Now 68, Roberts has been known as “Da Man” in motorcycle and ATV circles for decades. He has been featured in hundreds of races all over the world and highlighted in films such as “Dust to Glory” and “Full Circle – The Legend Lives On” to name a few.
At the age of 22, Roberts entered his first desert race – the Moose Run at Holiday Hills. While the event wasn’t a huge success for the aggressive ride, it reminded Roberts of the cowboys and Indians chasing each other and a racer was born.
Hooked on the sport in a very short period of time, Roberts bought a new Husqvarna 360 Cross from Tracy’s in Burbank, California and began recording victories in the huge AMA District 37 events against 1,000 competitors.
From there, Roberts purchased a 350 Honda Scrambler that he modified before running to several Top 10 finishes. He then joined forces with the legendary Malcolm Smith to win the 1967 Mexican 1000, (later to become the Baja 1000). The victory marked the beginning of countless big time victories all over the world.
Roberts has remained close friends with Smith and in fact, the two were featured in the DVD “Full Circle – Malcolm Smith and JN Roberts – The Legend Lives On.”
Among his accomplishments has been the fact that Roberts has been inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, which recognizes those who have excelled in motorcycle business history, design and engineering in addition to those known for their contributions to road racing, off-road racing, and all categories of motorcycle racing.
When the first Mint 400 was staged in 1968, Roberts was the first competitor to complete the grueling event riding his Husqvarna across the finish line in a fitting historic effort.
To say that Roberts is an Ironman is a definite under statement. He mastered off-road racing in the 1960s and 1970s aboard a two-stroke Husqvarna, winning twenty-seven straight races during one particular stretch when four-stroke thumpers were the dominant force.
And when he wasn’t sailing across the desert en route to another victory, Roberts was being followed by young riders who worshipped his talents. His riding advice through regular articles in Popular Cycling encouraged young riders to get out, ride and compete.
“Everybody in off-road racing knows J.N. Roberts,” said KJ Howe, who spearheaded the Mint 400 from 1973-1985 and personally watched Roberts compete. “He was a wizard of reading terrain and keeping equipment together which other riders tried hard to emulate.
“He was legendary even then. As a member of the Board of Trustees with the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, I’m proud to see him inducted in 2009.” Equally important was the fact that Roberts’ innovative use of protective gear made the sport safer. He paved the way for extreme sports as we know them now, according to Howe.