Midwestern winters are brutal and unrelenting. If you’re one of the lucky ones who finds solace behind the bars of a motorcycle, those few months can feel like an eternity. Mix in a global pandemic and canceled events, and it can be tough to keep the flame burning all year long.
Still riding high off the 2021 show this past December, I headed back to Milwaukee just as the 2022 weekend was kicking off. My first stop was the Fiserv Forum for the fabulous Flat Out Friday indoor racing action.
Luckily for those in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – and out-of-towners willing to brave the elements – Mama Tried founders Warren Heir Jr., Scott Johnson, and Jeremy Prach were able put on the 2021 and 2022 invitational shows in less than four months. A recap video of the December 2021 event is directly below.
Riders ranging from 4-year-olds on 50cc bikes to 60-plus-year-olds in the Master class showed up ready to leave it all out on the track. The stadium’s concrete slab is coated in Dr. Pepper syrup to enhance traction, and everyone from amateurs to semi-professionals duked it out in the corners as a crowd of thousands watched from the edge of their seats.
Not long ago, the racing portion of the Mama Tried weekend was held on a frozen lake on Sunday morning, but it has since moved inside on Friday night. The action is a unique mix of fierce competition and a barrel of laughs. It’s fast, loud, non-stop, and highly entertaining.
I’ve yet to hand-shift a brakeless flathead Harley around a racetrack, but I got a close enough look on Friday to know I’d be in over my head if I tried. The Boonie class – a pull-start-only minibike race – brought the most chaos with 24 finalists on the track at one time. If you lay it down, don’t stay down because the rest of the field is hot on your tail.
The grand finale was the Goofball class and its anything-goes attitude. In what might be the first confirmed sighting of Bigfoot outside the northern woods, Sasquatch left the rest of the field in his dust, pulling away from Austin Powers, Snoopy (complete with a Nerf-gun turret), Santa Claus, a pizza delivery man, and a panda hanging out of a garbage can! It was a fever dream, to be sure.
The crown jewel of the weekend is, of course, the Mama Tried invitational motorcycle show, held inside the Eagles Ballroom. More than 100 motorcycles form a maze of sometimes shiny and sometimes grimy steel and rubber, giving attendees a chance to get up close and personal with some of their favorites.
Featuring everything from pre-war Harleys to minibikes, custom-built choppers and diggers, modern superbikes and even a rare Vincent Black Shadow, there is quite literally something for everyone. Shows like these are an invaluable opportunity to soak up knowledge from some of America’s most talented fabricators.
Convict Customs built its 1978 Harley Davidson XLCH in just 50 days as a part of The Grind Biker Build-Off program for Facebook Live. Complete with split rockers, air-ride suspension, and a one-of-a-kind foot-pedal-operated dual-disc front brake set-up, the Convict XLCH drew consistent crowds all day.
Bare Knuckle Choppers’ 1950 FL gave everyone a peek inside its process by christening its tank with a “Built with Hate” graphic front and center. When a particular riding moment calls for flying under the radar, the headlight can be switched off by a beaded pull chain, an equal parts hilarious and hardcore touch.
For those who found their love for two wheels on pedal bikes, Motorelic showed off a custom ride with a custom frame painstakingly based on Schwinn’s 1968 Krate bicycle. Powered by a Yamaha XS650 Twin, the bike’s bright orange frame called out like a beacon in a storm.
Heavy hitter Speed Kings Cycles’ blindingly white 2018 Road Glide lit up the show floor, while Church of Choppers’ Jeff Wright applied a fresh paint job on his already well-known Indian FTR1200. And two well-known Indian Larry projects paid homage to the gone but not forgotten icon.
When the weekend wound down on Sunday evening, and the temperatures dipped back into the 20s, I found myself basking in the glow of renewed inspiration and the fire burning on high for the remainder of the winter. If you’re looking for a way to keep the heat on next winter, keep an eye out for us at the show.