2016 marks the 85th Anniversary of the Peoria Motorcycle Club. It also marks the 69th year – beginning in 1947 – that PMC has held a National Championship TT. Most likely, our founders never dreamed we’d still be going this strong after so many years.
To help introduce ourselves – to let you know who we are – we have a brief explanation below, about our Past and our Present. If you want to learn even more, type “Peoria Motorcycle Club” into your web browser’s search tool. You can find many articles about the club, our races and our members. You’ll also find links to online video sites such as YouTube, where both professional media crews AND loyal race fans have shared exciting footage from our racing events.
Motorcycling publications from around the world have devoted pages to the history of the Peoria Motorcycle Club. Fans from all over the country and the world, have traveled to Peoria to attend our races. Peoria TT races were featured on national television, back when ABC’s Wide World of Sports broadcast certain events from the Camel Pro Series. One of the most gratifying (although “short but sweet”) recognitions we’ve ever had, is the mention we received in the classic motorcycle film, On Any Sunday, as the story followed Grand National racer, Mert Lawwill, across the country in his pursuit of a championship.
Motorcycle racing is a demanding sport that takes a lot of physical AND mental toughness. Racers don’t have real long careers at the professional level – maybe 15 to 20 years – before the next generation steps up to take over. While that may be hard to swallow for racers, it’s great for race fans. There’s a steady turnover of talent and it seems like there’s always someone new to cheer for on race day. Over the years, a lot of great motorcycle racers have come and gone. Some of the best have taken their licks and earned their stripes on the famous Peoria TT track.
After all the years and legions of racers, the 5/8 mile Peoria TT track is the one thing that remains constant. Every generation of racer has a chance to test their skills on this track. They discover how much nerve it takes to hit top speed down the long, front stretch before pitching their bike into turn one. They also learn to overcome the fear of a blind landing, as they approach the jump at speed. On the flip-side, every generation of spectator has a chance to learn their way around the grounds. They explore tree-covered hillsides (which form a natural amphitheater) in order to find their favorite viewing spot. They also locate all the concession stands, restrooms and novelty food vendors, to make personal comfort a priority. It’s funny… as much as some things change, others never do.
When you think about things that have come about in the world over the last 84 years, Peoria Motorcycle Club has outlasted many of them. That’s quite a tribute to our people as individuals, and to our club as an organization. Wow . . . 85 YEARS!
The Past . . .
Great organizations are normally founded on having a vision – a clear vision – a vision for what can be done, when you don’t limit yourself. We like to believe that the Peoria Motorcycle Club (PMC) is a great organization. That’s due in part, to knowing with complete certainty that the club was founded on a clear vision of what could be done. Thanks to brothers Bob and Bruce Walters, and Bruce’s wife Gladys, we had visionary leadership during the club’s formative years.
Bob, Bruce and Gladys moved from Galesburg to Peoria in 1931, to open the new Walter Brothers Harley Davidson dealership. While living in Galesburg the Walters trio organized the Galesburg Motorcycle Club, where they promoted riding and racing. Because they were such enthusiasts, it was only natural for them to take an active role in the Peoria Motorcycle Club.
Most people – many who spend their whole life around the Peoria area – don’t realize the huge impact Bruce Walters had on the sport of motorcycling. Local people, who know anything at all about motorcycles, know that Peoria has a Walter Brothers Harley Davidson dealership. The ones who have been around long enough, know that the dealership used to be downtown on Jefferson Street. What most people don’t know is, Bruce Walters played a significant role in the evolution of dirt track racing at the national level. The AMA approached Bruce, who was already an accomplished dirt track racer himself, to organize, promote and officiate the first Daytona race, when it was actually held on the beach. Bruce Walters was inducted into the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and into the AMA Dirt Track Hall of Fame in 2003.
Motorcycle racing in Illinois would not be what it is today without the support of Bob and Bruce Walters, and the competitive events they promoted and held on PMC club grounds. Even with all the things they did for the AMA on a national level, the Walters trio always stayed focused on the growth of PMC. During the early years, Peoria Motorcycle Club hosted some very tough Enduro competitions.
We’re not talking about trails rides on the lightweight 2-stroke Pentons and Huskys of the 70s, or high-speed runs on the liquid-cooled, fuel-injected KTMs and Hondas of today. We’re talking about a time when men were men and bikes were… well… hogs! Imagine slogging through the mud on a Harley ’45. Worse yet, with a sidecar and passenger. Rest assured not all events were that brutal. PMC has hosted countless road rides, with the most famous being the annual Turkey Run, which we still hold today.
Over the years, PMC’s greatest claim to fame has been our AMA Grand National Championship TT Race, which we have held every consecutive year since 1947. This annual event is the longest running dirt track race in the world.
The best names in the business have graced our track and club grounds. A few of the more notable racers include:
> Bill Miller (3 wins)
> Dick Mann – (5 wins, rider #2 shown below)
> Bart Markel (6 wins)
> Mert Lawwill (only 1 win, but well-known for his role in the
…..original “On Any Sunday” movie)
> Kenny Roberts (1 win, best known for his road racing championships)
> Jay Springsteen (2 wins, famous for his results at the Springfield Mile)
> Chris Carr (13 wins, earning him the title “Prince of Peoria”)
> Henry Wiles (11 consecutive GNC wins and still going strong)
For more PMC history, click here to read an article written by one of our club members, who submitted it to the AMA for publication in 2010. The link takes you to the second posting of the article, which the AMA re-released in April 2013.
The Present . . .
PMC is still committed to the original vision and mission of its founders. Our top priority is to support AMA dirt track racing by hosting the finest TT races in the world. Our success is driven by our desire to uphold the history of the sport, and to ensure its existence going forward. We deliver on this by providing a family friendly atmosphere, which promotes motorcycling as a sport and a lifestyle. Our final goal is to introduce more people to the sport we love, and to bring motorcyclists and their families together.
Our current membership represents a wide variety of interest in terms of passion and interest in motorcycles and riding. Several of our members have played an important part in building the rich history of TT racing at the Peoria Motorcycle Club. Some of the more “experienced” gentlemen (who remain young at heart) have raced on our famous TT track – banging bars with fellow competitors, hanging their steel-covered left foot out and sliding through the turns, and flying over the backstretch jump in top gear. We are honored to have them in the club, as valued members of the team that plans, promotes, prepares and executes our two major annual events.
The TT races are the club’s largest annual events, but every spring and fall we hold poker run, road rides. We openly invite the riding public to these events. During the year, we also have a few events just for club members. To learn more about what these events have to offer, go to the What page. To find out when these events are scheduled to take place, go to the When page on our website.
PMC has a limited membership, and we’re normally at or near full capacity. In fact, usually we have people on a list, waiting for an opportunity to join the club. Among our members, we have people who:
> Collect, restore and ride vintage motorcycles
> Cruise city streets and country roads on their low-slung V-Twins
> Rack up thousands of miles on a plush, decked-out touring bikes
> Drag their knees through corners on high-tech sport bikes
> Carve through canyon roads on agile sport-touring bikes
> Explore forgotten roads (many are gravel) on adventure bikes
> Ride trails, climb hills and cross creeks on enduro bikes
> Blast through berms and over whoops on motocross bikes
> Perform a balancing act over rocks and logs on trials bikes
A lot of good friendships develop between members and their families. The group shown here gets together twice a year for a 4-day ‘Flat River’ trip, where they camp and ride off-road at St. Joe’s State Park in Missouri.
Most of the guys in this group ride dirt bikes while they’re at the park, but there are few quads and side-by-sides that come along too. Make no mistake, these trips are not just for the men. Several of the ladies also enjoy off-road riding and camping in the great outdoors.
As you can tell, we love to ride motorcycles. But, you may be wondering what brands we ride. Even though there’s a lot of good ‘ol American pride among our membership, and a lot of us own Harley Davidson motorcycles, we enjoy riding and racing so much that almost every brand is represented. The collectors among us have some pretty obscure and obsolete iron in their fleet, which of course is to be expected. But the bikes that members actively ride include:
Aprilia – Beta – BMW – Buell – Ducati – GasGas – Harley Davidson – Honda –
Husqvarna – Kawasaki – KTM – Moto Guzzi – Suzuki – Triumph – Victory – Yamaha
Go to our Links page to find more sites that discuss riding, racing, legislation and everything else motorcycle related.