The winter months in Wisconsin are when most motorcycle riders protect their precious bikes in garages under cover, waiting for the snow, ice and salt to disappear by April – if they’re lucky.
However, for some riders, Wisconsin winters are a good time to catch up on motorcycle culture, enjoy events at their local dealerships or even ride outside on ice covered waterways. So, let’s check in on how Milwaukee motorcyclists handle their winter withdrawals.
Ice riders: Sure, we often see bicyclists, runners and even golfers braving the cold to play and exercise outside in Wisconsin winters. However, there are also groups of hard-core motorcycle riders taking to the ice for winter fun and competition.
Two local ice riding groups, the Wisconsin Ice Riders and the Okauchee IceMongers, total more than 525 Facebook members between them. The IceMongers obviously ride on Okauchee Lake in Oconomowoc.
"Ice riding has been around as long as motorcycling," said Joe Haupt of Brookfield, a regular rider and organizer. "But, now with social media, more people just know about it."
Haupt and other hard core riders like Jeff Wick, Aaron Frank, Scott Johnson and Travis Peartree are out riding on the icy terrains every chance they get. The ice bikes are specially modified and sometimes not so specially modified dirt bikes like Hondas, Yamahas, Suzukis or KTMs. Finding "ice tires" with grips, studs and spikes are clearly the most critical accessory. The riders themselves also plan and groom the ice tracks.
The rides can vary from competitive racing to fun rides for beginners. Women are getting into the ice riding act just like they are during the summer season. Local ladies like Charlotte Kainz, Jennifer Froh, Catherine Reeves, Leah Orloff and others have enjoyed motorcycle ice time.
Last month, riders competed in the Steel Shoe Fund three-hour endurance race to help support injured racers and are hoping to take some laps at McKinley Marina on Milwaukee’s Lakefront this Sunday.
"Last year was our first time at the Marina," Haupt said. "Everyone seems fine with it, and we like riding with the lake and skyline in the background. The toughest part is getting ice that holds up a plow to clear a track."
Mama Tried Show: The title of a 1968 Merle Haggard song about rebellious youth, "Mama Tried," has become widely used in biker circles referring to the notion that most mothers just don’t want their kids to ride motorcycles.
So, it’s appropriate that this weekend’s Mama Tried Motorcycle Show in Milwaukee expects to display more than 50 bikes built by a diverse group of fabricators, mostly from the Midwest with some from as far as California, New Mexico, Texas, New Jersey and New York.
Besides the bikes, there will be likely be plenty of tats, piercings and other eye candy on display at the show location at 1741 W. St. Paul from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. The show costs only $5 and includes a slew of sponsors like the Iron Horse, Harley-Davidson and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Harley dealers: For riders who can’t make it to the Florida beaches for Daytona Bike Week, the five Milwaukee-area Harley-Davidson dealers are warming it up this winter with events, parties, seminars and more in February and March.
Wisconsin Harley-Davidson in Oconomowoc presents a big Bikes and Brews beer tasting extravaganza Saturday, March 7 with unlimited sampling, brats and burgers from Pernat’s, live music by the Boogie Men and more all benefiting Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. Other events include ESPN Poker Night on Feb. 28, a Women’s Garage Party on March 19 with new rider Elizabeth Kay from WMYX radio and seminars including a Ready to Ride MotorClothes workshop and Casino Night this Saturday, Feb. 21.
Milwaukee Harley-Davidson also does St. Patrick’s Day along with Valentine’s massages, LED and heated gear seminars, and MMA parties on the northwest side, while House of Harley-Davidson also celebrates St. Pat’s, the Milwaukee Auto Show and holds conceal and carry boot camps on the south side.
Mike Morgan rides retro, whether on his 1976 Harley Aermacchi 250 or Heritage Softail. Mike has been a motorcyclist since 2001 having ridden in Sturgis, Daytona Beach, the California coast, New England and everywhere in between, including in the last three Milwaukee Harley Anniversary parades.
Mike worked in communications and marketing at Harley-Davidson for more than 12 years, writing and editing all kinds of content, including award-winning media kids in 2009 and 2012. He had ridden the Harley several times before Brewer games at Miller Park, and ran in one of the last sausage races at the old County Stadium when he was Communications Manager for the Stadium District Board.