TWO WHEELS—with a Motor
I delivered newspapers on a motor scooter, rode motorcycles for work and play, and raced them in the desert. Those experiences gave me a deep, lasting appreciation for form, flow and function, purpose and passion, style and grace, and the intimate, inseparable connection between me and the bike. So much so that the beginning and end of every ride, like me and the bike, merge into one thing, not two things.
Vespa Motorscooter 1954 750 cc Royal Enfield 1965 1100cc Virago 2000
My First Race 1970 Husky My Last Race 1980 Yamaha
My first race was an exciting beginning to racing motorcycles in the desert but my last race was a very satisfying end of racing motorcycles in the desert—15th overall and 1st 250 Vet Expert in the Checkers 1981 River Run. Click the RACING link above for my memoir of that last race. I'm Bill Elam in the results because I had not yet changed my birth name to Billy Dean. More about that in my YOUR NAME blog.
In 1971, I began racing desert events with the Rams Motorcycle Club. The picture below was taken in the Teagle Wash area near Randsburg shortly after I joined. I'm the guy standing in the back row jibber jabbering with the guy to my far right.
In 1973, I joined the Desert Knights MC because it was a more family-oriented club and therefore more compatible with Dee and our kids. The picture below was our reunion in 2006, many years after we had all stopped racing. I'm the guy in the top row—jibber jabbering with someone, as usual.
After my last desert race, I sold my bike and went back to my first love—running and raced 5Ks, 10ks and marathons. In 2005, my back went under hot lights and cold steel. During my recovery, I got to thinking about the things I'd done on two legs and two wheels. Those two-wheel thoughts brought memories of the years I had raced motorcycles in the desert, and I wondered how many other desert racers would appreciate having access to memories of the years they raced two-stroke bikes in the desert. So in 2006, I built a website titled The Banner is Up so desert racers could enjoy the pictures, stories, and memories that made desert racing what it had been yesterday and would be tomorrow. The guys and gals racing in the desert today might not yet be in a frame of mind to care about the old days, but someday most of them will realize how fast today becomes yesterday and be glad somebody saved it for tomorrow.
TWO WHEELS—without a Motor
After I stopped racing and playing on motorcycles in the desert, I sold my dual sport Husky and bought a bicycle as cross training for my running. It wasn't long, however, before my knees told me I had to give up running. So I focused my energy on riding the bicycle and got a second place finish in the Tehachapi Gran Fondo. As you can see, I was the oldest cyclist in the race but my fitness as a runner and my focus on training with passion and specificity... well, it paid off.
As you can see from the two pictures below, I've been at this two wheels without a motor for many years. The one on the left is me in the early 50s on my 3-speed Schwinn preparing to ride to school with the neighbor kids from our ranches in the foothills of Grananda Hills. The picture on the right is me 65 years later with the Scott carbon bike I bought after Sharon and I moved to Thousand Oaks where I joined the Conejo Valley Cyclists.