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.”

Some thoughts on motorcycling and being a female rider

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 2.55.40 PMFeatured Rider – Corinna

We know theres a wide diversity of riders out there. Today we get to interview someone who is quite well known in the world of vintage bikes and was even featured in a book “ My Cool Motorcycle. “ It’s not very often that we get to interview someone with this much insight and knowledge about a variety of bikes. Her name is Corinna and rides in the busiest city in the USA- New York City. She also modifies and makes custom seats for bikes. She also is a part of a female motorcycle group called the missfires- http://themissfires.com/. We love that she isn’t the typical Viking Bags cruiser rider either! Here’s our interview with her.

10177459 10152166146119608 6722476976868115899 n Featured Rider   Corinna 1. How long have you been riding?

I’ve been riding off and on since 2001 but seriously for the last 5 years.

2. How many bikes have you owned?

I’ve had a 1982 honda rebel, 1976 Triumph Bonneville, 1973 Triumph Tiger 750, 1978 Yamaha SR500, and I currently have 1971 Yamaha AT1 125, 1971 BSA Victor 250, 1968 BSA Lightning 650/Thunderbolt 650 hot rod.

3. What is your current bike?( and which was your favorite? Why? Any bike in particular that you DISLIKE? )

Of the 3 bikes I currently own, I love love them all for their own beauties. the yamaha at1 because a tiny dual purpose dirt/street bike is a blast to ride in NYC and is a perfect get around bike. The BSA Victor 250 I bought to ride and race off road and it’s been a great vintage bike to learn on, though from having it i learned the reasons I don’t love it for myself…too heavy, too finicky and so with love it’ll soon go to a new home and I’ll find something more suited to me in the woods. The BSA 650 hot rod is truly my current love as I’ve put a ton of work into it to make it fast and mean and soon it’ll be finished and gorgeous to match.

4. What made you want to ride a bike? Have you made any long distance trips with it yet? Do you have any planned?

I ride old bikes and drive old cars because of my love of classic film. it’s buster keaton, marlon brando, peter fonda and steve mcqueen that gave me the itch for the open road and because of I’ve always had a passion for vintage aesthetics (and everything), owning, riding and subsequently maintaining classics ha always been the way for me. 

I haven’t yet done a truly long distance ride though I hope to go cross country next spring, among other long distance plans.

5. Would you ride a different type of bike, i.e. Cruiser if you have a sport bike or sport bike if you have a cruiser.

Different for me would be modern. I very much want to own a modern bike to experience becoming truly a better rider on long trips as i’ve always had to battle unreliability and unforeseen issues with the vintage bikes.

6. Whats your dream bike and or next bike? Do you enjoy any vintage bikes like café racers and restoration?

Vintage bikes and proper cafe racers (performance modified…not just clip ons and slick paint) are most definitely my love. taking a stock bike that was probably bought on the cheap and finding ways to make it better and faster and then thrashing the hell out of it is something I aspire to do well. For me though, as I work around the clock making perfectly custom seats for gorgeous bikes and hot rods that other people build, I am simply aspiring to own a finished perfect classic that performs. Dream bikes at the moment are the italians. I dream of a Guzzi.

7. What type of rider do you think you are? (Aggressive, conservative, Point A – B )

I’m a “conscious aggressive” rider. I like to push it but on my rattly old brit bike, i’m aware of my drum brakes, etc. I absolutely live for the ride, not the getting from point A to B.

8. What made you want to ride and commit to the motorcycle lifestyle? Any regrets?

I don’t now really. I loved the peace and alone-ness you find inside a helmet, vulnerable and exposed on the rode. Getting past the fear of death and finding that peace and happiness is a feeling only a rider understand i think. You are responsible for every move you make and it’s implications can be deadly. But, even in cold and rain ad close calls….I always have a smile on my face while i ride…which, glancing over at a sour face inside a heated car and realizing you don’t envy them for even a second is truly freedom.

9. What advice do you wish you knew, when you first started out? Any other pieces of wisdom?

when i say i’ve been riding since 2001 but only the last 5 years seriously, that is indeed because of the advice i wish i’d been able to tale and now give others on a daily basis. 

-1. buy a reliable bike. i’ve never had money to buy new, but buy something that runs in your price range. it will allow you to learn how to ride…not wrench, but just ride.
-2. don’t buy something small. you’ll outgrow it fast. the weight of a bike isn’t in the CI of the engine. riding a honda S90 and trying to keep up with the experienced riders on modern or larger bikes will NOT make you a better or more confident rider. the same goes for not riding mopeds or scooters as a way to ‘build up’ to a motorcycle.
-3. surround yourself with motorcycle friends. community is the key to succeeding on two wheels. Joining a vintage club 5 years ago is what made me a good rider and a happy person. Now my all womens rider group, The Miss-Fires gives me riding partners, support, confidence and inspiration to be a better rider every day.

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10. Regarding those who don’t practice ATGATT, how do you feel about them? Do you encourage it?

I am in no way the poster child for ATGATT but i’m getting better every day. It’s unfortunately a lesson everyone needs to learn for themselves. going down sucks and even when it’s a minor down, you can do major damage. slow speed spills’ll take the skin off your hands. what’s the fix, gloves? what’s the benefit? just try limping a perfectly working bike home 10 miles with a bloody, throbbing hand wrapped in a greasy rag that you have to force yourself to twist the throttle with. Just ask me how i know?

As a woman, i’m thrilled that as apposed to 13 years ago,. gear is getting better. more fitted to our curves and sexier in style. no, pink camo doesn’t fit into my 1950’s rocker aesthetic.

The short on ATGATT is once you commit to it, it’s really not an issue. a full face helmet is damn comfy on a windy highway, and i’m blessed to ride with a pack of gorgeous girls who make it look so damn good…they make the guys in t-shirts look a bit silly. I am trying every day to build the perfect ATGATT wardrobe that will protect me and inspire everyone to gear up and look good doing it.

11. When do you think you’ll stop riding? Anytime soon?

never.

12. We know it’s a really painful topic to revisit, but have you ever gone down?

Yes, but never majorly. it’s inevitable and i think about it every day. I simply do the best I can by trying to always be responsible and present when i hop on a bike. it goes without saying that riding drunk or distracted, under geared or underprepared will only add to the possibility of a very bad day. so, while we can’t control bad drivers or bad roads, we can at least go out each day prepared for the worst and planning for the best. oh, and always have health insurance.

13. Last and not least, as a fun question- is there anything else you’d still like to do on a bike? Like a riders bucket list.

My bucket list is probably longer than my life will be. I simply want to do everything. ride as many miles of road and dirt as I can find. become better at trails and TT. Try my hand at road racing. ride in other countries. Build a chopper. Do everything on a motorcycle I can because it’s always an adventure and everything new you learn on bikes goes back to making you a better rider. And lets face it, there isn’t a moment on a motorcycle that is ever truly bad.

Corinna 3 Featured Rider   Corinna Corinna Mantlo

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