One of American Motorcycle Racing’s Most Flamboyant Characters
For those who followed American motorcycle racing in the 1970s-80s, David “Bones” Aldana will be a familiar name and rider of the time. Born November 26, 1949 in Santa Ana, California, Aldana raced both flat track and road racing in the AMA Grand National Championship and Superbike Championship respectively. A fierce and colorful competitor on both the track and dirt, Aldana even raced in the 1970 Trans-AMA Motocross series and did some speedway racing as well. Aldana gained notoriety for a set of racing leathers he designed and raced in that were solid black with a white human skeleton on the front. He earned the nickname “Bones” with the one-of-kind suit, and fans loved it. The AMA, however did not, and threatened to ban the man if persisted in wearing them in sanctioned races.
By the mid 1970s, “Bones” switched his focus to road racing, leading the American racing team to their first victory over the Brits in the Transatlantic Trophy races of 1975. Aldana rode for the factory Suzuki team then the Kawasaki AMA Superbike team by 1980, paired up with a young Eddie Lawson. Aldana rode for Honda factory racing (HRC) in the FIM Endurance World Championship then won the legendary Suzuka 8 Hours with Mike Baldwin in 1981. Aldana claimed 4 AMA Nationals during his pro racing years, as well as multiple international races, and was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999. Still active in promoting racing, “Bones” can still be seen at many flat track and road racing events around the States, and will still hop on dirt/track himself from time to time, at the ripe age of 73.
I’ve had the privilege of photographing David both in his flat track and road racing years. The photos in this gallery range from the first time I photographed him in 1975 at the Sacramento Mile, 1977 at Sears Point, through 1983 at Laguna Seca. David raced a wide variety of bikes and brands in his time, from riding a Harley-Davidson XR750 as a privateer, Yamaha TZ750s, Factory Yoshimura/Suzuki GSX1000S Katana Superbike, a Honda VF750F Interceptor Superbike and a Honda RS500 GP bike for HRC. We hope you enjoy our shots of David, with our descriptions of each photo for some context.
1975 Sacramento Mile, #10 David Aldana (H-D) feet up exiting Turn 2 at the hot, dry and dusty Cal-Expo Sacramento Mile. David is wearing his previous year’s #13 leathers, while riding his self-sponsored #10 H-D XR750.
1977 Sears Point, #10 David Aldana (YAM) follows #3 Gene Romero (YAM) and leads #122 Dale Singleton (YAM). David is listed as being self-sponsored in the program but had support from Don Vesco. Gene was riding his Don Vesco Special TZ750 and Dale is riding his Taylor White Special TZ750.
1977 San Jose Mile, #10 David Aldana (H-D) under watchful eyes in Turn 1 as fans were allowed to watch at the outside fence. David finished 5th in his Heat race and won his Semi race, transferring to the Main. His self-sponsored XR750 then broke and he was left at the line, as the green flag waved for the start of the 25 lap Main Event.
1977 San Jose Mile, #2 Kenny Roberts (YAM) leads #32x rookie expert Garth “Gonzo” Brow (H-D), while #10 David Aldana tries a higher line in their Heat race. Garth finished 3rd, Kenny 4th and David 5th.
1977 San Jose Mile, #10 David Aldana was frustrated as he walks back to his pit space in his famous BATES “Bones” leathers, with his BELL helmet in hand. I photographed the start of the Main and was heading to Turn 1 when I saw him and quickly grabbed a snapshot.
1979 Laguna Seca, #10 David Aldana on his (Team Dahmen/Vesco Yamaha) TZ750 in Turn 6 at the top of the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca. David made the podium with a 3rd-place finish in this FIM F750 World Championship race, over the European F750 regulars.
1979 Laguna Seca, #10 David Aldana (YAM) on the podium after finishing 3rd behind #48 Rich Schlachter (YAM), telling his version of the race to Roxy Rockwood and others while winner Kenny Roberts smiles and listens in.
1981 Laguna Seca, #40 David Aldana powers his (Wasco/Vesco/Work Special) TZ750 through the old Turn 8 at Laguna Seca.
1982 Laguna Seca, #40 David Aldana on his (U.S. Suzuki/Yoshimura R&D) GSX1000S Katana Superbike, races up the front straight in pursuit of Eddie Lawson (KAW), Mike Baldwin (HON) and teammate Wes Cooley. David just missed the podium, finishing 4th.
1983 Laguna Seca, #40 David Aldana (American Honda Motor Company) on his HRC Honda VF750F Interceptor Superbike.
1983 Laguna Seca, #40 David Aldana (American Honda Motor Company) in Laguna Seca’s old Turn 8. David is on Mike Baldwin’s back-up HRC Honda RS500. Notice “Mike” on the upper fairing and the black tape that was used to turn Mike Baldwin’s “43” into David Aldana’s “40”.
From the Editor: It is always with great pleasure that we feature the historic photography of Geoff and Barb Nickless. They beautifully captured the golden age of American motorcycle racing in the 1970s-1990s, and continue to document the ever-changing but always thrilling world of motorcycle racing for future generations.
For more of Geoff & Barb’s photos across the decades, find them here: