Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1970's

Cycle News 1979 02 07

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 38 of 39

friends, and John picked me up an d started helping me go with Jackie an d Tom and Jeff (Penton) and a bunch of other people, too : We went to the very first Trask Mountain event, and another way up in Canada somewhere, and then when the two-day events were first starting out we went to those. I rode th e Isle of Man on a Pent on in '71, but I didn't get serious about enduros until after the Six Days in the Berkshires in 1973 ," Big Husky does it Championship Enduro The Making Of A Champion ... Burleson discovers the d irt' 14 Back in 1965 , when he was a junior in high school, Richard Burleson got his first taste of motorcycle riding on a friend's .Hond a S·90. About the time he graduated , his friend decided to try the dirt on a ZOO Bultaco so Dick got the S·90 for commuting to his summer job and for playing on the sand dunes with his friend . Before long he 'd gone the same route lots of people have knobby tires, larger rear sprocket , and then a power kit for the engine. As he puts it, "the whole dam works ." From that small beginning, Dick has become the Bu r leso n acknowledged American master of off road riding, having won the ' AMA National Championship Enduro year after year since 1974 and taken home Gold Medals from the International Six Days Trial every year since '73 when he was a member of the U.S. team which won the Silver Vase. He was the fastest U.S. rider in the 1976 1SDT in Austria . He was best American in the original Trans-Alvl A motocross series and twice named AMA motocross champion. Although his name has been linked with Husqvama since he started riding the Swedish brand and went to work for them after he got his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan , he's competed and won on other bikes , both-big.bore and small. How he got to the top, and some of his experience along the way, are best told by Dick , himself. " I got a BSA when I went to college, a 44 I, and I had a Z50 Maico for a little while, and I started riding scrambles. Michigan is really big on scrambles. They're more like rough course scrambles, and I think maybe we went five or lOlaps, something like that. I was doing pretty well travelling around Michigan and racing during the summer and fall and going to schoo l d uring the winter -spring session. The fir st motocross I raced ' was in Toledo on my BSA when the spo rt was j ust starting in this country . I crashed a couple of times, but still managed to win . Then when the Inter Am series came to the States I raced the support class at New Philadelphia , 1 won the first moto and blew up my ' BSA in the other. "T he first year they had the T'rans- > AMA series we raced both 250 and Open class , switching back and forth each week. The scoring of every race counted, and 1 finished well in all of them. 1 ended up fourth overall , and that was best American , and from that the natural tendency was to call me National Champion. " Bu t motocross soon got to be more of a hassle than it was fun for Dick , He couldn't ride in the winter because he was going to college in Michigan, so he missed the Florida series and had a harder time "keeping the competitive edge" during the rest of the season. Also, the increasing popularity of motocross made qualifying motos necessary , and shortened practice, so he got to ride less. And more riding was the reason he switched fro m scrambles to motocross in the first p lace. So he lost some of h is enthusiasm for the .sport . Learning about enduro "W hile I was racing I worked for Piasecki , a Husky-Penton dealer in Toledo. Frank Piasecki is an old enduro rider from way back, and that whole crew was into enduro qu ite a bit. Frank and John (Penton) used to have it out at the endures. and they got me into it. I rode Toledo a long time ago on a little Penton - a 100, I think - and I rode the Jack Pine on a 100 one time , unsuccessfully. "I had a real late number, and that one year they really ran late. On the first day, I crashed once pretty hard and hurt myself a little. I was going down a hill and hit a stump, and the bike ran over my neck. I kept on going, and was still within my hour , but I was still m ore than an hour's trail time from t he end of the first day , and it was pitch da rk out , and rainingl I coul dn 't bel ieve it. I thought this was p retty ba d . I said to myself, "I'm never going to ride one of these things again ,' I'd hurt my ankle and my neck was really stiff. In a tum I had to twist ,my whole body to see. That wasn 't fu n at all. " Phewl I couldn't believe it. 1 had about a half dozen guys behind me because my headlight still worked , and all these other guys were caught out there without headlights. We shortcut the course to get back to the start , and there was the check. We hadn't missed a check, and I was still within my hour at that point, so they were going to check me . But my ankle hurt and I thought I might have broken m y neck , so I said I wasn 't going to ride anymore, and I didn't tum in my card. "As soon as I got back to the motel and had a shower and something to eat I was in pretty good shape. Next morning I got up not really feeling that bad. My bike still ran , and it made me think I was kind of stupid . That woke me up. Now when I ride I have an attitude that if I hurt myself it'll go away pretty quick , and it usually does . T hat was one of the first things that really opened up my eyes to how to do . well in long events. just going hard for 100ig times and realizing the race is never over until the end. " I was halfwav serious in the qualifiers long bef~re I was serious in enduro. At the time I was riding motocross on a Husky and working for Piase cki I was riding a Penton in the woods . Frank Piasecki and John were ." After the Berkshire event I got a 350 Husky one of the Swedes had ridden in the Six Days, and I went to the two-day event in St . Louis and just wheelied! I blew everybody away co ld. Up until that time I'd been riding little bikes , 125 and 175 , and I'd been doing OK, maybe in the top five. I was halfway competitive, but that was about it. " I'd ridden a 250 and a 400 in - motocross and I really liked those . I'd always thought the 125 was pretty nice in the woods, b ut it .turns out it just wasn 't fast enoug h or my ridi ng style didn't match t he littl e bike. I was good, a nd I was competitive in my class , but I wasn't really competitive overall. In a lot of the first two-days Jackie usually beat me, and Carl Cranke was faster, too, at the time. Right after I started riding the big bike I rode three Nationals and won , I think, two of them, or maybe three, From then on I've stayed on at least a 250, and I've been really pretty good ever since . "Up until that time I hadn't been serious about enduro at all. I just went to one here and there when the Piaseckis or maybe Jack Lehto (at that time Husqvarna team manager in the U.S .) wanted to go to one , It was kind of fun . Bu t I wasn't serious about my timekeeping or anything until I got on the big bik e. And boy, then it wasJun! I'd never been on anything like that. That bike just did wheelies constantly. It had so much power. It was great. The next year (1974) we came out with the new maog,motor 250. -which. ... as a really a nice bike, and I started riding that. I won nine Nationa ls tha t year, you know, That wasn't too bad." Not bad at alii It gave Dick Bu rleson Nationa l Enduro his first Ch ampionsh ip . He repeated in 1975 , by which time he'd been dubbed " King Richa rd " by the motorcycle press. He did it again in 1976, and he locked u p the 1977 championship in J u ne with on ly 15 of the 28 events completed and in 1978 he won the crown again . He's quiet , consistently fast, and both he and his bike are thoroughly prepared for each event. Is he really going faster now than previous years like some riders think? " If I'm going faster, I would say some of that is the bike, and maybe some of it's me, too , It 's not possible to separate my riding from the bike. It 's a total performance. I think more of it is the bike than it is me, or it's the bike and me being able to use it. , "An enduro is a combination of seconds all added up. If I can go faster in a mile by only one second, in a hundred miles that's enough to win the event , 1 definitely like to win. 1 don't go to get second place. If I do get second 1 feel like I've lost. Of course 1 get a lot of enjoyment out of riding the motorcycle in the woods and d oing better than everybody expects. Like if I go to a race and everyone's got it a ll scoped out as a IO-poinrer. 1 like to come through with a five or a on e. I've been in zero -point enduros. I don't think it's good . I'd rather see a 100·pointer. myself, or an enduro where 1 was the onl y on e to finish . A zero enduro just means the course wasn 't la id out right. Either the checks were in the wrong places and they didn 't catch you. or the time schedules

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