Penton Rider Profile
Originally printed in the 2014 issue #64 of Still….Keeping Track
During my career as a motorcycle competitor, I rode for 3 of the kings of motorcycle competition-Bobby Hill, Dick Klamfoth and John Penton. My appreciation and thanks to all three. All three riders won many National Championships, including Dick's 3 wins at the Daytona Beach 200 on a Norton Manx and Bobby's win at the Daytona Beach 200 on a BSA. They also rode half mile dirt track. John won many National Championships including the Jack Pine 500 National Enduro.
I was born in Columbus, Ohio on March 6, 1935, being the 6th in a family of 10. My first bike was a Whizzer shared with my brother Bill. I was introduced to motorcycles by Victor Franks, father of a childhood friend. Victor had a 1945 Harley with a sidecar which he fixed for enduro riding and I was his passenger and this got me hooked.
I rode mostly enduros and motocross in the fall as a solo rider and also as a sidecar passenger with Jack Pflug until I met Bobby Hill at Shoppes Indian Shop in Columbus, Ohio. I starting racing half mile for Bobby on a 1948 Indian Scout. The racing bikes at this time did not have brakes. My first race going down the straightaway with no brakes was a thrill. I was 16 years old at the time and a parent had to sign for me to get a license. Mom thought I was only riding in circles, but my Dad knew better and never told Mom just what the "circles" entailed.
My novice year with Bobby as a half track rider was pretty successful and I was runner-up in the Columbus Star Hall of Fame. It was at this time Dick Klamfoth offered me a ride on a Norton Manx for the Daytona Beach Road Race 100 mile event. After talking my Mom into writing me an excuse for absence from school, I was sitting on the Daytona starting line on my 17th birthday. The highlight of this trip was a telegram wishing me good luck from Marvin Dountz, a friend from Columbus, Ohio.
I was sitting on the starting line at Daytona with butterflies knowing there were 90 riders. Starting on the beach was like riding into a sand blaster since the front straight-a-way was the beach. The back stretch was asphalt with bikes carrying sand onto the surface and the corners were very deep. The sand on the asphalt made the road very slippery. The back stretch was a very rough ride. The beach stretch was very smooth with deep sand in the corner. The beach course was a lot different from the flat track courses. The straightaway was sand, with deep sand in the corners, and out of the back stretch was asphalt (Route lA1). Top speed was much faster than the regular half mile track and starting with 90 riders and having to watch for the markers indicating going into the corners made this race more dangerous. This type of racing did have front and rear wheel brakes. On dirt track racing half mile and mile dirt tracks, brakes were not used. Going into the comers it pitched the bike sideways sliding into the comers. I was running in the top five when the clutch went out and I was unable to finish the race.
Bill Reese, a BSA Dealer out of Dayton, Ohio, whose son, Donny Reese also road half mile, offered me a ride on a BSA Twin rigid frame. I rode this bike in the 1954 Daytona 200 without much luck - I lost both foot pegs and was riding with my feet on the pipe and after burning holes in my boots I couldn't fmish the race. This was my last ride on the beach.
I rode a year for Dick Klamfoth on a Manx Norton. I rode half mile from 1951 to 1957. During those years I rode for several motorcycle dealers, including Smitty's Harley Davidson in 1954. In 1955 I bought a Harley Davidson KR Race Bike from the Harley Davidson Factory. In 1956 I was ranked 4th in the National standings (having 13 first place finishes, 16 second place finishes and 13 third place finishes).
I met my wife at an enduro in Greenville, Ohio. We were both 16 and Pat was there with her aunt and uncle, Jack and Evelyn Pflug. The Pflugs were active in the Buckeye Motorcycle Club and Jack was a side car competitor. He was a strong little guy that was very good at piloting one of those rigs. I know because I rode in the side car many times with him. Jack was a very good competitor, winning the side car class in an Ohio State Championship and many local Ohio Enduros. The side car passengers figured the time and time schedules and in many cases shifting around for better traction and holding the side car down. The passenger always bad to be ready to get out and PUSH.
Jack was a Charter Member of the AMA with the member No. 133. I was a Charter Member also, but with a much higher member number. Jack requested that the AMA (Ed Youngblood) assign his member No. 133 to me after his passing which I still have today.
Pat and I have been married now close to 60 years. We have two sons and four grandchildren. Motorcycle competition has been a big part of all our lives. Pat and the boys would gas for me on most local runs.
I started riding enduro races again in 1957. I rode several brands of motorcycles, mostly 100 cc and 125 cc. and the wins included the Ohio State Championship (Athens, Ohio) on a Triumph Cub 200cc, and placed 2nd overall on a Triumph Cub 200cc in an Ohio State Championship, l point behind John Penton; the Baby Burr Enduro overall on a Harley Baha 100 cc; the Ball and Chain enduro on a Honda 250cc and the Milk Run Enduro on a Triumph Cub 200cc.
In 1965 I purchased a brand new 500cc Triumph Trophy to use for enduro riding. The modifications I made to it included installing a solo seat, changing the gas tank to a Triumph Cub 200cc tank which was a smaller tank with as good gas capacity. I also made a larger air f1ltcr with air intake under the seat. I completely repainted the bike to orange and white. The completed bike was trailered up to Michigan to ride the 1965 Jackpine Enduro.
It was during the 500 mile Jackpine Enduro, on the second day that I ran into a Jeep. The Jeep was crossing a trail section trying to get to a spectator area along the course just as I was coming down the trail. I couldn't stop and my Triumph slammed into the side of the Jeep. I flew over the handlebars into the Jeep knocking myself and one of the passengers in the Jeep out. In the hospital a doctor was removing orange paint from my mouth from my bike.
In 1968 John Penton contacted me to ride a 100cc Penton. I won several class national championships and overall national championships in the Bantam Weight class at the 500 mile Jack Pine Enduro. In 1969 I started riding the Penton 125 and won several national class championships. It was at this time that John Penton approached me about competing in the 1969 ISDT trials in Germany. In the 1969 Jack Pine 500 Enduro, John Penton won the overall national championship, I won grand champion on the 125cc Penton. In 1968 and 1969 the Penton team (John Penton, LeRoy Winters, Dave Mungenast and I) won the team championship in the Jack Pine 500 Enduro.
I started riding for John on a Penton 100cc factory ride. The Pentons were pretty much ready to go for enduros without much work. Most of the other bikes I rode did not come with knobby tires, did not have high exhaust pipes, proper air filters, or water tight sealing, all of which the Penton came equipped with. The only modifications I made to make it ready for me to ride was taking the grips off and sealing the openings at the end of the handlebars. Having big hands, I always made the grips larger. I did not like the lock washers, I preferred all flat washers. I always greased the inside of the air filters and I also bent the handlebars back to suit me. I started riding the 100cc Penton in 1968 and during the entire season of the National Enduros, including the Jack Pine National 500 mile event, I did not have to make any kind of repair to the engine, including rings. However, I did prefer the power of the 125cc over the 100cc.
I have known John for years and I never thought that I would be offered a factory ride. When John offered me that opportunity I did not think twice about it.
After the 1969 Jack Pine event John Penton, LeRoy Winters, Dave Mungenast and I left for Garmisch~Partenkirchen, Germany, for the 1969 ISDT 6 day trials. Our team finished 9th, with John, LeRoy and Dave winning Silver Medals and I won a Bronze medal. An AMA official informed me that I was one of 4 or 5 riders who competed in both the ISDT trials and the 200 Race at Daytona Beach Florida.
The trip to Germany started on an upbeat note with John winning the Jack Pine 500 National Enduro and our winning the team championship. This was Pat's and my first trip by air travel and it was a nice group to be traveling with. Our group consisted of our team, along with Donna Penton, Pat Green, Jerry West and Ted Penton. Like everybody knows, Leroy was always a character and we had a good time joking around. Dave was more serious having broken his collar bone at the Jack Pine, but he remained upbeat and liked to have fun. We actually did not have too much time to play around. The two days before competition were used as practice days before the bikes were inspected, motors sealed and put into the impound area. Each night after riding we would have a meeting with the factory representatives and riders, then dinner and the evening was about over. Our day started at 6:00 A.M. and this made for lomg days.
At dinner time during our trip, John took it up himself to stir the margarine for our bread. Margarine back then was white and had to be colored with a yellowing agent to make it look like butter. We all got a kick out of this and would kid John about it.
Since John won the cowbell at the Jack Pine and I won second overall, I happend to see a small cowbell in the lobby of the hotel and thought I had a chance to also have one and got caught. I was called an American thief. Not my finest hour.
Pat celebrated her 35th birthday on the trip with a birthday cake from Leroy.
On our arrival in Germany, the Penton team was invited to dinner at the home of Erich Trunkenpolz and he gave each of us an embossed Sachs gold coin.
Everyone got along and we had a great time.
In 1970 I won the 100 mile National at Stone Mountain, Georgia on a 125cc Penton. I continued riding the Penton for several years.
I did not ride much for a few year while my boys were young and eventually got away from it. On a vacation one year at the Daytona Beach 200 mile event I stopped for lunch at "Boondockers" restaurant to eat. I was sitting at one of their picnic tables and I happened to see a gentleman across from me who was wearing a "Team Penton" cap. I went up to him and asked him if he owned a Penton motorcycle. He happened to be Nelson McCullough a POG member from Pennsylvania. We exchanged e-mail addresses and communicated back and forth when we got back home. Nelson contacted Paul Danik about me, who in turn talked to Ed Youngblood. Since Ed lived in Columbus at the time, he got in touch with me and brought me to one of the POG meetings. This is how I became involved with the Penton Owners Group. Shortly after this, John had a picture plaque of me installed on the Penton Wall of the monument at Daytona Beach, Florida.
Through the Penton Owners Group I got to know Bill Smith. Bill is the one who got me interested again in riding. This interest took me into renovating old bikes and with Bill's involvement I am now restoring several Penton motorcycles.
The years of motorcycle racing have been good to me.