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Noteworthy Articles

This Month In Motorcycle History

Brought to you by Today in Motorcycle History

July 16, 1972 Evel Knievel jumps 13 buses at the now-defunct Minnesota Dragways. Montana's favorite son, friend to Presidents and Elvis, motorcycle daredevil extraordinaire, Evel Knievel successfully jumps thirteen buses placed side-by-side on a blisteringly hot afternoon at Minnesota Dragways in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. It wouldn't have been an official Evel event without some sort of memorable drama: one longtime Anoka County resident, who was eight months pregnant at the time, passed out in the inescapable heat, and came to in her car in time to hear a loudspeaker announcement about the “lady who needed assistance.” Moments later, Evel Knievel himself appeared at the window to ask if she was OK, and she was, but she was unable to get back inside to see him jump.

Oh yeah, a private Lear jet crashed into Knievel’s trailer while landing at the drag strip. Today in motorcycle history proudly supports the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD). www.nabd.org.uk Posted by Unknown at 7:14 AM Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest.

July 17, 1974 Buck Owens' right-hand man, Don Rich, is killed when the 1972 Harley-Davidson Sportster he's riding crashes in Morro Bay, California. One of country music’s most distinctive guitar players, a rock solid fiddler, tear-jerkin' tenor harmony singer and an accomplished songwriter in his own right, Don Rich was equally as important as Buck Owens in creating the 'Bakersfield Sound', one of the few sustained commercial alternatives to Nashville.

After finishing work at Buck Owens' Bakersfield studio, Rich left to join his family for a vacation on the central coast of California. For unknown reasons, his Sportster hit a center divider on northbound Highway 1 at Yerba Buena Road in Morro Bay. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the then Sierra Vista Hospital in San Luis Obispo at 10:37 that evening, California Highway Patrol officials stated that there were no skid marks and no apparent mechanical problems.

Donald Eugene "Don Rich" Ulrich was 32.
July 20, 1948 I came across this 'letters to the editor' in "The Times" from San Mateo, California, dated Tuesday, July 20, 1948. I thought you might find it interesting. 'Motorcycle Gangsters Must Be Removed From the Roads' Disgraceful performances by hoodlums on motorcycles, this year at Riverside, last year at Hollister, and with monotonous regularity in our own San Mateo county, are bringing precisely the result that might have been expected.

A lot of folks are giving voice to those fateful words: "There ought to be a law '." Motorcycles, while not objects of beauty, are in themselves inoffensive. The trouble with them is some of the people who ride them. There seems to be something rather too exhilarating about getting astride a motorcycle and riding off in a cloud of gas fumes and noise.

At least it is far too wearing on those of us who prefer the comparative safety of four-wheeled vehicles or the reliable "Shanks' mare." After each outrageous episode there are always letters from duly organized motorcyclists' associations in which they disclaim responsibility for the outrages. These letters always deplore the misbehavior of the supposedly unorganized riders who are blamed for raising "hell on wheels.'' Rightly enough, the motorcycle associations hold the fear that the bad name being gained by the hoodlums will bring laws in restraint of the peaceful and reasonable use of motorcycles.

They may well entertain such fear. Luckless motorists who have been driving lawfully are frequently struck by motorcycles ridden by persons who not only proceed without caution, but careen crazily about under the impression that the highways have been created for their sole use. When this happens, the motorist often finds himself surrounded by a gang of other motorcyclists bent on insisting that he is drunk or wholly to blame for the collision.

Many times members of these gangs are themselves drunk or anxious to start a fight. This sort of behavior cannot be tolerated and. while no doubt the careful riders of the motorcycle associations deserve some sympathy, it is obvious that the laws governing the use of motorcycles must be made more stringent.

The associations admit that they have no control over the marauding gangster type of riders, and, if they cannot control them, the only alternative is to allow the law to do so. When the legislature convenes again it should be a first order of business to consider changes in the motor vehicle code which can effectively put a stop to motorcycle gangsterism. Whether this is to be done by outlawing these vehicles for pleasure use, by requiring the use of sealed speed governors, by changing the age limit for riders drastically upward, or by some other means, is a matter upon which state highway officials should be fully prepared to advise the legislature.

The decent law-abiding motorists of California, and the people in both cities and rural areas, have the right to demand such a change in the law. Mr. Donald Peterson, San Mateo Thanks, Don...

July 21, 1972 Derek Hine of Palo Alto, California, applies for a patent for his "Kit for converting a conventional motorcycle into snowmobile." From Brunswick, Maine to Duluth, Minnesota to Malmo, Sweden, bikers have been searching for a way to make a beer run in February when the old lady (or old man, to be fair) has the truck while outside a foot of snow has covered the path to the closest liquor store.

Search no more! Grab some wrenches and a bottle opener! Mr. Hine's conversion kit is quick and easy. Attaches to any conventional motorcycle frame and power plant from your neighbor's 50cc Honda Cub to your 110" Harley shovelhead.

''The conversion kit includes a drive track assembly and steering ski unit attachable to the conventional frame and forks of a motorcycle from which the wheels have been removed. The drive track assembly includes a rigid tubular steel frame on which are suitably journaled two sets of drive track sprockets adapted to engage a pair of continuous twin tracks. A drive mechanism is secured to the track frame and operatively engages one set of sprockets with primary source of power to effectively drive the endless tracks over the surface of the snow.

A bike frame mounting beam is mounted on the track frame for controlled pivotal movement about a generally longitudinally extending lean axis inclined to intercept the surface of the snow ahead of the track assembly. Torsion bar means are provided associated with the mounting beam to resiliently control leaning movement of the motor frame in relation to the track frame. Means are also provided in one aspect of the torsion bar means to adjust the effective length of the torsion bar to increase or decrease the force required to be applied to lean the motor frame in relation to the track assembly.

Increased stability and maneuverability of the snowmobile is provided by arranging the ski unit in relation to the fork structure so that the steering axis intersects the lean axis at the surface of the snow on which the snowmobile is to operate." .
July 22, 1990 On a hot and humid Florida afternoon, Doug Chandler wins the inaugural Camel Motorcycle Grand Prix of Miami. Riding for Muzzy Kawasaki, Doug Chandler wins his third AMA Superbike race in a row, this race just happens to be the inaugural Camel Motorcycle Grand Prix of Miami. Doug beat his Kawasaki teammate Scott Russell by 19 seconds, in front of an estimated crowd of 20,000 in Bicentennial Park.

He would be in the lead during all 31 laps around the 1.51-mile temporary circuit through downtown Miami. The event, which had been scheduled to last 40 laps, was halted due to a breakdown in communication with workers around the 11-turn course.Race officials blamed a blown fuse for the communications snafu. Chandler is one of only four riders in AMA racing history to win the AMA Grand Slam, representing National wins at a mile, half-mile, short track, TT and road race.

He was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2006.
July 25, 1972 Under Dennis Poore's leadership, Norton licenses the Wankel design. Along with most of the automobile industry, BSA was convinced that the Wankel was the engine of the future. So sure in fact, that in 1969 they hired engineer David Garside to begin exploration of Wankel engines for motorcycles.

Garside's small band of engine-minded freaks began experimenting with a Fitchel and Sachs single-rotor engine, and with changes to the intake system, gained a mind-blowing 85% more power, to 32 hp. Suddenly the experimental engine looked appealing. But, economic catastrophe at BSA meant that development was put on a back burner.

BSA was pronounced dead in 1973 and the British government formed NVT - Norton-Villiers-Triumph...BSA was dropped from the title. The Wankel rotary engine is one of the greatest near-misses of 20th century engineering. It promised to revolutionize the bikes we rode and cars we drove, but despite decades of work never quite overcame the problems that prevented it from becoming a mainstream hit.

The basic idea of the Wankel is getting rid of all the reciprocating parts of a normal engine – pistons, rods, valves – and replacing them with a design that does the same sequence using purely rotating parts is mind-twisting, but brilliant. Sadly it’s a genius that’s snafued by a couple of flaws, which have effectively ended its challenge to conventional piston engines. Norton would spend most of the 1970's dicking around with prototype rotary-powered bikes, it wasn't until took until 1984 before it would set the machine shop to gear up production, the 'P42'.

Alas, the 'P42' model was never sold to the public. Norton's first production Wankel would be known as the Interpol II. But you still couldn’t actually buy one.

Not unless you were a police force or breakdown service, that is. Norton had a long history of supplying bikes to the police, with the original Interpol Commando built from 1970-77. The Interpol II used Norton's well-developed 588cc air-cooled twin-rotor engine gave 85hp, and was in production from 1984-89, with only around 350 ever built.

July 27, 2007 The BMW R1200GS and R1200GS Adventure reach a production record of 100,000 units since its launch in 2004, making it the most popular BMW of all time. In 2004 the R1150GS Adventure was made popular after actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman along with the cameraman Claudio von Planta rode from London to New York by going east across Europe, central Asia, Alaska, Canada and the U.S. covering a distance of 22,345 miles.

The trip included visits to several UNICEF programs along the route, and formed the basis of a television series and a best-selling book, both called "Long Way Round".They continued their association with the GS when Boormanused an F650RR during his 2006 Dakar Rally attempt, which was documented in the book and TV series "Race to Dakar", and again in 2007 when both used the R1200GS Adventure in their journey "Long Way Down", in which they rode from John o'Groats at the northern tip of Scotland, to Cape Agulhas in South Africa at the southern tip of the African continent.

Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart chose a R1100GS for his 14 month, 55,000 mile self-healing trip, documented in the book "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road", that he made following the deaths of his wife and daughter. Peart also rode the R1200GS (with an 1150GS as a backup) on his 2004 motorcycle trip between gigs on Rush's 30th Anniversary tour, a trip he documented in the book "Roadshow: Landscape with Drums, A Concert Tour By Motorcycle". The TV food freak Alton Brown and his crew rode R1200GS motorcycles during season 2 of the television program "Feasting on Asphalt".

They rode BMW R1200RT motorcycles during season 1, but found the GS better suited for the rocky backroads they would find themselves on.
July 28, 1967 On only his third jump using a Triumph T120 Bonneville, America's master of self promotion, Evel Knievel crashes attempting to clear sixteen cars and trucks in Graham, Washington. Since trading his Norton Atlas for a Triumph, Evel Knievel successfully cleared sixteen cars in Gardena, California. "Piece of cake." So, when he attempted the same jump in Graham, Washington, the same result was expected.

Always expect the unexpected. Landing the Bonnie's rear wheel on a panel truck that was serving as the last vehicle, Knievel was thrown an estimated 30 feet from his bike. Somehow he would only suffer a concussion and minor bruising.

After a month his mind cleared and he returned to Graham on August 18 to finish the show; "give the people what they want." I assume the people wanted to see a crash because that's what they got. Again coming up short, Knievel crashed, breaking his left wrist, right knee and two ribs. That damn panel truck.

July 29, 1972 At *U.S. 30 Dragstrip in Hobart, Indiana, Tom "T.C." Christenson became the first man to exceed 180 mph in the quarter-mile aboard his twin-engine Norton 'Hogslayer'. T.C.

Christenson and Norton master-mind John Gregory built their first double-engine Hogslayer in 1970 after being deeply impressed by Boris Murray's double-engine Triumph. Marrying two twin-cylinder Commando motors it became one of the first drag bikes to incorporate fuel injection because they claimed carburetors could not deliver enough fuel to the engines to make them competitive. The awesome 1760cc Snortin' Norton ruled drag strips in the mid-70's, winning every major motorcycle dragrace and attracting huge crowds.

Christenson named it the Hogslayer to taunt/piss off his Harley-Davidson rivals. Hogslayer also made several guest appearances in Britain, running Europe’s first sub-nine second quarter-mile at Silverstone in 1974. "Humiliation on the strips...is what Tom Christenson inflicted on the rest of the world's dragsters.

It's hard to imagine it if you haven't seen it." - Motor Cycle magazine *U.S. 30 Dragway closed in 1984 and is now a field of overgrown weeds with a 20 year-old "Commercial Property For Sale" sign. Only one building remains – a small white wooden shack once known as the “Goodie Booth”.

The only other standing structures are some light and speaker poles that dot the landscape and a large broken-down set of bleachers, relocated from their original place at some point.
July 31, 1983 Northern Ireland's Norman Brown and Switzerland's Peter Huber are both killed during the sixth lap of the 500cc Class British Grand Prix at Silverstone. As a light drizzle was falling, Norman Brown was seen coming down Hangar Straight with his left arm held straight up. He was riding slowly, about 40-50 mph, clearly experiencing mechanical problems and trying to get to the pits or waiting for a chance to get to the inside of the circuit.

Norman took to the outside of the track going through the ever-fast Stowe Corner. Entering the corner he was in full view of riders coming down the straight at about twice his speed. A few riders safely overtook him before the corner, but as he exited Stowe, still holding the outside and waving his hand, he found himself on the racing line in a point where it was extremely difficult for the oncoming riders to see him.

Three riders came out of Stowe and found Brown about 25 feet from the apex of the corner and 3 feet in from the edge of the track. All three managed to avoid him, two of them by passing on the outside on the small concrete overrun between the grass and the track. Brown continued on for another 100 feet or so when another group of riders approached Stowe.

The last rider in the group was Peter Huber who had his view obscured by the bikes in front of him. As Huber exited the corner he turned his head back to check his position, as most riders do. In doing so he did not see the slow bike ahead of him and went full-speed into the back of Brown.

Norman Brown was pronounced dead at the track. Peter Huber was airlifted by helicopter to the Radcliffe Hospital of Oxford, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Norman Brown was from Newry, County Down, North Ireland.

Peter Huber was from St. Gallen, Switzerland.

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