Cleo Pineau.JPG

Like most of America's earliest professional motorcycle racers, Cleo Francis Pineau was far from average. A native of Albuquerque, NM., it is said that his restless nature led him to drop out of school in the 6th grade, shortly after which he began racing motorcycles. He was a staple member of the Flying Merkel factory racing team, in the company of such greats as Lee Taylor, Ralph DePalma, Charlie Balke, and Maldwyn Jones. On board his trusty Merkel, Pineau crisscrossed the country in the early teens racing at the most prestigious events of the day, including the 300 mile endurance competition held in Savannah in 1913 and 1914. 

With the suspension of professional racing during WWI many racers enlisted for service. Not satisfied with just any role in the war Pineau enlisted in the RAF and became a fighter pilot. He earned his title of Ace after his sixth confirmed kill during aerial dogfighting in France. He himself was then shot down in October of 1918 and held captive in a German prisoner camp. Upon his safe release Pineau was decorated with countless medals and the highest honors from England, France, and Belgium, and even received a hand written letter from King George V welcoming his safe return. 

After the war Pineau continued his motorcycle racing career, but by the late 1920's he had ventured into the business world by forming the Radiant Steel Products Company which is still in operation to this day. In addition to his steel company, Pineau also established the Williamsport-Lycoming Airport and was accompanied by his friends and American aviation icons Wiley Post and Amelia Earhart during the opening dedication ceremony. In this photo 20 year old C.F. Pineau sits steely-eyed atop his Merkel single during the June 1914 races held in Toledo. Pineau's Flying Merkel teammate Lee Taylor took the checkered flag that day, and a few months later beat him and the rest of the field again at the 1914 Savannah 300, though his victory in Georgia was on board an Indian twin.