John Penton's record breaking BMW ride

| 4/16/2007 12:00:00 AM

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Story by Conrad Pfeifer

John Penton, 1959. Note his brother's white tank on John's black bike.
Photo courtesy Ed Youngblood

Why did you want to do this ride?
In 1958 I was a mixed-up guy. My wife had just died; I was left with three boys. I was kind of confused. My sister took in one son, and my brothers each took one. My brother Ted told me to just go ride, so I went on a 12,000 mile ride ending up in Mexico. When it was time to come home to Amherst [Ohio] I rode straight through from Mexico. When I got home my brother said that since I did that ride I should go for the coast to coast record [Then held by Cannonball Baker].

What did you do for verification and record keeping?
Checked in at Western Union NYC, kept a letterhead that I had stamped then at each toll booth or tunnel I asked them to stamp it. They looked at it and wondered what I was doing, then stuck it in their machine. I didn't care if it was upside down or backwards, just so it was there

John Penton and Floyd Clymer at end of the ride.
Photo courtesy of Ed Youngblood

Why did you choose BMW?
Anything else I'd be kidding myself. It was a modern motorcycle. It was an absolutely stock motorcycle. If I rode a Harley I would have had to use a support vehicle. Any other brand I would have to carry a bucket of oil, chains and spare parts. It was an absolutely stock bike. The only change I made was a windshield and a larger capacity tank which I took off of my brother's BMW.How did you arrange gas stops without 24 hour gas stations and was fuel an issue?The Turnpikes had service plazas and I knew where they were so I stopped at each of them. I stopped every 125 miles whether I needed gas or not.

10/23/2014 9:34:10 AM

"If I rode a Harley I would have had to use a support vehicle." ROTFLMAO I just love it!

10/18/2014 5:06:36 AM

It is possibly a good idea to work on the proven strategy Thanks much

7/31/2014 9:50:36 AM

John Penton is truly one of the unsung heroes of motorcycling in America and around the world. If you haven't read the book, at least go see the movie "The Penton Story" now showing in limited release across the US. (Google it for a showing in your area). It tells the story of John's personal, business and motorcycling life including details about his influence on the Penton, High Point, Alpine Stars, Thor, and KTM brands. Yeah, John had major influence over all of them. It's a heart warming, heart breaking, spirit lifting story about a real American pioneer from Ohio that changed motorcycling as we all know it for the better. Thank you John!