Vintage Dirt Bikes

Me on my 69 Penton 125.  Check out my gear.
Me on my 69 Penton 125. Check out my gear.

The Good Old Days of Dirt Bikes

For those of us that have been riding dirt bikes long enough remember the days of dual shocks, and no travel rear suspension. Hearing the clanging of the aftermarket shocks, Curnut as they came across the desert and thinking what is that racket. Thinking back if you could handle a bike back then today would be a breeze. Today there are vintage races with people out riding these old bikes that date 1974 or older. Nothing is considered vintage after that because things changed. Remember when mono shocks came out and we wondered is that going to work? If you are into collecting these bikes it can be a daunting and expensive hobby. Some bikes were limited production and some definitely deserved being limited like the American Eagle. My Dad had one briefly and it may have had the shortest life span in our garage of any bike owned by a family member. There are some bikes that hold great nostalgia either because I had one or always wanted one. For me owning a Penton Jackpiner 175 would have been heaven and never owned one. I did ride a 1969 Penton 125 and know of only one other. It was ridden by a girl from the same motorcycle club as me and our favorite thing to do was hill climb. Never wanted a Bultaco cause every time you’d break down people would say they knew one was laying out there in the desert because the buzzards (Bultaco Buzzards) were out. The days of old are definitely gone but not forgotten. Maybe one day I can still have that “now” vintage Penton sitting in my garage. Probably would never ride it because the first thing out of my mouth would be the suspension sucks and how did we ever ride these things. In the early 70’s racing was at its purest and by the end of that era things had changed. They did change for the better because motorcycle evolution was improving the bikes we rode but desert racing never really seemed the same. Looking at a Penton or Husqvarna from those days does bring back the memories.

BSA
BSA
DKW
DKW
Honda Elsinore
Honda Elsinore
Maico
Maico
Norton Manx
Norton Manx
Penton
Penton
Penton
Penton

Dirt Bikes Pre-1975

100 – 175 CC

Bultaco Pursang 125/175

Bultaco Alpina 125/175

Can-Am 125/175 MX/Enduro

CZ 125

CZ 175

DKW 125 BoonDocker

DKW 125 Enduro

Hodaka Combat Wombat

Hodaka Wombat

Honda MT 125

Husqvarna 125

Kawasaki KS 125

Montesa Cota 123

Ossa 125/175 Phantom

Penton Jackpiner 175

Penton Six Day 125

Puch 125/175 Enduro

Rickman 125 Six Day

Suzuki TC-125L Prospector

Yamaha DT 100/125/175


176 – 250 CC

Bultaco 250 Matador

Bultaco 250 Sherpa T

CZ 250 Motocross

Greeves 250 MX

Honda Elsinore CR 250

Honda MT 250

Honda XL 250 K1

Husqvarna 250/360 Road & Trail

Husqvarna 250 SC

Kawasaki KX 250

Maico 250

Montesa Cappra 250 VR

Ossa 250 Phantom

Ossa Pioneer 250

Rickman 250 MX

Yamaha DT 250


251 – 600 CC

American Eagle 405 MX

BSA N21 600

BSA Gold Star 500

BSA 441

Bultaco Alpina 350

Bultaco Pursang 360

CZ 400 Motocross

Greeves Qub Desert

Greeves 380

Harley Davidson SS 350

Husqvarna 400 WR

Kawasaki 350 K-9

Maico 400/450 MX

Maico 501

Norton 500

Penton Mint 400

Rokon RT-340

Suzuki TM-400l Cyclone

Triumph 500 BSA 500

Triumph Trophy Trail 500

Yamaha DT 360

Yamaha MX 360


Start of an Enduro, Circa 1970's
Start of an Enduro, Circa 1970s

Memories of Old Motorcycles

Looking over the list I know there are bikes not listed on here. If you read this and think of one I missed please list it. With age we all seem to forget things and when someone brings something up we get that ah ha moment. When looking back at the days of old it reminds me that motorcycles and the gear that was worn has come a long way. Today's young riders have no idea what it was like to ride a motorcycle like the ones listed above. I have owned Yamaha 90, Penton 125, Honda MR 125, Maico 250, Husqvarna 250, KTM 250, and a Honda XR 250 which covers about most of what I have ridden. I won riding a four stroke back then and being told you could not win racing enduros on a four stroke. I remember another racer, Billy Fulmer and I had a laugh over being told that, since we had both ended up being successful on four strokes. This happened ages ago and today no one would consider saying something like that.

Happy riding and keep the rubber side down.

For further reading check out my blog, Motorcycles and Riding.

Read about one of my favorite Actors that also happens to have been an awesome motorcycle racer. Steve McQueen

More by this Author


Comments 34 comments

Mark D Stevens profile image

Mark D Stevens 2 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

Here's one for you: Do you remember the Carabela? They were a Mexican manufacturer of dirtbikes and, I believe, mopeds. Their 125cc motocrosser was called the "Caliente". I don't recall seeing them around much, but they did get reviewed by Dirt Bike and other magazines. Thanks for the great article!


JP993 profile image

JP993 4 years ago from England

I had a 70's twinshock kx80 as a kid.


john hayls profile image

john hayls 4 years ago

This hub has very beautiful pictures of bikes. The price of these bikes is reasonable. Fantastic bikes


" vintage desert racer" 4 years ago

This is not so much about vintage dirtbikes, but about one member of our old "Riverside Ice House" dirtbike riders that passed away back in 1987, so we memorialized his passing by finding a peaceful, quiet, far out place in the middle of the Mojave Desert to bury his trusty old 390 Husky and small name plaque simply known as "JERICKSON" We thought at the time no one will ever be out this far to disturb this very special place, and we made a promise to visit the monument every December. It's now 24 years later, and you wouldn't believe how many monuments are there now, and NOT valdalized. This location and memories are to say the least, very special.


Ken Winkler 5 years ago

I actually get kinda sad when reading about the "good 'ol days" riding in the mojave desert with the likes of Whitey Martino, Rich Thorwalston, Mike Patrick, JN Roberts, Malcolm, etc. With only six (6) inches of travel in the front, and four (4) inches in the rear, we all felt like we truly accomplished sometining after a 100 mile Hare & Hound. I started with a 1968 Yamaha DT1, but soon saw that the Husky's were the one's to beat in the Dez, so I bought a 1967 Husky 360 from one of Malcolm's mechanics at K&N Motorcycles in Riverside, and I was hooked on Desert Racing from then-on. I actually bought a brand new Ossa 175cc Stilleto from Nelson's motorcycle shop in Riverside, because there was a 175 class back then, and


stars439 profile image

stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Wonderful Hub. God Bless You.


Spine Surgery 5 years ago

Thanks for posting such important issue!


10k gold ring  5 years ago

I love this hub and will be looking for more of next posts.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Brings back memories. I owned a Honda Dealership before they had cars. I enjoyed hill climbing. When the Honda CR250 came out it made a huge difference. I enjoyed abusing all models of Hondas. I sell better if I truly believe in what I sell. I was many times the number one dealer in California in terms of number of Hondas sold. I have ridden stock CB750's uphill I knew I could not reach the top. I wanted to see how far I could go... I have slid down trails that I could not climb because they were too steep. I can tell you how reliable a Trail 90 is... with a hole in the crankcase that I plugged with a tree limb and poured Wesson oil in the crankcase and drove 20 difficult terrain miles while smelling like I was "frying eggs."

I won the first three races when I was 24 years old against teenagers..

This was when a Harley could not out-run a Honda CB750 both on the bottom-end, and top end. The Harley could be geared to beat at either end of the power curve, but not both... I have ridden CB750 Hondas when I got ice on my helmet driving over 120 MPH. I was laying down on the gas tank. I could not see the speedometer. I know I had the throttle twisted as far as it would go to get the trip over with...


henrykasan profile image

henrykasan 6 years ago from UK

Good Hub!!!!!!

The hub is great and the information shared is useful. The collection of picture is fabulous. It is true that the persons who are riding the dirt bikes for a considerable time are well aware about dual shocks and rear suspension. The statistics of Dirt Bikes Pre-1975 such as 100 – 175 CC, 176 – 250 CC and 251 – 600 CC is very valuable for dirt bike enthusiasts.Thanks for sharing such a wonderful peace of text.


kingkhan78 profile image

kingkhan78 6 years ago

I love it bikes great hub


edward, 6 years ago

you coudnt give me a monoshock bike,

they are worthless,

the older bikes IE,, 70's are soo much better,

anything from maico's, to older yamaha mx's,

were cool and a lot more comfy,


Motor leathers profile image

Motor leathers 6 years ago

Hah! I remember, when I was 15, I got my first bike, and it was a dirt one - Minskach. That was really funny, as I coulr repair it on my own. But then I abandoned this kind of bikes and started riding rel cruisers like Triumph and Harley. But dirt bikes are good for beginners.


cranny 6 years ago

if anyone has a kick starter for a 1977 huskavarna cr 250 i lost mine and would love to get a new one


Big Sven 6 years ago

I raced mx in the 70's, in mx's heartland, Sweden. Great time, great bikes! Yes, they had their faults, but you can say that of any bike. We learned to spanner and ride our way around such problems. They were early days, and protection was basic, but we began to use hockey protection now this was online. We 'somehow' knew suspension was the key, but nobody knew what to do and we didn't have the shocks anyway. There was this mad guy near Stockholm into modifying shocks, but they were expensive and faded out after only a couple of laps more than standard Girlings/Koni's, so we didn't see the point in wasting the money, better buy fuel and tyres and learn to ride the kangaroo! I think his name was Ohlin. I later used his own brand shocks in '77 and they were worth 5 seconds a lap. Golly-gosh! Love to turn the clock back and do it again ...and to heck with the money, I'd have bought those earlier expensive Koni-Ohlin shocks. I think the 70's were the best years for mx, the bikes were still simple constructions and easy and cheap to maintain and run.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

Maico made very strong bottom ends, the crankcases in the 250 were very strong too.

You may have noticed my error, The BSA 500 scrambler was a DBD34 of course!

The Gold Star and scrambler Gold Star had the 34 designation.


mkott profile image

mkott 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada Author

~earnesthub

My Maico 250 was the same way. I knew riding my Maico there wasn't an up hill I couldn't climb or a sandwash I couldn't handle; thing was a tank.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

I had a DBD 33 BSA 500cc scrambler that went like hell.

I also liked the 501 Maico for sheer guts and grunt.


Anna_B profile image

Anna_B 6 years ago from USA

Gunna share this page with two of my friends who are into dirt bikes


VinaAlleru 6 years ago

What a great hub! I want one of these now.


cocowboy profile image

cocowboy 6 years ago from Colorado

Fantastic hub!! Loved the info and the pics too... just great :)


ab420 profile image

ab420 6 years ago from MA, USA

Great hub, that Norton Manx is a beast!


mkott profile image

mkott 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada Author

First thing if you have not done so, is try to find an owners manuel. There are some out there. This may be a motorcycle that will need to be taken apart and gone over. If you do this yourself and have not done this before document what you are doing, take pictures whatever it takes to know how to reasemble. There are those out there that are racing these vintage bikes or just joy riding so someone has info. Even a good motorcycle mechanic will know the basics even if not familiar with Ossa's. Good luck.


ossafan1 6 years ago

I have a 1971 ossa stiletto scrambler. I cannot find any good websites or information on it. it hasn't ran in about 20 years and I am going to get it going for my grandfather. Can anyone help me out? It looks like a fun bike and can't wait to jump on it and have some fun.


mkott profile image

mkott 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada Author

I haven't seen Tom Webb in years and don't have a clue to what he is doing now. He used to race in California.

As for the kick start being difficult on the 82 420 KTM or the CR 480 can't remember. I never rode one and can't think of anyone that did.


nomoretrucks profile image

nomoretrucks 6 years ago from scotland

wow! im new to hubbing and its great to see a site with you folk talking about the bikes i read about in the moto mags i would read and be jealous of, not 'cos of your machines more because of the amazing terrain you all seemed to be riding around on whilst i learned my obsession across muddy welsh hills with bottomless thick marsh mud. I got good at pulling bikes out and eventually rarely getting stuck, although by then the bikes had got lighter and more powerful. Wrestling a DT250mx 1980 when you have arms like beanpoles was hard at 17, then worse still a 77 xt500 it landed on things like a dead horse falling off a building. but quick if you rode it like it should be ridden. i actually won my first trophy on one in a north wales enduro. i then discovered power with lightness(relative)with a can am 400,yz 125g,ktm 250(83)ktm125(84) then a ktm 500(85)i loved and won so many mx's on that one i bought my first new 87' ktm 500 and got a loan to buy it with after reading tom(wolfman)webs review of it in U.S. dirt bike mag. Whatever happened to him-all my mates back then looked like him!. Ive had about 70 differrent dirt bikes and road bikes since then but its the early ones that had an effect on you we all remember the most, anyone remember the 82 420 ktm which looked beautiful but felt it had a hinge in the middle or the cr 480, were they all that hard to start even in the U.S.?(all my previous rides were left kickers)


Motor leathers profile image

Motor leathers 6 years ago

It is an interesting story and these bikes are perfect. Yes, you are right. Collecting of such beauty is really expensive.


MM2112 profile image

MM2112 6 years ago

My first was a '73 Yamaha SC500. Maybe 4" of rear travel. What a power-band though; in a straight line, it was a blast! Thanks for the great story.


mkott profile image

mkott 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada Author

R.J. Roberts: Glad you stopped by. Greeves! Now that's a blast from the past. KTM is a good choice. They have always been popular in my family. My Dad still rides and he is 73. :) And I still can't keep up.


R.J.Roberts 6 years ago

I just got back into dirtbiking now that I'm too old for it.(HA) Got a KTM 200 EXC with about twice the power of my old 68' Greeves 360. The best bike I used to have was a little 100 Zundapp ISDT replica.(4 sreed no less) At 190 lb.I could drag it over anything I couldn't ride over!


mkott profile image

mkott 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada Author

David: Big Wheels were before my time but my brother had one. When he was a kid he went to a Saddleback Park (no longer there) which you could ride motorcycles but he took his Big Wheel and rode down hills with it. He ended up breaking it in half.


Classycut profile image

Classycut 6 years ago

I saw interesting thing over the weekend. A bicycle was motorized. You can cycle it as well as throtle it like motorbike.

Good job.


David R Bradley profile image

David R Bradley 6 years ago from The Active Side of Infinity

That was cool. When I was a kid, my cousin used to race motocross. I remember how much fun it was to watch and I'd pretend my Big Wheel was a dirt bike. The Enduro picture reminded me of that...


resspenser profile image

resspenser 6 years ago from South Carolina

I really enjoyed this hub and the pictures of these great bikes. My first dirt bike was an old 175cc Honda and was an xl. I stripped it of the lights and turn signals and put on two new shocks and had a ball on the trails around here.

Hmmmm maybe I can find one on Craigslist.

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