Over the last few months, INFO MOTO has been publishing a series of stories that detail some of the most important moments in motorcycling history. Here they all are.
Evel Knievel’s Wembley jump
The day one man made the decision to jump 13 buses, even though he was pretty sure he’d never make it. Womaniser, drunk and massively popular, Evel Knievel was an enigma.
Whatever you may think, the man had a set of nuts as big as your head.
The scene was London’s Wembley Stadium. The date May 25, 1975. Knievel was attempting to jump 13 buses.
Mick Doohan’s Assen crash
Mick Doohan is without doubt the bravest racer to ever take to the track.
At the top of his game and about to take the grand prix world by storm in 1992, he fell heavily during qualifying for the Dutch TT – his Honda NSR500 tossing him skywards in a massive highside and landing on top of him, smashing his right leg, breaking the tibia and fibula in the process.
On Any Sunday
Released in 1971, On any Sunday was greeted with a resounding cheer from real motorcyclists.
For once here was a motorcycle-based story that told it like it was, and indeed still is.
With a touch of humour, fantastic stop motion and slow motion photography, the film suggested a decent dollop of motorcycle nous, but still appealed to those not involved. It was remarkably clever on that front.
In 1992 design engineer and glass artist John Britten set up the Britten Motorcycle Company in Christchurch New Zealand.
A driven individual, Britten produced his own drawings, constructed his own patterns and designed the engine and chassis.
He designed two engines of differing capacities to suit varying racing formulas – the Britten V1000 and the Britten V1100 racer versions in four and five valves per cylinder, with power varying between 155 and 170bhp.
Honda CB750 K0
In the mid-sixties the global motorcycle landscape was populated by British smaller-displacement singles and twins.
In that light, it was bold of then up-and-coming brand Honda to set about the development of a large-displacement, transverse, air-cooled, inline four-cylinder. But aren’t we glad it did.
Honda was exporting more than half of its Japanese-made motorcycles in the late sixties, but it didn’t offer large-displacement sports bikes, even though they were in great demand in developed countries.
Ernst Degner defects
Suzuki can trace its two-stroke racing success to one man and a spectacular escape. And he wasn’t Japanese.
German Grand Prix racer Ernst Degner was born Ernst EugenWotzlawek on September 1931 and died September 10 1983.
Degner sensationally defected from East Germany while leading the 1961 125cc World Road Racing Championship with only one race to go, escaping (with his wife and children) from East Germany in the boot of a car.
Harley-Davidson staff buyout
The great brand was all but finished. Until a brave band of visionaries refused to allow it to die…
Harley-Davidson owned a massive 80 per cent share of the US market for big motorcycles in 1969.
The yanks just couldn’t get enough of the big beasts and all looked very rosy for the great American eagle. But things were not to stay that way.
GP returns to Oz
Grand Prix racing is ingrained in the Australian motorcycling landscape. But that can be sheeted home to one man, and a fabulous track.
Phillip Island. Iconic, rated amongst the greatest tracks on the planet.
Hard to believe that is was playing host to cows and all but overgrown after falling into disrepair during the seventies. That was until the place was purchased by Placetac Pty Ltd in 1985, with a view to circuit renovation.
Mike Hailwood at the Isle of Man in 1978
On June 3, 1978, after an 11 year hiatus from racing, Hailwood performed a now legendary comeback at the Isle of Man TT.
Few observers believed the 38-year-old would be competitive after such a long absence, and the biggest crowd ever registered at the TT came to watch the race.
They wanted to see Mike, just one more time.
The Wild One
While it all looks a little stagey now, it was socially significant, giving the simmering post-war rebellion of youth an avenue to the mainstream.
And a charismatic and extremely good-looking Marlon Brando was just the bloke to do it.
The film had at its basis a real-life incident over the Fourth of July weekend in 1947 in Hollister, California, when 4000 people, composed of motorcyclists and other revheads took over the town.
Not so much in rebellion, but more chasing a good time.
Honda FireBlade launches
When launched, the Honda CBR900RR FireBlade wiped the floor with its competitors, not by being more powerful (it wasn’t) but by being considerably lighter. That was way back in 1992.
Rivals were all well over the considered unbeatable benchmark of 200kg, and the first Honda CBR900RR FireBlade was a ridiculously slim 185kg, which threw it to the top of the handling pops in one giant leap. Right where it belonged.
Even in today’s nuevo-post-Modern-modernism, (yes, I invented that word, what of it?), that very first Blade represents a wild ride in addition to being a surprisingly practical motorcycle too.
Well, sort of.
The first Castrol Six-hour race was run on Sunday, October 18, 1970, when 68 riders lined up for the Le Mans start.
The race was run by the Willoughby District Motorcycle Club and held at Amaroo Park until 1983, when it was moved to Oran Park for 1984 until the final race in 1987.
Originally the race was called the Castrol 1000 in recognition of the prizemoney on offer from Castrol.
That Max Biaggi wheelie save
Mention the name Max Biaggi and you’ll get an opinion. And there’s a good possibility it will be negative. Such was the nature of the diminutive Italian.
The simple fact is he could be a prick of a bloke and he engendered a good degree of animosity from many quarters. But he could ride a motorcycle, of that there is no doubt.
The scene was the 1998 Czech Republic when Biaggi was on the Marlboro Honda NSR500, which was a bike that ook some taming. Think, light switch powerband.
Stone movie release
Stone was the feature film which signalled the debut of up-and-coming film-maker Sandy Harbutt and it broke box office records on its release.
The basic plot of Stone is a murder mystery: the lead character, a detective, goes undercover to ascertain why members of a motorcycle club are being killed, and discovers that they have witnessed a political assassination and may be able to identify those responsible.
The appeal lies in the very Australian-ness of the film.
Rollie Free rolls free
American speed freak Rollie Free made history aboard a 1948 Vincent HRD Lightning, often referred to as the “Bathing Suit Bike” due to the scant attire of its rider, Roland “Rollie” Free. It all went down like this…
Californian sports entrepreneur John Edgar hired Free to make the attempt at the Bonneville Salt Flats on September 13, 1948.
The rebirth of Triumph
When the original Triumph outfit finally surrendered in 1983 John Bloor had the foresight to buy the name and manufacturing rights.
Opting for the clever approach of modular design (allowing for parts to be used across as many models as possible) pre-production began at the Hinckley factory and the first models were launched at the Cologne show of 1990.
Hells Angels founded
On March 17, 1948, the first Hells Angels Motorcycle Club was founded in the Fontana/San Bernardino area in the United States of America.
The San Bernardino chapter (also called “Berdoo”) still exists, although most of its original members at one time moved northwards to Oakland. This removal is probably the reason why many outsiders wrongly describe Oakland as the Mother Chapter of Hells Angels MC World.
During the fifties more Hells Angels Chapters came into existence. In the beginning the chapters had nothing to do with each other, but after some years united and regular criteria of admission were laid down.
From having been exclusively a Californian phenomenon, the club developed internationally in 1961.
Burt Munro speed record
New Zealander Burt Munro is best known due to the movie The World’s Fastest Indian of 2005. He was born in Invercargill, New Zealand in 1899.
What’s not as well-known is the fact that in his mid-20s, Munro raced regularly in Australia, participating in hillclimbs, trials, road racing, drag racing, flat track and scrambles.
By the late 1950s, Munro’s bikes were achieving such speeds that he looked to Bonneville – the home of world land speed records and the place that makes or breaks the very best of them.
Do you have a great motorcycling story? Tell us about it in the comment section below.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.