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King Kenny

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Mailman, Feb 20, 2020.

  1. Mailman

    Mailman Hardly a Guru Top Contributor

    A lot of us here grew up following the exploits of Kenny Roberts. It still amazes me that racers back in his days that were chasing National Championships raced in several different classes. Flat track in different displacement classes, road races in different displacement classes. They’d go to an event like marathon Daytona 200 road races, race a 250, finish the race and hop right on an open class bike and go do another 200 mile race!
    Heres Kenny racing a 250,
    And open class,
    583CB792-7799-4828-953F-AF1CA881C2C9.jpeg FB434F09-35D9-476B-8097-1EFC4416EEB2.jpeg E3BF94C2-3226-4817-B432-C5301B2EC4B7.jpeg A5231EE5-7F78-4474-A4BB-123A3E34F882.jpeg A7ACD7D2-256C-43CD-8C72-0AA6FFA8308F.jpeg DDCB55EA-1FFF-4C4B-842E-2FEEA864A015.jpeg 86C0A99B-C3E6-42E8-AB66-AC13F35C072E.jpeg 49944C14-139B-4227-BC0C-1C88AF8F91FD.jpeg

    I read once that you can’t find many photos of him on his XS650 flat tracker, because his ride on that Two stroke ripper was all that you could find. But I came across a bunch of his flat track photos,
    7E260A2B-51EE-4B59-9739-CD6D172DF6BD.jpeg 751240BD-EC3A-4F23-9E00-4F8A80FDF3EA.jpeg 808C599A-9CB6-4FC3-AF79-3FCFAD7756DF.jpeg D57831DC-870B-4D69-88AD-BEF654465B9D.jpeg 90C0B79D-C1BD-458C-938D-443803FFF503.jpeg C50560A1-E5E5-471C-9BFF-21C08507A6AB.jpeg E52C8204-8DDE-44AF-8D9E-1166BF58F4D0.jpeg DAF77633-5767-4ED9-A5D4-5B193D9D648C.jpeg 328169F6-9688-429D-8E92-0880ABBF41DE.jpeg F5B21CF8-0F88-472A-AAC1-7B1D8AD7CCCC.jpeg 3CF09433-BBE7-4D3C-A025-81380FB3CB4D.jpeg

    I’ve often wandered how my favorite racers of his era would do against the racers of today, do you think they could’ve competed against the likes of Rossi?
    6838F7FA-6AEE-40B4-8FDB-3A7D02D21E0F.jpeg BF18D892-64C1-4315-A9BC-DCED26F32BD3.jpeg
    Signal, OHRider, MrBultaco and 2 others like this.
  2. GLJ

    GLJ Never go faster than your guardian angle can fly. Top Contributor

    I think a more interesting question is how the racers of today would have done back then on the equipment he was riding.
    Roberts was very good on dirt and asphalt. I remember reading a article about where his speed came from on road courses. It wasn't on the straights or in the corners as much at the end of the straights. He out-braked everybody.
  3. Mailman

    Mailman Hardly a Guru Top Contributor

    I can still remember the first time reading the story of him racing that TZ750 , back in one of the motorcycle mags.
    The Harley guys could out handle him, and take him through the corners, he was going way wide on the corners , out in the loose stuff, the Harley guys would exit the corners first and be half way down the straight and they said you could hear Kenny’s TZ screaming , building speed way faster than their bikes. He’d shoot by them just before the corner and they’d beat him through the corners again. Then the whole thing would repeat again, constantly swapping leads. Man! That was exciting stuff to me!
  4. GLJ

    GLJ Never go faster than your guardian angle can fly. Top Contributor

    That was early in the development of the TZ. Once they got a handle on the handling wasn't too long until Harley basically gave up on road racing.
    I was at Daytona in 75. Watched the start from the infield. 3 waves of 20 bikes. Almost all were TZ750s. Never forget the sound. It was like 10 billion pissed off bees taking off at once.
    If I remember right he raced a TZ on dirt once. Afterwords he told the AMA to outlaw them on dirt. He said something along the lines that there were only 2 or 3 people that could race them on dirt safely and he wasn't one of them.
  5. Team Junk

    Team Junk XS650 Junkie XS650.com Supporter Top Contributor

    Wasn't so much out braking as it was blazing into the corner and then tossing it sideways like on a flat track hanging off the bike knee out. Really pissed off the Europeans who believed that maintaining traction at all times and not upsetting the balance of the bike.
    lakeview, Marlin72xs, Signal and 4 others like this.
  6. GLJ

    GLJ Never go faster than your guardian angle can fly. Top Contributor

  7. 59Tebo

    59Tebo 59Tebo Top Contributor

    Could it be, back then, they had bigger balls? :umm:
    Marlin72xs, Mailman and GLJ like this.
  8. cafetools

    cafetools XS650 Addict

    How well did the xs650 do back in those days? Was there a lot of gold medals won with it?
  9. Team Junk

    Team Junk XS650 Junkie XS650.com Supporter Top Contributor

    Mailman. Thanks for posting the photos.
    Kenny Roberts did more for bike racing than anyone else I can think of. He was the only one to break the hold HD had on flat track and when he went to Europe he totally changed the treatment of the riders by both the promoters and the teams. He led the charge to increase safety at the tracks in Europe and here in the states.
    Marlin72xs, Signal, MrBultaco and 4 others like this.
  10. Norton7d

    Norton7d XS650 Addict

    The TZ motor is the most amazimg thing I have heard fire, including standing next to a top fuel dragstar.
    I took this video at street tracker night in San Jose a few years ago.
    This is Ray Abrams TZ replacement that Kenny rode a few years back at Indy to celebrate the amazing Indy performance in 75.
    You cant turn your head when near the motor, the direct path to your ear is like a tool of modern warfare, piercing doesnt come close to describing the volume and tone of those 4 cylinders.
    Did u know there was a kill switch on the bars to kill one or two cylinders so the throttle could be twisted while in the corner.

    And the 2009 ride from Indy with the same bike

    Last edited: Feb 21, 2020
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  11. halfmile

    halfmile XS Builder XS650.com Supporter Top Contributor

    This came up today on the VFT site. $1.500. Genuine article.
  12. Team Junk

    Team Junk XS650 Junkie XS650.com Supporter Top Contributor

  13. jetmechmarty

    jetmechmarty XS650 Guru Top Contributor


    I got the chance to meet Dave Aldana two weeks ago. He talked to a bunch of vintage bike enthusiasts for over two hours. All ears were on him. I saw him race at Daytona in 1983. He recalled the race. Amazing!

    Last edited: Feb 21, 2020
    MaxPete, Marlin72xs, Signal and 2 others like this.
  14. Mailman

    Mailman Hardly a Guru Top Contributor

    Phil, you need that to go on your next build! :pimp:

    Thanks for all the videos and stories guys! I loved that whole era. Gary Nixon was another favorite of mine. So fast and so talented, but suffered some really bad injuries while racing and continued racing while injured.

    Back-to-back AMA Grand National Champion, Daytona 200 winner, US road-racing champion, battered in crashes and duded out of a ‘world’ title. Gary Nixon, from Anadarko, Oklahoma, has seen it all – the epitome of the tough American racer.

    For three years, he raced with a 45cm stainless steel pin in his left leg. He was just as tough mentally, adapting his bike set up and to lines to take on riders with faster bikes.

    Nixon’s first national victory was at a road race in Pennsylvania in 1963. His two Grand National titles came as a factory Triumph rider in 1967-68, including the Daytona victory in ’67. The US tarmac crown was Nixon’s in ’73, riding an Erv Kanemoto prepared Kawasaki 750.

    8C9A10A6-F59D-47E7-8A65-7AC35A20CB64.jpeg 7594E6C4-E0DA-4E2F-8357-836F9A1E0EFE.jpeg A92FCE32-5448-4860-8046-BE79D7FFBB00.jpeg 5EDBBC70-8CB8-42E2-A79C-551056392D17.jpeg E9C101D1-346B-4DBE-9EC6-16FC8FF6152F.jpeg

    AND......look who else had a nasty, un rideable two stroke flat tracker.
  15. MrBultaco

    MrBultaco it ran before being parked Top Contributor

    A lot of us guys went to the national 1/2 mile at Adams County Fairgrounds just north of Denver in 1974. We were in the 2nd or 3rd row of the stands and the Harley guys had the entire front row. Kenny was walking the track with his jacket under his arm and when he got to the start/finish line most of the Harley guys started yelling 'jap shit rider and Harleys rule the dirt track'. Kenny took his jacket and showed them his #1 on it.
    The hd guys shut up and all the complete grandstands cheered.:cheers: He just put his jacket under his arm again and continued walking the track. I don't think he won that race though.....the track was soooo rough, that the AMA never returned for a race.:(
    MaxPete, Marlin72xs, Signal and 2 others like this.
  16. Signal

    Signal XS650 Junkie Top Contributor

  17. I was at Daytona in 73 on the infield area, and saw Gary on his Kaw. I have vivid memories of him coming off the front straight to the infield. Full throttle, then silence as he downshifted into the turn.
    MaxPete, gggGary and Mailman like this.
  18. Yes, the XS's or any of the vertical twins didn't do well on the mile tracks. The Harleys and Honda V's just seemed to put more power down to the dirt. I saw Kenny crash into the hay bales at Syracuse Mile in 74 or 75. It seemed that back then the 1/2 mile tracks were anyone's game. I mean, look at the success of Dick Mann, he was an animal, on a BSA no less.

    I was,again, on the infield of this race with a press pass. The 1st and last time they had bikes on this rubber, sanded coated track.
    https://books.google.com/books?id=GvYDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA92&lpg=PA92&dq=Roosevelt+raceway+yamaha+motorcycle+race&source=bl&ots=JuYjaqWxaZ&sig=ACfU3U3IxPn2mFMuH-VKZj_nfgAwUtf87Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiu8fTGrO3nAhXJVt8KHTUKB5cQ6AEwAHoECAwQAQ#v=onepage&q=Roosevelt raceway yamaha motorcycle race&f=false

    Dick Mann prolly would have won this, but he broke down in a heat race. Oh, and Keith Mashburn also raced a 250cc twin, 2-stroke yamaha in the lower class.
    Notice, Jim Weinert, (more famous for motocross, I saw him win the MX at Daytona in 73), won the Junior class race.
    Notice, also, a Norton in the field.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2020
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  19. MrBultaco

    MrBultaco it ran before being parked Top Contributor

    Went to the Astrodome in 1975. Got a press pass once and shot a lot of slides. Here's Kenny/ Gary Scott and Skip Aksland (Roberts' protege at the time) on the floor before a driver's meeting. Roberts and Scott were feuding at the time, but not here.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 25, 2020
  20. Mailman

    Mailman Hardly a Guru Top Contributor

    Yup! British bikes used to rule the tracks, Gary Nixon won a lot of races on a Triumph, and who remembers Alex Jorgensen racing this Ron Woods built Norton? :geek:
    5FA1BDD2-85F5-472F-93FF-ED9FEC82BADE.jpeg 9A09D0D9-1EE0-4576-8F12-2EB672B7F619.jpeg 138B5AE2-9890-452B-9D2C-ADFB8C4FB650.jpeg 5BD44962-D1E7-4652-96CE-1575C9BD19D8.jpeg D1C8DD08-D203-449A-946C-3D7C9D4F4B3D.jpeg
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