Leroy Winters

Leroy Winters on his 1968 Penton Six-Days with Ralph Haslage
Winters family photo and article provided by Kevin Grimes

Frustrations Of Eight 6 Day Events

by Leroy Winters

You just can’t take away all the memories of my experiences of the SIX days. There was the battle with Russ Cooley to get your F.I.M. license, phone calls to the AMA, arguments with John Penton and the Husky Distributor, Edison Dye, K.T.M. (Penton Cycles) and even American Honda. The Frustration of eight tries in the I.S.D.T. includes the excitement, the competition, the fun times and meeting a lot of lifetime friends. Still the Frustration!

In 1956, I was the first person to win the prestigious 500 mile Jack Pine Enduro in Michigan on a light weight motorcycle! A 165 cc Harley that was changed, modified and prayed over for 3 yrs. and finally I got it dependable. Battled the Giants on that 165 Harley-- Sal Scirpo, Don Pink, John Penton, Bill Baird and so forth. Went on to win Stone Mountain, Daytona Enduro, even trophied in the Green Horn in CA. I kinda felt like David and Goliath. In 1964 after a hard run, I think it was Ohio, John Penton and I were nursing our blisters and sore bones, We agreed to try SIX days for 1965. We paid the air freight to send my Honda S-90 and John’s 250 BMW to the Isle of Manpaid airfare and expenses out of our own pocket. John and I thought we were it! With all of our trophies sitting on the shelf, and medals on our chest like Napoleon and Ceaser. What a surprise, on the third day we were out. These guys play rough. On the fourth day, I seen Sammy Miller in the wet barbour suit after he impounded his bike and shook his hand (Riding without gloves) his grip was like vise grips (ouch). The Russians coming thru and starting the second loop from the Park Ferma, taking a shot of Vodka from the team manager (frustration). Look I am in my prime, strong, cat-like reflexes and good mechanic-- I can do it! But sometimes doubt would creep in when three Zundapp riders passed me one time in Sweden, styling like McGrath.

Leroy at the 1965 Isle of Mann on his Honda

1966- off to Sweden by myself. Edison Dye told me on the phone to go to Oslo, Norway but he didn’t tell me to meet Malcolm Smith and drive a Volkswagon Bus to Husky Factory. Edison Dye said I was to ride a 125 cc Zundapp but instead I ended up on a 250 Husky. Finally, with all the frustration of just finding my way to the start line. I lost my way on the third day in a rain storm, so out again!

1967 -- John Penton and his wife Donna, along with Malclom Smith, Dave Mungenast and myself left Sweden in a borrowed Volkswagon bus and drove to Zachopane, Poland. There we meet Bud Ekins and John Nelson. The six of us on Husky’s, to be in a country where it took stamps you buy at the border to get gasoline. (we forgot to buy stamps for oil, the Volkswagon did use oil). Very hard to find a place to eat and your diet suddenly becomes very different. You have to change U.S. dollars at the border for how many days you will stay in Poland. But when you get to Zachopane, you can get twice the Zolatas on the black market. They don’t speak English. Well it’s their country so we don’t speak Polish. We have no team manager so we listen to Bud Ekins for his experience in past SIX days. The food was terrible at our Hotel and some of us got sick. I laid in my room for two days in a cold sweat and fever, plus many trips to the toilet and the toilet paper on the grade of coarse sand paper. But we all made the start line on a bunch of MX Husky’s with close ratio transmissions. Again on the third day near the finish a rod went out of the Husky while I was still on gold. The feeling that falls over you that you let the team down plus not to finish my third try in the SIX days-- frustration again!

1968-- I meet in Austria at the K.T.M. factory with my friends Dave Mungenast and Tom Penton to drive down to San Pellegrino, Italy. At this time John Penton was getting his Penton cycles going in the states. (K.T.M.) I always did like the light weight Enduro type motorcycles. This time we had at least t-shirts that looked alike. My enthusiasm was real high that I had a motorcycle that inspired more confidence. The night we arrived, we got out of our rental cars in San Pellegrino, Italy. Here we are again, can’t speak the language, trying to figure out the gas liters and how many lira to pay the guy. I look up into the sky to check the weather - you hate to ride SIX days in the rain. My comment was, look at the stars - no rain. As I keep looking up and around it hit me. Those aren’t stars, those are houses up there. The next day we went to test ride a little - found some trails way up in the Alps. We were on a one lane trail with grass hill on our right, pretty steep/ on our left the grass about 10 or 12 inches was growing so you felt kind of confident. The farmers chickens run down the trail ahead of us. Two of them cut to the left and went thru the grass and fell end over end about a block down the slope. John, Dave and I stopped and laughed at what happened but it was just to cover up our fear. Back at the hotel I looked down on the patio from my room and three Swedes were sitting with casts on their legs. Some of the blacktop roads up in the Alps afford a magnificent view of villages dotted around. Lakes and clouds below you. It seems the Swedes like the view but would run into the guard poles (not guardrails, but concrete poles.) But, on the third day again the rear wheel bearings on the Penton (K.T.M.) went out and that welded the backing plate to the hub. I really didn’t like to be called “Three Day Leroy.”

1969 -- It was in Garmisch - Partenkirchan in Germany that I felt more confident. The Penton cycles were better and K.T.M. put more effort into organization. John and Tom Penton, Dave Mungenast and myself were the Vase Team. Except for one ski slope I couldn’t make fast enough, I collected a Silver Medal. Wow, I finished the 6 days. Now the riders that come from America were mostly Dealers that had successful businesses. I had a Honda store. Dave Mungenast has a Honda Motorcycle store and Mike Lewis was a Honda Dealer. Bud Ekins had a movie contract and had a Motorcycle business and most Americans had something going to support their vices. “Motorcycle Racing”

1970 -- Spain - I left Austria in a car with one of the K.T.M. employees and my fiancee about 3:00 in the morning and on the way to Cologne for Motorcycle Show and then down to Spain. At a intersection we hit a man in his car going to work at about 70 miles an hour at an intersection. The car flipped and when it was over, the car was upside down in a field and I crawled out with the car on fire. I had ribs broken and my fiancee died in a Munich Hospital. The driver had his face cut up. But a few days in Munich Hospital, I dragged my body to the airport and meet Dave Mungenast to get to Madrid and up to Escorial. Well, anyway I made one lap on a really nice 100cc K.T.M. bike and the ribs came loose again. Two weeks wasn’t enough to heal. Again Frustration.

1971-- Isle of Man, England - I called American Honda and got a hold of some V.I.P. people, so I took a plane to L.A. and American Honda furnished me a SL 125 Honda and helped with Parts and their Personnel. I took the 125 Honda out to Saddleback Cycle Park. Spent a day testing out there and was very pleased with the Honda 4 stroke. Honda crated the motorcycle and airfreighted it to the Isle of Man - Didn’t even take off the handlebars. Well the crate wouldn’t fit into the plane to Isle of Man so I hired a boys truck and the driver and I drove to Liverpool and set the crate on the Ferry boat and got it to the Island. The SIX days was really fun that year. The little Honda was so dependable that all I did was change the oil everyday and just “wring it’s neck“. The British just love to see the only Honda entered, plus they liked the 4 stroke sound. The only trouble was a flat front tire and the time to get a tube slipped to me, or, I just happened to look down on the ground and there lay a tube. Lost a couple minutes but come home with a Silver Medal. The final test was a Road Race. I set on the front row with all size motorcycles all around me. Flag up and Flag down and the 125 started first kick. One of the first riders away, I just left it wide open through all the gears down the Grandstand Straight to a right hand square corner and the big bore bikes were sliding, bumping, crashing but I held tight and left it on for about 3 more blocks to a right turn up hill. Malcolm Smith had just passed me on his 250 Husky and I think a Cheko rider took Malcolm’s front wheel out. I missed Malcolm and went by looking at Malcolm spinning around, kind of sitting on top of his bike. About two miles on, Malcolm passed me again and gave me a big smile with a thumbs up.

Leroy at 1971 Berkshire event
Winters family photos provided by Kevin Grimes

1972 -- American Honda flew my Honda 125 c.c. to Austria and I towed it on the back bumper of my little 600 Honda car to Czechoslovakia. It was a really hard SIX days and the 125 Honda wasn’t as competitive as the newer two - stroke bikes. My rear brake-stay broke and twisted up the brake rod. I did manage to patch it up and continue on a ways, and was out and same thing again, Frustrated!

You are only in your prime and fastest for only a short time in your life cycle, but I keep winning when I was too old. I wasn’t as fast or crazy as some of the younger riders but I would out-smart them or let them beat themselves. But in Cheko I did some soul searching as I was getting beat up and getting later. The SIX days, when I got to ride, was difficult because the Americans had very little organization or help. Most all Americans paid their own way. A lot of the good Enduro riders and Cross Country racers in American didn’t have the money or management to go as a good solid team to represent the U.S.A.

As the SIX days gets closer for the U.S.A. in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I think and still have that gut feeling of being there. You’re walking into the impound area to your motorcycle and praying the tires aren’t flat. The drizzle and fog isn’t making you very cheerful. You get your hands on your bike and push it to the work area for 10 minutes with your jacket stuffed with parts you’re going to replace. Which pocket did I put that air cleaner in. where did I put the new brake pedal. The clamp I got will fix the muffler bracket.

So, I’m ready, my heart beat is up - I push to the start line - stop holding your breath! My mouth is dry! Remember, tomorrow drink more fluids. There is a Swede on my left and a German on my right. Flag up, Flag down and it started on the first kick and I am back in there riding the SIX days again. See you in Tulsa. It sure is hard to be a spectator.