The Miss-Fires featured in Triumph’s Spirit Magazine

The more I ride, the more I seek to absorb moto culture and literature. I discovered Triumph’s digital magazine, Spirit, when I purchased my Bonnie two years ago, and always enjoy reading the quarterly features full of inspiration and life on two wheels. Last year, I noticed they were soliciting pictures from readers, so I sent in a few that my 18-year-old sister had taken of me in Brooklyn.

And then forgot about it.

Months later, the editor contacted me requesting a story to go along with the photos, which I happily and carefully drafted. Triumph published [a highly scaled down version of] my submission in their spring issue #15, and I am very honored to be included.

Read it here!

New England Trials Clinic (NETA) Trails Cross training Clinic

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Chantal and I…stealing a lil kid’s bicycle?

Sometimes you just need to take a day off and get out of town. So, last Sunday me and some friends from NYC Vin Moto and The Miss-Fires loaded up the trucks and headed up to lovely, lush Connecticut and the Meridan Motorcycle Club….

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Me. ready to ride?

The destination? the New England Trials Clinic (NETA) Trails Cross training Clinic. These clinics are run entirely by volunteers and wholly for the love of the sport. Their theory? How could you NOT want to ride Trials after trying it out. so, the first time’s free kids!

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Kim looking like a pro?

What is Trials? 

Moto Trials (formerly “Observed Trials”) is now the pinnacle of off-road riding, as the riders tackle the most severe terrain capable of being conquered by any two wheeled machine. When someone looks at the obstacles before the riding starts, a frequent comment is a simple “No way!” A big plus for the spectators is that they can watch from just a few feet away as the riders attempt seemingly impossible obstacles. Trials competitions consist of “sections” that are physically defined by marker tape. These sections contain challenging features, both natural and artificial. They may include stream-beds, boulders, logs, and slopes. Tape markers identify different skill class levels for competition; the better the competitor, the more severe the obstacles will be in the corresponding class. A trail loop connects the sections for the event. A typical event will have 8 to 12 sections and the competitor must ride the loop and complete the sections three to five times. Riders cannot practice the sections but may inspect each section just before being judged (or observed) on their ride. Then, one at a time, the riders will enter a section on their motorcycle, as an observer scores the rider’s performance. Like golf, where the least amount of strokes on the course wins, trials are won by the person who touches their foot to the ground the least amount of times over the course of the event. The rider with the lowest score wins. The score goes to a maximum of 5 points for that section if they fail to reach the end gate in time or crash. Riding a section “clean” without footing is the ultimate goal of all riders (score of 0).

The Bikes
Trials motorcycles are very specialized. Years of development have produced a very lightweight (i.e. ~150lbs), very slender, extremely well balanced machine with a powerful 2 or 4 stroke engine. The bikes have high ground clearance, minimal fuel capacity and no seat, creating a highly maneuverable motorcycle capable of overcoming nearly any obstacle.

Competitions
There are many local clubs around the US that host events locally, with some putting on as many as 15 events per year. A listing of NETA’s clubs and events is provided under the “Events Tab” on our website. The United States National Series, governed for the AMA by the North American Trials Council (NATC), hosts the best riders of various classes in America, and consists of 6 to 12 events held in various parts of the country. There are a few select riders in the USA that have the skill to compete at the World Championship level and these riders compete for a spot on the American Trial des Nations Team. The Trial des Nations is held in various countries in the fall of each year, and is a nation vs. nation team competition.

Summing it up
While Trials can be a very challenging and dramatic sport, events by NETA’s local clubs have competition classes for riders of “all” abilities, from beginners on up. Of all the motorcycle sports, it is probably the most
“family-friendly”, and kids can enjoy healthy competition alongside their Moms and Dads and share in an activity that they love. Additionally, trials is easy on the environment. Because of the nature of the bikes and the competitions, environmental damage is minimal, and some clubs have riding areas that have been used for decades with little evidence of any damage to the environment. Trials is also viewed a safer alternative to other forms of motorcycle competition due the lightness of the bikes and the very low speeds (i.e. 1 to 4mph) involved when traversing sections. For this reason alone we continually see veteran enduro and motorcross riders switching to trials competition, and why we commonly to see riders as young as 6 and as old as 70 competing. Lastly, Trials riding also serves as a great cross-training tool for all types of riding such as enduro, endurocross, and motocross. This evidenced by the successfulness of our nation’s top endurocross, and motocross riders (Jeff Aaron, Cody Webb, David Knight, and Taddy Blazusiak) all of which are top trials riders.

Summary courtesy of NETA. READ MORE ABOUT TRIALS FROM THE NETA WEBSITE.

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Charles, Neta President

Though i’m sure they regretted ever inviting us first the first five minutes of the dingbat Miss-Fires girls trying to figure out how to mount a Trials bike with no seats…Charles and the staff were incredibly patient, and knowledgeable.
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Graduation photo

By the end of the clinic…just a few hours later (though it felt like days we were so hot, worn out and beat up), every single one of us could not only balance on the pegs, but manage the slow speed turns, wheelies and rock climbs. Pretty F’in cool for some city slicker motor bike riders!image2

Kim, counting points

After the clinic, and a bag lunch provided by Neta. Yea, they’re that awesome…They put us to work helping judge that days Trials competition. One of the reasons I got into Motorcycles so heavily and that they are now my life, is the community of it. Events like these are only possibly with volunteer support and we were more than happy to help out.

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how it should look.

The riders competing ranged in age from 8 to 80 and as with all moto sports, everyone is patient and supportive. Truly incredible to have been part of it, learn a new skill and challenge myself to be a better rider, risk taker and face my fears. God damn those rocks are scary when you’re staring them down from the pegs of a Gas Gas!

Corinna Mantlo

1962 Ford Ranchero, 1968 BSA 650, 1971 Yamaha AT1, 2014 Royal Enfield Continental GT

Women bikers are on a roll…and have been for a while!

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Christine at Coney Island 2015

For Miss-Fire member Christine, belonging to a women’s club is no new idea. She recently shared with us an article published in the Daily News on May 13th, 1990. Below is her story and the article. Enjoy a bit of NY motorbiking history! – The Miss-Fires

My name is Christine and I have ridden on motorcycle for as long as I remember. As a child, every time I would use the bathroom at my grandfather house, I would spend some time pretending to ride on the old broken motorcycle that my grandfather stored next to the toilet, which were in the shed next to the barn  (Yes!! This is true, my grand father had only running cold water in his house, and no indoor bathroom. This was the 60’s in rural France). As a teenager I loved going on ride on the back my cousins and neighbors bike. I also rode my father “Solex”, a cross between a moped and a bicycle, and my sister moped (in rural France in the 70’s, teenagers drove moped to get around, unlike in America, where they drove cars). By the time I got to college, I wanted to ride a real bike, so I used the money from my summer job to pay for motorcycle driving lessons and passed my motorcycle driving test the first time (the NYC motorcycle driving test is a joke, compared to the French motorcycle driving test). I dropped out of college in 1986 and  came to NYC on a one way ticket. As soon as I had enough money saved, I bought my first bike, a Yamaha 750 XJ. This was in 1987. One day, in 1989, I was in the Harley store in Long Island city, looking for riding apparel, when I saw an add on the bulletin board about a women motorcycle group: the American Women Road Rider Alliance. I was a member of AWRA from 1989 to 1991. The Long Island/NYC chapter was featured in a HSBC ad and was also interviewed by the Daily News. I recently found the old “hard copy” of the article while cleaning/disgarding some old boxes. So here it is.

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The Daily News, May 13th 1990b2

The Daily News, May 13th 1990

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The Daily News, May 13th 1990: Miss-Fire Christine shown above, at far right.

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The Daily News, May 13th 1990

My grand ma and grand pa were from Belfort, near Alsace, next to the the Swiss/German border. This picture was from the trip they took for their honeymoon, in the Alps. My grand ma told me that this picture was taken in Annecy. My grand pa was a blacksmith and bought his first bike in the late 1920’s. After WWII, he opened a garage, as horses were being replaced by cars.

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Get our Moto Suzy back on 2 wheels

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Dear Friends,

You’ve probably heard by now that Suzanne’s (suzypineapples) motorcycle was recently stolen in the early AM hours out of her locked garage. To say that she’s devastated would be an understatement. Her’s is the biggest smile around when she was on that bike, and that has been taken from her, and us.

Among running many of her motorcycle club’s day to day activities, she is the head of the philanthropy committe for the Miss-Fires, tirelessly planning charity events, raising funds for others, and just doing silly things like making cards and gifts to brighten friend’s days.  It doesn’t stop there.  Suzanne will be the first to support your kickstarter, walk for charity or any type of fundraising event you put out there whether it be with money or by donating a hand knit item. She always goes above and beyond to help when anyone she knows is in need. Let’s help her out!

Her words explain it best:
“This has always been my biggest nightmare and I can’t understand how this could have happened. I’ve taken such good care of my girl. I’ve always triple checked that the garage is locked after putting her away for the night. There are 4 garages in a row, and each one has an iron gate with a padlock out front. Unfortunately one of the patrons left their padlock unlocked. The thieves were able to come in through that gate and walk over to my garage, break the lock on the garage, break my stearing column lock on my bike and wheel it out. They loaded it into the side of a mini-van – all under 5 minutes.  No cameras had the right angle to see it completely. I filed a police report and they swabbed for evidence.  I went door to door asking all of the neighbors for surveillance footage, but the detectives still haven’t found any leads. Thanks for all of your concern and support. That bike was truly my baby. I rode it every day.  I relied on it to get me to work safely and quickly. I relied on it to get me to LI to see my family. I took good care of her and made sure she was locked in a garage every night for the two years I owned her. You can only do your best. Hopefully something good will come out of this horrible experience.”

Suzanne is also dealing with heavy family challenges during this time and we as motorcyclists rely on these machines for a lot more than just going from point A to point B. Long rides help us get out of our heads, short group rides can provide a ton of fun and act as huge stress relivers. Our motorcycles are our meditation and therapy, they help us deal and process, she relied on this bike for a lot more than just commuting.

The intention of this site is to lessen Suzy’s financial burden while she shops for bikes and continues to pay off the one that has been stolen (nope, not much help from insurance in this case.)

Any money earned over the payoff difference and what she needs for a small downpayment on some new wheels will be donated directly to charity.

She’s had much heartache mourning this loss and it’s a tough thing to watch a friend be so sad. A motorcycle, as silly as it sounds, will help her heal. Let’s raise her up along with the corners of her mouth.

Please contribute and help us get Suz her smile back.

Go Fund Me: Moto Suzy

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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.

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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   .