As we all know, American BMX in its special form (20 inch bikes etc.) started in the late 1960 ‘s and early 1970's because of youngster imitating motorsport moto-cross stars. The bikes used at the time were the famous STINGRAY bikes, using 20 inch wheels. In the early '70 ‘s BMX became an organized sport in the USA (check the History of BMX on this site). As a matter of fact, although not know as BMX (Bicycle Moto-X), in Holland BX (Bicycle Cross, in Dutch "Fietscross") got off the ground in the mid 1950's and also here youngsters were imitating motorsport moto-cross stars from Holland, Belgium, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark etc.
The difference between the American and European “bicycle sport” was that the Europeans used the ordinary road bicycles with 26”/28” inch wheels and only adjusted the frames from these ordinary road bicycles, by making them stronger. In Holland and for that matter in Europe, BMX (American style) became an organized sport in 1978 (again check this History of BMX on this website).
St. Anthonis - Holland.
Anyway, it is my believe, that BX – Bicycle Cross was kind of first in Europe and in this case in Holland. Most famous motorcycle moto-cross event was called "Moto-Cross of Aces " an international event that drew around 40.000 spectators to St. Anthonis, the little village were this International race was helt. The first Moto-Cross of Aces took place for the first time in 1947 and the last event was organized in 1985. Besides the MX of Aces, Grand Prix's were run here as well as a Moto-Cross of Nations. Taken from official archieves here a picture from around 1957 in which a young man from St. Anthonis immitated a rider from Denmark. In the St. Anthonis area, Bicycle Cross was popular and youngsters from the surrounding villages, competed against eachother. For some reason these BX races in this area died down in the mid 60's.
The text under the 2nd. pictures says: location St. Anthonis (Holland), explanation of picture: a young boy by the name of Tiny Arts jumping from a pit on his bike. Dated somewhere in 1957. Made by Fotographer Fotostudio Jan Waarma and then identification number is mentioned.
Update May 2015, BMX or BX in Holland, St. Anthonis area.
After some more research on Bicycle Cross in the St. Anthonis area, I was able to gather more detailed historic information through the historic center in this area ánd informatiion I got through participants in the '50s BX races, still alive, Piet Denissen and Wiel van Loosbroek.
It all started somewhere 1955-1956 here in the village of St. Antonis - Holland. Within no time there were around 50+ bicycle cross riders. In the St. Anthonis area 2 tracks were built, one called the Vollenberg and one track built on the grounds of the Aben family in St. Anthonis. Also surrounding villages had BX clubs in no time as well. There were about 7 villages with BX clubs: St. Anthonis ofcourse, Afferden, Wanssum, Well, Wijchen. Oploo and Mill. The BX club in St. Anthonis was called "FX club Dessa", the club in Wanssum was called "the Blue Cracks" and the one in Mill was called "De Vliegende Schijven" (the Flying Sources).
Here you can find a confirmation letter by the Blue Cracks of an invitation to come and race in St. Anthonis. This letter is dated September 6th. 1960, racenumbers, names, birthday dates and the class they would race in were mentioned. Also "De Vliegende Schijven" replied and did sent in their entry form. Most of the time ladies bicycles were used by the young kids. They placed an extra cross-bar on the bike and painted the frame and made the paint have a flames look by burning the paint with candles.
The riders were transported from one track to the other with the help of VOLLENBERG Transport company. All bicycles were loaded on to a flat trailer, pulled by a tractor and there they did go to the races. Seen here a picture taken by the wife of the towns doctor. She was one of the few at the time, owning a picture camera. Seen here young Peter van Hassel and his nephew Joop, battling. Peter van Hassel also told me the story that in those days, the riders themselves did go to local shops to ask for prizes, like sweets, bottles of drinks or paint to work on the bicycles and so on.
Peter van Hassel also told me the story that after a motorcycle moto-cross, the famous Swedish rider, Sten Lundin, clained his Hedlund at a local garage. A lot of schoolkids surrounded him and watched him clean his motorcycle. Afterwards Sten Lundin rode his motorcyle accross the bicycle cross field. Pitty there aren't any pictures of that, Peter said.
Seen here some more picture taken in 1959 and 1960 as well as an "entry form" sent from one club to another.
Here a copy of the original invitation letter from one club to another in the St. Anthonis area in Holland. Names and racenumbers are mentioned.
Ofcourse articles on these Bicycle Cross events appeared in the local newspapers. Here a clipping from local newspaper on a BX event helt at Bx track DE BERG, a sandy track in St. Anthonis - Holland. Information on the BX periode around the town of St. Anthonis I got through Peter van Hassel and Wiel van Loosbroek (former participants in these BX races there), for which I thank them very much.
Amersfoort - Holland.
Our National archieve shows us some more Bicycle Cross activities in the city of Amersfoort. Pictures ánd film materials are available and the regional Radio and TV Station Amersfoort made a documentary on this topic, a couple of years ago (2012). In this case it was the large Van Heugten family (15 children) getting BX organized. One of the older sons of the Van Heugten family was a very good solo motorcycle moto-cross rider and his little brothers were immitating him on a normal road bike.
Here you can see one picture with Dutch youngsters leaving the start line for a race. The guy with number 5 on his numberplate is Ton van Heugten, from the famous MX family van Heugten. The other pictures show you even a side-hack (picture of 1958, with Fons van Heugten riding and Hans van Campen as monkey) which were already used back then.
To all of the above a short story has to be told concerning the Dutch situation. Just last year May 7th. 2006 in Holland a special Reunion took place of the moto-cross riding sons of the “van Heugten” family. This famous moto-cross family had 15 children of which 5 daughters and 10 sons. All the sons were at any time active in the moto-cross sport. Three of the van Heugten sons became multiple Dutch MX National Champions in their class and the most talented son, Ton van Heugten, did win the World Championship title in the site-car class in 1981. The picture above, shows Ton van Heugten on his special prepared “Dutch” type BMX bike (rider with number 5 on his plate). By the way, many years later, when Ton van Heugten was a top rider in the side-car class, another former pioneer USA BMX star started racing side-car moto-cross. This rider and his monkey were sponsored by the Van Heugten group (producing carpet tiles). Rider and money were John Palfreyman and Tom Lund.
Concerning the Amersfoort scene 1958, please check and enjoy this documentary made by local radio and TV station in Amersfoort. Riders from back then being young men, now interviewed 55+ years later and at the location were in the '50 s the track was situated. Something changed for sure .... enjoy this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl7nwiAmuKQ
Anyway, besides the famous van Heugten family, there was also the famous Karsmakers family . This family had 8 children, 2 daughters (of whom I married the oldest one, Mieke) and 6 sons. Only 5 from the 6 sons were active in the moto-cross sport and also they started Bicycle Cross out in the woods near their home in Waalre – Holland, imitating MX stars, among them their uncle and Dutch National Champion MX 500, Frans Baudoin. Seen below an action picture of Pierre Karsmakers taken somewhere around 1955 and another picture of Toon Karsmakers, the youngest son, taken around 1961/62. Later on Pierre did win 3 Dutch National titles Moto-Cross 500 cc and also did Toon win 3 Dutch National titles 500 cc after Pierre stopped riding. The oldest brother Martien Karsmakers did win the 125 Dutch National Championship in 1958.
the 6 brothers Karsmakers
fltr; Theo, Frans, Paul, Martien, Toon and Pierre kneeling.
Part of the van Heugten family competed against the Karsmakers family during their moto-cross careers. From the Karsmakers family, Pierre was the most successful one winning 3 Dutch National MX 500cc titles, winning the National Championship of the USA in 1973, a Supercross Championship in 1974 and competed in many Grand Prix events riding for Yamaha and Honda and in his later days becoming the National Fourtroke Champion of the USA. He also competing in the famous Paris-Dakar rally around 8 times. The most talented Karsmakers was Toon, who became three times a Dutch National Champion in the 500 cc class and competed in many Grand Prix events as well.
It's very interesting to find out and realize that BX found its roots already in the '50 ‘s and that several riders from the famous MX families of “van Heugten” and “Karsmakers” started out as BMX racers Dutch (Euro) style!
Story by Gerrit Does.