Helmut "Speedy" Clasen: 81 years old and still grinding!

par Isa More
dans Profils de pilotes

Helmut Clasen, I met you at the Ormstown Vintage Festival in 2015 where we could notice your smooth, seemingly effortless riding style.
You are a rider since 1956, does it say it all?
A history has gone by from 1956 to today!

You turned 80 years old in 2015, and you are still racing! What is your secret of longetivity in our sport?
Longetivity in any sport is the love to do it.

The inspiration you are for all of us is incredible, do you feel this positive energy you bring to people?
Being with my friends worldwide by e-mail or in real competition is a great feeling. Just like a very big family. And that feeling is hopefully past on from one to the next one.

"Never underestimate an old man with a dirt bike". Do you still win some races at 80 years old?
Yes, I still win races but not so often anymore because I have to race the class Expert 70+ and 10 years age difference is not easy to overcome.

You have been an active racer since 1956. Can you sum up your participations and wins record?
Is it true you won 14 canadian off road championships?
We, the Clasen family. have tried over the years to count the trophies, medals and other documents and at aprox. 1500, we have given up.
I have taken several 100 trophies back to our local Motor Club for recycling and right now, I try to do this again because we just don't have the space for it. And yes, I have won 14 Canadian off road championships, but the best is that I was able to win in 1971 at the ISDT on the Isle of Man the very first historical gold medal for Canada... In 2007, I was introduced to the Canadian Hall of Fame.

You are born in Germany, immigrated in Ontario in 1967, what exactly brought you here?
After visiting family members living in Kitchener, Ontario, in 1967, we fell in love with Canada. We went home, sold just about everything and waited after our immigration papers. We came back to Canada in 1968 for good. I joined immediately the Hamilton Steel City Riders and began with my Canadian off road sport.

You want to organize a real vintage at the canadian Corduroy in september 2016. Can you talk about this event?
After having raced the Cord 13 times, I had to stop when my aged body could not do it anymore. I came back to it riding vintage bikes just for the fun of it. Riding without competitors in the vintage class is not enough fun so I thought I should create a real Cord vintage class in addition to the existing system. With the help of other (aged) cord racers, I may be able to do that. We would use the basic Cord trail with bypasses of trails not possible for old vintagers.

You ride a Zundapp (schnell und zuverlassig!). Why did you chose this bike instead of an other?
Have being a motorcycle dealer (distributor) since 1970, I raced always the newest model of the year (at least for 6 months) to test them and suggest possible changes to the factories. Selling a variety of different brands like OSSA, Zuendapp, Hercules, Sachs, SWM, Maico, KTM.
I raced all of them up to the newest 2 and 4 stroke KTM's. In 2006, I decided to let the powerful tall bikes go and return to the old style models (vintage). I bought some Hercules and Zuendapps from the 70's back from old customers, rebuilt them again to factory specs and better and started racing then on an international base in Germany, Canada and USA.
When even the 250 Sachs 7 speeders proofed to be too powerful for me, I decided to go down again a step to race 125 Zuendapps.
Why Zuendapps? Because I sold a lot of them in 1972. A lot of my old customers brought the bikes back so I have a good assortment of spare parts and what else I need is available in Europe!

We saw you racing at Unadilla, during the ISDTRR, are you "unbeatable as long as you do not run out of gaz"?
Yeah! Unadilla... Shame... (laughs).. Will not be happening again this year for sure!

Metzeler (tires) is one of your sponsors. How do you keep a sponsor for that long?
I grew up with Metzeler in Germany. I have a good friendly connection to Metzeler as today and stick with my friends who are importing them from Europe.

You were a KTM importer and distributor for years, what do you think about the emergence of the brand KTM worldwide?
My friend Max Mader and I brought the very first few KTMs into Canada one at a time. It multiplied and when Max died of cancer, I took over and let KTM Canada grow. We grew so big that I could not handle alone the big load. I was too old to get any deeper into such a big business. Finally, we found other business people who took the KTM business. Over after a few more years as a KTM dealer, I finally quit and went into retirement. I am proud to see that worldwide KTM has grown to one of the biggest motorcyle manufactory, and that I could put a little action into the growing.

How modern bikes feel in comparison of older ones? You also said the sound is very different?
Naturally, the difference between the old and the modern bikes is enormous and only people who grew up with the old system can go back onto it. The younger generation who never rode vintage bikes will not be able to handle them. They are spoiled with long suspension-disc brakes-electric starters... And soooooo much more power... (Laughs).

What two racers do you consider as the best, before and nowadays?
My idols off road racers are Herbert Schek in Germany (who is in his 80 now and still active) and Jeff Fredette -from USA- who holds the World record in starts and finished ISDT!

I am sure you have some projects for 2016?
For 2016, we have a pretty good program in the making covering seven (or more) events, like Unadilla, Ormstown, Mudfest, Indianapolis, Mid Ohio, Corduroy.
Will see how that all can be put together...

 

Helmut Clasen, danke schon!  Du bist uns allen eine Inspiration!