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. 1910
Photo credit: Overwood and Overwood Courtesy The Selvedge Yard Date Unknown
Motorcycle Board tracking 1950’s
Early dirt track racing. Notice the steel shoe so one doesn’t rip ones leg off. 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. 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. Hugh, 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. Did 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.
My steed 1965 250 BSA/Triumph brakeless hardtail
Helping Jeff put his leathers on. You want leathers? We got leathers.
250 Ironman (brakeless) (Ironwoman?!)
Blue Ridge Mountains, W.V. On the way to Savannah
View going into turn #3 Volusia Speedway, FL
George Wills, Mike Metzler, and Fumi in staging
for 500cc-750cc Ironman brakeless
SHAYNA TEXTER!!! She’s awesome. My AMA Pro Flat Track Hero One of two women competing on the Pro level
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
On my way to Blackrock Speedway Dundee, NY
with a loner bike from Hugh, and World’s greatest rockstar parking
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.
Wasseon, Ohio Vintage Days
Out with old frame, in with the New Sonic Weld frame for the 2015 season
First day with the 250cc OVRP 1/4 mi.
Jeff keeping it sexy, and Billy on his 1959 Harley flat tracker
It doesn’t get any better than days like this.
Tar Heel, North Carolina
Sixth Street pit/social club
The time I rode the 500 and got to race with the 6th St. guys
Lebannon Valley Race Parkway 1/2 mi., NY
Strangest thing ive seen at the track. Ever.
Well, beside Marty asking someone to
hold his teeth before he went out on the track
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.
1971 500cc Triumph Daytona T100R
1965 250cc BSA/Triumph hardtail brakeless race bike .