So, 2012 is a big anniversary year for motorcycle publishing. My son-in-law Andy Leisner is touting the 50th for Cycle World, but you can top him easily with a full century of Motorcyclist. All those other guys are back there in fading memories, if they are remembered at all…
My involvement with Motorcyclist started long before I was even in publishing. In the early 1960s I was a weekend racer and spent the weekdays working for Peter Satori, an exotic car dealer in Pasadena, who was located next door to the Triumph importer, Johnson Motors, and only a few blocks from the magazine. Several times a month, I would have lunch with then-editor/publisher Bill Bagnall and his wife Shirlee, and talk about bikes. That I would ever be the editor of that very magazine a decade later was the farthest thing from my mind—I was going to be a racer!
Petersen Publishing bought Motorcyclist in ’72, and the new venture was headed up by Bob Greene, a formidable auto and motorcycle writer who had quite a track record in publishing. He had been the editor of Cycle and Hot Rod, and was the very first editor to publish the “road test”—a fact probably lost to history. I’d been at Petersen since ’68, writing for Motorcycle Sport Quarterly, another Bob Greene invention, and doing motorcycle-related stories for Hot Rod, Motor Trend and Car Craft. My racing ambitions had been successful, but unfortunately there wasn’t much money in racing in the ’60s and all but a few racers had to work for a living.
Bob Greene assembled a staff, some from in-house at Petersen and some from outside. I moved from my other duties and was joined by Dale Boller, Carol Sims and ace Hot Rod photographer Eric Rickman. Later, we’d be joined by famed off-roader Dave Ekins and John Weed, the former editor of Motorcycle Weekly, a newspaper then competing with Cycle News. It was quite a group, and a wonderful place to work, bustling with camaraderie, wit and humor. We produced stories both technical and educational, with “how-to-ride” features from people like Malcolm Smith and Al Gunter. I did road tests on factory racebikes like the Daytona Harleys, Triumphs and Suzukis, lent to us since they had confidence that I’d never throw one down the road. I never did! I enjoyed every minute.
That’s me with Harley-Davidson race boss Dick O’Brien, inspecting the new 250cc two-stroke
By ’75 I was editor and all was going well—or so I thought. One day, however, one of my superiors came to me and said something that made it impossible for me to keep working there: “You’re fired.”
That ended my days with Motorcyclist and Petersen Publishing, but I had no regrets; in fact, it set me looking for other ways to make a living. After a few related freelance jobs, I connected with Rotax, the Austrian engine manufacturer, and since ’79 have been the North American distributor for their racing engines used in motorcycles and go-karts.
I congratulate the present staff of Motorcyclist on behalf of all those who have come before them. I hope that the rest of their lives are as happy and successful as mine has been since my departure.