Page 39

engine, I couldn’t start it, and I’d have to walk all the way home to get some friends to help me push-start it. I really learned how not to stall a motor while riding.” The Matchless, in turn, led to his first motorcycling job. After becoming known among local motorcycle stores for his dumpster-diving behind dealerships to find parts, one of them, Pappy Moss, offered him a job sweeping floors. “After sweeping the floors for a while, I graduated to washing parts,” he says. “We had these 5-gallon buckets of gas, and I didn’t wear gloves, and I was washing magnetos that would make sparks. To this day I can’t believe that I never caught myself on fire.” He also started using his mechanical skills, putting together some of the first Honda step-through 50cc machines to arrive in the States. “The real mechanics didn’t want anything to do with them, so at night after everyone went home, I’d clean an area of the dealership, open up five or six crates at a time and put 10 bikes in a circle and start assembling them,” he says. “They’d come in the next morning and see what I’d done and say, ‘My God, how long were you here.’ I’d tell them 2:30 in the morning, but I was really home by 8:30 at night—and I was making more money than they were in a day!” The racing part actually came pretty easily—after an initial crash in his first race. “It was a hare scrambles,” Malcolm remembers. “I knew how to win races: you held the throttle wide open, and you went faster than anyone else, right? Well, we started in a field and it narrowed down to a road, and when everyone else shut the throttle off, I was still going wide open, trying to pass everyone on the outside. I think I took out about five guys when I crashed, but all

I could think of was getting up and getting going again. I think I crashed another eight or 10 times in that race.” Driving home, he had a revelation. “I lost the race by 8 minutes, and I figured I was on the ground about 10 minutes,” he said. “If I wasn’t on the ground, I would have won the race. So they had a race the next month at the same place, with the same start. This time I was smart. I never hit the

college to study to be an aircraft engineer. Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Malcolm returned to riding again after a long rehabilitation on his leg. And he returned to racing, which turned out to be a very good thing indeed. Racing a Greeves, he made a name for himself. That opened the door for his next big break—the one that has forever aligned him with the Husqvarna brand. By this time, Malcolm had met Norm

“I never had to work at riding fast. It all just came naturally.” —Malcolm Smith ground, and I won the race.” The insight stuck with him throughout his racing: ride smart. “It’s funny,” he says. “I never had to work at riding fast. It all just came naturally. What I had to work at was controlling myself so I didn’t go too fast. And throughout my career I’ve reverted to that stupidity from time to time. I have to work to keep that in check.” It was about then that Malcolm had his first bad crash while play-riding with a friend. The two of them crashed head-on. Malcolm broke his lower left leg in seven places, and his upper one in three. It was bad enough that the doctors were talking about amputating the limb. His mother, however, sought a second opinion at a better hospital and the leg was spared. Spooked, that was the first time Malcolm swore off riding motorcycles. And his motorcycling career could have ended right there, with Malcolm going on to do something else entirely, and we’d never have heard of him. In fact, he even started going to

McDonald and Kenny Johnson of K&N Motorcycles. He had dropped out of school to start his own business at the age of 25. He was running the service department at the shop. “I was working one day when this guy sticks his head in the window looking for me,” Malcolm says. “He had a French beret cap on, and he said, ‘My name is Edison Dye, and I’m going to import Husqvarnas, and I’m looking for a rider to race them.’ I knew what Huskys were from reading the English magazines, and I said, ‘Let’s go talk.’” The problem was, Malcolm didn’t have much confidence in the bike he saw in the back of Dye’s truck—at least at first glance. “It had this spindly little frame,” he says. “I was kind of running it down, and he wasn’t getting anywhere with me.” Then Dye offered to pay Malcolm’s way to race in the International Six Days Trial (ISDT— now known as the International Six Days Enduro, or ISDE) if he’d ride his bikes for a year. Malcolm was a fan of this European off-

July 2010

39

American Motorcyclist 07 2010 Preview Version  

The Journal of the AMA Preview Version

American Motorcyclist 07 2010 Preview Version  

The Journal of the AMA Preview Version