In the early days of desert racing, the three big events were the Big Bear Run, the Catalina Gran Prix and the Cactus Derby. The Cactus Derby began as an autombile race from Phoenix to Los Angeles in the very early years of this century. About 1945, the Riverside Bombers Motorcycle Club began sponsoring a race with the same name for motorcycles. The Cactus Derby was a two-day event, running from the Victorville area to Lucerne and back.

The winners offer some insight into one of the key ways in which desert racing has evolved over the years. From the early days of motorcycle racing until the late 40s and early 50s, pretty much everyone rode an American made motorcycle, such as the Harley Davidson or Indian. In the 50s, motorcycles imported from Britain began to appear. The 500 and 650cc Triumph eventually dominated desert racing until two-stroke bikes from England and then Japan began to change the sport forever. Max Bubeck, for example, won the race in 1950 on a 500cc Indian, whereas Malcolm Smith won the 1965 event on a 250cc Greeves. Below, a helper holds the clutch lever on his Greeves while Malcolm gets a drink of water at one of the checkpoints in this famous old race...