Name: Leon Stanley
Home: Trenton, NJ
Occupation: Owner, Cycle Icons
“My friend Peter Raymond wanted a project, so I sold him a leftover Enfield parts bike for a song. After lots of discussion—and a crazy, 4 a.m. blog post by me—we decided to pretend it was 1953. We’d build a high-performance hot rod we could ride to the track, race, and then ride home again. To prove the concept, we’d ride the bike from my shop in Trenton to Mid-Ohio and race it during AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days.
“Ace Engineering built the engine. Those guys—Tom Lyons and a young Indian named Chumma Janardhan—really know how to make Enfield engines sing. A stock Enfield makes about 18 horsepower; this Ace ‘Fireball’ engine makes around 38 reliably. Corey Lloyd at Lloyd Vintage donated a lot of parts and my buddy Mark Rounds hand-painted the graphics. It’s called The Badger because it’s a cranky, cantankerous, stubborn, pain-in-the-ass, doesn’t-give-a-sh*t motorcycle.
“The build didn’t actually start until two weeks before the AMA event. We fired it up for the first time at 7 a.m. the day after we originally planned to leave for Ohio, and hit the road that afternoon. Breaking-in a brand-new, air-cooled engine with a 450-mile road trip on a 104-degree day is not recommended, but we didn’t have a choice.
“It was a terrible ride. The handlebar position was brutal! We were trying to sort the fuel mixture on the road, so it took 5 hours to cover the first 60 miles. About halfway there the motor started pissing oil, and at one point we had the rocker boxes apart on the side of the road. We made it to Mid-Ohio eventually, but it took 24 hours.
“The conversion to race-spec was a breeze: Pull off the lights and put on numberplates. We entered two races with veteran vintage racer Stu Carter. We were way off the pace of the winning Norton Manxes, but improved throughout the day and finished both events. And we’re not done yet: The Badger recently donned wide bars and a peanut tank and finished its first vintage flat-track event. Flat-track one weekend, roadracing the next—a champion had to do it all in 1953!”