Two-Wheel Classic

When this came out in 1971 I was still deep into motorcycling. I went to all the races, taking photos, sometimes writing up results for publication. This was also the year of my last motorcycle race.

Producer/director Bruce Brown followed up his 1966 hit, The Endless Summer with this documentary about motorcycling. It’s On Any Sunday, and it features champion racer Mert Lawill, supreme motorcycle rider Malcolm Smith, and movie legend Steve McQueen. The title shot shows you this is going to be a fun movie.


At the time this was filmed, likely during the 1970 racing season, Lawill was sporting the number one plate, having won the championship in 1969. Unfortunately, 1970 was a bad year for Lawill, stymied by mechanical difficulties throughout the season, but managing to win six races.

1970 was the year I went to Talladega to photograph the 200 mile championship race, and for me it was an opportunity to see some of the people featured in the film. One of the riders I got a bunch of good shots of was Dave Aldana on his BSA as he rocketed through a banked infield turn on his way to win the race and also the 1970 AMA championship.

You really need to take a look at these racers from 1970. Today’s tires are much fatter for additional traction. The limits of traction set the cornering force available and thus the lean angle. These bikes are banked at 45° from the vertical, indicating a coefficient of friction of 1.00. Today’s racers bank at 60° off the vertical, representing a friction coefficient of about 1.7.

Also in 1970 American road racing bikes were just beginning to grow up. More powerful engines were available. At the riders’ meeting the track marshal instructed slow riders to stick to the lower lanes on the banked oval. Rusty Bradley reminded everybody that this year 135 mph was considered slow.


Mark Brelsford was in contention for the championship in 1970 and appears in the movie. A few years later he showed up on the front page of magazines following a spectacular mishap at the Daytona 200-mile race.


I never heard of Malcolm Smith before this movie, but in 1974 he was out at Fort Hood, participating the ISDT Qualifying Trials. Here he is being interviewed by Wide World of Sports in the movie.


Here he is at Fort Hood.


The movie also goes to the Bonneville Salt Flats for a look at the speed trials. Here’s late racer Cal Rayborn being fitted into a motorcycle speed contraption prior to setting a new world record of nearly 255 mph.


The movie runs the gamut of motorcycle sport, from motocross to hill climb, and finishes up with three friends, Lawill, Smith, and McQueen sporting their Husqvarnas on a beach near San Diego. It’s what fun is all about.



I’m sure this was shot in 16mm, no longer a necessity in the modern age of electronic video. Some of the links above lead to additional photos. Follow them to see more.

About John Blanton

I'm a retired engineer living in San Antonio, Texas. I have served in the Navy, raced motorcycles, taken scads of photos and am usually a nice guy. I have political and religious opinions, and these opinions tend to be driven by an excess of observed stupidity. Gross stupidity is the supposed target of many of my posts.
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1 Response to Two-Wheel Classic

  1. Pingback: Flat Out | Specular Photo of San Antonio

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