Carl  laying it down and matting the throttle during an ISDT special tests- the drag race. Skunk helmet, tee shirt, Hallman desert leathers and Hi Points highlight one of the heroes and characters from the wild west days of off-road racing.

Carl Cranke, one of America’s true off-road legends passed away on November 14 following a battle with cancer. Carl was one of those very rare gifted racers who was competitive in nearly every facet of riding.  Carl  grew up just outside of Sacramento in Fair Oaks racing dirt track,  but because of the expense shifted his efforts to anything off-road. After an incredible performance in a Trans AM race Carl began a long relationships with Penton motorcycles,  the marque he was most associated with. Carl not only raced Pentons’ but was intimately involved in the development of the Penton line. How good was Carl? Very good.

Carl clawing for traction at the 1976 ISDT.

Carl represented  the United States in ten International Six Days and in the process won 9 medals, 7 golds and 2 silvers. No matter what class he rode, he was known to ride in the 100, 125 and 250 class, if he showed up on the starting line he was favored to win. In addition to his racing career Carl was also the West Coast service manager for Penton. Many of us were lucky enough to be decent at one discipline of racing, it’s incredibly rare to be really good at everything. Carl Cranke was great at everything he raced and everywhere he raced. Rare indeed.


Hopetown mud hole, 1974. Great shot from Mark Kiel.

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