Lyall Sharer died on May 8, 2023, at 81. Hearing of his passing, I recalled a conversation I had with him in 2007 at Sharer’s Cycle Center in Verona, Wisc., his Triumph, Moto Guzzi, and Royal Enfield dealership.
Sharer recalled that he competed in his first motorcycle scrambles competition in 1957. That was the same year Bud Ekins rode a Triumph TR6 Trophy to victory in the Big Bear Run, Bob Sandgren won the Catalina Grand Prix on a Triumph, and the first Harley-Davidson Sportsters rolled off the assembly line.
“I had gotten a Harley-Davidson Hummer 125. I was about 17 and went to see the scrambles just outside Madison, and I decided I had to race. I went home, stripped the bike for racing, and won nearly every event I entered,” he remembered with a smile.
Sharer was hooked on motorcycles, mechanics, and high performance. By 1963, he was spinning wrenches in a Triumph shop and continued to compete on lightweight singles from H-D. Sharer won the Wisconsin state short-track championship on a Triumph in 1964, and in 1966 on an Aermacchi Harley-Davidson Sprint single. In 1964, while still classified a novice, he won the short-track title at Sun Prairie, Wisc., aboard a Triumph Tiger Cub, outrunning a field that included Triumph-backed professional riders.
Triumph factory personnel took notice and approached him about how he managed to build engines that outperformed factory-backed bikes. Sharer said he shared some ideas, though not necessarily all his performance secrets.
In 1966, he took a privately sponsored 500cc Matchless G50 to Daytona International Speedway for the Daytona 200, qualifying P3 on the starting grid aboard the big single. Sharer recalled running in P8 early in the race when a rider low-sided took Sharer’s machine down with him. Neither rider was seriously injured, but Sharer DNFed.
A year later, Sharer’s flat-track performance had him ranked inside the national top 20. Unfortunately, disaster struck at the Sedalia Mile in Missouri in August. Sharer was running in the top four in the final when he had a horrific crash.
“I don’t remember too much in detail, but on that track, you’d enter the turns at about 100 miles an hour, and that’s what I was doing when the crash happened,” Sharer explained. “I hit the outside rail and got hurt pretty bad.”
Multiple spinal, rib, and leg fractures, together with a ruptured kidney, seemingly ended his racing career. When he was finally up and around again, Sharer opened Sharer Cycle Center in 1968.
However, racing was in Sharer’s blood. Within a couple of years, he was back on the track, though not in the same professional circuit mode of the early days. He ran only a few races, and more for the fun of it. “[I] had other commitments, so all-out racing just wasn’t possible,” Share explained.
In 1970, Sharer stayed connected with the track by helping other riders win. He sponsored Cliff Carr and prepped the Kawasaki H1R 500cc two-stroke triple Carr later campaigned in Europe.
The following year, Sharer became a Triumph dealer, building and sponsoring successful flat track machines campaigned by Carr, Mike Anderson, and Tom Bries.
As motorcycle technology evolved and racing became increasingly expensive and difficult for small-budget privateers, Sharer shifted his focus to his business and the business of having fun. He co-founded the Slimey Crud Motorcycle Gang, which started the Slimey Crud Motorcycle Gang Café Racer Run. Thanks to Cycle World’s Peter Egan and the other founding Slimey Cruds, that event goes on to this day as part of Lyall Sharer’s motorcycle legacy.
Images courtesy of Lyall Sharer, and by Gary Ilminen