Adventures in riding ice

15_0207_IceRacing_116APhoto by Ryan Handt Photography

Winter in New York is always hard for motorcyclists. As ice and snow cover the streets, we put our bikes in storage, and spend hours reminiscing about summer, longing for spring, and cursing the Instagram feeds of our friends in warmer climates. This year has been particularly long and hard, and so I decided to make the most of it and use every minute and dime I had repairing and sprucing up my two bikes, as well as learning something new!

I’ve done a little bit of flattrack, by way of American Supercamp a few years back, and last year on the track with the help of fellow Miss-Fire Kara (Check out that story HERE). Kara races with Five & Dime Racing and just split town to defend the #1 plate in her class (ead her story HERE). So this winter, my goal was a similar, but even crazier sounding sport, Ice Riding!

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drilling screws into tires for grip.

It took a few weeks of talking to friends, asking technical questions, and inquiring about secret locations, but after not too long, I’d found a schedule for races 3 hours away and hopped in the car with some buddy’s to check it out. In short, it was everything I’d hoped for, cold, crazy, and so much fun to watch.

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We had a great day, and that started the ball rolling. More friends popped up with advice, and even offered to take me up to a private track on a river upstate. So, after getting the best text ever (above), I ran on over to Works Engineering and we spent several nights eating pizza, drinking beer and drilling thousands of screws into knobby tires.

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Photo by Ryan Handt Photography

Bright and early the next morning, we packed up the trucks, and headed upstate. The track was cleared and waiting for us along with a fire pit to keep warm in between turns courtesy of our gracious hosts, a lovely couple who race motorcycles, including flattrack.

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Jason wailing around a turn. Photo by Ryan Handt Photography

It was great to watch everyone from the kids to the pros, find their way around the track. and I quickly came to understand the techniques that had been explained to me prior.

15_0207_IceRacing_036AOur host Scott. Photo by Ryan Handt Photography

On dirttrack (or flattrack), you accelerate down the straight-aways, then lean and slide he bike around the turns with your leg extended out and into the turn, and that arm pushing into the handlebars, while your outside arm is raised high, and that leg is on the pegs and pushing against the tank. Looking all the while far down the track. That lesson of looking where I want the bike to go and it will go there, is something I originally learned riding horses years ago and it’s still one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned in regards to motorcycling, and I use it every day.

15_0207_IceRacing_087AMe. Photo by Ryan Handt Photography

With the addition of the screws into the tires, the amount of grip is surprising. I had envisioned sliding all over slick ice, as if I was ice skating in dress shoes but in fact, The bike felt completely in control, and powered through the ice with grace and stability. Getting it to slide was indeed very similar to conditions of a dirttrack and after only a few turns, though I was slow and wobbly, I was starting to get it!

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Me. Photo By Miss-Fire Erika

Being new to not just ice riding, but motorcycle as off-road sport in general, gear was daunting. I did a bunch of research and found that it’s very similar to motocross, with some cold weather additions. You want to be warm, protected, and yet still able to have a full range of motion. I also found that an open MX helmet and Goggle combo was necessary as a full face helmet with flip down shield was prone to fogging badly.

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Photo by Ryan Handt Photography

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Jeanette. Photo by Ryan Handt Photography

Jeanette (above) riding her first day on ice. She got her foot down on the very next lap!15_0207_IceRacing_080AErik showing Henry the track. Photo by Ryan Handt Photography

All in all, an amazing day spent with friends learning a new skill and challenging myself with every turn on the track, and the only think that’s almost made me wish winter will last just a little longer…ALMOST.

Corinna Mantlo

1968 BSA Lightning 650, 1971 Yamaha At1 125, 1962 Ford Ranchero

GO FAST, TURN LEFT!!

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WTF is Flat track motorcycle racing, and Why the F do i do it??

Flat track racing is about 100 years old. It started with motorcycles pulling bicycles (fixed gear, of course) onto an oval wooden track for velodrome races. When the bicycles were up to speed, the motorcycle would pull off, and the race would begin. That evolved into the team’s motorcycles racing around the track, also called board tracking. As the motorcycles got larger, heavier, and faster they moved onto the dirt oval. Thus, flat tracking was born. Bicyclist Following Motorcyclist    1910  

 Photo credit: Overwood and Overwood       Courtesy The Selvedge Yard boardtrack Date Unknown

Motorcycle Board tracking 4f83c508a9b9b9dc7ee2b71a31d9d4ff 1950’s  

Early dirt track racing. Notice the steel shoe so one doesn’t rip ones leg off. CS5008 1970’s  Crazy nuts on motorcycles

In the 1960’s, they (the race oraganizers) decided to require a rear brake on the new motorcycles. Again, the product of the bikes getting bigger and faster. By the 70’s, bikes were reaching speeds well over 100 mphs on the one-mile tracks.

Now that you know what flat track is. Im going to try and break down my story and why I do this insane sport.

To make a long story short, i met this guy, Jeff Davis, while working as a bicycle messenger in Boston in 1996. He was selling bicycles for extra cash while working as a surveyor. He was a crazy nutball with crazy ideas. I needed a wheel. He had a wheel. We became good buddies. I retired from the bike gig. He retired forever to western, MA. But we still made an effort to hang out, kick around in his barn, and throw back a few beers once in a while.

One day, about 9 years ago he called and said, “Hey, do you want to go for a road trip down South and see some vintage flat track races? I bought this skeleton bare Volvo station wagon. Just have to fix the brakes, but I’m sure we’ll get there.” I probably had about 50 illegal miles under my belt on a borrowed motorcycle, but i was into this motorcycle thing, so why not? Going South in late February? Yes!

After a day or so of driving, and a dangerous brake situation in Connecticut, we finally got to a track in some po-dunk town in E.B.F. cow country. It sounds so trite, but i was immediately enthralled with. IT. ALL. The sound, the speed, the leather suits, the dirt (i’m a gardener. i love dirt), being in the middle of nowhere, the people, the stories, and…the crashes. Spectacular, all of it.

About a year later Jeff calls me up and says he bought some flat track bikes, a couple racing leathers, a couple steel shoes, and that we should have at it. Well Hell’s Yes!! Going from bike messengering to gardening and farming was missing that Do or Die element, know what i mean?

We practiced about 3-5 times a year, for about 3 years, with a couple of races thrown in here and there. Our home track was mainly a small, 1/5 track in Winchendon, Mass. At this point i was racing what we dubbed the Dung Beetle. A 1980 Honda 175. Let me tell you, at first it was a bit of an ego-bruiser to be racing in the 175cc class against 10 and 12 year old kids, but i soon realized that kids were fierce competition! No fear! They pushed me to do better, because, duh, who wants to lose to a 12 year old kid?!  I just accepted that this was the way it was going to be for a while and just went with the flow. I started high-fiving and knuckle bumping the kids before the races. We’d talk smack to each other. I’d say hello to the parents. It was all great fun. Which is what the goal still is today. 1798871_10152059927659608_484285421_n   The Dung Beetle

I got my first taste of real racing at an indoor track in Windsor, Conn. I still sucked, but figured i had to break my cherry racing with the “big boys” at some point. I signed up for the Open Vintage class. I didn’t know what i was in for! I lined up at staging with everything from 350 Hondas to 750 Triumphs. Shaking and clueless even to the fact of what flag meant what, I rolled to the start. Well, after 3 re-starts because of crashes (scary as hell track…now closed) I was out there going left. I saw a blue flag go up. What? Keep going. Huge motorcycles whizzing past me a foot or two away. More blue flag. Huh? Then a black flag. Finally I looked at the flag guy and he was waving me off the track. Now I know the blue flag means ” You are a moving hazard. Get off the track immediately”. And the black flag means “Disqualified”. O.K. That sucked. Live and learn??

Two years later I moved to NYC. Jeff and I had met a guy at a race in upstate NY who lived in NYC. Mr. Van Asher. He gave me a card and said that when I moved, to give the guy on the card a call. Well, it was the # for Sixth Street Racing. Hugh Mackie’s name on it. I went down there within the month of moving here. I walked in, introduced myself, told him what my story was. By the end of that afternoon he told me that I could park my bike there for free. But I had better make good on my promise to go flat tracking on the weekends, and not be full of hot air like a lot of the other fellas. Nice guy, huh?! From there, I met my first NYC family. They watched, gave me tips, supported me, and otherwise generally became my closest friends. Three years ago, Jeff and I decided to race the AMA Vintage Dirt Track Grand National Championship circuit. It’s a points race, with 13-15 rounds of racing at different tracks. _20150226_005432Hugh, me, Jeff, Dennis, Carol, Alan, Brian and Fumi Astor, Florida

Fast forward to present day. I have the #1 plate in the 250 brakeless class. IMG_20150226_145217Did I mention i have the #1 plate?!

Through racing the circuit, I have amassed the most kind, interesting, supportive amazing flat track extended family. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to meet and race against the old pros. OH, that’s DAVE ALDANA pitted across from us!! oh HI MERT LAWWILL! And I can’t forget George Wills! I get to travel and race halfway across America from Indiana to Florida. I have my own leather suit! I see hundreds of amazing vintage motorcycles. A lot of them immaculately restored. I have fans! So many of the wives of the racers and spectators make a point to come over and say how well i did and that they were cheering me on, how much they appreciate seeing a woman out there, and that i am an inspiration to them and their daughters. My heart breaks a little every time this happens. And most importantly, i still get to have some serious hang time with Jeff.

By now you’d think I’d be cool as a cucumber as i slide my ass onto the seat. Nope. And as i get ready for my race, my hands start shaking as i put on my gloves. On the track I beg my brain not to listen to itself when i’m screaming into a corner with no brakes. Because honestly, you’re doing something that defies human logic and natural reaction. Push the bike towards the ground? What??!

I do this sport because i am in love with it. It never gets old. It puts the pep back in my step.  It feels empowering. Gives me butterflies in my stomach. Brings me sleepless nights. It creates this energy within me that is at once draining and renewing. It challenges me. NO GUTS NO GLORY! Sometimes Im totally blissful. Then pissed as hell, and full circle to bliss again.  I’m going to come right out and say that it’s an addiction. A big money sucking, crazy, hell of a ride that i can’t seem to get off of.

I leave for the first 3 rounds of the circuit in 5 days. Wish me luck, ladies. This season I have some tough competition. But, until the season is over…….I still have the #1 plate!! Yeeeee-Hawwwwwww! Also, I want to give a GINORMOUS THANK YOU to my fellow Miss-Fires, whose camaraderie and support have been in no short supply. You babes are amazing.

If you’re wondering about what the hell is going through my head when im on the track racing with no brakes:

Things that go through my head while on the track:

“Who the hell do you think you are, out here doing this sh*t?? You don’t even have your motorcycle license!”

“This God damned throttle better shut off when i let go..”

“Don’t crash now, because you don’t have a mother f’n office job, bitch!”

“Do it for the ladies! We can do it! Wait, where are the ladies?I love Shayna Texter, she’s so great…”

“If youre not screaming in your helmet,  you’re not going fast enough! (on repeat)”

“JESUS FUCKING CHRIST (on repeat when other said mantra isn’t on repeat)”

“Death or Glory” -The Clash “F*ucking hardtail!”

“Go faster, you whore!!!”

“Maybe this year I’ll finally go to Supercamp”

“If someone falls in front of me, im going to beat them when i get off the track”

“This frame better not break. Again.”

“Is my leg on fire?”

“Shut the fuck up, Kara!”.

Apparently a little self-degredation, anger,  and a lot of sailor mouth do it for me.

Track Life 

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My steed   1965 250 BSA/Triumph brakeless hardtail

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Helping Jeff put his leathers on. You want leathers? We got leathers.

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250 Ironman (brakeless) (Ironwoman?!)

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Blue Ridge Mountains, W.V. On the way to Savannah

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 View going into turn #3 Volusia Speedway, FL

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George Wills, Mike Metzler, and Fumi in staging

for  500cc-750cc Ironman brakeless

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SHAYNA TEXTER!!! She’s awesome. My AMA Pro Flat Track Hero One of two women competing on the Pro level

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Hugh wheeling out the bikes at 6th St. after Hurricane Sandy. 

Bikes were safe, but he lost almost everything in the basement.

Sixth Street Racing  NYC

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On my way to Blackrock Speedway Dundee, NY 

with a loner bike from Hugh, and World’s greatest rockstar parking

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The first of what would be seven frame welds over 3 years. 

5 on the track welds, and 2 off track.

It always blows my mind when  someone steps up to help out another racer.

True Sportsmanship.

Wasseon, Ohio  Vintage Days

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Out with old frame, in with the New Sonic Weld frame for the 2015 season

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First day with the 250cc OVRP 1/4 mi.

Cuddebackville, NY

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Jeff keeping it sexy, and Billy on his 1959 Harley flat tracker 

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It doesn’t get any better than days like this.

Tar Heel, North Carolina

IMG_20120310_161538 Sixth Street pit/social club

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The time I rode the 500 and got to race with the 6th St. guys

Lebannon Valley Race Parkway 1/2 mi., NY

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Strangest thing ive seen at the track. Ever.

Well, beside Marty asking someone to 

hold his teeth before he went out on the track

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Post-racing wind down. 

Daytona Beach, FL.

Practice at Oglethorpe Speedway 1/2 mi. Savannah, Georgia. Not me. But filmed by me. Hard packed red clay, considered one of the fastest tracks around. HIT THE PICTURE, IT’S A VIDEO!!!!

“The road goes on forever, and the party never ends”- J.D.

Kara

1971 500cc Triumph Daytona T100R

1965 250cc BSA/Triumph hardtail brakeless race bike   .

The Badass Women Changing Brooklyn’s Motorcycle Scene

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The Badass Women Changing Brooklyn’s Motorcycle Scene
Story by Ilana Kaplan, Jan 27, 2015
READ THE STORY ON REFINERY29

Even if you’ve never been on a motorcycle, there’s something about spending time with The Miss-Fires that convinces you to leave all of your concerns about riding behind and just throw on a helmet. With this (predominantly) Brooklyn-based, all-female riding group, bullshit always takes a backseat to riding.

In October 2013, the idea of The Miss-Fires was born, naturally, via text message. 34-year-old Corinna Mantlo reached out to fellow female riders to take a dinner ride. As more rides occurred, the group continued to grow by word of mouth. One evening, a lengthy Post-It-note list of options eventually led to the club’s official name.

“The name ‘The Miss-Fires’ stuck with [everyone], because it doesn’t take itself too seriously,” Mantlo says, citing that in motorcycle terminology, a ‘misfire’ technically means you’ve messed up, that your bike isn’t going to start because of a fizzle of the spark. “A lot of the other women’s clubs around the country are ‘The Hottie Babes’ or ‘The Super-Awesome Sexy Girls.’ And, that’s not us.” Instead, they selected a name that keeps the riding club both humble and determined.

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Over the past year or so, The Miss-Fires have officially grown to include more than 100 women — ranging from their 20s to their 60s — who ride and wrench at all different levels; their bikes, too, are an array of different styles and types, from Ducatis and Triumphs to Yamahas, Hondas, Suzukis, Harleys, and more. While some of the women only picked up bikes in the past few years, others have been riding motorcycles since they were children; for example, 60-year-old Andrea Young has been at this for 50 years. Ashlinn Romagnoli learned a couple of years ago while her dad was taking up riding again. The 27-year-old told her father, “If you’re gonna do this, you’re gonna teach me, too.”
One of the most fascinating qualities of The Miss-Fires, however, is the diversity of backgrounds from which they come. While riding may be the driving force that brings them together, it’s just as interesting to look at their passions off the bike. Soulful singer-songwriter Julia Haltigan rides alongside scientist Alison Cutlan, who is currently developing her own probiotic skincare line. In-house lawyer Dani Nolan hangs with commercial tailor Leslie Padoll and fashion photographer Ashleigh Ide. There’s a Glamour magazine editor, a handbag designer, and a financial controller. There’s a visual designer, a Wall Street vice president, and a leather designer who’s worked with Prince. It’s a melting pot of women one would not necessarily suspect to be avid motorcycle riders. And, that’s the coolest part.

image-2PHOTOGRAPHED BY MARC MCANDREWS.

Being such a rising, powerful force in a male-dominated culture certainly has its fair share of challenges. Lynda Lucas, 28, has witnessed the stigma against female riders firsthand. “There are so many times I’ve experienced push-back or sexist comments,” she says. “I think there’s something really empowering and inspiring about being a woman rider. You get strength from pushing yourself and learning how to do something that not even a lot of men will do. It’s something that will change you forever.” Suzanne Cellura, 34, often receives negative reactions because of her bike, a 2013 Ducati Monster 696 ABS. “If people see me on it, sometimes I hear stupid things like, ‘That’s a big bike for a little girl,’ she explains. “I’ll ride harder than any guy there. I purchased that bike because I wanted a bike that performed well. I wanted to ride hard. That’s what I do.”

Such comments are often an outcome of the assumption that women ride motorcycles to get attention. “There are a lot of girls who want to get attention for being sexy on a bike, so there are a lot of stereotypes,” says 40-year-old Kim Kenney. “You need to make sure you present yourself appropriately, be safe, wear your gear, and know what you’re doing — and that’s challenging for women [who] want the attention for the wrong reasons.”

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PHOTOGRAPHED BY MARC MCANDREWS.
The Miss-Fires became a place for female riders to feel connected within a culture where riding alone or amongst a group of men seemed like the only options. The individual journeys these women have embarked on have allowed them to find their inner selves (Nolan says participating in The Miss-Fires has encouraged her to come out of her shell) and, naturally, their senses of style.

“In real life, I don’t wear pants, and I don’t look good in pants,” says Kat Thomsen, digital managing editor at Glamour magazine. “I wear a lot of ’50s vintage dresses, crinolines, and heels. A lot of The Miss-Fires don’t know that side of me, whereas my colleagues know a different side. I own more jeans [now] than I did before, but I only really wear them on the motorcycle.” Romagnoli, too, admits her personal look has become more influenced by riding. “What I wear in the summer is dictated by my riding,” she explains. “I have to wear long pants and boots. Also, now I only wear high-waisted jeans because I’m sitting down all the time.”

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PHOTOGRAPHED BY MARC MCANDREWS.
For Heidi Hackemer, founder of strategy shop Wolf & Wilhelmine, incorporating her own sense of style by putting a personal touch on her favorite leather jacket has blended her two worlds seamlessly. “I bought this jacket, and I put this wolf on about a year ago,” she says. “Then, I gave it to my niece to paint. She was like, ‘But, this was your favorite motorcycle jacket!’ And, I said, ‘I know. That’s why I want you to paint on it.'” The result is a gorgeous riding jacket, something that truly represents the greatest passions in Hackemer’s life.

Unsurprisingly, The Miss-Fires are a huge part of why the motorcycle industry is changing — especially when it comes to the female biker scene in New York City. “I know The Miss-Fires are definitely encouraging ladies who want to get motorcycles,” Heavy Leather NYC owner Rachael Becker comments. “Now, I can encourage [women] to get their licenses, because now there’s a presence of female riders in the neighborhood. Before that, it was really daunting to get one if you were a lone rider.”

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PHOTOGRAPHED BY MARC MCANDREWS.
With fundraisers like bike washes, speakeasies, and barbecues accompanied by the sounds of Thomsen’s honky-tonk band, Your Ex-Girlfriends, The Miss-Fires have a good time on and off of their bikes. The women-only club even hosted an evening at Mercury Lounge featuring Thomsen’s band and Haltigan.

The Miss-Fires’ passionate vibe is contagious. “It takes a certain kind of girl to want to ride,” Lucas says. “It’s hard to explain, but everyone is kind of a badass at heart. Everyone is so caring and supportive of each other. It’s just a big family. It’s pretty great.”