By Jack Penton | Photography by Magnuson
In 1960 my father, John Penton, journeyed to Germany to ride the International Six Days Trials, and he returned to the Six Days throughout the ’60s. The ISDT is the very highest form of endurance off-road racing, often known as the Olympics of off-road. The Six Days was dad’s inspiration to build a lightweight motorcycle and the name of the first 125cc Penton machine in 1968.
That same year was also the beginning of many American off-road racers love affair with the ISDT. Penton took 12 riders and a group of support personnel to the Six Days to compete as the “American” team. Over the next 10 years, Penton sent hundreds of riders, support people, and dealers to Europe each year to experience the Six Days. All of the manufactures of the era were doing the same and team “USA” sprang to life.
I had the honor and privilege to ride the Six Days a dozen times starting in 1970, and my wife Gigi’s travel agency sent hundreds more during the 1970s and ’80s.
Fifty years later, the Americans are still fielding teams and making memories that will last a lifetime. Anyone who has been to the ISDT, now called ISDE (Enduro), is a member of a very special fraternity.
Twenty-two years ago, Leroy Winters and Dick Mann hosted a reunion for ISDT veterans of their generation. John Penton, Dave Mungenast, Malcolm Smith, and several other off-road legends attended the reunions over the years. Larry Maiers would MC an evening event, where the vets shared stories, renewed old friendships, and started new ones. The reunions continued even after Leroy passed, and about 10 years ago, Larry handed the MC duties over to me and my partner, Jeff DeBell. Jeff and I decided that on the 20th anniversary of the Leroy Winters Memorial ISDT Reunion Ride, it was time to retire the event and the awards associated with Leroy and the 1960s generation.
This spring, Erik Nijkamp contacted me with the idea of holding an ISDT/E reunion in Colorado, and I was very excited to be involved with a new group of veterans.
The weekend started Friday evening when many of the vets met for a casual bite to eat and drinks in downtown Woodland Park, Colorado. It was so good to see old friends we hadn’t seen in a lot of years.
The next morning a number of us saddled up our dirt bikes and enjoyed a casual trail ride in beautiful Colorado Rockies. There is something magical about riding with friends!
Erik arranged for us to use the Woodland Park Civic Center and catered in a lovely Saturday evening dinner. Erik also brought ISDT/E memorabilia and vintage Cycle News with Six Days coverage in them. Matt Tabor, from KTM America, donated some nice KTM swag and we had fun giving that out to the 45 vets and family in attendance.
The evening’s program began with each veteran sharing a story of their Six Day experience. Buck Walsworth, at 84 years young, recounted some of his Ossa history. Soon to follow was our youngest veteran, Rachel Rush, who is 18. When I asked her what she did at the Six Days, she responded, “I learned to walk.” She was one year old. Rachel’s father, Bill Rush, later told a fantastic story of riding all week with determination and perseverance to turn what was sure to be a bronze medal into a silver by only three-tenths of a second.
Two pioneers of the women’s ISDE movement, Suzy Moody and Nichole Bradford shared with pride their roles in getting women accepted for the first time and earning the first American women’s gold medal.
Each person that attended Six Days took the opportunity to share an experience with the group. Myself, Gunny Claypool, and Fred Hoess finished up the evening. I recounted a lifetime of Six Days. Gunny, who is the real “Mr. Six Days,” shared some love with us. He attended 36 times in the role of support and for most of that time was the unwavering leader of team USA. Everyone in the room that night depended on Gunny to compete in the ISDE. Hoess finished up for us. He is a 26-time competitor has earned more gold medals than any other rider worldwide. You know it’s a good evening when he gets up and says, “following those that came before me tonight is a tough act to follow.” The evening ended on a perfect note, with smiles all around.
Erik Nijkamp’s hard work and perseverance brought together an amazing group of Six-Day vets and created an epic reunion weekend.
The veterans that attended our reunion had so much fun that Jeff DeBell and I would like to co-host more ISDT/E reunions around the country. We have started an organization for ISDT/E veterans, and if you have ever attended an International Six Days Trials/Enduro you are eligible to join. Please visit us on Facebook at ISDT/E Veterans Organization USA. No cost, no hassle we just need to know who you are, when you went the Six Days and how to contact you with reunion information.
Here is a little teaser. Bill Berroth is looking into hosting an ISDT/E Veterans Reunion in So Cal in early 2020. CN