In 1984, motorbike Pilot Dave Roper rode a Matchless G50 from 1959 to victory in the historic 500cc class on the Isle of Man TT, becoming the first American rider to win on the island.
The Isle of Man TT is recognized as the most dangerous motorcycle race in the world, killing 151 on the 37.73 mile course from 1907 to 2019. Perhaps because of the danger, but more likely attracted Through the challenge of a real street circuit in public roads, bikers flock to the small island every year in the hope of achieving victory.
And so it was in 1984 that the American runner Dave Roper put on his leathers on the island for the first time.
Making the start of the legendary 1959 Matchless G50, Roper was only too aware of the tough competition he would have to overcome if he were to claim victory in the Historic 500cc class. His biggest challenge, however, was not in the form of one of the many worthy contenders, but the hard-to-learn circuit.
The track with its fast Sulby Straight, where modern Superbikes spin at over 200 mph, and the spooky garden walls that leave no room for error, is unforgiving. Unlike purpose-built racetracks, there is no runoff, no soft gravel trap to cushion your fall. If you want to be fast on the island, you have to be precise and in control.
And once you can sort of remember the sequence of the turns, you meet your running mates, many of whom consider their home.
The Race That Made Motorcycle Man America’s Legendary Rider
For the historic 500cc race of 1984, Dave Roper and his 1959 Matchless G50 faced stiff competition from salty racers such as Ray Knight riding Triumph, with 80 starts on the Isle of Man at its assets. Along the way he managed to secure a victory in the 1968 production TT and win 17 aftershocks in classes ranging from lightweight to senior.
In stark contrast, Roper, who competed in his first race on Memorial Day in 1972, had no racing laps under his belt on the Isle of Man and could barely find his way down the tortuous track without a map. But give a motorcycle racer a turn and he’ll soon find the fastest line – chain a few and you’ve got a turn. And that’s exactly what Dave Roper did on the Isle of Man in 1984.
Phaseless to the task ahead, Roper stepped out and did what he did best: ride a clean, fast race bike. While no lap on the “Mountain” will ever be the perfect lap, the Matchless has never missed a beat and Roper has never put a wheel wrong.
This stellar performance from the Isle of Man rookie TT not only led him to victory with an average speed of 96.11 mph on the race, but also etched his name in the history books with a record breaking record. of the historic 500cc tour of 97.21 mph. Achieving this remarkable feat, Roper beat Ian Lougher, on a similar Matchless G50, in second place and posted an average lap speed almost 8 mph faster than Ray Knight in fourth place.
What makes Roper’s achievement even more remarkable is that of the 25 starters, only 13 finished the race.
While victory in the historic 500cc Isle of Man race in 1984 was sweet and perhaps even instrumental in raising awareness of vintage motorcycle racing in America, for Roper it was all part of his passion for motorcycle racing.
The Motorcycle Man documents the legendary American motorcycle racer
As Roper approaches the age of 70, Daniel Lovering and Bagamor Media set out to document the larger-than-life character and his passion for racing motorcycles spanning more than four decades. The short documentary, Motorcycle Man, take a look at Roper’s singular love affair with motorcycle racing.
Unlike the archetypal image of a motorcycle rider normally portrayed in the film, MOTORCYCLE MAN portrays Roper as a man who pursued only one passion in life: motorcycle racing. With more than forty years of racing and victories on circuits around the world, he has forged a reputation as a folk hero of the sport.
In the documentary, Lovering follows Roper from Team Obsolete’s workshop in Brooklyn, New York – where a stable of vintage Grand Prix bikes and exotic race bikes are maintained – to a race track in Canada.
Along the way, the filmmaker shares Roper’s celebration of the speed, sweat, and thrill of motorcycle racing while showing his philosophical rationale for what it takes to chase your dreams.
Like Dave Roper, the legendary American motorcycle rider, Lovering’s MOTORCYCLE MAN, was a winner. Scoring victories as Best Short Film at the 2019 Newburyport Documentary Film Festival; Best Documentary Short at the Rome Motorcycle Film Festival MotoTematica in 2019 and Best Feature at the Santa Cruz Motorcycle Film Festival in 2020.
Dave Roper and Motorcycle Man pay homage to the legendary spirit of motorcycle racing in America.
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