Nicknamed “The Old Greenhorner,” Bob Greene 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. In high school, he earned a certificate of excellence for a scale model he designed for a contest sponsored by Fisher Auto Body. The contest served as an important talent search and recruiting tool for General Motors Corporation and Greene could have easily gone into automobile design. However, it was motorcycling that really caught his attention. In order to purchase his first bike, he put his father’s Model A Ford into hock. Surprisingly, it was Greene’s mother who got behind her son’s ambitions to become a motorcyclist. After he learned to ride, she was even a frequent passenger riding with him.
During World War II, Greene served in the military in the China, Burma and India theaters. 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 went to work in the newspaper business at the Alhambra Post-Advocate, then with the Glendale News-Press in classified ad sales. At the same time, Greene was contributing articles to The Motorcyclist, which was published in Greene’s hometown of Pasadena.
Greene was an avid touring rider. He would take 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.
In 1950, Robert (Pete) Petersen launched Cycle magazine. Greene was named the magazine’s first editor. He was noted for showing his fondness of motorcycling in his writing. 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. One of the innovations that came at Cycle under Greene’s direction was the addition of detailed cutaway drawings of engine internals and other engineering features on new motorcycles.
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 also helped lay out the course for the famous Greenhorn Enduro. As the years passed, Greene became the go-to guy when it came to putting on the Greenhorn every year. Greene 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 race thrive for nearly 30 years. His fellow riders gave him the nickname of “The Old Greenhorner” for his tireless efforts promoting and setting up the race.
Greene also enjoyed speed trials on the dry lakes of Southern California. He tested many motorcycles on the dry lakes and that experience served him well years later when he broke a class record at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Greene was also a staunch supporter of the AMA. He pushed through the initiative to have all members of the Pasadena Motorcycle Club also be members of the AMA. He was a leader in promoting AMA District 37 activities.
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 1964, Petersen published “The Complete Book of Motorcycling” by Lynn Wineland and the editors of Hot Rod Magazine. Greene wrote the intro to the book had a hand in choosing much of the material and the contributing writers, calling on his vast knowledge and contacts in the sport. Guest writers such as John Penton, Bob Steffan and Bruce Chubbuck helped fill the book with valuable information for new and established riders.
The success of that book led to Greene being assigned to head up a book division launched by Petersen Publishing.
In the early 1970s, 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.”
In a 1975 editorial in Motorcyclist, Greene said that one of the most fascinating and entertaining aspects of being involved in motorcycling so long was watching each wave of oncoming enthusiasts rediscover the many facets of motorcycling.
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 and the man who carried the torch for the Greenhorn Enduro for over 20 years.
He was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2007.