PICKERINGTON, Ohio (August 7, 2023) — The AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame sends its condolences to the family and friends of Earl Bowlby, a 10-time AMA national hillclimb champion, who passed away Saturday, Aug. 5. He was 90 years old.
Born on Oct. 27, 1933, in Hocking County, Ohio, Bowlby’s love for motorcycles began as a teenager as he rode his paper route aboard a Whizzer motorbike during the 1940s. Bowlby’s racing career didn’t get started until the late 1950s, but instead of hillclimb, he first dabbled in drag racing.
In 1960, Bowlby established his own motorcycle dealership in Logan, Ohio, and began to ramp up his racing activities. Bowlby tried a variety of disciplines, spanning from enduros to hare scrambles, but ultimately found his true calling: hillclimb.
Earning his pro license at 32 in 1966, it took only two years for Bowlby to claim his first national victory with a win in Muskegon, Mich., in 1968. From that point forward, Bowlby dominated the national hillclimb scene, claiming 10 national titles across his 25 years of professional racing, a record that stood until 2021.
In addition to his 10 national titles on the AMA hillclimb circuit, Bowlby also added six Canadian national championships to his trophy case during his career. In 1984, Bowlby became the first competitor to complete the triple crown of hillclimb by winning the national invitational at Muskegon while claiming the AMA and Canadian national titles.
As a result of his illustrious racing career, in which he captured more than 80 AMA national hillclimb wins, Bowlby was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999 and remained a steadfast supporter from that point forward. In February 2023, Bowlby donated his 1967 BSA 650 to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame collection.