Paul Danik

My motorcycling adventures started with my brother wanting a Honda to ride to school. It was 1965, and my dad traded a local Honda dealer some landscape work for a Honda 150 Dream. It didn’t take too long for my brother to run the Honda off the road into a ditch, even though he wasn’t hurt, I don’t think he ever rode the bike again. I had been mowing lawns and had bought a nice stereo system. My brother was about to leave for college so I traded him my stereo for the Honda. I don’t know the exact ratio of hours working on the Honda verses riding it, but my tools got a lot more of a workout than my helmet.

I loved to ride the Honda around our nursery. I would race up and down each row of trees and try to make the turns as tight and fast as possible. I slowly ventured further from home to ride some of the farm roads in the area. My mom mentioned one evening that she heard that a semi-retired motorcycle racer had moved just up the road. I decided to take a walk over and see what I could find out; this was one of the best moves of my life. As I approached the couple who were doing some yardwork, I asked if he was a motorcycle racer. “Who the hell wants to know?” he asked. His wife scolded him, saying that he might scare the kid away, fat chance!!! That was my introduction to Bob “Augie” Augustine and his wife Sandie. After that I seemed to live at Augie’s as much as I did at home. Augie had done quite a bit of racing in his day and sure was a lot of help to a 14 year old kid trying to ride a 150 Honda Dream in the woods.

Sandie worked at Fran Kupec’s Honda shop and they became a very early Penton dealer. Augie mentioned to me about the Penton motorcycle and said that if I wanted to ride the local mud runs and ride in the woods, that would be the bike to get. My dad somehow came up with the money and I became the proud owner of a very early Penton. It had the 4 bolt drive unit for the sprocket and the early cast airbox. I think the serial number was around 149. I later took the airbox off and replaced it with a filtron sock style air cleaner. I hung the airbox on a nail in the nursery shop and it stayed there for 30 years until Norm Miller needed an airbox for his restoration of Penton #001. I gave Norm that airbox and I am proud to have helped him with his project. As you can imagine, it didn’t take a now 15 year old kid too long to have a few shifting problems with his Penton, mostly from power shifting second and doing wheelies up the nursery lane, even after dark with the floodlights on!!

Sachs engines were and still are quite a bit different than Hondas, so the mechanics at Kupec’s were not able to solve my shifting problems. Sandie called Penton’s and explained the problem. They said to bring the bike over and they would look at it. Since I was still too young to drive, we loaded the bike in Augie’s pickup and Sandie drove. This would be the first of many trips to Amherst, Ohio. Mr. Penton himself did my transmission repairs and showed me what he was doing. He finished up the job and turned to me, “there” he said, “Now I want you to go back to Pennsylvania and help keep these Pentons running.” I think I know how Noah felt when the Lord asked him to build the ark! After we left the shop, we went over to the Penton Farm Market. A shipment of bikes had just arrived and were to be stored above the market in the upstairs of the barn. My job was inserting the owner’s manual and assorted literature that went with each new bike through the grab hole in the crate. I also met Jack Penton on that trip. He and I sat together on some cases of oil while awaiting his dad. Jack showed me pictures of his big brother Jeff in a motorcycle magazine winning some big race. I was awestruck that this guy’s brother had his picture in a real motorcycle magazine. Almost 30 years later, Jack and I, along with several other gentlemen, sat within 5 feet of that very spot and worked on forming the Penton Owners Group.

I rode lots of mud runs, motocross and even some observed trials with my Penton. As time went on, I was able to place in my class and even racked up a few wins. With guys like Jake Fischer, Ron Bohn and the Lojack’s at all of our local events, we didn’t lack for competition. I always tried to find out where the Penton “boys” were going to be racing and tried to run against them as much as possible. There was always a special electric in the air at a race when they were there. They were the “top guns” of the races, but they were also very easy to talk to and were always willing to help a fellow Penton rider. I remember the State Championship MX race at State College, Pennsylvania. Jack and Tom Penton were there. I was able to beat Tom, but Jack won the event. Afterward, Jack and Tom came over to our truck to sit and talk. Sandie and Augie’s daughter Robin had made the trip with me and reported to her dad that things were improving. The Penton boys came over to our truck after the race instead of the other way around.

I raced a double header MX at Bel Mesa Raceway in West Virginia. I always liked that track. A kid on a 125 Suzuki was tearing up the place in practice, so I watched for him to go back out and ran some practice with him. We ran pretty hard in each of the six motos, but it was my day. I won five of them and he won the other. Afterward, a big man walked up to me and asked if I was the kid on the Penton. I said I was, he said he wanted his son to meet the guy who had beaten him. His son was on the Suzuki. We shook hands and talked for a bit. Years later, Joe Barker was staying at my house as we trained for the 1973 ISDT and as we traded war stories, it turned out he was the Suzuki rider at Bel Mesa that day. Another crazy thing happened that day. Two older riders from the Pittsburgh area came over to me and said that if I was to slow down a bit, I might make a decent enduro rider. I asked them about this enduro stuff and one thing led to another. I went with them the next weekend and rode the Little Hocking Enduro and won the C class overall, and I was hooked. Every weekend I was off to either New York or southern Ohio for an enduro. I won highpoint “B” at the Newark, New York national in my 9th enduro and received a bit of praise in the Penton newsletter. Most enduros were about 5 hours from home and many a Monday morning I had only gotten a few hours sleep before my dad would holler for me to get up as we had a landscape job to do.

I was able to make some of the Penton Dealer Schools and always really enjoyed them. Besides the daytime sessions, there were always movies in the evening. At dealer school and almost anytime I was around the Penton gang, the ISDT was always talked about. This ISDT stuff really caught my interest, all of the strange names of the foreign riders and all of the different places where they were held. When it was announced that the 1973 ISDT was going to be held in the US, I decided to give it a try. I sent my entry in for the qualifier at Fort Hood, Texas. I had no idea as to how I was going to get there. I just knew that I wanted to go, I would figure out the minor details later! I called Penton Imports and asked if they had a truck going to the qualifier. I need to get my bike there and I would ride a bus or whatever. I was transferred to Doug Wilford. I explained my situation to him and he said “Why don’t you just come out and ride down with us in the Cycleliner,” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I accepted the offer and started to prepare for the event.

Traveling with the Penton team in the Cycleliner was more than I could have ever hoped for. The event at Fort Hood was rather fast and dusty, combine that with my “stage fright” and it was a rough combination. I missed a danger sign on the trail before the first check and crashed into some boulders below a hidden drop-off and messed up my shoulder. Later that day, I crashed at speed and really did a job on my knee. About this time, I reached back in my mind and remembered what Augie told me after I crashed my brains out in a hare-scramble, “The slower you go, the faster you are.” That night the guys wanted me to see a doctor, but I opted to sleep in a hot tub of water with lots of Epson salts. I made it through the second day and the final event was the MX special test. During the MX, my handlebars broke on the throttle side. I jammed the broken bar behind the number plate and continued at a slower pace. A flagman black flagged me as being too dangerous and I pulled off the track. Mr. Penton just happened to be standing there and asked me why I stopped. I told him I was black flagged. I immediately was on the receiving end of a lecture as to how NOBODY can ever tell you to quit if you don’t want to. I went back out and finished the special test. I earned a Silver Medal at Fort Hood.

We went to Amarillo, Texas and did bike repairs and mended our bodies as the Busted Piston 2 day qualifier in Potosi, Missouri was next. I earned a gold medal at Potosi and then we returned to the Penton R&D building and unloaded the Cylcleliner. I found Mr. Penton before heading home and asked him what I owed him for the parts, motel space and all. He looked at me and said, “Paul Danik you don’t owe me anything, and by the way, there is a container of bikes coming into Baltimore and your name is on one of them.” WOW, once again I was in shock, lucky enough to get to travel with the team and now I was getting a bike. I couldn’t wait to tell Augie and my parents. I traveled with the team to the rest of the qualifiers and did rather well in all of them.
I was working a landscape project one day and my mother drove up and handed me a letter from the AMA. It stated that I had been picked to represent the USA in the 1973 ISDT. I couldn’t believe it!

The next weeks were like Christmas with the UPS dropping off boxes of new boots, riding clothes, and other items for me. I received a letter from Doug Wilford saying how he knew I would not let him or the Penton folks down, how this event was going to be tough, and how my machine would have to be prepared perfectly. I had to get busy!!

I started to run every night, not on the local track, no, I ran on the same trails that I rode my bike on. I also would push my bike up the nursery lane before starting it every time I went riding. I was told that in the ISDT no one could help you. You must be prepared to do everything yourself, including pushing your machine if you need to make the next check. I sure didn’t want to have Mr. Wilford mad at me!!

It wasn’t long before it was time to travel to Amherst to prepare our Six-Day machines. Most every time I went to Amherst and had to stay for a while, Jack would ask me to stay at their house. I always remember how Mr. Penton would walk across the road to the Penton Farm Market each morning and bring back fresh fruit for us to eat at breakfast. My race machines were never really trick or special. They were just prepared in a very precise manner to not give me any problems. Reliability was my goal. At the Penton R&D shop, the other riders were all doing little “trick” things to their machines. I had my machine tore down but I was confused by all of the work I saw being done by the other riders. After a day or so of not making any progress, I loaded all of the parts and pieces of my machine into my van and went home. I prepared my ISDT machine in the little shop at the nursery the same way as I had always done. I even put about 100 miles of easy riding on my bike before I returned to Amherst. My bike had some of the shine wore off of it when we loaded it for the trip to Pittsfield in the tractor trailer, but I had a lot of faith in it.

The whole ISDT experience was unbelievable. There were riders from different teams and countries working on their machines in many different locations. The Parc Ferme had an almost circus atmosphere to it with many tents set up for manufactures to display their items. The riders from the host country had to get their machines impounded first and I was glad when that was over.

The trails were a lot like what I was used to riding with a combination of mud, rocks and water crossings. Several items were unique to me. First off was the spectators that lined the trail and were waving the American flag and yelling encouragement’s. Second, of course, was the length of the event. This is where my training really paid off. I rode each day as its own event and really never had any major problems. My bike ran flawlessly and I didn’t fall the entire six days. Some of the special test were laid out on power line trails and it seemed like the spectators lined the entire test section. It amazes me as to how many folks that I run into today that say that they were there cheering us on, THANKS!! You were appreciated.

My main goal was to finish. At the end of each day, I would eat and go to bed, day after day. We went to a reception hosted by the AMA on Saturday evening after the event, at which time they posted the final results. I couldn’t believe it. I had earned a GOLD MEDAL!! I hurried to a phone to let my parents know and told them to call Augie and Sandie and let them know also. Now it was party time!!!

I rode on the Trophy Team the following year in Camerino, Italy and earned a silver medal. I actually rode twice as well in Italy as I did in the USA, but the event was really rough on us small bore riders. The course for each day would take us up into the mountains and back down. I had to keep the rpms up on my bike going up the mountain trails to maintain momentum. If you lost momentum, you were in trouble.

Judy and I were married in October of 1975 and I became more involved with family and working at the family business. My riding slowly took a back seat. We have three children: Sabrina, Cami, and Chad. The girls never did much riding, but Chad has really enjoyed the sport. Chad and I trail ride together and do some racing. We are both entered in the ISDT reunion ride in October. I hadn’t ridden a bike in several years when I happened to hear of a vintage trials at the Ohio Valley BSA Owners Club in Toronto, Ohio. Judy and I loaded up the kids and off we went. I was soon hooked again!! It didn’t take long and I was trail riding again. When I saw how much fun the BSA guys were having, I wondered what it would be like to have a Penton Club. When I met Alan Buehner at a Will Stoner Swap Meet, I mentioned the idea to him and as they say, the rest is history.

Augie passed away at VMD in 1998 during the Motocross. Without his and Sandie’s guidance and the support of my parents, who have both passed away, my motorcycling adventure would not have been such an adventure. Thanks to them and to all of the folks that have helped me along the way!