Udo Gietl in 2002. (Larry Lawrence photo)

Udo Gietl in 2002. (Larry Lawrence photo)

The early years of Superbike racing in America were known for racers with colorful personalities and builders with innovative minds. Originally called Superbike Production racing, it didn’t take long for the builders of these powerful 1000cc Superbikes to forget about the “production” part of the name. One of the primary innovators of the early Superbike era was Udo Gietl. In the mid-1970s Gietl helped transform a gentleman’s touring motorcycle, the BMW R Series, into a championship winning Superbike.

Preferring to be a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, Gietl somewhat reluctantly became a celebrity of sorts in Superbike racing. His name was one reason. Udo – it had a certain ring to it and was easy to remember. But more than that was the coverage he got on the pages of Cycle magazine for turning a mild-mannered touring machine into a Superbike. Rider Cook Neilson and tuner Phil Schilling and their Ducati 750SS were competitors against Gietl’s BMW crew, but it was a friendly rivalry and Gietl’s very-trick Beemers got a lot of ink in the pages of the very influential Cycle and other motorcycle magazines of the day.

After success with BMW, Udo went to Honda and later retired to build sailboats. Today he lives in North Carolina, and is still sailing.

If BMW ever decided to return to AMA Superbike one naturally wonders if Gietl’s services might again be needed. “I seriously doubt it” he said. “There is a certain amount of national pride in these things and I would guess Motorrad would bring their own people to do it their way. Would I be honored and would I respond to it? I think I would, but I wouldn’t go out of my way.”

As it is now Gietl stands alongside Superbike builders/owner like Rob Muzzy and Eraldo Ferracci as larger than life personalities that became as well known as the racers who rode the machines they built.

2 thoughts on “Udo!

  1. I remember Udo. He was running the Honda HRC Superbike program in the early 80’s with Fred Merkel and friends.

    He wasn’t afraid to send out some pretty hefty invoices for parts…Brian Uchida was the parts manager.

    Good people and very forgiving for not paying in full! Thank you both.


  2. I recall various memories of Udo (and Todd)

    Jonny Long was riding, and besides taking us to a local “all you can eat” oyster shack down some two track, I remember Johnny’s eyes getting a bit big when I commented to watch his feet on the BMW – a bottom end let go, those Titanium Rods would come right through the cases about ankle level…

    Later, when they had switched to Honda’s I recall one falling off the rollers while being warmed up – even the best could screw up.

    Good folks
    Thanks for the flashback


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s