Photo by Brin Morris | Words by Brett Smith
At 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 10, 1960, 16-year-old Eddie Mulder was sitting in a Lucerne Valley, California, outhouse when he heard the sound of 764 motorcycle engines erupt from silence and move away. His father, Al, a motorcycle dealer in Lancaster, California, was impatiently standing outside the makeshift structure near the start of the toughest off-road race in California: the Big Bear Run, 150 miles of torture that most riders signed up for only to say they did it, even if only 25 percent of them actually finished. As the 1-mile-wide pack roared toward the smoke bomb, young Mulder, wearing the familiar black-and-white-checked Checkers Motorcycle Club jacket and helmet, bolted out of the bathroom and smashed down on the kick-starter of his No. 249 Royal Enfield 500.
Bud Ekins, already an off-road icon and the future stunt double for Steve McQueen, led the race at the first checkpoint; he was gunning for his fourth career Big Bear win and was aware of the Mulder kid. The previous season, Mulder beat Ekins at the Mojave Hare Scramble. But Ekins broke down at Big Bear, and after four hours and 21 minutes of racing, the first of the 207 finishers was the plucky Mulder. The outhouse anecdote doesn’t appear in the coverage from Cycle or American Motorcycling, despite Mulder landing both covers. Still, the day the kid soon to be known as “The Squirrel” stamped it that he was the next big thing was nearly two years before he was legally able to register as a professional. Shortly after his Big Bear win, Mulder was scooped into the Triumph family (through an assist from his godfather, racing legend Ed Kretz, and an impressed Ekins), and 56 years later he’s still a Triumph man.
“IT’S A COOL THING TO PULL INTO A RACETRACK AND KNOW THAT EVERYONE IS AFRAID OF YOU,”
Mulder says while puffing on a cigar in his garage. Eddie Mulder is everything you want in a racer today but will probably never see again. Assertive, brash, cocky, diverse, ebullient, fearless, callous—describing Mulder’s personality could go all the way to zany and start over again with audacious. He was the kind of guy who would turn around and flip the bird to second place as he crossed the line, or stop in the middle of the race to take a bite of a hot dog. He once ran over the starter’s foot on purpose; he punched out a race promoter; in 1967, he “borrowed” Torsten Hallman’s spare Husqvarna and actually beat the reigning FIM World Motocross champion in a TT exhibition. He’s doubled for Clint Eastwood, ridden with Steve McQueen, and been the fastest man to the top of Pike’s Peak eight times...