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Record crowd sees the 2017 Mama Tried Motorcycle Show

Feb 27, 2017

“I’m 50 years old and have never bought a new motorcycle,” says Scott Johnson co-creator of the growing Mama Tried Motorcycle Show. “For $2,500 you can go get a used Sportster, chop it up, and go race it. To me, that’s what’s really exciting. We’re into really great workmanship, custom race bikes, and choppers.”

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
Getting up close with a custom Knucklehead at the Mama Tried Motorcycle Show. Harley-Davidson photo by Josh Kurpius.

That passion for craft, racing, and choppers, mixed with a heavy dose of Midwest modesty, came together during the three-day show in Milwaukee to record-setting crowds. The weekend began at Flat Out Friday, where 10,000 fans came to watch 250 registered racers go fast and turn left on a indoor, Dr. Pepper-covered, flat track.

Mark Atkins
Mark “Rusty Butcher” Atkins took second this year in the Hooligan race on his H-D XG750. Photo by Chris Force.

“I’m super excited how fun it was, and that no one got hurt,” Scott added. From Pros to Goofballs, eleven classes raced and offered handfuls of entertainment with costumed antics, themed bikes, and lightning-fast riders. Race producer Jeremy Prach kept the night moving with no delay between races, video replays and commentary. Oh, and the requisite shit metal cover band. (Sorry band, you suck, but I hope that was the point, right?)

Benny Carlson
Benny Carlson takes a victory lap after winning the Hooligan race on a Harley-Davidson XR1200. Photo by Chris Force.

Sales might be down for the motorcycle industry, but enthusiasm appears to be up and growing. Flat Out Friday had over 60 percent more attendees this year. That interest carried over into Saturday to the Mama Tried Motorcycle Show, now in its fourth year. More than 8,000 visitors lined up down the block, some waiting two hours, to see a curated group of meticulously crafted custom bikes. Chris Urban, the Global Events Lead for Harley-Davidson (the weekend’s lead sponsor and hometown host), attributes the interest to the fact the event gets back to motorcycling roots.

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
The 2017 Mama Tried Motorcycle Show. Harley-Davidson photo by Josh Kurpius.

“Racing really helped build the Midwest motorcycle community. It was about guys getting back from the war, making the bikes their own, and getting out to the track. It’s been going on for 114 years, but there is a huge revitalized interest in it,” Chris says. “The bikes on display are beautifully fabricated. The craftsmanship of these builders is mind-blowing. You can’t fake these bikes. They really are works of art.”

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
Record crowds turned out for the 2017 Mama Tried Motorcycle Show. Harley-Davidson photo by Josh Kurpius.

The show is becoming a must-do for motorcycle fans, and was a huge success (save for the last-minute cancellation due to unusually warm temps of Slippery Sunday ice racing). Food trucks, motorcycle vendors, beer stands, tintype photo booths, live music, tattoo stations — the Midwest knows how to host a winter party.

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show
There's always something you didn't expect to see. Harley-Davidson photo by Josh Kurpius.

All of this participation has to translate into more motorcycle sales, right? I asked Urban his thoughts.

“Things ebb and flow. Economics, politics,” he said. “But we see the opportunity. The passion is there. All this positive energy, it just makes us feel good.”