Remembering Motorcycle Racing Champion Dick Mann

Photo: D. Randy Riggs

Two-time AMA Grand National Champion Dick Mann passed away at his home in Nevada April 26. He was 86. Mann could arguably be called the best overall motorcycle racer of all time, his versatility on a motorcycle simply amazing. Mann won the prestigious Daytona 200 twice, in 1970 on a Honda and in 1971 on a BSA. His national championships were separated by eight years — 1963 and 1971, the latter when he was 37 years old.

Mann won in all five of AMA Grand National racing’s disciplines — quarter-mile short tracks, half-mile and one-mile flat tracks, TTs and road races, the first rider to do so, with just three others joining that elite group, known as the career “grand slam.” A privateer for most of his racing days with some support from BSA, he also competed in two different eras, coming from a time when racing bikes were brakeless and used hard-tail frames (minus rear suspension) to the 1970s when multi-cylinder, factory-supported machines had come upon the scene and speeds were above 170mph at tracks like Daytona.

Mann was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1993, and the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998. Having raced in 240 nationals, he finished in the Top 10 in points every season except one from 1957 to 1973. He retired from Grand National competition in 1974, but continued racing in motocross, enduros and in 1975, won a bronze medal on the Isle of Man as a member of the United States International Six Days Trial team riding a Spanish Ossa. In later years, he competed in vintage motocross competition, never lifting off the throttle.

Throughout his career Mann designed and built specialized motorcycle frames for Ossa, Yamaha, BSA, Honda and Suzuki. One might say that he loved wrenching as much as he loved riding. The bikes he built for his clients were works of art.

While covering AMA Grand National races around the country when I was Senior Editor at Cycle World magazine, I always looked forward to speaking with “Bugs,” his nickname among his friends, for an insightful take on the races and riders then taking place. He was plainspoken and down to earth, never full of himself, and respectful of his competitors, and among his competitors, there was no one more liked than Dick Mann.