On February 5 of this year, the Penton Owners Group (POG) held their annual special meeting at the AMA Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio. The meeting was open to all members and to the public, and as a special treat the POG brought together the three Penton brothers who raised the off-road racing bar so effectively in the late ’60s and early ’70s-Jack, Jeff and Tom.
The program for getting Jack, Jeff and Tom together at this year’s meeting was simple: get the business out of the way, and give the microphones to the three brothers and let them start telling stories. In addition, the patriarch of the Penton clan and creator of the motorcycle bearing his name, John Penton, was on hand as a spectator. He took the microphone at one point to tell a story about working with the KTM factory in the early years, but otherwise stood back and let his sons provide the entertainment.If you are a true Penton fan, it was definitely a treat to just sit and be entertained by stories of learning to ride their first bikes and going to their first international competitions. We learned that these three internationally famous racers started out just as humbly as you and I, riding whatever junky bikes were available to them from the back of their father and uncle’s motorcycle shop.”My first motorcycle, I shared with my sister,” Jack told the crowd. “There was a step-through 50 hanging from the sign in front of the shop, and my sister and I pestered dad long enough until he actually took it down and said if you can get it running you can have a motorcycle. So that was my first big ride.”
About the first actual Penton motorcycle, Jeff said: “I don’t think we really had an idea what my dad was up to. When it actually came on the scene it was a shock to us.”Jack, the youngest of the group, had the most humorous outlook on the new machines in 1968: “I thought everybody was supposed to have their name on a bike.”Of their young racing careers, the three brothers agreed that they were free to race anywhere they wanted to race every weekend. Doing so, they became well-rounded racers and did well everywhere they went. But the one form of competition they became most famous for was the International Six Day Trials, now known as the International Six Day Enduro.
Jack told the story of his introduction to international racing in 1970: “So he (John) walks up to this 15-year old kid (Jack) and says, ‘You’re going to Six Days.’ It wasn’t, ‘Do you want to go?,’ it was, ‘You’re going to Six Days.’ For me, I had just turned 16 when I went over there, and hadn’t been out of the country, and really-there’s not a lot of mountains in Ohio. It’s not exactly like El Escorial, Spain. My first international experience was in some place so foreign to anything I’d ever done in my life, I guess from then on it couldn’t get much weirder.”It was fun to be there, and spend the better part of a day not just in the company of one of the founding families of modern day off-road racing, but also just to hang with the attending enthusiasts, each of whom have their own stories of racing in the old days, the old bikes, and of course their “new” Pentons they’ve been working on fixing up. It was a great experience for a life-long Penton fan.
The POG’s website is at www.pentonusa.org, and hopefully a transcript of the meeting dialog will be put up there soon. Check it out; you can also find plenty of existing information on Penton motorcycles, and of course are encouraged to join the POG and be a part of all this in the future. You’ll be in good company!