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Mama Tried Motorcycle Show 2016

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show

We appreciate a good, midwestern bike event. Chicago, Louisville, Indy, Cincy and, for this story, Milwaukee; they’re towns with a quiet patina inhabited by hardworking, humble people. Many of these good people also like to have fun, like Scott Johnson and Warren Heir, Jr. These guys have a healthy respect for motorcycle culture and their well-earned reputation in the region drew thousands of likeminded fanatics to the Mama Tried Motorcycle Show.

Show Entrance

We brought our Ural sidecar motorcycle for some around-town transportation and our custom Honda CL360 Scrambler to display at the show. High winds, cold temps, and things you might associate with February Wisconsin weather had us bracing for a grey, frigid, but fun weekend.

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show

Vintage Harley-Davison Racer

To kick the things off, attendees filled the stands at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena for Flat Out Friday, where a series of motorcycle races took place on an indoor, concrete track coated in a tacky layer of Dr. Pepper syrup. Once it dries, just imagine how sticky it’d be, then multiply that by five.

A roller full of Dr. Pepper syrup was kept handy to patch any slick spots.


Famous flagman for AMA Pro Flat Track, Kevin Clark made an appearance. He puts on a show with his trademark style of flag-waving, but he does take this gig seriously. When I drifted a bit passed the infield press boundary to shoot some video, I felt one of his tennies give me a nudge back to the safety zone. (Fair play.)

Flagman Kevin Clark waves the checkers in front of a packed house.


The crowd cheered with collective approval of the Goof Ball/Inappropriate Motorcycle Class. Taking home the win was The Purple One (aka, Ronny Zastrow), shown above, riding a budget-friendly Honda with a shoulder-perched dove. Someone shoulda got hurt during this class, or maimed by an exaggerated sissy bar, but all went well aside from a few spins and spills.

Bar to bar action on sticky, unforgiving concrete.


For 15 bucks or less, folks watched seven classes hustle around the tight oval at various levels of intensity. Loudness, fumes, injuries, bar banging and bikes hitting walls; how the heck was this allowed? It was great – and the crowd ate it up.

Roland Sands
West Coast rider, racer, designer, and entrepreneur, Roland Sands in the pits.

The Indian Motorcycles/Roland Sands Designs SuperHooligan crew stopped in and added some corporate-backed fun to the whole weekend. Though the smaller bikes and supermotos ripped around the track quicker, the big twin bikes still raced hard and muscled their way through the pack.

Flat Out Friday
Scott Johnson, center, the co-founder of Mama Tried; this guy rides, wrenches and races.

The organizers couldn’t anticipate exactly how many spectators would show up, but they did make sure to put on a good show (it looked like there coulda been 5-thousand people packed into the arena). Word on the street is that Flat Out Friday will be back for future Mama Tried weekends; plan your Februarys accordingly.

Analog Husqvarna Scrambler
A custom Husky by Analog Motorcycles: modern power plant, nostalgic facade.

On Saturday, from late morning to late evening, the doors were open for the 3rd annual Mama Tried Show. This year, it was located inside the wooden-floored Lindsay Building, a cream-bricked warehouse built in 1892 as a distribution facility for agricultural equipment, bicycles, buggies and sleighs. It was dusty, creaky and inviting.

Loooooong Chop
To each his own.
This Harley-Davidson was faaar out, man.

To show a bike at Mama Tried, you’ve gotta be invited or accepted. Their aim: to showcase the best honest, homebuilt, and unusual race and street motorcycles from the Midwest and beyond. Man, there was a wonderful miscellany of customs.

Elevator Ride
A massive freight elevator took bikes and people up to the show floor.

Talking Shop

From gaudy to weird, from mild to purpose-built, there were so many bikes to peruse. As with these types of events, the funky, vintage, and custom bikes draw an interesting crowd. And they came in droves. The line to get in stretched far at times, and taking pics of bikes was a challenge in the congested aisles…but that’s okay, it was a bike show not a photo shoot.

Harley-Davidson Chopper

If you looked out the old arched windows just 1000 feet to the east, you’d see the multi-million dollar Harley-Davidson Museum and office complex. As gritty and grass roots as this gathering feels, it’s great to see H-D enthusiastically support it.

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
The Triumph “Furiosa” build by Cafe Racers of Instagram and British Customs.

The Scene at Mama Tried

We talked with Scott Johnson and members of his event coordination team before and during the show. The behind-the-scenes effort to make this thing so successful was impressive. One notable presence is Maureen Post, a writer/photographer whose PR/marketing savvy helps keep things tuned. With so many people, so many moving parts and unknowns, it’s probably like trying to dial in the fuel and air mixture of a finicky two-stroke.

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
Caravaggio would appreciate the lighting on the Earle Motors 002 motorcycle.
Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
We were honored to show our Wilkinson Bros Scrambler build at Mama Tried.

Mama Tried

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
In addition to great bikes, walls were lined with motorcycle lifestyle photography.
Ready for the Ice
It was too ‘warm’ for the official ice racing portion of the event, but many came prepared.
Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
The creative minds at ICON Motosports always deliver.

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show

Beyond the bikes, this is an opportunity for motorcycle enthusiasts and colleagues to meet up and shoot the bull. When winter discourages outdoor hang-outs, Mama Tried helps combat cabin fever by providing a great forum for long conversations and shop talk.

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
A lot of people from the moto community come together to help with the show.
Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
Casey Ketterhagen’s beautiful custom 1931 Harley-Davidson.
Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
The Lowbrow Customs guys are fully committed to their craft.
Mama Tried Motorcycle Show SR 500
An SR 500 on display by Federal Moto US.
Mama Tried Motorcycle Show BMW R NineT
Revival Cycles brought their BMW R NineT to show and race during the weekend.
Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
A custom Honda by Rodsmith Motorcycles.

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
Upstairs, near the show bikes, a constant buzz could be heard from tattoo guns.

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show

The first floor was full of vendor booths, food and libations. You could find lots of apparel to add to your greyscale wardrobe here.

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show

Showroom at Mama Tried

Vintage H-D Racer

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
Photographer Mike Vandergriff brought his bike and a wall full of killer pics.

On Sunday morning, a handful of show-bikes had left for home or set out to find some ice to ride on. Still, there was plenty to look at and it was easier to step back and photograph without a wall of people between you and the bikes.

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show


Your GSG hosts, Corey Wilkinson (left) and Casey Wilkinson at Mama Tried Show.
Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
Corey talks with Willie G. Davidson. If Willie likes this show, you might like it, too.

Motorcycle culture is alive and well at Mama Tried. We’re thankful to the folks who put in the hours to host such a concentration of bike-centric fellowship. Long after all the trendy on-the-surface stuff of today’s motorcycle realm fades, it’s this kind of authentic show that will rise to the top of minds and memories. Many years from now, when my grandkids see a pic of this Milwaukee event, I’ll tell ’em I was there – and they’ll think that’s pretty cool.

Harley-Davidson Chopper

Follow Good Spark Garage on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for more motorcycle culture.

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