JIMMY ODOM WAS born in Fremont, CA in 1948 into a family that enjoyed motorcycling. His dad was a recreational hill climber and this made it a bit easier for young James to get
involved once he could get his mom onboard. Jimmy used the
classic “paper boy” routine to get a motorcycle into his life.
He saved the money earned on his twice-daily paper route to
buy that first bike, a step-through trail bike.
“Before that, I started putting together mini-bikes when I
was ten. After those, my first bike was that step-through 50cc
Honda. Later, I convinced my Mom to let me buy my first ‘real’
bike, a Honda 55 with an actual gas tank. I bought that with
paper route money to use on the route, but still used my bicycle
to deliver papers. I only rode that bike in the dirt and I stripped
it down.” Odom laughs and says, “Well, actually, I never really
stripped it down…I just rode it in the dirt and stuff fell off.”
He developed some decent skills riding with his buddies
in open areas around town and realized he could beat most of
those other guys. He acquired a reputation for himself and his
first race was a Sportsman event at the old Fremont Speedway
when he was 14-years-old.
“They filled in the unsuccessful boat drag course and built
a scrambles track. The Palo Alto Motorcycle Club had a lease
and started putting on events there. My dad was all for it, my
mom was against it, but I was actually sponsored by some guys
I used to ride with in the creek
where we played. I rode a Honda
step-through 55cc and I won it. It
all started with that.”
After friends with a Suzuki
shop in Hayward supplied him
with a bike and equipment, he
began to win events in that area.
With his dad’s help, he began
competing in “run-what-ya-
brung” events and he progressed
quickly through the ranks. Within
three years, he had over 100 wins
and was the Number 1 ranked
Amateur rider in AMA District
36 on a 250.
He turned Pro Novice at 18
and got a call from Les Edwards
at Cycle Imports in San Jose to
ride a Suzuki X6 in short track.
He won some races and Les eventually offered him an unexpected
trip to Ascot, “If I could get out
of school,” Odom laughs. Jimmy
wasn’t sure his parents would be
pleased with such a big step so Les suggested that he simply
tell them the race was in Merced. He went to Ascot and won
his first race there. With that win under his belt, his parents
acquiesced and his racing expanded.
“We would swap out the pipes and front wheel/brake to
change the X6 from flat-track to TT.” Odom went on to win
half-miles on Friday night and TTs on Saturday. On an X6,
Odom travelled the West Coast; winning events at Castle Rock
in Washington among oth-
ers. Soon, he became the #1
Novice in the west.
His winning relationship
with Suzuki continued even
after Les Edwards began
providing Triumph 500 and
650 bikes for flat track and
TT events. “I handled the
transition to the big bikes
fairly well and had eight
National wins as Pro-Ju-
nior. At that time, I was the
#1 Junior in the nation on
Roxy Rockwood, the
popular Ascot announcer,
“Because of my Novice winnings, when I turned Junior,
Roxy called and asked me if I had ever ridden a road race
bike. I had literally no road race experience. I had attempted
to road race a Bultaco Metralla that didn’t work out.” How-
ever, Rockwood offered the surprised young man a trip to Day-
tona in 1967 to ride as a Junior on one of three HRC-prepped
36 NOVEMBER 2015 // MOTORCYCLE CONSUMER NEWS
by Joe Michaud
Thorough about all of his racing endeavors, Odom makes sure to give
the beautiful trophy girl a proper kiss after setting “Fast Time” at the
San Jose Mile in 1969 on a Triumph. Les Edwards, Odom’s engine
builder at Cycle Imports (in sunglasses) watches in the background.
Odom in action at Louisville in 1969 aboard the #77 Triumph.