Cycle News

Cycle News Issue 42 October 24, 2017

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 129 of 137

VOL. 54 ISSUE 42 OCTOBER 24, 2017 P129 The high desert of the Lucerne Valley, just outside Hesperia, California, was the start of Big Bear Na- tional in 1960. The race that year made three big clo- verleafs over the sagebrush of the desert floor, with one section heading up the mountainside towards Big Bear Lake (where the race used to end before it got too big) via the ominously named Rattlesnake Canyon. Hundreds upon hundreds of riders and their crews assembled in the freezing pre-dawn hours, hauling their bikes in pickups, trailers or stuffed in sideways in the back of a station wagon. As was the tradition of hare and hound races, the exact route of the Big Bear was kept secret, marked by sacks of lime only a few hours before the start. The site and sounds of nearly 800 racers taking off across the desert floor, in what well have been, by sheer numbers alone, the biggest motorcycle race in the world, was something to behold. Multi-time winner Bud Ekins, on his Triumph, was the first rider into the first gas check with H&H vet- eran Wayne Harris close behind on his Royal Enfield. Harris took the lead in the middle stages of the race, but was later undone after hitting an unseen boulder. Buck Smith then led for a time before the gas tank on his Triumph split open. Then it was Don Surplice taking the point, just about the time his Matchless suffered a mechanical breakdown. By then Mulder was playing a game of catch up. "Just after the second loop I broke the right foot- peg off," Mulder said. "I came back and told my crew and they found a footpeg and when I came back in to get gas to start the third loop they put on a new footpeg." That meant Mulder had ridden 50 miles, a full third of the race without a footpeg! He was riding some of the roughest desert trails resting his right foot atop the Enfield's gearbox. It was up the steep ascent of Rattlesnake Canyon on the final loop, where Mulder, on the charge with his repaired bike, moved up to battle the BSA of Babe Jay. The two swapped the lead several times on the uphill loop, but Mulder was bolder and faster on the downhill sections and took command of the race. Mulder would pull away to win over Jay and third- place Darrell Triber. Mulder remembers one particularly funny mo- ment at the winner's celebration. "We were there getting our pictures taken and Frank Cooper [Royal Enfield distributer] was all excited. The big spender that he was, he reached over and handed me a 20-dollar bill for winning the Big Bear!" On the surface it seemed almost impossible that a 16-year-old whippersnapper could win an event as significant as the Big Bear, but Mulder was no rookie at the game. He grew up riding countless hours in Antelope Valley and had been racing from the time he was 12. Perhaps Mulder was simply too young to feel the pressure of racing in an event of such importance. Mulder continued racing and winning in the des- ert until he was 18, when he turned pro and started his successful run in pro flat track racing. As for the Big Bear, the future looked bright, until it wasn't. Sports Illustrated sent a reporter to cover the 1961 event and it was a complete disaster. Some riders jumped the start and scoring went haywire. The title of the resulting SI story was "Debacle in the Desert." The '61 race was declared a non-event and with it came the end to the storied race. Luckily for Mulder the race served as a launch- ing pad to a Hall of Fame career, which included five AMA Grand National wins, including two at the prestigious Peoria TT National. Yet in spite of all the success he would have on the Grand National level, he still looks back at his win in the 1960 Big Bear as perhaps his biggest. "You look back at the photos and I was just a dumb desert kid, fast as lightning," Mulder said. "I didn't realize it at the time, but winning that race opened a lot of doors for me." CN Subscribe to nearly 50 years of Cycle News Archive issues:

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Cycle News - Cycle News Issue 42 October 24, 2017