If you’ve got kids that are into motorcycles, take a moment and introduce them to the story of John Penton. They’ll hear how a kid from a Midwestern farm grew up pursuing his passion with hard work, joy, pain and a ton of determination.
John Penton, born in 1925, got the motorcycle bug after learning how to ride his Dad’s 1914 Harley-Davidson in Amherst, Ohio. After serving his country during WWII, he picked up an H-D knucklehead and raced in a Jack Pine 500 in 1948. It didn’t take long for him to learn that lighter-weight motorcycles were the way to go in the demanding off-road races.
Penton and his brothers opened up a bike shop in 1950, selling BMWs, BSAs, NSUs, Husqvarnas, and Japanese models. John would secure his legendary status through success in enduro racing and what would be come a trend-setting, life-changing partnership with KTM Motorcycles. (Read his full bio at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame website.)
Always thinking of ways to improve the sport, Penton coordinated the production of a motocross boot that would mimic the safety and construction of a ski boot. He called upon Alpinestars to manufacture the explosively popular Hi-Point boots as alternative to the common work boots guys were wearing at the time.
There’s always a strong presence of Penton bikes in the Swap Meet area at the Penton Owners Group tents. Many attendees have a lotta respect for this chapter in American motorcycle history.
This guy had a major impact on off-road motorcycle racing as described in the documentary, “PENTON: The John Penton Story.” In the trailer above, you’ll see big names and well-respected people weigh in on how Penton made a positive change in motorcycle culture.
If you want to sit down with a good book that digs deep beyond the man and machine, check out Ed Youngblood’s, “John Penton and the Off-Road Motorcycle Revolution.”
Today, the Penton family continues to pursue their passion and we’re certain their contribution to the sport will always be held in high regard.