It all started with a text message out of the blue from my buddy, Morgan: “Would you ride Super Hooligans?”
Does a dog lick his…
Of course he does, and of course I would, but of course I responded in a more professional manner: “Abso-f*cking-lutely! I’ve always wanted to give it a go. But why do you ask?”
“No reason…” he says.
Uhh, what? You’re just going to leave me hanging there like that? C’mon, guy.
A couple days later, I got a phone call from our own former EiC, Kevin Duke, inquiring more how I felt about the possibility, and what kind of flat track experience I had. I’d ridden some flat track before, but it didn’t go too far past helping a friend burn a track into an open field, and riding it occasionally – definitely nothing organized, and nothing anywhere near the level or speed current Super Hooligan racers are circulating the tracks.
These guys here, Jimmy Hill (88), Jordan Baber (57) and Andy DiBrino (62) are no slugs, and they’re the same guys I’d be racing against all weekend.
I grew up riding dirtbikes, and I’m no stranger to letting the rear end step out on me. The feeling of breaking it loose like that is quite fun – especially if you can drag out a big ol’ controlled arc. I’ve always thought flat tracking would come somewhat naturally to me. Although catching up with Kevin was nice and I was glad to hear he’s enjoying his new gig, we were still just spitballing the idea of racing. It wasn’t until I got a phone call from Jeff Millard from Indian’s PR company, that this whole racing Super Hooligan thing actually started becoming a reality.
As soon as we hung up, I called my buddy/mentor/mechanic/Godfather, Torres, to tell him the news. He’s an old moto guy who raced motocross growing up, but builds choppers now, and knows more about motorcycles than anyone I’ve ever known. His brain is a moto encyclopedia, and his shop/garage could easily double as a motorcycle museum. Like me, he’s ridden and raced just about every form of motorcycle except for flat track but has always been fascinated by it. So naturally, he was as excited about this Super Hooligan opportunity as I was.
Some time went by before I heard anything back from Jeff. As stoked as I was about the prospect of racing aboard such a cool and dialed in RSD/Indian machine, I still didn’t want to count any of my chickens before they hatched. Then came the official call…
“We’ve got you a bike, it’s all set,” Jeff said. “Roland and his crew are working on it as we speak, and it will be ready after the weekend.” It was the Friday before Fourth of July (my favorite holiday of the year), so I was already excited about the upcoming week, but this news upped my excitement level to 11. My victory dance with all its fist pumping could have looked like I challenged a swarm of pissed-off bees to a fist fight. Good thing no one else was there to witness it, I probably looked like I was having a seizure.
Well, shoot. Now it’s official. It’s real and actually happening. After the initial excitement of the news wore off, the “what the hell have I gotten myself into” thoughts sunk in. To top it all off, the guy whose ride I was replacing is none other than Robbie Maddison. You know, that guy who surfed a wave on his dirtbike? The same Robbie Maddison who backflipped the Tower Bridge in London, James Bond’s motorcycle stunt double, and owner of countless world records and X Games gold medals. Yeah, that Robbie Maddison. So, you know, no pressure…
Robbie Maddison, the guy whose spot on the RSD/Indian Super Hooligan team I’d be taking. How am I supposed to fill those shoes? What the hell have I gotten myself into?
Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve never really done this whole flat track thing before, so as you can imagine, I was freaking out a little bit. I picked the bike up from RSD on Tuesday, July 3rd and had to have it back to them by the end of Friday, which meant I had less than three days to practice and get as comfortable as possible before lining up at my first Super Hooligans race the following Friday – Friday the 13th at The Wild One in Castle Rock, Washington. Jeff joked around and asked me if I was sure I wanted to make my debut on that day, given some people’s superstitions surrounding it and all, but 13 is actually my favorite number…so, if anything, it was a sign to go for it.
Jeff asked me what number I’d like to run. Naturally, 13 was my top choice, and if it wasn’t available (it wasn’t), my second choice was 667 – one up on the Devil. It seemed appropriate.
Did you think I was joking? This would be my Super Hooligans flat track debut but not my first time dancing with the Devil. So, I figured 667 might give me some sort of a leg up…
“Ha! You’re crazy,” Jeff remarked. I thought Indian was crazy for even considering me for a spot on the team. I told Jeff I’ve even elected to sit in the 13th row of seats on airplanes before – I’m still here, aren’t I? Some planes or buildings skip to 14 after 12, but people in or on that aisle/floor know which one they’re really on… So, what difference does it make? Now, with the bike in my possession, I had to get some seat time so as not to get my ass thrown directly into the fire.
Where would I find the time, let alone a track that was open for practice on this national holiday, America’s birthday? To my surprise, Milestone MX was open in the morning, so I loaded up the truck and set out on down the road. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t get much sleep that night, knowing I had but two days to prepare before lining up against a boat-load of fast guys. The “what the hell have I gotten myself into” vibe was strong, but I was super eager to get out there. I’ve been to dozens of Super Hooligans races before as a spectator, and even have a few friends who’ve been racing it. So, I had an idea of what to expect, but expectations and reality don’t always pan out to be the same.
My first day with the RSD/Indian Scout. I looked like a total jabroni out there with road racing leather pants, an old shredded Shift textile jacket, and various other mix and matched on- and off-road gear. I didn’t care, though. It was my first time out riding and getting a feel for the bike. If I was going to crash (which I did, twice), I wasn’t going to ruin any pretty new gear I had. It was also between 103 and 106 degrees – brutal conditions.
After speaking with Torres, and telling him this whole thing was actually happening, he instantly told me, “dude, you need a hot shoe.” Where the hell was I going to get a hot shoe with such short notice? There’s guys like Gary Kinzler and his company, Lightshoe, who makes hot shoes for flat trackers out of South Dakota, but he custom makes the shoes to fit your boot perfectly, and you need to send him your boot – a process that takes up to a couple weeks. Obviously, I didn’t have that kind of time and needed to make something happen in the meantime. I reached out to a few buddies racing the series to see if they had anything lying around I could borrow. Anything was better than nothing.
Fortunately, my friend Jimi came through in the clutch and said I could use his old hot shoe. It was totally thrashed, with layers of incredibly sharp, ground down stainless steel, barely hanging onto each other anymore – parts of it looked more like a prison shank than anything else. But like I said, anything was better than nothing, and I was super thankful.
In a couple of hours, Torres and I took Jimi’s shoe apart (it was barely holding on together in parts to begin with), removed three layers of jagged stainless steel off the bottom, cut a new sole and welded it all back together. It’s not the shoe Cinderella would wear to the ball, but it would suit my needs just fine. Anything was better than nothing.
It’s not the prettiest job, but it’s just metal that would be skimming along on the ground, so it didn’t need to look good. It just needed to work. We also shaved a good pound of weight off it, too. Not bad for two hours worth of work, eh? Not for a couple of amateurs, anyhow. What would I do without my friends?
My first day was more about getting familiar with the bike, its controls, and how it handled. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one at the flat track that day, and I was able to chat up some other faster guys and get a few tips and pointers. I spun about 100 laps in 100+ degree heat, continuously trying to work on my form – elbows up! It wasn’t the prettiest practice, but I felt I was going pretty good – until I got passed as if I were standing still. That’s all right though, I’d tell myself. It was only my first time, ever. I would try to follow the faster guys, and mimic what they were doing.
I crashed twice. Both were lowsides, fortunately (and one of them hurt pretty damn good), but I was glad to get that out of the way early. I was always told growing up, if you’re not crashing, you’re not trying hard enough. I’m just happy they weren’t highsides, though I had a couple squirrely moments in that department, too. Weighing in at just under 500 lbs, the RSD/Indian Scout racebikes are still heavy motorcycles, and definitely not something you want coming crashing down onto you. Day one was in the books, and I was just glad I survived.
Day two I rode around in circles until long after the sun went down. Despite my efforts to convince them to let me stay longer, the track crew kicked me out.
Day two, the next day, I went back to Milestone in the evening and rode up until they closed. I got my feet wet the day before and had a better idea for what I was doing, how the bike handled, what to expect, etc. Now, it was time to push it a little harder, because after all, the next time I swung a leg over the thing would be in Washington. I focused on hitting my marks, staying on the gas longer and deeper into the corners, pitching the bike sideways, turning it, and getting back on the gas – over and over and over again, until it was already dark and the track crew was kicking me out. I told them not to worry, I’d lock up – ha! – yeah right. No dice.
Flat track is crazy. I’m pretty quick on the asphalt, and even quicker in the dirt, but flat track is a whole other animal. It requires you to manipulate the bike in a way that’s unlike anything else and goes against everything you’ve ever been taught about riding before. But it’s also super addictive once you get a feel for it, and who knew there were four turns within that dirt oval – not me. Day two and a hundred more laps down, it was all the practice I was going to get before I’d be fighting for real estate against other, faster riders. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I’d be finding out soon enough. Here’s part of our RSD/Indian pit up in Castle Rock, Washington.
The Roland Sands Designs Super Hooligans National Championship is now in its third season. In its debut year, there weren’t too many riders, well, because it was new. The second year saw a few more riders come out, but the series was still largely in its infancy. This year, numbers are up big time, and there are a lot of fast guys coming out to race. It took a couple years to take up mostly because riders were busy building and getting their bikes ready for competition. Aside from a series of safety precautions, the rules are pretty loose, and the class is open to 750cc and up street bikes only, open to all manufacturers.
There was always a light and easy-going mood. We were going to be racing these motorcycles and risking our lives on them, which meant we’d have to get intimate and build up some trust with them first. Here, teammate Jordan Graham demonstrates his bonding technique. We were there after all to have fun and then race motorcycles – in that order. But racing motorcycles is fun. It’s a win-win situation all around.
RSD/Indian team mechanic, driver and give-you-the-shirt-off-his-back type guy, Andy, who was actually also a rock star back in the ’90s, would serenade us with inappropriate jingles all weekend long. Clearly, he was a hit with the ladies.
And the boys, too.
He was also great with the kids, showing and educating them about motorcycles – even letting them twist some throttles.
There are even considerable contingencies, purse money and prizes now from Indian, Dunlop, Bell, K&N and Law Tigers. Being an open class, with actual cash up for grabs, the Super Hooligan series has attracted a lot of fast guys, American Flat Track pro-card holders even, to come pick our pockets and take our lunch money. Well, maybe not mine, but the other fast, non-pro guys’. There’s been some debate amongst riders about this, as the series was supposed to be more about having fun and designed to get the average Joe out racing, but ultimately it’s better this way because it breeds healthy competition and forces the slower guys – like me – to go faster.
The Wild One at Castle Rock Raceway, was a Super Hooligans double-header with racing both Friday and Saturday night. After meeting and getting acquainted with the rest of the team, we’d have two practice sessions consisting of three laps each before the heat races, which were eight laps. Castle Rock Raceway is a 3/8-mile dirt track with a storied history dating back to the ‘60s. Plus, it’s waaay bigger than the hoolahoop of a dirt-lot track I practiced on at Milestone. It’s a real, authentic, legit dirt track. Being much longer and wider meant the speeds (and risk) were considerably higher, reaching 65-70 mph down the straights.
The RSD/Indian team before our first heat races Friday night. Darwin Yager (75), AJ Kirkpatrick (12), Jordan Graham (47), myself, and Beau Manley (818) – what a bunch of schmucks!
These guys, plus Beau, Cam, Andy and Dan from RSD are a great group of guys who sure know how to have a good time.
I was a little nervous that two practices of just three laps each wouldn’t be enough to get comfortable before going for it, but to my surprise, I actually enjoyed riding the longer track much more. Everything felt way better and the increased speed, especially in the corners, made sliding, drifting and rolling on the gas much more predictable and controlled. Chopping the throttle off the straights also pitched the bike sideways more smoothly and predictably. If you took a close look at the track’s surface, though, it was hardly smooth at all. With practice finished, I was feeling good – definitely a little nervous, but good.
It was time for my heat race, and I was up against some real slugs, like last year’s Super Hooligan National Champion, #1 Andy DiBrino, and former AMA American Flat Track Pro Grand National Champion, Joe Kopp. No sweat, right? What the hell have I gotten myself into…
I’m not so sure, but the goal was to go fast, turn left and not crash. This is too much fun.
The top four finishers from each heat race qualified directly into the Main. As we lined up bar-to-bar at the starting line, bike in gear and revs climbing, waiting for the green light that would unleash the sound and fury of seven guys all hurling their 400+ pound motorcycles at the same corner, all I could think about was if I remembered to wear a clean pair of underwear, to save myself any further potential embarrassment when the paramedics peeled me off the track after a first turn pileup, which isn’t all that uncommon in Super Hooligan races. Just kidding, but seriously…
My goal for the weekend was to A) not crash, and B) not finish last. The green light illuminated, and we were off, furiously racing into turn one, quickly running out of real estate. I came out of turn two clean, running third or fourth – so far so good. After a lap or two though, the faster guys were all over me, and I was doing what I could just to hit my marks and keep up a good pace. So long as I stayed in the groove, I’d be ok. Passing on the outside in the loose stuff was difficult, but definitely possible for those with the cojones. I ultimately got muscled out, passed and finished fifth, missing qualifying directly into the main by just one position. Bummer, but man, was that fun!
Some races were dustier than others, but having room to let the Indian Scouts eat at Castle Rock Raceway compared to Milestone was great. That’s me running second in the photo behind ex-pro motocrosser Kevin Rookstool, third or fourth in the race.
It was off to the B Main for me. That’s all right, it was only my first night racing flat track, after all. I’m just glad I didn’t crash. Fast forward to my final race of the night: The green light flashes on, and we’re off again. I come out of turn two this time in second, and was able to maintain all the way to the finish. A podium finish for second-fastest slow guy was more than I could have hoped for, and I was stoked. With night one in the books, I knew where I stood more or less compared to the rest of the field, and I knew where I needed to improve tomorrow.
Before the racing would start up again, we had some time to kill. Naturally, one thing led to another and resulted in, well, this – ha! That’s Jordan Baber’s dad, and that’s his own homemade venison jerky. He brings pounds of with him to all the races for people to share. Although that’s not typically how you have to get it…
It sure was delicious though. Jordan Baber races a Harley-Davidson Sportster, so a little H-D/Indian ribbing and trash talk back and forth always makes for a good time. In the end, everyone gets along like family – a big, dysfunctional, can’t-take-anywhere-in-public-without-making-a-scene family. It’s not called Super Hooligans for nothing…
We also had to perform a couple last minute modifications, like grind down the inside of the swingarm on AJ’s bike. Because Castle Rock Raceway track was much longer than most other tracks the Super Hooligan series races on, the increased speeds down the straights and centrifugal force of the wheel spinning ballooned the tire out more in the center, effectively increasing its circumference and causing it to rub on the swingarm. Nothing a borrowed Harbor Freight angle grinder can’t fix, though.
Saturday’s racing format would be the same as Friday’s, except now there were almost twice as many Hooligans lining up. I had my work cut out for me. The practice sessions went well, and my heat race was stacked yet again, this time with DiBrino again and AFT Singles Pro, Scott Baker, Indian Wrecking Crew Factory Racer Brad Baker’s brother. I wasn’t getting cut any new-guy slack. Oh, boy, here we go…
I missed the shift into second off the start and found myself running in sixth. I did my best to keep the front runners somewhat close, but they pulled away and left me in the dust, showing me how steep of a learning curve I had ahead of me. I was all over the guy in fifth, yo-yoing back and forth for a while, when I managed a last lap pass, still one position shy of qualifying into the A Main – damnit! That’s ok, whatever. Still didn’t crash and still didn’t finish last – we were doing well! Off to the B Main, again.
For Saturday night, I went with the hi-viz orange, to make sure everyone saw me when I’d ultimately (almost) crash…
This time I nailed the start and came out of turn two second, right on the leader’s ass. For the first lap or two I thought I’d be able to make something happen and possibly edge him out, until I got a little too excited with the throttle coming down the front straight and into turn one. I was feeling good and hitting my marks, so I figured I’d try and push the envelope – and my braking point – a little further and deeper into the turn. This would be my last race of the weekend, so I was going to leave it all on the track.
Ready or not, here I come!
I held the throttle wide open about ten feet further down the straight than I had any lap before, feeling confident and trying to close the gap on the leader, until that extra bit of speed had me pushing off the groove and into the loose stuff. There I was, suddenly sliding towards the wall at 60 mph or so. The front tire had lost all traction and for a split moment I was just along for the ride. It’s funny, though, I lost the front traction, but I didn’t lose control of the bike. You’d think one would be the result of the other, but not in flat track. I was sliding directly towards the corner of turn two, where there was a big grandstand of spectators, as well as the track’s entry and exit. In addition to all the spectators, all the top hooligan racers were staged there for the A Main and were watching us slowpokes duke it out.
So there I was, barreling towards the wall, quickly running out of real estate. Somehow my motorcycle-spidey-senses kicked in, and rather than target fixating on the fast approaching wall, I looked left and grabbed a fist full of throttle, mere inches from a full yard sale of a crash. The rest of what happened next is based off of what other racers and spectators told me. I do have my own recollection, but it all happened so fast that it’s less exciting from my point of view.
Everybody in the corner saw me coming and they were preparing to get their money’s worth and witness the worst. A fellow RSD/Indian teammate told me there was a collective “oh, shit” gasp from the crowd as the people and racers along the fence backed up and braced themselves. Andy DiBrino almost fell off his bike as he tried to move out of harm’s way. That “oh, shit” moment turned into a collective “YEAH!!!” as I drifted through the corner. I was totally slideways and one of the spectators told me right after the race, he was on the wall and my rear tire was less than six inches from it. I powered through the corner and onto the back straight, and continued chasing the guy in front of me, as if I hadn’t just danced with the Devil – the race was still on, after all. Since I was in the loose stuff and on the gas, I guess I managed to throw some pretty impressive roost, and the dust cloud from it billowed over the wall and into the crowd.
Left only. Check out those nipples. It kind of reminds me of a friend I have, who lost his left nipple after a direct hit from a Roman Candle war burned it off on Fourth of July. True story…
Everyone apparently was going nuts, completely shocked that I somehow managed to pull that one off. I got passed and pushed back into third because of it, but every single lap after that, that whole section of the track was cheering wildly each time I came around. They didn’t care what position I was in. When the race was finally over, I finished third. As I proceeded to exit the track, I was met by a crowd of at least a dozen people and other riders who came up to congratulate me on the save, saying how that was some of the gnarliest shit they’ve ever seen. Everyone thought I was done for, and they were expecting a full yard sale. I was told that Joe Kopp, former AMA Grand National Flat Track Champion, said it was “the most epic save he’s ever seen.” I’m not sure I believe him…
Still, knowing how fast I was going, how hard I was on the gas, and how close I was to the wall, I’m sure it did look pretty cool. I just wish there were photos or footage that captured it, so I could see for myself! So, I apologize for painting this picture of this epic save without any photographic evidence to support it. I figure had it been during the A Main, there’d be all sorts of footage, but since it was during the slow-guy race, most photographers had their attention elsewhere.
Like, on the RSD Super Hooligan girls…
I finished both nights on the podium, the “fastest slow guy” podium, but podium nonetheless – not bad for my first time out. But the real highlight of the weekend for me was that save. I may not have made the A Main with all the fast guys, but I certainly left my mark on the evening and became a local celebrity, even if it was only for the rest of the night. I was on cloud nine. The rest of the RSD/Indian team qualified for the A Main and as a whole, we all had a great weekend – not one single crash.
Look at that group of handsome devils.
Flat track racing is currently the fastest growing sport on two wheels, and the Roland Sands Designs Super Hooligans National Championship is really helping it evolve. The SHNC is a series where anyone and everyone is encouraged to come out to give racing a shot – so long as you have a 750cc or bigger street bike. There are no frame-up custom-fabricated or geometrically-altered race bikes allowed, although there’s virtually no limit to how you can customize your bike with various bolt on parts. Currently, there are nine Super Hooligan rounds, which are mostly located on the West Coast, but with the series’ growing popularity and awareness, I’m sure it will grow and spread to other parts of the country.
And that’s a wrap for Rounds 4 and 5 of the Roland Sands Design Super Hooligan National Championship Series in Castle Rock, Washington. Thanks to all who made it happen.
Right now, there are other flat track hotbeds, primarily in the Midwest, but racers and Average Joes from all over are jumping in on the fun. I’m super excited about continuing to race this season and can’t wait line up again with the RSD/Indian Super Hooligan Team. I can’t thank Indian Motorcycle, Roland Sands Design, Jeff Millard, Marc Altieri, Roland Sands, Cameron Brewer, Andy Schmidt, Dan Hartloff, Kevin Duke, Morgan Gales and the rest of the RSD/Indian team enough for all their help and support in making this dream happen, and of course I can’t forget about my Motorcycle.com team supporting me and allowing me to do this either. You guys are all the best!
RSD/Indian Super Hooligan Team Manager, Cam Brewer, congratulating Frankie Garcia with a wet willy after he won the dash for cash – a thousand bucks!
To me, racing flat track in the Super Hooligans class isn’t just about going out to race and have fun. That’s part of it, sure, but a major part of it is to help bring more awareness to the sport. There are events like The Wild One, The Appalachian Moto Jam (App Moto Jam for short), and many others including several RSD-sponsored events happening all over the country featuring flat track racing in a fun, run what you brung format. You don’t need any experience to try, and it’s all about having fun on motorcycles. This is only part one of more Super Hooligan racing tales to come. Hope you enjoyed it!
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Source: All Bikes news one