged a lot of guys into the sport.

    Then came "On Any Sunday" and Huskys became the thing to have - a friend of mine got a Husky 360 - he was the fastest guy in the pack without question. I bought an Ossa - it came equipped with knobbys and better suspension than the Yamaha and I stopped falling down so much. The dirt bike world exploded with new models coming out faster than you could keep track but I'd say those old 305 Hondas were the seed bike for a lot of us fifty-somethings.
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  16. ROSKO

    ROSKO The Dirty Knacker

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  17. Wirespokes

    Wirespokes Beemerholics Anonymous

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    Agreed! I'd had a few bikes before the 305 - a 150 Honda dream, 175 Honda Scrambler and then the 305 Scrambler. It was just like you said - heavy, no suspension but was fairly powerful for 305cc. That was the one I took dirt riding and even hill climbed a few times. Damn those things were rugged! A guy I knew missed a turn coming home in the dark and went a good fifty or sixty feet down to the canyon below. Trees all around. Must have been a hell of a flight in the dark! Somehow he only broke his collar bone and I think the bike just needed it's fenders straightened to be rideable again. Another guy I knew lost it on a hill climb and it flipped and flopped a long ways down. I think it broke a mirror and bent the fenders but was rideable afterwards.

    One time I was on a down hill slippery stretch and the bike went sideways and trapped me underneath. Of course it was on the left side with the exhausts pinning my left leg under it. And I was lying down hill and couldn't get the bike off of me. At least I'd never removed the exhaust pipe guards so I didn't get burned. Fifteen minutes later my riding buddy came back that way and lifted it off of me.

    Another time I bogged in a sandy section next to the river. If you didn't know, those bikes had very rugged rims with a strengthening ridge on each side. So when the bike started to sink into the sand, the rim held onto it and made the bike even heavier. The motor would die when I let out the clutch and eventually I couldn't kick start the engine because the kickstart lever didn't have enough travel before hitting the sand. All the time I pictured seeing just the handlebars and mirrors above the sand, and then it was gone. Eventually I got smart and laid the bike over sideways and dragged it out of there.

    I wish I'd kept that one - it was a '62 250 (but bored out to 320) built prior to any being shipped over here. It's probably pretty valuable now. I sure liked the sound of that thing with Snuff-R-Nots. Remember those? One time one blew out and I was headed to the shop for another - perhaps more quickly than I should have and a cop going the other direction somehow noticed this. Those guys can sure turn around fast! :D Luckily I only got a fix it ticket.
    #17
  18. motu

    motu Loose Pre Unit

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    When I used to watch ''scrambles'' as a young teenager the bikes were all British singles,with the odd twin in the mix....and the rare Rickman.Most of the bikes were homemade,stripped down,backyard swingarm conversions.....We are talking New Zealand here,the end of the world where we saw the latest thing in an out of date magazine,and then copied it out of what was to hand.

    I remember seeing my first Bultaco - it was so bizarre,very small and light,it made a hell of a racket and beat all the big bikes....like,WTF???

    This isn't my first dirt bike,but it was the first real dirt bike I had,not some Japanese trail bike,but the real deal.

    [​IMG]
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  19. kittycactus

    kittycactus Banned

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    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 it‘s 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 wasn’t much and there was a lot of homemade fabrication going on.
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  20. kittycactus

    kittycactus Banned

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    Thanks for the history motu! What time period are you writing about in this post? And as for the picture above - what is it? That was part of the problem I encountered going through some of the other threads here, the bikes were not always labeled. I wish I had much more time to spend online, but I don't.
    #20