The thrill of flat track motorcycle racing is intoxicating. A dozen riders sliding their bikes around a nearly flat dirt oval just inches from each other at 100mph. The tracks are the same ones that horses race on; just as when the sport was born. It’s one of motorsports’ purest moments, with nothing but the performance of a man and his machine – and a wagon full of guts and determination – separating first and last.
Mike Anderson is one of these riders and much more. He started riding motorcycles when he was just 15 years old. A year later, in 1957, Mike bought his neighbor’s 1955 Triumph Thunderbird. And just a year after that he ran his first Scrambles race. Racing technology was still in its infancy then. A sign posted at the track said “helmets recommended,” because they still weren’t commonly used.
After a stint in the Marine Corps from 1958 to 1962 Mike returned home, got a job at the local Triumph dealership in Freeport, Ill., and returned to Scrambles races with a Triumph 500 and 200 Cub. A few years later, in 1966, Mike became a professional motorcycle racer riding for C&D Triumph of Freeport, Ill.
In professional sports, an athlete’s performance is often gauged by their success and longevity. Mike has both. From 1967 to ’81, Mike won 259 flat track races from Daytona Beach to California’s old Ascot Park. He competed against the greats, including Gary Nixon, Gene Romero and Eddie Mulder. From 1970 to 1978, Sharer Triumph of Madison, Wis., sponsored him with a lightning fast 750cc twin that he remembers like it was yesterday.
Mike pulled back from racing between 1979 and ’84, but returned to the flat track in 1985. Now, he runs the former flat trackers that Gary Nixon used to win the AMA Grand National Championship in 1968. Mike has won four Vintage National Championships with those same Triumphs.
At 70 years old, the gleam in his eye is just as bright as when he started racing 50 years ago. Mike wins nearly every vintage flat track race he enters, and he quietly gives the trophies to kids after the races. How many career wins does he have? Nobody knows. Mike stopped keeping track years ago. But that’s okay. He doesn’t compete for the trophy. He competes for the rush…for the passion…for the love of the sport.