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Culture

At 71, Motorbike Champion 'Stays Young' by Racking up National Titles

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Ted Landers, above, races competitve motorbike contests across the country. (Photo provided by Ted Landers)

Ted “Teddy” Landers started racing competitively in the ‘60s. One of his venues is "Enduros." Those are races on arduous terrain that includes water, rocks, logs, and passing through trees that are closer together than the width of your handlebars.

He also raced in the cross-country and motocross venues. In motocross, he soared over "tabletops," which, in his words, "is where you go up, and there’s a flat, then you go down.  And if you go up fast enough, you miss the whole top, and come down on the other side—which is good.”

In 1969, Landers convinced a pretty girl he liked, Rosemary, to join his pit crew. He was racing on a top-notch Yamaha, and enjoying it very much…"until this little bike going ‘neeee’ passed me all the time. I said, ‘What the heck is that?’ And they said, ‘That’s a Penton,’” Landers said.

Needless to say, he had to have a Penton.  In 1971, he and his new bike entered the grueling, 250-mile a day enduro race called the Berkshire International Two-Day Trial in New England…think thawing snow, mud, boulders, and thick forests. But Landers crashed, and landed with his bike on top of him.  He got up and went on to finish that day's portion of the race--only 29 riders out of 128 completed that day.  The next day, after 35 more grueling miles, he finally told Rosemary his arms had given out.

Together, Teddy and Rosemary loaded up the bike, and decided to switch gears. They got married.

“I put the Penton and the Yamaha in the barn, and did not take it out of the barn until the year 2000,” he said.

For nearly 30 years, he devoted his life to raising his two kids, creating an engineering business, getting involved in his church, and establishing a soccer program in West Plains. But in the back of his mind, he could hear the hum of those bikes calling to him from that barn.

Then, he made a decision to get back in the game…and he found out he still had it. He racked up championship after championship in the 60+ age division.

He’s racing on vintage bikes. And, he says, there are several categories of competitors.

“We have a 40+ group, a 50+ group, a 60+ group, and praise God, we’ve got a 70+ group,” Landers said.

Now, he’s 71.  In the 70+ group, he won a national champtionship at the Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. He competes nationally against about 20 riders in the 70+ age group (he jokes that, “for some reason,” there are fewer people in the 70+ group than the 50+ and 60+ groups).

Landers is in it for the adrenaline rush, and for the friendships he and Rosemary have made along the way.  But he’s also in it to fulfill his need to compete.

“I mean, a lot of people will say, ‘Hey Teddy, get your bike. Let’s go down to the national forest and ride around.’  I’ve got no interest. There’s no interest, whatsoever. [But if someone says] ‘Hey Teddy, there’s a race. Do you wanna come?’ ‘You bet. I’ll be there,’” Landers said.

Before a race, he works out at the gym twice a week, and practices on his farm.

“I mean, what keeps you young?  This is the kind of stuff that keeps you young. If you give up, if you say, ‘Oh, I’m too old to do it,’ then you will be,” Landers said.

Despite injuries and surgeries to his knees and shoulder, Landers says he has no intention of hitting the brakes on his hobby anytime soon.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.