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PENTON, a U.S. brand produced by KTM!

Text: Luís Cardoso

Details of PENTON promotional brochure

PENTON is a North American brand that was active between 1968 and 1978, during this period around 25,000 units of off-road motorcycles were sold! Its founder, John Penton, born on August 19, 1925, is a pioneer and one of the great promoters of North American off-road. In 1948, John participated in the "Jack Pine 500 Mile Enduro" and was very impressed with the performance of the BSA used by the winner of the competition, although less powerful than the opposing bikes, it largely compensated with lightness and handling! In the following year's edition of the same competition, 1949, he crewed a BSA B33, having won the second position! Enthused by the good result, in the following year, 1950, together with his brothers, he founded a business selling BMW, BSA and NSU motorcycles.

Trailer for the documentary film "PENTON - The John Penton Story"

Covers of different editions of the book "JOHN PENTON - And The Off-Road Motorcycle Revolution"

From there, John became a top rider on the North American Enduro scene, having been part of his country's national team seven times in the prestigious ISDT - International Six Days Trial (now called ISDE - International Six Days of Enduro)! He was also interested in long-distance events, having, in 1958, set a record for the transcontinental crossing New York - Los Angeles with a time of 52h11m at the controls of a BMW R69S! In 1966, John Penton won the "Jack Pine Enduro" riding a HUSQVARNA, from then on he became the distributor of this brand for the eastern part of the USA. As the "baby boomer" generation came of age during the 1960s and 1970s, off-road motorcycling experienced a boom in popularity. Penton knew how to capitalize on the opportunity and had commercial success with the then Swedish brand!

John Penton in 1962

John Penton, left, during a working visit to KTM in 1969

Poster of festival, "Barber Vintage 2019", with a particular focus on PENTON and its creator

At this time, he unsuccessfully tried to convince HUSQVARNA to produce lighter models! The Swedes' refusal to respond to his ideas led John Penton to contact KTM, which at the time produced motorcycles and bicycles! He offered to pay $6,000 USD of his own money if KTM would build prototypes to his specification and brand, PENTON, for the US market. He formed a successful racing team that included some of the best enduro riders of the day, including his son, Jack Penton, who competed in 12 ISDT events, as well as Dick Burleson, Carl Cranke and Billy Uhl. PENTON achieved great sporting and commercial successes during the approximately 10 years of its existence, having contributed decisively to the North American off-road scene.

The 1969 Penton 125 was introduced at a time when off-road bikes were big, heavy and little differed from road bikes, no one had ever dreamed of a bike like this, except, perhaps, John Penton

The brand ceased its activity when it sold the entire distribution operation to KTM! Along the way, there were interesting PENTON project models that were decisive for the journey that the Austrian brand has taken to date! KTM would never be what we know today without John Penton's entrepreneurship, daring and innovations! At the same time, he dedicated himself to the sale of off-road products and apparel, having played a leading role in the development of ALPINESTARS boots! KTM and ALPINSTARS owe a lot of their success to John Penton, too, because they achieved very effective distribution in the US which is a huge market where, however, other major European brands have had a hard time getting a good foothold.

In 1997, KTM produced a limited edition commemorating the sporting successes of John Penton and his brand, the 200 EXC Jack Piner


PENTON ad, 1974

1973 - 125 Six Days, 1973 - Mudlark 125 Enduro and 1969 - 125 Six Days

John in the ISDT of 1969 riding a PENTON


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