More Than Skinned-Up Bones

Looking back on the career of the seemingly invincible David Aldana, who walked away from all sorts of crashes but was also a capable racer.

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by Motorcycle Classics archives
David Aldana at the San Jose Mile in 1976. Aldana adopted the skeleton leathers in 1975, when he became a privateer.

One of the most prolific and versatile motorcycle racers of all time never won a national championship of consequence. That man is David Aldana, whose professional motorcycle-racing career spanned four decades. Fans of the movie On Any Sunday recall Aldana, probably for the first time, when he challenged BSA teammates Dick Mann and Jim Rice and eventual champion Gene Romero for the 1970 AMA Grand National title that served as the movie’s common theme thread. Those same movie viewers watched in slack-jawed awe as time and again Aldana walked away from some spectacular crashes.

Crashes and other on-track antics gained Aldana his reputation as a rather flamboyant and colorful character. No matter how spectacular the spill, Aldana seemed invincible, as if he were Gumby and Superman rolled into one, earning him the nickname “Rubber Ball.” He walked away from all sorts of crash carnage, prompting people to wonder if his bones were unbreakable. That reputation led to Aldana’s all-black leathers featuring the iconic full-body skeleton graphics on the front. The legend of Bones was born.

Aldana was a capable racer in a variety of categories, among them road racing, speedway and motocross. He earned AMA Rookie of the Year honors in 1970, placing third in the Grand National standings, scoring three wins including Talladega (road race), Terre Haute (half-mile) and Indianapolis (mile). He scored a fourth and final AMA National aboard a Norton at the legendary Ascot TT in 1973. In all, Aldana won in four of the AMA’s five disciplines, failing only to win a short track race. Remarkable.

During his first race season as an expert, Aldana, along with his Triumph/BSA teammates Romero and Don Castro, formed the core of what they termed Team Burrito, a tongue-in-cheek nod to their Hispanic roots, not to mention adding welcomed sauce to the sport.

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