My First Time Racing A Harley-Davidson, And I Received

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Ice Racing in the Italian Alps

Although Xaus held the higher hand all day, with a bit extra time on the bike, I used to be in some way in a position to come away with the checkered flag.

Photograph by Monti Smith

When the editor-in-chief of Cycle World texts you and says, “Hey, may you journey to Italy to ice-race a prepped Harley-Davidson 750 Road Rod for us at an occasion referred to as Snowquake in two weeks?” you don’t ask questions, you simply say sure. Nicely, type of at the least. As a result of I’ve the physique of a 62-year-old man (I’m 23), I first needed to get permission from my physician to verify I used to be cleared to experience after my again surgical procedure in October. As quickly as he stated it was cool I used to be in.

Quick-forward two weeks. It’s 5 p.m. on Sunday and I’m at JFK boarding my seven-hour flight to Milan. New York Metropolis to Milan is a direct flight and takes nearly so long as going to Los Angeles. However the bikes, meals, and surroundings in Italy far outweigh California for my part. The hardest half is the time change as a result of Italy is six hours forward. My eight a.m. arrival time on Monday meant I’d have to remain up the complete day as a strolling zombie to make sure I used to be on schedule for Tuesday.

Upon arrival I grabbed my luggage, met my driver, and we have been off to the Italian Alps. Milan is about two hours from the place we have been headed, which occurred to be near the border of Switzerland. There was no snow but it surely didn’t really feel a lot hotter than New York. As soon as we turned off the principle freeway I noticed my driver thought it was a race. As we headed up this winding and slim street at about 150 kph, the cities turned small villages and ultimately snow appeared by the foot, the mountain peaks beginning to glisten because the solar burned by means of the clouds. It was stunning and was additionally the place I’d be spending the following three days. We had arrived at this super-modern resort referred to as the Mirtillo Rosso Household Lodge in Riva Valdobbia, Italy. It was right here the place I met the parents from Harley-Davidson Europe. Lastly, I had arrived.

Ice racing at Snowquake

Regardless of how a lot gear you’re carrying, getting roosted with ice by no means feels good.

Photograph by Monti Smith

After night time’s sleep I vouched to take a look at Deus’ Swank Rally Occasion on the circuit referred to as Ice Rosa Ring as an alternative of snowboarding with among the different journalists. Although it was fairly chilly, it was fairly wonderful to see among the equipment that was being ridden round this three-quarter-mile ice observe with American rock music blaring within the background. The concept behind the Swank Rally was to principally take the craziest, most impractical machine and enter it on this “gents’s race.” I say machine as a result of there have been mopeds, scooters, bikes, and trikes all making laps. The speculation behind a gents’s race was principally to make a lap across the observe as quick as you can, take your time, and put it on a board. If somebody was quicker, they moved your time down and put theirs above it till everybody had accomplished their lap and a winner was revealed. It wasn’t meant to actually be a race, however the racing spirit runs wildly by means of the veins of Italians and Europeans alike. It was nonetheless very a lot a contest for contributors but maintained a scarcity of seriousness that might be seen all through the number of classic bikes and matching fur-covered using gear. The Swank Rally is a type of occasions that basically makes you respect the camaraderie amongst motorcyclists—in spite of everything, that’s what motorcycling is about. It now made sense to me why the same “Hooligan” fashion of racing has grown so quickly in america.

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Ice racing with Harley-Davidson

Slightly cutout by means of a snowbank to scale back total observe size ultimately was one thing like a motocross berm.

Photograph by Monti Smith

After being outdoors within the 32-degree chilly all day lengthy, I used to be exhausted and smelled like a campfire. We ate dinner at a neighborhood restaurant and I used to be in mattress by 9 p.m. As per typical the pre-race day jitters obtained to me and I used to be fairly stressed. I laid in mattress fascinated with the irony; I had by no means ridden a Harley-Davidson in America but I traveled all this technique to probably the most northern components of Italy to experience one on the ice. It’s one thing I actually couldn’t have fathomed ever doing. After I was lastly in a position to shut my eyes I used to be awake once more and packing my luggage to go to the observe.


Deus Swank Rally on Ice

Deus Swank Rally On Ice: Gallery

Fifteen photos racing with Deus Ex Machina by means of the snowy mountains close to Verona, Italy

Ruben Xaus

Former MotoGP and World Superbike racer Ruben Xaus was employed to show the Harley-Davidson 750 Road Rods into ice racers.

Photograph by Monti Smith

Upon our arrival at 9 a.m. the crew from IDP Moto had lined up the eight 750 Road Rods in a row. Harley-Davidson Europe had contracted IDP Moto to prep, take a look at, and transport bikes to make sure they have been in tip-top form. In addition they employed previous World Superbike and MotoGP rider Ruben Xaus to be the take a look at rider and particular visitor for the Snowquake occasion. Ruben had hung out dialing within the settings and making small changes on the 750 Road Rod. The inventory tanks had been changed with customs designed after the XG racing tank profile and painted in Harley’s orange and black racing livery. The basic American Flat Monitor-style quantity plates end all of it off. They type of gave off a Mad Max attract with their double-layered and studded knobby Continental TCK80 tires. By studded I imply having been drilled with roughly 500 Kold Kutter screws per tire. Think about having to drill that many screws on eight bikes! I used to be itching to check one among these dangerous boys out.

Street Rods fitted with studded knobbies

Fitted with studded knobbies and a extra “muscular” exhaust, the stripped-down Road Rods have been reworked into one thing that appeared like they belonged in a “Mad Max” movie.

Photograph courtesy of Harley-Davidson

I may inform this was a leisurely occasion as a result of lastly round 11 the primary spherical of practices started. There have been 4 courses: IRB (Impractical Street Bike), Classic Bikes, our Harley Class, and SnowPro. Since there have been 16 journalists and solely eight bikes, our class had been break up into three teams, all of which have been determined by the quantity jersey you got. Coincidently, I used to be given the quantity 15 which is identical I used throughout my World Supersport wild card the final time I had raced in Europe. This meant I used to be within the third group so I watched the primary two teams get a really feel for the ice till it was my flip. I layered up with some cold-weather beneath gear, some thermals, and two pairs of socks. Over that I wore a set of Spidi leathers which the corporate was good sufficient to in a single day to me within the mountains; I wanted a go well with a measurement larger to suit all of the gear beneath! I topped it off with a pair of latex mechanics gloves, slightly secret for using within the chilly and need to preserve your fingers heat. I used to be as toasty as I used to be going to be.

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Ice racing in the Italian Alps

I used to be simply one among six journalists who have been narrowed down from a gaggle of 15 to compete in the principle occasion in opposition to Xaus.

Photograph courtesy of Harley-Davidson

The Road Rod engine greets you with a deep rumble, first as a result of it’s a Harley-Davidson however second as a result of the muffler had been eliminated. I now understood why folks fell in love with Harleys so simply; one twist of the modified manufacturing facility throttle tube and also you felt like a rockstar. Instantly I seen the tailored XG750R seat unit’s place was going to be a little bit of wrestle because the mid foot controls have been slightly excessive and I’m 6-foot-Four. I would add that I’m by no means actually 100 % snug on any bike, however I used to be positively notably squished this time round. The strangest half about using on the ice is coming to phrases with the unimaginable quantity of traction. Logically it doesn’t make sense, so it’s laborious to get your mind to simply accept the truth that you possibly can toss round 516 kilos of American muscle and never crash.

Ice racing in the Italian Alps

The primary lap into the snow-berm part was nearly a single-rider line with little room for error.

Photograph courtesy of Harley-Davidson

I wrapped the required tethered kill change round my wrist and lined up on the beginning grid for the primary time after a brief sighting lap. I felt awkward at first however as soon as I had some confidence within the tires and relaxed a bit I felt proper at house. The ability supply was tremendous clean most likely because of the flashed ECU’s with Dynojet software program to scrub up any fueling roughness. Although the bike was clearly massive, it didn’t actually really feel so. It did as I requested and was pretty straightforward to maneuver. My greatest wrestle was determining what gear labored greatest after which truly with the ability to get my clown-sized MX boots beneath the shift lever. I solely had 5 laps to observe, which was not almost sufficient for the quantity of enjoyable I used to be having. Fortuitously I’d have three extra tries at it. The format for the day was one observe adopted by two warmth races that will resolve which two riders from every group would advance to the principle occasion.

Two warmth races and 6 laps later I made it to the principle occasion and lined up on the second row behind Ruben, the primary qualifier. I’m a racer and I used to be internally challenged to see if I may sustain. If you’re a racer at coronary heart it doesn’t actually matter what you’re using, it all the time finally ends up being a race. That was extra evident than ever at an occasion like this as I had simply watched former WorldSBK champion Neil Hodgson on a classic cruiser duke it out with a mean Joe on an outdated Vespa within the earlier race. That was the enjoyable of all of it.

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Final turn

The ultimate activate the course was a protracted, huge sweeper that provided alternative to strive completely different traces and even get the Road Rod slightly sideways.

Photograph courtesy of Harley-Davidson

Track conditions worsened

Because the day went on, snow mud collected and observe circumstances worsened, as Xaus came upon the laborious approach throughout the principle occasion.

Photograph courtesy of Harley-Davidson


Snowquake introduced out each fashionable beauties and outdated gems like this classic OSSA. The Spanish twin was a sight to see ripping on the ice.

Photograph courtesy of Harley-Davidson

We blasted off and I obtained an honest begin however the observe had modified fairly a bit because the final time we rode. With each lap the ice will get chewed up, making a snowy powder which tends to lower the extent of traction. This compelled me to vary my traces in every of the eight turns across the observe, whereas Ruben tried to make the identical outdated ones work. Ultimately I found out that getting as shut as potential to dragging the high-rise Renthal bars on the within snow banks of every flip meant I had a few 6-inch patch of recent ice to experience on which meant a number of traction. There additionally had been some fairly massive holes growing the place the ice began to soften away, however fortunately the bike’s twin rear suspension had been upgraded with Öhlins Blackline-spec shocks. I went on to cross Ruben in some way and take the win, a lot to everybody’s (together with my very own) shock. I may’ve rode round in final place and nonetheless have had among the best days of my life.

Deus Cafe

The boys from Deus Cafe in Milan have been in attendance cooking meals the old school technique to end off the eclectic feel and look of the occasion. I caught with soup.

Photograph courtesy of Harley-Davidson

Street Rod

Getting the facility to the bottom off the beginning line was a type of most difficult components of using a Road Rod on ice. The rear tire spun by means of first and second gears earlier than I managed to get wherever.

Photograph courtesy of Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson in the Italian Alps

What number of occasions in life do you get to say you lined up in opposition to an ex-MotoGP racer on a Harley-Davidson within the Italian Alps?

Photograph courtesy of Harley-Davidson

In any case, I used to be using a Harley-Davidson for the primary time, within the Italian Alps, on the ice.

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