What better way to bring thousands of people to the frigid climes of Milwaukee in the midst of winter than to throw a big motorcycle party! Mama Tried 2019 celebrated its sixth anniversary in Harley-Davidson’s backyard with a proper blend of moto mayhem, starting with a Rusty Butcher burnout inside Fuel Café to get the party underway to bar-bangin’ battles at Flat Out Friday the following night to a kaleidoscope of custom motorcycles inside the picturesque Rave/Eagles Club ballroom all weekend long.
Harley stoked the flames of the Mama Tried fire with its annual Brewtown Throwdown, a fun build-off pitting two all-star teams who get two days to trick out a stock Harley. The bikes are then displayed at Mama Tried with fans voting for their favorite. This year, each team started with a Street Bob and a choice of three themes—dirt, chop, or race. Over at House of Harley, #TeamSuperBob included Bonnier’s resident wild man Morgan Gales; former Miss Supercross, fitness model, and spokesperson Dianna Dahlgren; and others against #TeamQuickNEasy which included popular American Ninja Warrior competitor Natalie Duran, freestyle motocross star Lance Coury, and the Milwaukee Harley-Davidson team. When votes were tallied up, Morgan’s #TeamSuperBob celebrated victory after beating #TeamQuickNEasy by a slim 291 vote margin.
It was a packed house inside UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena as this year’s Flat Out Friday featured more than 300 competitors, a Flat Out record. Entertainment was nonstop, from comical costumed characters in the Goofball class to a CB750 lawn mower throwing down hot laps to Flat Out Friday’s first-ever wedding smack dab in the middle of the track. Pull-start minibikes launching off the “Get It” ramp in the Boonie class was a real crowd-pleaser. But it wasn’t all fun and games. Any time you get Harley factory flat-track riders Sammy Halbert and Jarod Vanderkooi on a track, even one coated in Dr Pepper syrup, intensity levels are guaranteed to rise. This rang true in the action-packed Hooligan races as well. Mikey Virus, a battle-tested Hooligan racer from Southern California, noted how competitive the class was at Flat Out Friday.
“Can’t believe how many hooligans there are, and how fast the race is getting,” Virus posted to Instagram.
Those who survived the Flat Out Friday after-party started making their way to the expansive Eagles ballroom early Saturday to begin the ritual of circling motorcycles like hawks before dive-bombing their favorites. There was plenty of two-wheeled goodness to flock around, from Eric Stein’s ultra-clean Panhead, a bike Willie G. was spotted shooting photographs of, to Hawke Lawshe’s high-necked “Hades” chopper, which was impossible to miss with its 30-over narrow springer fork and rebuilt 1946 Knucklehead. Scott “T-Bone” Jones competed on Noise Cycles’ fine Harley XG750 dirt tracker Friday night, then had it spiffed up and ready to go for the show the next day.
And while there was no shortage of craftsmanship and creativity at Mama Tried 2019, S&S Cycle’s OG racer “Tramp” might have stolen the show. Built by S&S founder George Smith Sr., it’s the bike that helped launch the storied high-performance brand.
According to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, “He [Smith] built a drag bike named ‘Tramp,’ which started as a 1939 61ci Knucklehead. He increased the size to 80ci, made a set of twin-carb heads, and bolted on a pair of Riley carbs. He raced the machine at Half Day Drag Strip in suburban Chicago.
“Drag racing was in its formative years and Smith began to experiment with nitromethane and alcohol fuel mixtures. In 1952, Tramp consistently ran the quarter mile at speeds hovering around 125 mph—a formidable accomplishment at a time when wheeliebars and motorcycle drag slicks had yet to be invented. Smith earned the Midwest National Drag Championship title aboard the bike.”
Tramp’s legacy didn’t stop there though.
“In 1954, Stanley Stankos and Leo Spindler, friends of Smith’s and fellow motorcycle drag race enthusiasts, teamed up and decided to build a Bonneville record racer. The Tramp would be the basis for their project. Stripped of everything and fitted with a K model fork, the stock frame held a virtually hand-built motor that included pistons that were cast at Stankos’ upholstery shop. Smith raced the 92ci machine at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats and achieved a top speed of 152.02 running on pure alcohol.”
There’s a great story on Cyril Huze’s blog about how the motorcycle disappeared for 40 years before being discovered in a small single-car garage next to a busy Chicago freeway by bike builder Jesse James and bronze artist/historian Jeff Decker. Smith’s Bonneville battle with the Joe Petrali Knucklehead is the stuff of legends, and the appearance of this racing legend at Mama Tried 2019 was special indeed.