The Checkers Motorcycle Club has been accused of many things in the decades since its founding in 1950, but one thing cannot be denied: they are the winningest club in off-road motorcycle racing.
The Checkers Motorcycle Club is one of the most infamous, notorious, and star-studded clubs in the history of the sport. Their roster has included such names as Bob Ewing, Eddie Mulder, J.N. Roberts, Clark Gable, Gene Romero, Karl Krohn, and Bill Saltzman among scores of others. The Checkers are wildly driven by one goal: to win. But to say that they were willing to win at any cost would paint them in a bad light, because it’s been found that 99% of all accusations leveled against them were rooted simply in jealousy of how rawly good they were.
The Checkers were also known to be some of the biggest tricksters in the scene, and openly admit to bending the rules in good humor. This includes stunts such as loading the race flagpole with dynamite, parachuting onto the start line from unseen airplanes, burning donuts around race officials during the race (while, of course, still winning the race by a notable gap), boring 200 cc engines to 350 ccs and entering them into 200 cc races, having the entire club wear jerseys with a certain member’s name on it to counteract accusations of cheating on that member, and beating foreign teams in races with their own spare bikes.
To become a Checker though, you have to jump through some pretty high, pretty fiery hoops. For a while. “First off, you better be fast,” reads the opening line of the application. If you make a good enough impression on the seasoned veteran members, you can get put on a probation period. If all goes well from there, you can then be made a prospect. To become eligible for full membership, a previous member has to quit, become inactive, or die. Once an opening has been created, the club votes on you. If there’s a single dissenting vote, you won’t be granted membership. If you do become a full-fledged member, you are expected to be at all scheduled racing events, and if you aren’t racing, then you better be helping in the pits.
One of the most notable Checkers was “Fast” Eddie Mulder. There are countless myths, rumors, and legends around just Mulder himself, many of which were born while competing as a checker. Some of these motorcycle mischief history highlights include stopping in the middle of a TT race to eat a hot dog with his mechanic, before resuming the race and winning it by a long shot. Other moments include when Mulder and Skip van Leeuwen were competing in a national TT race at Ascot Park in the late 60s and Leeuwen’s motor blew out, prompting Mulder to stop, tell Leeuwen to hop on back, and then wheelied across the finish line to win it.
While the Checkers didn’t win as much as they’d hoped in their first year of racing in 1951, they have since made a reputation for themselves. Since 1951, they have made themselves a dominant force in AMA’s District 37 desert racing, have won numerous club championships, and many #1 plate holders were Checkers.
Though many people have said many things about the Checkers over the decades, two things can’t be denied: that they win the most, and that they have the most fun. The Checkers still compete today, and their sense of camaraderie, ambition, and humor are as strong as ever.