The Mike Patrick Story
In His Own Words
Started riding motorcycles in 1954. I used to sneak my brother-in-laws’ 650 Triumph. It took me half a day to start it, but once off I went. I was only 12 years old! My first motorcycle was a 250 BSA, with a plunger rear end, that started me off road. My mother was having a fit because my older brother was killed on the street in 1950. So motorcycles were " taboo".
I got married in 1959 to my present wife, Annette and sold my 1935 Ford pick-up with a 57 Caddie motor, then started to cow trail with a friend who raced in the desert and invited me along. After the first time out I had to get a bigger bike and so I found an Ariel 500cc Red Hunter. Talk about something that will make a man out of you that was it. I managed to finish one race on the Red Hunter. Some time around 1961 I bought a 1958 Triumph T110. I stripped it and off to the races again. Wow, now that was a motorcycle. It finished! I finished in the top 25 or so that week and next week I gained two spots until I got to 10th place. Darn I needed a new motorcycle and I needed a club for pit help. So in 1962 I bought a brand new 650 Triumph TR6 and joined the San Gabriel Valley M.C. That is the club that started the Barstow to Las Vegas race.
Mike came 6th on a Triumph in the 650cc Expert Class of the Green Horn Enduro. This was the oldest run in the west. This was in May 1963. The Pasadena Motorcycle Club started the Enduro. It celebrated its 20th anniversary in May 21-22 1966. It was a 400-mile National Championship. Mike was also placed 2nd in the 1966 400-mile AMA National Championship, or Green Horn Enduro. The winner was Dick Chase, also on a Norton, or G15CS "N"
Sponsors were very hard to come by in those days and I met a man that had a motorcycle shop in Baldwin Park, California. His name was Louie Hunter. Louie used to buy parts from a Triumph shop and give them to me. His shop was a repair shop at the time and he got a big 20% off retail from other dealers. Louie finally got a Royal Enfield franchise and I rode Royal Enfield’s for a while. Talk about brute horsepower and weight! I got a couple of third places on that monster.
My first place was a first over all. The desert race was close to Adelanto, California in the Mojave Desert. I was riding a 1962 Triumph. After the Aero Space Industry took a dump, I went to work for McLaughlin Motors in Baldwin Park, California. John McLaughlin the owner and winner of the Catalina G.P on a Norton Manx I think. John was one of the great riders. His brother Bob McLaughlin and I were great friends. Bob was a fast rider in the desert. Bob liked the lightweights and he did not ride the big iron much. That was when I started to ride the Norton G15CS "N". (Mike rode an Atlas Scrambler, for McLaughlin Motors, or a G15CS "N") Bob Blair was sponsoring me with parts and a gas (petrol) credit card. I went to Utah for the National Championship, Hare and Hound. That was the first off road race of that kind performed for TV. It was on the World of Sports. Wow, I lucked out and won that one, on a G15CS. My first money race was the Star-Dust 7-11 in Las Vegas. Steve Hurd and I rode as Team 4, we had many flat tyres and we were both in the saddle for some 13 hours apiece. We ended up 4th overall and we were happy to finish. That was probably the toughest of any race that I ever rode and I rode a lot of them. One year on the Norton and I won every state and district championship.
The Stardust 7-11 was billed, as "Across the desert for fun and Profit" Also competing in this event were, Steve McQueen and Bud Ekins. Steve Hurd rode Nortons for a while and was very fast in the desert.
To a desert racer, inattention is the gravest danger. He drives his motorcycle through rough and tough terrain for hours, his body becomes battered, but he cannot relax and drop his concentration for an instant. Mike Patrick recalls. "I was leading a race and going flat out across the open desert. I had enough of a lead that I figured the race was in the bag. Just then I hit a six-inch mound of dirt with the bike’s front wheel. I’ve been hitting lips like that in the desert for years and nothing came of it. This time something did. The bike went up in the air, which is all right, but it came down front wheel first. I now hold the world record for riding on the front wheel in the desert. I got it, too. I was just tottering over the handlebars, holding on, trying to figure a way to regain control. I must have been doing 60. Then that front wheel dug in and that’s when the bike and I started flipping. That bike thoroughly ate me up from one end to the other. It finally landed on me. After that, I didn’t feel like racing any more that day". He adds, ruefully, "Never relax when you are racing in the desert".
Then along came the prototype of the P11. Tom "Tiny" Maxwell and I took the prototype out to the desert for a week of bashing and the bike worked perfectly. I was nursing a shoulder from a crash and Tom and I took a week off and went to the desert to run the crap out of it. They were in a hurry to send it back to England. I tried to race it that Sunday, but the difference in racing and what we call cow trailing is not even in the same world. I made it to the smoke bomb and had to stop, my shoulder was killing me. We were supposed to get the bike back to ZDS Motors so they could ship it back to England and get started on the new units. I tried to race it but my shoulder was killing me, so I put the prototype in the truck and took it back to ZDS and told Bob Blair not to change any thing. Guess what, they did, but it was ok, the big P11 was an arse kicker and I won lots and lots of races on it. When the two-stroke thing came in on the scene, I had no choice but to change. With a tear in my eye I parked the desert killer and now 34 years later I think I will restore it and ride the desert again (for fun). Nothing is, or ever will be, a match for the big Norton sailing across the desert. Now I have a grandson riding Grand Prix and the Desert.
The name ZDS meant Zundap, Ducati and Sachs. This was Bob Blair’s company and was called ZDS Motor Corporation and was based at 4655 San Fernando Road, Glendale, California, 91204 USA. A fire later destroyed the building, from which Bob Blair traded. The building now does not exist on that road. The Blair family still owns property in that area of Glendale.
Tom "Tiny" Maxwell is one of my best friends, he lives in Northern California. I do not see him much, but we talk on the phone once in a while. I have not raced bikes for a number of years, but I still ride a little. I want to race the old timers, but I have lost the sight in my right eye and the depth perception is not very good, but I will master that and try to kick some old butt. I raced off road cars up until four years ago, but it got far too expensive. This was a Baja racecar.
-- Mike Patrick, 1 January 2002
Mike raced Yamaha’s for seven years and he raced cars for sixteen years, in the desert. Mike was also in the desert racing section of that great movie "On any Sunday" He explained that, yes he was in the "On Any Sunday" before they cut the film a lot, but they did not want a Japanese bike to win, so they cut most of it out. "I saw the first uncut movie and it was better than the one that they finally put on the market", he stated. Mike Patrick was District 37, Number One plate holder in the desert for 1968 and 1969. Mike then had to go to little bikes and he got the Number One Plate in 1970, on a Yamaha. It was nothing like the big iron of the Norton Mike said. Mike is also on the Wall of Fame page of the District 37 web site. Mike is truly a remarkable man, with an amazing career as a desert racer. He must be considered one of the all time greats in terms of desert racers.