Inducted in 2006 for BMX
Nicknamed “Dynamite” early in his career, Dave Clinton is without a doubt the sport of BMX’s first superstar! Along with his titles, he holds many firsts to his name, including first rider in the sport to hold a national #1 plate, first rider to hold a pro license and first factory sponsored rider; Kawasaki.
Clinton began racing before any national sanctioning bodies or organized series existed. As a pioneer in the sport, Clinton participated in the first true ‘National,’ sanctioned by the NBA in Pheonix, Arizona in 1975.
BMX was a family affair for the Clinton’s. Dave’s brother Bob, AKA Rubber Band Bob because of the early use of rubber bands as a starting device in early BMX racing, was along for much of the journey. Bob helped Dave with building his race bikes and would help drive to many of the events. Dave said, “This guy was liked by all and would do whatever he could to help anyone that needed it.”
Clinton briefly retired from BMX to race motocross in 1976 for his sponsor Kawasaki. Clinton would return to BMX and turn pro with Laguna in 1977 at 17-years-old with the NBA. He was the sports first official pro and would win his first pro race at the NBA National in Chandler, Arizona in 1978.
It wasn’t all races and wins for Clinton. In 1980, he recalls one of his most memorable moments in the sport being at a clinic at a track in Maryland. The track was built around a pond and was next to a hill that required him to push his bike to the top. Once there, he turned around and went wide open to hit a jump. From the top of the jump to the water’s edge was about 30 feet with a 5 foot fence at the water’s edge. Clinton states, “I hit the jump and the next thing I know is that I am about 15 feet in the air and flew about 60 to 70 feet into the water. All the people that got to see it thought I was crazy!”
Clinton sustained several knee injuries during his career. In the 1977 season, a knee injury put him out of contention for the NBA national number one plate. A full hyper extension, would contribute to his decision to retire at the end of the 1980 season at age 20. He made a brief comeback in 1982 at the ABA Fall Nationals, but his preexisting knee injury forced him to retire from BMX permanently.
In the last months of his career, Clinton was named supervisor of the sales department at Western States Imports, the parent company of Diamond Back, a Centurion Bicycle Company. He would also race mountain bikes for a time in the ‘80s, as some of his contemporaries did.
After his racing career ended, Clinton was featured in The Complete Book of BMX (Bob Osborn, Harper & Row, 1984). As of 2005, Clinton is the inside sales manager and in charge of Answer Products’s BMX co-factory program. He continues to ride and is involved with the Hershey’s Tour de Pink charity bike ride for breast cancer awareness.
In 1980, Clinton married his “wonderful wife” Rita and has a daughter name Krista. Clinton adds, “I also just became a Grandpa and I have a future BMX’er on the way named, Drake Sakuma. I look forward to the day that I teach him how to ride a wheelie.” And, while he’s not sure of the total amount of wins he amassed over the years, his mom once said there were over 2,700 trophies that she needed help dusting!
1974 – First #1 National Bicycle Association (NBA) rider
(Courtesy – Peter Cowley)