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

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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   .

Stories of Bike

I’ve heard that either life happens to you or you happen to life. I often find myself bouncing between a healthy mix of the two. I thrive on new experiences yet love the surprise of things outside my control. I timidly joined the Miss-Fires crew earlier this year without knowing a single member, and I often reflect on and appreciate the special friendships I have made and the countless days of fun we have had together since. I continue to be amazed at how my life has taken a turn for the better.

Through this lovely group of ladies, I was informed of an opportunity to be part of a special project undertaken by the talented Cam Elkins, a filmmaker based in Sydney, Australia. He was coming to New York for the showing of two of his films in the Motorcycle Film Festival and wanted to shoot an episode for his web-based series, Stories of Bike, while in New York. I admittedly knew nothing about Cam’s project at the time, but the idea sounded like fun so I spontaneously put together an application and sent him some photos. To my surprise, he contacted me a few days later to say I’d been selected.

Photo by Hayley Reed

Photo by Hayley Reed

Wasn’t there someone with a more compelling story than mine? Wasn’t there a rider who’s father’s dying wish was that his son carry on the tradition to ride like they had spent their lives doing together? At first I was excited. Then nerves set in. I never thought of myself as a natural in front of cameras, and I doubted my ability to provide an interesting experience for Cam and his viewers. But there was no turning back so I disregarded my concerns, went with the flow and followed his lead. Then I called my best friend, Jill, who owns a salon and spa in Oklahoma to get her to fly to New York for moral support and beauty assistance.

Cam arrived a week later and wanted to have an informal dinner together before shooting began in order to get acquainted with each other so I took him to a local favorite in Wlliamsburg, where I live. He greeted me with a friendly hug, and I immediately found him incredibly easy to talk to. His down-to-earth vibe comforted me and peaked my interest in his life. Reversing the roles a bit, I inquired extensively about his life and experience with photography. At that point, I had finally watched one of his episodes, thinking I should probably educate myself on my upcoming adventure, and I found the show to be incredibly professional so was surprised to learn he had been working solo for a year and a half. This guy’s ambition and creativity impressed the hell out of me. The rest of the evening was absent of any awkward silences and full of laughs and story sharing. Any remaining nerves were completely shattered, and all I could anticipate was the fun that laid ahead.

Two days later, shooting began. A local cinematographer, Brian Stansfield, had contacted Cam to offer support to his project, and Cam agreed after recognizing some benefits. It would be the first time Cam collaborated with someone on Stories of Bike. Brian and Cam showed up at my apartment with loads of equipment at dusk after a rainy day, just when the clouds were beginning to clear. We b-lined it to my rooftop where the orange sun seeped through a cloud clearance over Manhattan creating a fiery halo over the city with multiple rainbows above. The timing could not have been more perfect for cityscape footage for the show.

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Jill Johnson

Photo by Jill Johnson

Once the sun settled on the other side of New Jersey, we retreated back inside where setup began for the interview portion. They converted my living room into a temporary studio complete with professional lights, cameras and makeup. I sat with a camera in my face for three hours while getting drilled about my relationship with my Bonneville and how it has transformed my life in New York City.

Cam and Brian

Cam and Brian

To some questions, my answers came easily. To others, I found myself struggling to articulate sentiments that coincided with Cam’s vision of my story. Notwithstanding the speed bumps that littered the interview, my answer to Cam’s final question came out emotively and without hesitation. He showed his approval with a big smile and a thumb’s up. Once the camera stopped recording, he shouted a loud “Yeah!!”, which gave me a strong feeling of relief and accomplishment, and I stood up to give him an enthusiastic high five. Then I wiped off my makeup and we went for tacos.

The next phase of shooting was the “b-roll” (the alternate footage intercut with the interview, for those who need to google it like I did). We rented a minivan that Jill drove around with Cam and Brian shooting from the back with the trunk wide open.

Brian and his partner

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Jill Johnson

Photo by Jill Johnson

Pausing for a photo op

Photo by Jill Johnson

I followed them around Williamsburg on a sunny and lively Saturday morning while pedestrians watched with curiosity. Then I had to head to band rehearsal, which Cam wanted to get footage of, so we swung by Susan’s place (the singer/songwriter of the band). The two of us straddled the bike with our guitars slung over our backs, followed the minivan and headed to our rehearsal space in Bushwick.

The next day, Cam suggested I get some friends to ride with me at the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride so I recruited some Triumph-riding girls to join me in dressing dapper for the occasion.

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Cam Elkins

After getting some cool footage again riding behind the minivan on the way over to the meeting point in the West Village, we pulled up to join about 100 bikes just before departure time. I immediately noticed that we and a couple of other Miss-Fires who met us there were the only girls riding bikes. I spotted two other dapper girls daringly adorned in short dresses riding on the backs of others, but our gang definitely skewed the gender ratio.

Adriana in the front!

Adriana in the front!

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Cam Elkins

We had a blast riding through the city streets garbed as we were. The highlight for me, surprisingly, was the route through Times Square where almost everyone stopped to watch and take pictures of remarkably well-dressed people overtaking the tourist haven on vintage-style bikes. I couldn’t help but take advantage of the attention to show off a little and do some tricks on my bike, such as standing up on the pegs (my bravery only goes so far). Unfortunately, Cam and Brian only got footage during the meeting points, so this scene will have to live on in the memories of those present and in this blog post. They did however, get the best shot of the group photo we took at Washington Square Park.

Photo by Brian Stansfield

Photo by Brian Stansfield

Cam had to depart New York a couple of days later and we didn’t get the chance to finish shooting, so I’ll be meeting with Brian soon to wrap that up. I’ll definitely be missing Cam’s presence though. We spent the days shooting so focused on the experience that we often forgot to feed ourselves. My mind was completely consumed by the fun I was having and the project we were working on. Between the work we did in making the episode, the time spent at the Motorcycle Film Festival and evening dinners and rides, the experience surpassed all my wildest expectations all because of the great new friend I had made. After seeing some still shots of the footage and hearing Cam’s excitement over it, I think the final product will be incredible. Stay tuned!

Photo by Brian Stansfield

Photo by Brian Stansfield

By Kristen Reed

Project CB350G

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What an exciting week over at Project CB350G. The engine is completely buttoned up, points set, and into the frame she went!

As a few folks have mentioned, these engines are a tricky fit, but Stephanie and the team got it wrangled in perfectly, while preserving the freshly painted frame.

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Such a sense of accomplishment to see the bike start to come together and to know the hardest part is done. Spring is near!