Amidst the snow and sub-zero temps, a moto community throws a party

When asked what defines Milwaukee’s motorcycle culture, there are two things that come to mind. As most would first guess, the world renowned motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson is preeminent (Royal Enfield North America is HQed here as well). But that’s not what this story is about, so what’s #2 you ask? The Flat Out Friday/Mama Tried Moto Show weekend: a cold, wintery, “long weekend” that Milwaukee’s moto community has dedicated to flat track and boonie bike races, custom show bikes, questionable decisions and an opportunity to bring the riding community together.

The 2023 Mama Tried Moto Show and Flat Out Friday. What an amazing weekend it was.

The start of my Flat Out Friday/Mama Tried weekend began on Thursday, February 16th with nearly a foot of snow and the unfortunate news that the Harley-Davidson Museum was canceling their boonie bike races that night due to weather conditions. Give or take a few hours and the Milwaukee moto community did what they do best; persevere and make the best out of a s****y situation. Word began to spread that there would be an unsanctioned boonie bike race under the Hoan Bridge at 7pm. Naturally I bundled up, bracing myself for sub freezing temperatures and headed to the bridge. I quickly realized how committed they were to race, witnessing nearly 20 people piled out of a panel van alongside the lake and proceeded to do donuts in the unplowed, snow covered streets. There had to be nearly 30 vans/ trucks accompanied by nearly 100 people underneath the bridge. Bikes ranged from a pink 50cc boonie dubbed “Lil Hoe” to hand built $1700 212cc Stout Boonie Bikes captained by accomplished racer Andy Clark.

After a couple hours worth of racing (and crashing) on frozen, uneven gravel, riding bikes with basically no suspension, racers packed up their vans and headed to FUEL Cafe on 5th Street for an after party sponsored by Lowbrow Customs. FUEL Cafe is notorious for hosting some of the craziest motorcycle behavior during this week each year. In years prior, attendees of the after party did burnouts on top of the bar. In the spirit of the snow storm, this year’s after party featured a snowmobile doing a burnout inside the bar accompanied by mosh pits, free beer, and not an inch of space to maneuver through the place.

Sub-zero temps, a foot of snow, wind blowing off the lake, and an unsanctioned night of racing under the Hoan Bridge. These folks are nuts. I love it!

Following the previous night’s shenanigans, I made my way to the Fiserv Forum, home of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team. For what you might ask? Flat Out Friday of course! While many race fans are probably used to seeing Flat Track races on dirt or limestone, Milwaukee’s Flat Out Friday has been hosted indoors on Dr. Pepper sprayed concrete since it first began in 2016. And yes, you read that right, they actually spray Dr. Pepper all over the floor so the racers can get traction on the slippery concrete. Remember, midwestern winters suck.

Riding season up here gets cut short come end of October and typically we can’t ride again until end of May due to snow. The premise behind Flat Out Friday and Mama Tried started with the intentions of giving the Milwaukee motorcycle community something to look forward to amid “winter blues.” Instead of staring at your garage princess all winter long, now you can wrench in preparation for Flat Out Friday racing and/or the Mama Tried Show. The amazing thing about Flat Out Friday is that it’s fun for all. The Fiserv Forum was nearly packed with people ranging from pro flat track racers to little kids, and a wide variety of spectators, some of whom even admitted to me that they don’t ride but have been coming to the races for several years because it’s just such a good time.

Slipping and sliding around the oval on Dr. Pepper soaked concrete. Such a crazy night.

Race classes range from Brakeless (motorcycle has no brakes and is 1985 or older), Open Vintage (1985 or older), Open Hooligan (1986 or newer street legal, stock frame, twin, 750cc or larger, wheelbase is no less than 56”), Open Amateur (12 yrs old ride 250cc and 14 yrs old ride 450cc), AMA Pro, Electric Motorcycle, Open Women, Women’s Hooligan, 65/65 (7-11 yrs old ride 51cc-65cc and 9-15 yrs old ride 85cc), 50cc Four Stroke/Peewee (4-8 yrs old), Boonie of course, and last but not least, the crowd favorite, Goofball (requires customized or rare motorcycle AND costume).

This was my first time attending Flat Out Friday and it was A LOT to consume all at once but definitely a race I see myself attending again next year. The skill and passion for the sport came through in every rider, bringing a smile to my face after each race. A few of my favorites include the Boonie Bike race in which they spread balloons across the floor at the start of the race acting as a “hazard” for the racers, and the Goofy Race which featured a porta potty on wheels and a half naked man acting as if he was racing while on a Zoom call fitted in a suit from the waist up. I also especially enjoyed watching the infamous “Danger Dan” race his raked out chopper wearing a full-on 3 piece suit. And last but not least, I smiled ear to ear watching children like a 3rd grader named Oliver tear up the track riding his tank more skillfully than many of the adults. Witnessing moments like that give me hope for the future of the motorcycling community.

The starting lineup for the Goofball Race, with Porta Potty and Zoom Call Guy visible, among other oddball characters. My fave race of the night.

On Saturday morning I woke up early and made my way just west of Marquette University to The Rave Eagles Club, an iconic music venue that’s been around since the 1920’s. The Mama Tried Motorcycle Show was founded in 2014 just 2 years prior to Flat Out Friday and has been hosted in The Rave ever since. Ironically enough as a Marquette University alumni, I’ve never been to The Rave but quite frankly, I’m glad my first time there was for Mama Tried as it was filled with some of the coolest motorcycles I’ve ever seen.

The Rave is a stunning venue for the Mama Tried Moto Show every year.

My first interview of the day was with the Mama Tried MC, Dumptruck as he’s called, who told me, “Mama Tried is my favorite family reunion of the entire year, the motorcycles are all amazing and they’re all extremely diverse… The people are what make this… it is the happiest place on earth for at least one weekend here in Milwaukee.” Over the course of the day I ran into fellow motovloggers Her Two Wheels and Weems Motor Company. I met builders from all across the US, South America, Europe and even Japan. Bikes ranged from full fledged race bikes and hand built choppers to daily ridden bikes, with a story such as Danger Dan’s Harley-Davidson Pan America that he rode from Texas to South America and back. My favorite build of the show was a bike known as The Disciple, a 1941 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead. According to builder Josh Allison, owner of American Metal Customs, the inspiration for the bike came from a Schwinn bicycle he saw as a kid and from there, the bike built itself.

My fave bike of the show, among some incredible builds- the Disciple Bike.

As I reflect on my first Flat Out Friday/Mama Tried experience, I can’t help but already get excited for next year’s event. Part of me is even considering buying a boonie bike in hopes of joining in on even more of the fun. If you haven’t already, be sure to watch my video coverage of the Flat Out Friday Mama Tried weekend below! Also check out my personal YouTube channel for more motorcycle content.

Nathan “Genz Biker” Baron


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