Rick Heiseke - Minnesota Motorcycle Hall of Fame Member

Rick Heiseke - Motocross

It seems that everyone with memories of the early days of District 23 Motocross remembers Rick Heiseke. He won four 250A championships in a row on a variety of brands, but it was his winter excursions to Florida that lands him in the Hall.

Rick got his first bike in 1967. The Bridgestone 60 was quite small for someone more than six-feet tall, as the early action photo below so comically illustrates. He eventually moved up to a still-small Suzuki Savage 250 dual sport. While attending school in Rochester in 1971, Rick raced it at nearby Millville a few times. It was the first year of AMA sanctioned Motocross races in Minnesota (not to be confused with 1970 Scrambles). Even with the rear knobby and expansion chamber, Rick’s bike was outmatched by the European brands; Husqvarna, Maico, Penton (technically an American brand of an Austrian motorcycle), Monarch and CZ.

In early 1972, a couple of ex-policeman made the unusual business decision to bring a Jawa and CZ dealership to Rick’s hometown of Owatonna. Once inside the short lived but well timed dealership, he could see and purchase the same bikes that GP heroes Joel Robert and Roger DeCoster raced to world championships. The design hadn’t changed much since 67 or 68, so in a way, it really was the same bike as the legendary Belgians, other than the unobtainable factory parts.

He was planning on going up to Burnsville Sports Center for a Maico, but with the dealer so close, and giving him a discount and partial sponsorship, it was a deal too good to pass up. After some negotiation, he landed a used 1972 CZ 250, his first real motocross bike. Not unlike a boat, the initial purchase was only the start of the spending. You needed a few aftermarket parts to get the CZ race-ready. Little things like rims, hubs, ignition, carburetor, and fenders.

With the bike ready to go, Rick quit school to go racing. Winning the 1972 250A championship made the gamble of quitting school pay off, at least in my (admittedly biased) world view. He moved to Minneapolis in 73, and with title in hand, as well as a year of racing a CZ, he was able to secure sponsorship with Diversified Distributors Incorporated, aka DDI.

Rick would get to race a brand new 1973 CZ 250. CZ made changes this year for the first time in many years. It now had a five-speed, among other updates. Looked like CZ may have finally turned the corner, and was about to return to their old glory. Rick did his part to make the 73 look good, winning races and the 250A Championship once again. That winter, he packed up his well-used CZ and headed to Florida to race professional Motocross.

While in Florida, Rick raced a few rounds of the Daytona Warm-Up series. Although it wasn’t the US National Championship, there were many top riders and teams there, including factory Yamaha rider, Pierre Karsmakers. “Perry” was so good that the AMA added a short-lived rule that barred foreign riders from earning US National points.

Rick’s experiences competing with national champions brought into question the arbitrary Hall of Fame Qualification criteria. The Hall of Fame rules committee convened an emergency session in late 2020. Out of that summit came the “Any Pro Story Will Work” Declaration, referred to (very!) unofficially as the Heiseke Effect.

Once back in Minnesota, Rick found out that DDI had gone under while he was away, and CZ was going in that direction also. Rick was able to land a sponsorship with Honda West. He raced their bikes the next two seasons, running his string of consecutive 250A Championships to four. He rode the mighty Honda in 1974 (like many did), and a Macio in 1975.

Despite winning in 75 with the Maico, he realized it may not have been the right one at the time.“After watching Ake Jonsson and Rande Luitjens over in Waseca I just figured Maico was the motorcycle to get. Unfortunately I waited too long to finally get one. I should have stayed with the Japanese models in the mid-70s.”

Rick headed to Florida again in the winter of 75/76 and ran the entire NML Winter Series. When he got back to Minnesota in 76, he raced the first few months, but quit racing in the summer of 76. He moved back to Owatonna, deciding that school might a good idea after all. After graduating with a degree in Electronics in the spring of 1979, He got a job at Compugraphic Corporation. They gave him an opportunity to work in Tallahassee which he jumped on.

Here are the 250 A Championship plaques from 1972 - 1975. Gotta love the different interpretations of the shape of Minnesota.

After living in Tallahassee for seven years, he transferred to Orlando. Once in Orlando, he never left. Compugraphic didn’t survive, but Rick kept on working in a variety of technical positions. If you can figure out how to make a CZ go fast, you can keep anything working. The last company where Rick worked didn’t fare well in the Great Recession, and he took an unwanted (the usual kind) early retirement in the early 2010s

You can read more about his pro adventures at Hammer against the Pros in Florida. He also appears frequently in the Minnesotans in Print section.

2021 Update
With so many rounds in being held in Florida, he got to attend several Supercross races in 2021. He continues to ride, with the photos below being his 13th and 14th motorcycles (which probably leaves him only a few hundred short of Jim Benolkin’s totals).

A Minnesota connection