John Tibben raced in more than 1,000 races in a career that spanned 20 years. Best known as a dirt-track specialist, Tibben rode a Harley-Davidson 45 in 1955 and finished third in the American Motorcycle Association Iowa Scramblers Championship. He raced the Daytona 200 nine times,years and earned several top 10 finishes on a Harley-Davidson KR roadracer.
Tibben was born in November 1937 on the family farm near Victor, Iowa, and grew up learning farm- machinery mechanics. He became acquainted with motorcycle racing at a young age while attending the Des Moines, Iowa, State Fair in the late 1940s. At the age of 11, he got a Whizzer motorbike that he rode for transportation. When Hall of Famers Mike and Margaret Wilson opened their Harley-Davidson shop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, John was a young customer.
In 1955, After Tibben his finished third-place finish in the 1955 American Motorcycle Association Iowa Scramblers Championship. Then, and with the help of Harley-Davidson dealers Mike Wilson and Wendel Mulbrook, Tibben started racing the AMA half-mile dirt-track circuit.
On July 4, 1956, Tibben won all the races scheduled at the Keokuk, Iowa, fairgrounds. He then raced in Illinois and Wisconsin where he had finished in the top four.
In 1957, Tibben moved to Chicago and worked at Chicago Harley-Davidson. Riding Jack Polen's Harley-Davidson KR, Tibben he rode all the professional AMA dirt-track races that he could get to within 400 miles of Chicago and earned national No. 60.
In 1959, Tibben bought all of Polen's equipment and set up his own race bike shop. Tibben likedHe raced the half-mile dirt tracks in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, and won many fairgrounds races. He also won the Iowa Championship twice.
Tibben was fascinated with engine maintenance and improvements. He became a self-taught machinist while making or improving parts on his lathe or milling machine for his Harley KR half-miler or his CR short-tracker.
Winter was used to prepare his roadrace machine for the Daytona 200 National. Tibben especially enjoyed racing on the old Daytona 200 beach course. Tibben raced the Daytona 200He raced for nine years with several top 10 finishes on a Harley KR roadracer.
The Harley-Davidson model KR racebike-era ended in 1968-’69 with an AMA rule change. Up to that point, all professional dirt-track motorcycle racing bikes had no brakes and no rear suspension on the chassis. These developments brought about the Harley-Davidson iron-barreled XR, then the Harley alloy-barreled XR, which is still remains a winning machine today. Tibben continued racing with a new Harley-Davidson XR from the factory until hanging up his steel shoe in 1975.
Tibben was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2004.