Bob Greene "The Old Greenhorner"
Pasadena hometown hero Bob Greene
Nicknamed “The Old Greenhorner,” Bob Greene (1920-1977) gained national recognition as the editor of both Cycle and Motorcyclist magazines. He went on to publish numerous books on motorcycling. Throughout his life, Greene also regularly competed in desert-racing events, speed trials, and scrambles. From the 1940s through the late 1960s, Greene was the chief organizer of the prestigious Greenhorn Enduro.
Greene, who was born in 1920, was interested in all things motor-related from an early age. He could have easily gone into automobile design after high school. However, it was motorcycling that really caught his attention.
During World War II, Greene served in the military in the China, Burma and India theaters of war. On his return, he dived headlong into motorcycling. Greene, along with others such as Earl Flanders, helped revitalize the Pasadena Motorcycle Club after the war. The club purchased a surplus Quonset hut and placed it on a narrow lot purchased cheaply at 21 East Howard Street, just north of downtown.
Greene was an avid touring rider. He would spend three-day weekends touring his native California as often as he could. He also took longer trips across the country, visiting motorcycle shops along the way. He married Joan, and the couple took a motorcycle trip to Milwaukee to visit the Harley-Davidson factory.
Always positive, he was diplomatic even in reviewing less-than-stellar machines. Manufacturers learned their products would get a fair shake in the pages of Cycle and, as a result, the magazine was almost always the first to review the new models of the 1950s.
Even while performing his duties as Cycle editor, Greene found time to participate in just about every form of motorcycle racing. His favorite racing machine was Velocette. He raced them and rode them on the street as well. Greene raced in most of the biggest off-road events of the West Coast, including the Big Bear Run, the Cactus Derby, the Flintlock, and the Catalina Grand Prix.
Greene was the go-to guy when it came to putting on the famously challenging Greenhorn Enduro every year. He directed a core group of Pasadena Motorcycle Club members and spent months working on course layout, posters, sacking lime, ribboning the trails, setting schedules, putting up directional signs and all the myriad details that went into running the 500-mile event. His dedication helped the Greenhorn thrive for decades. His fellow riders gave him the nickname of “The Old Greenhorner” for his tireless efforts promoting and setting up the event.
Greene tested many motorcycles on the dry lakes of California and the experience served him well when, years later, he broke a class record at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
When Cycle magazine was sold, Greene moved to another Petersen magazine called Hot Rod. He exposed readers of Hot Rod to the performance aspect of motorcycles. It was a great boost to motorcycling to have machines featured in such a popular car magazine. It helped make motorcycling an acceptable activity among hot rodders.
In the early 1970s, his employer, Petersen Publishing bought Motorcyclist magazine, and Greene was named publisher and editor. He wrote a popular column in the pages of Motorcyclist called “Greene Sheet.”
Greene passed away suddenly in 1977. He was just 57. Friends say the traditional mainstays of journalists of his era – constant cups of coffee and cigarettes – were more than even Greene’s big heart could take. Greene left a legacy of a well-respected journalist, a solid racer, hero to his fellow Pasadena club members, and the man who carried the torch for the PMC Greenhorn Enduro for over 20 years.
He was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2007.
Article originally written by Dennis Burkman and published by Bill Getty/Trailblazers News JULY 2, 2020