Milwaukee, WI. Ice Racing
As the Mama Tried motorcycle show progressed they sought to include the option of a variety of entertaining spectacles surrounding the event happening in all different parts of the city of Milwaukee. From the pre parties, after parties, Flat Out Friday, Harley Davidson Museum and several other "moto-happenings" you would think, how could it get any better?
Well, given that the event takes place in the winter months it seemed appropriate to include some optional motorcycle ice racing into the mix as well. McKinley Marina is somewhat famous for being a great ice fishing spot there in Milwaukee so that is usually where the best action for this kind of thing has taken place. While mother nature didn't always comply every year and the amount of people who can actually be out on the ice is somewhat limited, the racing began as somewhat of an "unofficial" tie in with the show, then moved to being more exclusive to anyone willing to brave the cold if they had a machine to run.
Regardless of the weather everyone with ice studded bikes still make an attempt to get out there and have some fun as long as the ice passes safety inspection. Years prior have been a wide variety of temperatures, some in the single digits and some as wild as the 60's but this past year the ice was good to go as the temps were in the teens for most of the day. Just to add a little fun into the mix, a full on blizzard hit mid day to add an extra element of danger to the already challenging track they had carved out.
This made spectating, shooting and especially racing a challenge for everyone there but racers from all over the country still took to the ice to give it their best shot taking laps. It's more than anything just all in good fun. Seeing how fast you can lap your buddies or seeing how hard you can push your old dirt bike or vintage machine out on the ice.
This past year saw quite a variety of riders take to the ice with bikes ranging from old vintage two stroke dirt bikes to brand new KTM's and even sportsters and FXR's out there. It was refreshing to see the crew from Trackerdie.com came all the way out from the West coast with their studded up FXR ready to give the ice what for.
One of our favorite riders of the day had to be veteran flat tracker Ronnie Zastro (pictured below in the vintage Yamaha jacket) on his 1983 YZ250 just absolutely shredding everyone in his path. He was really going after it and laying the bike down into those corners like no one else could. It was impressive riding no matter what the ground conditions but to see that kind of aggressive riding on ice is the trademark of a true professional.
We caught up with Ronnie after he had his fun for the day and asked him a little about his YZ250 and why he decided to take it out that day. (Ronnie) "The old two strokes are basically just awesome for this. They are lightweight but with enormous power. They are just the perfect fit for the ice. I get out with my old flat track buddies and we just spin laps around each other having a blast on these. Serious racing is just too serious sometimes and its fun to get out on the ice and just go after it with a few friends." After that we spoke with another veteran racer John Altmann out on the ice with his vertical twin KTM that he also let a few riders take out on the ice and have a run at it just to share the fun with everyone.
While in years past we have seen a wide variety of motorcycles, some 1970's Japanese, 60's British and some even as old as Harley knuckles, flatheads and JD's but this year was all about the dirt bikes. With the snow coming down harder and faster by the minute these two stroke terrors reigned supreme that day as the champions of the great McKinley. While we don't encourage everyone to try this for themselves as it certainly is something left to the pros, you've got to admit that watching anything high speed on two wheels take to the ice is something that I think any motorcycle enthusiast can admire for the courage it takes to really give it a go.
Photos and words by Mike Vandegriff