One of the great things that I personally have gotten out of running this site the past few years is meeting people who actually were around at the dawn of BMX in New Jersey all the way back to the earliest days. One of those guys is John Malone, he has a whole photo gallery of pictures from the earliest days of BMX in the state on the site and he might even have some other treasured stuff coming out later on, like a DVD of racing in NJ from 1976. Amazing. I finally got the chance to stop and send out some questions to a guy who I’m sure to him is “just another guy who raced BMX”, but to me is another one of the living legends in the state. Here’s one of the first guys to make the trek down to Millville and ride BMX, Jamming69, John Malone.
Where did you first hear about BMX?
I was riding with a couple of buddies past a local bike shop, Amber Cycle on Cedar Lane in Teaneck NJ. When a hand drawn ad in the window caught my eye. It basically stated that if you like to race your bikes in the dirt and do jumps and tricks to show up at a wooded area that we all knew as “Windsor Road woods” on a certain date and time. And the thing that really caught me was the little BMX bike drawing, where the bike popping a wheelie. Don’t know why, but I liked it.
And of course the person who posted the ad was Charlie Litsky.
What was the first kind of bike you used to race BMX?
The very first bike I raced was a converted Schwinn Stingray. A local guy that I knew through Motocross racing was taking Schwinn frames and chopping the backs off them. He then welded and replaced the back halves with a swing arm and a set on small mini bike shocks. I thought this was so cool, this was pre any bike on the market that had shocks, as far as we knew. This bike was soon replaced with my first purchased BMX bike, a Webco Mono-shock, which you can see in my pictures. I loved that bike, it also had the first version of Tuff Wheels, a very sweet ride.
What did you guys do to occupy the time on the trips to Millville from North NJ?
Well this was long before any video games or portable DVD players. So we did what most kids did when piled into a car and stuck on long drives, we just talked about anything and everything. And of course we did spend a good amount of time picking on each other, but it was all fun. Then there was times you would actually see other cars with bikes hanging on the back and you would make ‘gestures’ and yell things back and forth, that was before a parent yelled at you to stop.
Who were the biggest competitors back then?
Personally for me it was Sal Zuener. Charlie and Wayne were older then us so in the beginning I wasn’t racing against them.
Even though when the time came to race them, they still were not much competition…LOL…Sorry Charlie and Wayne.
Of course after the first couple of years and more tracks started to pop up, every track had their ‘local’ star racer, but still the one person who haunted me for basically my entire racing time was Sal.
To me hands down, NJ BMX BITD was Sal Zeuner.
What was NJ’s first track like?
Ah, Millville was great. Here you were down in South Jersey in the middle of nowhere on some dirt road when you would make a turn
into the this wooded area that soon opened up onto the race track. As soon as I saw the track and the flag pole with the American flag
blowing in the wind I got a rush thinking about racing around it. And there was this great smell in the air, they use to use oil in the dirt
to keep everything packed down. Mr. Elliot and the parents who helped him out, kept the track so nicely groomed, there wasn’t a rut or rocks or any obstacles on that track. I know that the used a four wheeler with this metal type of grating device dragged behind the four wheeler that they ran over every inch of the track. The track was sweet, there was just this look and feel that when you first got there you got all excited about what the day was going to be like. For as long as the 3 hour trip was, you couldn’t wait to get there, and you didn’t want to leave.
What was your first impression of a real BMX race?
It was great, I couldn’t believe we hadn’t done this before. I loved it, the rush was unbelievable. Here we were just a bunch of kids, but we
felt like we were part of something big, something important. And having a blast doing it, what more could you want?
How was the outcome of your first race?
I know I didn’t get a trophy, I think I finished like 5th that day. And truth be told, I was thrilled. It wasn’t until the third race day at
Millville that I started to win. And I do remember that day, because I had won all my moto’s and was leading in the finals, going into the second lap when I learned that Aggressor tires, which had no nobbies on the side walls didn’t grab the dirt to well when you really leaned her over. I cut a left hand turn to sharp and lost traction kicking my bike out from under me and basically finishing last in the finals. Next trip down to Millville with new and different tires on I started back winning my races.
How many kids do you remember there being in your class?
As you can see by the pictures they use to line us up 12 deep back then. It made for a lot of fun going into the first turn, which down at
Millville was a sharp left hand turn. I was one of the lucky ones, who had a quick start so I usually avoided the pile ups in the first turn…usually…LOL
How did the name Teaneck Streakers come into being?
I hated that name, Charlie and only Charlie came up with that name. I don’t even remember a discussion about the team name, I just remember Charlie one day saying , ok we are going to be the Teaneck Streakers. The name wouldn’t have been so bad, if not for the era. That was right before ‘Streaking’ became the hot fad. So here we were kids I was like 15, walking around with our jerseys, or our denim jackets with the names on the back, consistently being asked about streaking in a joking way. Older kids saying about ‘Hey when are you guy going to streak?’ We heard it all, and it got old fast. So I was never a big fan about the name. Thanks Charlie…
Best Charlie Litsky memory.
That’s a tough one, Charlie and I didn’t end I are friendship on a good note. And of course looking back now, it was a lot to do about nothing. I know if he was still with us today, and he and I could talk, we would be once again good friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of great memories of Charlie, I just hate how we lost touch with each other. But getting back to your question, I don’t have ‘one’ best memory, but what I have is all the memories of how Charlie made you feel when you were around him. His smile and personality was what I remember and miss the most. I just wanted to race bikes, didn’t care about much of the other stuff with BMX, but Charlie had a way of just making everything seem good and right. With him there was no lows, only high and higher. You could not be by Charlie and not get wrapped up in his positive ways. He would make you laugh and just enjoy a moment like no other could. Just
watch the video I have were Charlie is being filmed during a jumping contest and he is trying a one-handed jump. And he doesn’t get off the
ground and his hand barely comes off his grips, so with this incredible bad jump, there he is with this gigantic grin, laughing, and of course
it made all us laugh. That was just Charlie being Charlie……I miss you Charlie. And of course, without Charlie, for most of us from BITD, there wouldn’t be any NJ BMX.
When did you stop riding?
I guess that was about 1980-1981. In the end I use to every so often either borrow a bike or throw something together and just go out and
race now and then. It was a bit different for us then, I was like 19 and it wasn’t cool to still be riding a 20″ bike, at least not amongst us older guys. I was already into Motorcycles and just about everything else you did when you were 19 back then. There was times I remember girls coming into my room and seeing all my trophies and would ask like in a condescending way, about ‘still’ riding kids bikes? Now I see everything has gone full circle, and also with the ability to make good money, it finally is cool to still be riding as you get older.
What did you do with your bikes?
My last ride was for DG, I had a California Pro. Man I wish I still had that bike. I see what they are worth today, I would have told DG that it
was stolen….LOL It was a sweet bike, black and gold with all the pin stripping. You have to remember the era now, because kids use to call it
the Trans Am of bicycles, because of the color scheme. The thing was lightest bike I had ever been on. Could be why I trashed her one day up in PA racing at Black Track. They had a skateboard park next to the track and that was the first time we ever took our bikes into a bowl.
Man I trashed the rims, and my Dura Ace cranks were just about shot. I had to switch everything over to race that day. But right after that I
got a DG ‘practice’ bike to play with….
Best memories of the racing days and trips?
I’m not even going to talk about my first win or how many wins, trophies, bikes or whatever. My best memories are just the experience we
had BITD. As you will see on the video, it was just the fun we had with our friends and family. We were just a bunch of kids doing what we
enjoyed, and the best part was our families were there to not only support us but to enjoy the day out too. If you won that day, great, if
not you cheered the person who did. For the most part we were just one big community having a blast getting dirty together. And there again, take a look at the video were you will see Mothers and Fathers racing their kids bikes. How cool is that? It was just a lot of fun.
Do you have any thoughts about returning to the track?
I am current building a ’83 Mongoose that I am planning on running next year. I wanted to build something from back when I raced, but
that was getting way to expensive. Plus being a ‘few’ pounds heavier these days, not sure how some of those parts would hold up.
My goal is to race in the 41 + group as well as the King of OldSchool Series. I have been chatting with likes of AntDog and others out on the
web and these guys seem real cool. Looking forward to banging bars with them out in the dirt next year.
What would you like to see for the future of BMX racing?
Being away from the sport so long, am far from being an expert on what the sport is lacking these days. But from what I have read and heard, looks like it needs to remember where it came from. That it needs to get back to its roots and recapture some of what made the sport so appealing back in the day. You need to get that ‘spirit’ back, get the kids juiced about it, and most of all, just make it fun.
I’d like to thank John for taking the time out of his schedule to put down these memories for posterity. Bringing the past and present together while dreaming of the future is what I hope this site and the stuff we all do here does. It’s been an amazing year for me seeing the guys who basically started the sport of BMX in this state take an interest in this little website. My helmets off to all the people who began this crazy thing called BMX in NJ 32 years ago.