Many of the bikes in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum tell the story of technological progress and innovation. This bike tells the story of one very determined racer.
Donny Schmit carved out his own career path to motocross success. The Minnesota native got off to a good start by winning the 125cc West Region title in the 1986 AMA Supercross Series. But Schmit then struggled in the premier 250cc class, particularly on tighter Supercross circuits.
Recognizing that his skills translated better to outdoor motocross, Schmit dropped out of Supercross to focus on the 125 MX series, losing his Suzuki factory ride in the process. Focusing on a grueling training regimen, he was picked up in 1990 by Team Bieffe Suzuki to race the 125 Motocross World Championship. Schmit won four races on this motorcycle en route to the 125 Motocross World Championship.
After an injury sidelined him for 1991, Schmit came back strong in ’92. He moved up to the 250 grand-prix class, this time riding for Chesterfield Yamaha. He won five races that year, nailing down the championship one year after Trampas Parker became the first American to complete the 125/250 world championship double.
Schmit retired, but would still race selected races, including a crowd-pleasing performance in the Millville, Minnesota, motocross race in 1995.
Then, the day before the 1996 Minneapolis Supercross, Donny Schmit died at the age of 29, only two days after he was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare bone-marrow disease. His superb conditioning helped mask the symptoms of the disease until it reached a life-threatening stage.
Since then, Schmit’s family and friends have formed the Donny Schmit Foundation to help raise money for research into the disease.
The Museum’s “Motocross America” exhibit includes the bike on which Schmit won his first world title, along with two of the trophies won by a racer who found his own, unique path to the top.