Letter Of The Month
Memories Of Marty
I was so saddened by the news of Marty Smith’s death, along with his wife Nancy’s. He was truly my superhero in the mid-1970s, when he won both the 125cc and 500cc titles.
My second bike was a 1974 Honda CR125M Elsinore. While I was never any good at motocross, I kept pushing, based upon the images and stories I read of Marty in Popular Cycling magazine.
Decades later, I was honored to attend one of his motocross schools at the legendary Budds Creek track. As I recall, the school was attached to a vintage MX weekend, but most of the other participants were on modern bikes.
I was on a 1974 Yamaha 360 MX, and, at some point, Marty came over to me and said something to the effect of, “I admire you for riding this bike. A friend recently gave me a ride on a vintage bike, and my back hurt for several weeks after.”
I got the impression that Smith didn’t harbor any nostalgia for the days of dual-shock 4-inch rear suspension travel, but I was especially honored that he would speak directly to me.
He signed my vintage jersey (see photo). And, although he misspelled my name, I have never worn or washed it. I think now I should go out and get it a little dirty. I think Marty would prefer it that way.
I read Robert Johnson’s guest column, “Taking Control,” in the April American Motorcyclist and had to reply. He implies that by driving defensively he will avoid all cage drivers who are distracted by doing something other than driving, or, in my case, not giving full attention to driving.
I have been on two motorized wheels since I was 13. I am 66 and have ridden over 150,000 miles. The only time I laid down a street bike was leaving a friend’s house after midnight after the dew had settled and the bike spun from under me.
In all those miles, I never felt that I wasn’t in control. On Sept. 30, 2019, I found out that being in control is a relative phrase, and avoiding an accident isn’t always possible. A full-size pickup turned left in front of me. The driver said he saw the car in front of me and the pickup behind me. He saw a hole to make his turn and he took it. Problem was, I was there.
I had a concussion and have no memory of the accident. The driver behind me said he gave me about 10 yards. I was in a 35 mph zone, so figuring I was doing the speed limit, I was traveling 51 feet per second. I hit the back of the truck. That tells me I was trying to avoid him by going around. Even if I hit my brakes, I traveled those 30 feet in one, maybe two seconds. One Mississippi. Bang. I respectfully doubt that Robert would have done any better.
Robert, I probably would have been cocky and said I was a good rider and was in control at all times before my accident. If you haven’t been there, it’s easy to say.
I lost four riding friends/acquaintances in the last several years. Although I question one or two of the accidents, that the rider may have been distracted, two were hit head on by impaired drivers.
Your final sentence that “None of us has to be a victim” is a slap in the face of their memory. Sorry, but that’s my opinion.
Having just read the article “That Day Has Come” (May 2020), I thought I would throw my 2 cents in.
I just turned 85, and my wife and I thought it might be time to hang up riding our three-wheel Gold Wing Trike. Been riding all my life, starting out on a Triumph Thunderbird somewhere around 1955 or so.
I was riding with guys that had Ariel Square 4 (What an beautiful machine), a Vincent Black Shadow, a BSA, an AJS, a Norton and several other bikes we don’t hear much about any more. All of this was going on in the Springfield, Ill., area.
Yes, the carbs leaked, and the electronics didn’t work, but that was all we had. We used the bikes for on- and off-road riding. And, yes, we always wore a helmet and light colored clothing. Can’t say we had any close calls, but we were always on our toes for other careless drivers. One good thing about giving it up: I won’t have to take the Illinois drivers’ test for bike riders.
I traded my three-wheeler beauty in on a 2020 GMC truck. I think I made the correct decision.
Happy and safe riding. Remember, please, always wear a helmet..
Electric dirt bikes leave a lot to be desired (“High Voltage on the Trails,” June 2020). It appears only one or two offer a decent day’s trail ride range.
I always have at least an extra quart of gas on board, and I need it occasionally. I didn’t see any option for extra “fuel.”
I often ride an hour or two Friday evening near camp, then 60 to 125 miles on Saturday, plus another 30 to 60 miles on Sunday. Anyone see a problem here? Note, I would have a dead battery early to midday Saturday.
If noise on the trail is a problem—and it is—ride a cycle with a well muffled trials engine that doesn’t have be screamed to pull the hat off your head. By riding carefully, I constantly ride up behind a hiker within 20 feet before they realize I’m there.
Is there a neutral position, so, if I run out of “fuel,” I can push the bike more than a few feet?
Electric bikes would be ideal for urban area riding parks. Not so much for open-country trail riding. In the future, lots of charging stations still will not make them trail friendly. Take a look at most serious 4x4s. You’ll notice most carry at least one gas can.