Gentleman John Hartle … no prima donna

Dear CR

Having a lot of time spare around 1966/67, I lived quite close to Mallory Park and a regular at the Wednesday practice was John Hartle. He was making a return to racing after a heavy fall, so I sort of latched on, helped bump start his bikes, lug jerry cans and get the bike stands ready on his return. They were Metisses, one was a G50, the other a Triumph unit 680; both had oil tanks, and no pipes to the frame, unlike the scramblers.

Well, he got chucked off on one or both bikes, on Gerrards bend, and said: “I think it is tyres,” and limped into his van, just a little detuned. He said they were not steering well. He was there a couple of weeks later, with both bikes in the van. Off he went again, and ended up on the floor again. Still detuned he packed up and went home.

A few weeks later John was back, again two bikes in tow. Now he was really flying, he was riding well. I asked him what had been done, he did not or would not say (this is probably the frame mods that Derek Palmer mentions in Jan/Feb Classic Racer).

He was there again later, again with the two bikes; he was again flying, but quicker. I again asked him what had been changed, this time he said he had asked for the swingarm bushes to be rubber bonded like a road featherbed frame. John said it was handling so well he could not feel where the limit was. I was shocked, as I thought the faster the rider the more he liked to feel where the limit was.

I found John Hartle a really nice guy and certainly no prima donna. Sadly not long later we would lose his life at Oliver’s Mount.

Pete Owen


Read more in the March/April issue of Classic Racer – on sale now