Mama Tried Motorcycle Show

The 2nd annual invitational showcasing some of America's best home-built bikes.

Not even sub-zero temperatures can put a damper on Milwaukee, Wisconsin's, red-hot motorcycle scene. Ironically, one of the biggest events of the year for Brew City bikers—the annual Mama Tried invitational motorcycle show—happens during the dregs of February (click here to see the first Mama Tried Show). A joint production of Scott Johnson, who runs Milwaukee's moto-themed Fuel Café, and chopper builder Warren Heir Jr. of JR's Cycle Products, Mama Tried—named after Merle Haggard's ballad to rebellious youth—has become one of the most important bike shows in the nation, this year arranging a carefully curated collection of over 80 eclectic machines from around the nation, along with lots of supporting moto art and culture (and ice racing!). Here are some highlights:

Dan Yoder, a professional sign painter by trade, built this trick Honda VFR800 streetfighter complete with custom aluminum tailsection and hand-applied gold-leaf graphics.
“This is a 1964 Harley-Davidson FL chopper I built as an invited builder for Born Free 6.” —Trent Schara, Atomic Custom, Sandia Park, NM
“Born in a one-car garage from a $100, 1969 Honda CB350 and a trashed '71 SL350, for a couple of land speed wannabes to compete in the Modified Production Blown Class of SCTA & ECTA land-speed racing. With dreams of building a mechanically supercharged twin and goals of running mid 120's, this 3-year journey has since set six national speed records, including the class record of 145.5 mph.” —Scott Williams and Bruce Wyke, Harrison, OH
“Started as an idea for cool rigid build, and ended up as a turbocharged, street-legal rigid bike that’s also fully prepped for land speed racing.” —Shaun and Aaron Guardado, Suicide Machine Company, Long Beach, CA
“A close friend and mentor of mine, Butch, helped me find this bike. He flat-track raced Indians from the 1950's into the ‘90's, and built and maintained all his own machines. He knew I was on the hunt for one, and knew where a special old racer was "hiding" up in northern Wisconsin. He took me up and introduced me to the gentleman, who was kind enough to let it go. It's shown exactly as I found it, minus cleaning it up and getting it running. I believe it was raced in Wisconsin the ‘40's and ‘50's, built and operated by a local Indian dealer.” —John Koller, Milwaukee, WI
“One time this guy I know bought a Honda rebel to impress this gal that was into bikes. Well, he rode it over to her house feeling like King Dick, but when he pulled up all she had to say was ‘Isn't that a little small?’ Guess he should've got a big twin.” —Justin Hallenbeck and Dave Barker, SpeedMetal Cycles, Denver, CO
Has Honda’s lowly CX500 Custom ever looked this good? Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s Randy Schmitt built this sweet CX café racer to raise awareness for the organization Aiming for a Cure, which aids families that have a child dealing with cancer. The bike will be auctioned off in March to raise funds for AFAC—visit www.aimingforacure.com for more information.
“Bought it on a whim. Love it.” —Rich Phillips, St. Charles, MO
“It’s like a mini-bike on steroids. It’s completely one of a kind, all custom with a fiberglass body. I bought it at an estate sale and then I showed it at World of Wheels maybe 5 years ago or so and the builder, Stan Johnson, was there. He’s given me all sorts of information since then. The body is hinged so you can pick up the rear and see the motor; he even made the tires himself. The tires are so fat you can ride it anywhere, even on snow or sand.” —Dennis Worthy, Franklin, WI
“Found this bike lying on a bench in Racine, Wisconsin, neglected and in multiple boxes. Decided to just use the Indian Scout engine and bring it back to life like it had never been before. Frame Crafters built a Trackmaster-style frame for it. The tank, seat, and fairing are all hand-made from aluminum. This is my version of a ‘60s-era bastard, vintage race bike. —Analog Motorcycles, Gurnee, IL
“She is an accident waiting to happen. Six hundred pounds of American coke-fired iron, riding on weather-checked English rubber. Cracking femurs or rupturing internal organs are her specialties, and she has done so on more than one occasion. The Iron Lung, a 1991 Harley Sportster roadracer, is a vision of what never was, in response to a question that was never asked.” —Icon, Portland, OR
“This machine was built to race on half-mile dirt tracks at vintage motorcycle events around the country. The rare, 1000cc Harley-Davidson engine is capable of speeds above 120 mph, and is one of only a handful of surviving two-cam race motors engines from the 1920s. The short-coupled half-mile chassis features no brakes or clutch. I could not pass up the chance to put it back on the track. Every effort was made to rebuild the machine as it would have been raced during the 1920s, except for a few speed secrets passed down to me from those who inspired me to race. Go fast, turn left! —Matt Walksler, Waynesville, NC
“I purchased the Norton around 11 years ago in Portland, where it was hanging over an old Shanghai bar called Kelly's Olympian. The bike was in pretty sorry shape with the engine held to the frame with lengths of twisted chicken wire and a single bolt. I spent a lot of nights and weekends sleeping at my father’s shop putting it back together. In the end it took me a little over a year and cost me a couple girlfriends in the process but was completely worth it.” —Kris Zellman, Milwaukee, WI
“Engine is combined 1968/'70 Norton 750 Commando. Pipes, frame, tank, bars, controls and nearly everything else are by Cook. Frame is a softtail with a coil spring hidden in the frame tube beneath seat. Swingarm is articulated forward of the transmission at the rear downtube of the loop frame. (Not really hidden, but most people don't notice it.) Bike finish is raw steel, brass plated, or solid brass.” —Dave Cook, Cooks Customs, Milwaukee, WI
“As a kid I would watch this exact 1986 Yamaha SRX/6 pull up the driveway almost every weekend. My uncle purchased it new at the dealer he worked at. He always had the trickest bikes. A good friend of mine bought it around 2001, rode it a little and then crashed it. That was my opportunity to get a piece of my childhood back. The wheels and shocks were bent—a good reason to go a little overboard and build something custom that would make my uncle proud. I shaved as much weight as possible, gave it as much brakes as possible and add some nice hand crafted bits. This is the result.” —Ben Boyle, Benderworks, Atlanta, GA
“This is a commissioned build from a customer who wanted a vintage scrambler built from a ‘70s-era Ducati twin. Ducati only made Scramblers out of singles (in the ‘60s). We started this project before word that Ducati would be releasing a new Scrambler in 2015. Modified Triumph Tiger front end and hand made tank with custom made scrambler pipes are the main features. Lots of other little details make this bike a show-stopper.” —Analog Motorcycles, Gurnee, IL
A classic, all-American kickoff to the ice-riding antics at McKinley Marina in downtown Milwaukee that have become an essential part of the Mama Tried weekend.
Matt Walksler from the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, wasn’t afraid to put studded tires on his 1916 Harley-Davidson board track racer.
We don’t care how you do it in California!
Mama Tried wasn’t all work for the Motorcyclist staff: Editor-at-Large Aaron Frank left our Midwest desk long enough to turn a few laps on his KX250F “Ice Ninja.”
Hogs on Ice.
“We call this bike the “Hardley” because so many people look at it and don’t seem to realize it’s a Harley. We were inspired by the wheel design we found and went on to style the bike accordingly. It weighs 130lbs. less than it did from the factory and has 100 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque. Although we built it as a street racer, we’ve reimagined it for the Mama Tried show and converted into an ice racer. You can tell of us Texas boys are excited about our first ice wheelie!” —Revival Cycles, Austin, TX
Dan Yoder, a professional sign painter by trade, built this trick Honda VFR800 streetfighter complete with custom aluminum tailsection and hand-applied gold-leaf graphics.
“This is a 1964 Harley-Davidson FL chopper I built as an invited builder for Born Free 6.” —Trent Schara, Atomic Custom, Sandia Park, NM
“Born in a one-car garage from a $100, 1969 Honda CB350 and a trashed '71 SL350, for a couple of land speed wannabes to compete in the Modified Production Blown Class of SCTA & ECTA land-speed racing. With dreams of building a mechanically supercharged twin and goals of running mid 120's, this 3-year journey has since set six national speed records, including the class record of 145.5 mph.” —Scott Williams and Bruce Wyke, Harrison, OH
“Started as an idea for cool rigid build, and ended up as a turbocharged, street-legal rigid bike that’s also fully prepped for land speed racing.” —Shaun and Aaron Guardado, Suicide Machine Company, Long Beach, CA
“A close friend and mentor of mine, Butch, helped me find this bike. He flat-track raced Indians from the 1950's into the ‘90's, and built and maintained all his own machines. He knew I was on the hunt for one, and knew where a special old racer was "hiding" up in northern Wisconsin. He took me up and introduced me to the gentleman, who was kind enough to let it go. It's shown exactly as I found it, minus cleaning it up and getting it running. I believe it was raced in Wisconsin the ‘40's and ‘50's, built and operated by a local Indian dealer.” —John Koller, Milwaukee, WI
“One time this guy I know bought a Honda rebel to impress this gal that was into bikes. Well, he rode it over to her house feeling like King Dick, but when he pulled up all she had to say was ‘Isn't that a little small?’ Guess he should've got a big twin.” —Justin Hallenbeck and Dave Barker, SpeedMetal Cycles, Denver, CO
Has Honda’s lowly CX500 Custom ever looked this good? Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s Randy Schmitt built this sweet CX café racer to raise awareness for the organization Aiming for a Cure, which aids families that have a child dealing with cancer. The bike will be auctioned off in March to raise funds for AFAC—visit www.aimingforacure.com for more information.
“Bought it on a whim. Love it.” —Rich Phillips, St. Charles, MO
“It’s like a mini-bike on steroids. It’s completely one of a kind, all custom with a fiberglass body. I bought it at an estate sale and then I showed it at World of Wheels maybe 5 years ago or so and the builder, Stan Johnson, was there. He’s given me all sorts of information since then. The body is hinged so you can pick up the rear and see the motor; he even made the tires himself. The tires are so fat you can ride it anywhere, even on snow or sand.” —Dennis Worthy, Franklin, WI
“Found this bike lying on a bench in Racine, Wisconsin, neglected and in multiple boxes. Decided to just use the Indian Scout engine and bring it back to life like it had never been before. Frame Crafters built a Trackmaster-style frame for it. The tank, seat, and fairing are all hand-made from aluminum. This is my version of a ‘60s-era bastard, vintage race bike. —Analog Motorcycles, Gurnee, IL
“She is an accident waiting to happen. Six hundred pounds of American coke-fired iron, riding on weather-checked English rubber. Cracking femurs or rupturing internal organs are her specialties, and she has done so on more than one occasion. The Iron Lung, a 1991 Harley Sportster roadracer, is a vision of what never was, in response to a question that was never asked.” —Icon, Portland, OR
“This machine was built to race on half-mile dirt tracks at vintage motorcycle events around the country. The rare, 1000cc Harley-Davidson engine is capable of speeds above 120 mph, and is one of only a handful of surviving two-cam race motors engines from the 1920s. The short-coupled half-mile chassis features no brakes or clutch. I could not pass up the chance to put it back on the track. Every effort was made to rebuild the machine as it would have been raced during the 1920s, except for a few speed secrets passed down to me from those who inspired me to race. Go fast, turn left! —Matt Walksler, Waynesville, NC
“I purchased the Norton around 11 years ago in Portland, where it was hanging over an old Shanghai bar called Kelly's Olympian. The bike was in pretty sorry shape with the engine held to the frame with lengths of twisted chicken wire and a single bolt. I spent a lot of nights and weekends sleeping at my father’s shop putting it back together. In the end it took me a little over a year and cost me a couple girlfriends in the process but was completely worth it.” —Kris Zellman, Milwaukee, WI
“Engine is combined 1968/'70 Norton 750 Commando. Pipes, frame, tank, bars, controls and nearly everything else are by Cook. Frame is a softtail with a coil spring hidden in the frame tube beneath seat. Swingarm is articulated forward of the transmission at the rear downtube of the loop frame. (Not really hidden, but most people don't notice it.) Bike finish is raw steel, brass plated, or solid brass.” —Dave Cook, Cooks Customs, Milwaukee, WI
“As a kid I would watch this exact 1986 Yamaha SRX/6 pull up the driveway almost every weekend. My uncle purchased it new at the dealer he worked at. He always had the trickest bikes. A good friend of mine bought it around 2001, rode it a little and then crashed it. That was my opportunity to get a piece of my childhood back. The wheels and shocks were bent—a good reason to go a little overboard and build something custom that would make my uncle proud. I shaved as much weight as possible, gave it as much brakes as possible and add some nice hand crafted bits. This is the result.” —Ben Boyle, Benderworks, Atlanta, GA
“This is a commissioned build from a customer who wanted a vintage scrambler built from a ‘70s-era Ducati twin. Ducati only made Scramblers out of singles (in the ‘60s). We started this project before word that Ducati would be releasing a new Scrambler in 2015. Modified Triumph Tiger front end and hand made tank with custom made scrambler pipes are the main features. Lots of other little details make this bike a show-stopper.” —Analog Motorcycles, Gurnee, IL
A classic, all-American kickoff to the ice-riding antics at McKinley Marina in downtown Milwaukee that have become an essential part of the Mama Tried weekend.
Matt Walksler from the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, wasn’t afraid to put studded tires on his 1916 Harley-Davidson board track racer.
We don’t care how you do it in California!
Mama Tried wasn’t all work for the Motorcyclist staff: Editor-at-Large Aaron Frank left our Midwest desk long enough to turn a few laps on his KX250F “Ice Ninja.”
Hogs on Ice.
“We call this bike the “Hardley” because so many people look at it and don’t seem to realize it’s a Harley. We were inspired by the wheel design we found and went on to style the bike accordingly. It weighs 130lbs. less than it did from the factory and has 100 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque. Although we built it as a street racer, we’ve reimagined it for the Mama Tried show and converted into an ice racer. You can tell of us Texas boys are excited about our first ice wheelie!” —Revival Cycles, Austin, TX