The Legends and Heroes Tour saluted AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame member Dick Burleson during a special pre-race ceremony Saturday evening March 21 during the opening ceremony for Saturday evening’s Detroit Supercross.
Dick Burleson didn’t follow the normal route to motorcycle racing stardom by learning to ride at a very young age as many of his contemporaries did. Burleson was born in 1948 in Johnson City, Tennessee and at age 2 his family relocated to St. Joseph, Michigan, but it wasn’t until he was 18 and purchased a used Honda 90 to commute to his summer job that he finally started riding. Soon he and his bike were off to college at the University of Michigan where he connected with a group of off-road riders that had taken over a gravel pit near campus. Not knowing any better, Burleson joined in, riding his little 90cc Honda street bike at the gravel pit. A competitor by nature, it didn’t take long for him to discover his natural talent for off-road riding.
By the late 1960s, Burleson had entered the burgeoning sport of motocross, winning several district and national amateur MX championships before turning Pro and entering the Trans-AMA Motocross Series in 1970. In his first season as a professional motocrosser, Burleson finished fourth overall in the Trans-AMA – top American in the series. This earned him the title of “American Motocross Champion” (this was in the years preceding the AMA National Motocross Series).
Having excelled in motocross, Burleson began competing in AMA National Enduro events, which at that time were equal, if not greater, in importance to motocross racing. He enjoyed this different form of competition that tested his bike skills, fitness and analytical abilities. In 1971, John Penton invited Burleson to race on the American Trophy team that was competing in the International Six Days Trial (ISDT) at the Isle of Man. Despite the fact that a mechanical failure resulted in a DNF, Burleson was enthusiastic about representing his country in international competition.
The following year, Burleson was invited to participate in the ISDT again, this time in Czechoslovakia. Burleson finished impressively with a bronze medal and the American team was awarded the Watling Trophy for its improved performance.
After graduating from college, Burleson moved to Ohio to take a job as eastern service manager for Husqvarna. In 1973, Burleson was a part of the US team that earned America’s only ISDT Silver Vase victory. After the ISDT, which was held in Massachusetts that year, Burleson began riding a prototype Husqvarna 350cc that had been left behind by the Swedish team for the US Husky distributor. Burleson, who had been accustomed to riding 125cc and 175cc bikes, found the more powerful 350 perfectly suited to his riding style. He ended the 1973 season by wining three-straight AMA national enduros. By his retirement in 1981, Dick Burleson had captured a record-setting eight AMA Naitonal Enduro Championship titles.
Saturday evening’s pre-race ceremony Dick Burleson will be presented with the Legends and Heroes award on the Monster Energy Supercross Podium. King Richard will also be presented a personally monogrammed Rockwell watch to commemorate the event.
For more information: www.LegendsAndHeroesTour.org.