There are only four or five months of good riding weather in the American Midwest. The rest of the time, motorcyclists keep sane by wrenching. And nothing offers more inspiration than the annual Mama Tried motorcycle show in Milwaukee.
The sixth edition of the show happened just last weekend, shortly after the polar vortex was done ravaging the region. Visitors huddled away from the snow inside the Eagles Club—a ballroom and live music venue with a pseudo-psychedelic interior.

Inside, custom motorcycles of all shapes and sizes filled the upstairs ballroom, with various moto-centric vendors lining the many hallways. Mama Tried is an invitational, but there’s no set theme; we saw choppers, bobbers, flat trackers, land speeders, café racers and a number of undefinable oddities.

The show might happen in the chilly Midwest, but builders and visitors come from all over. It’s an eclectic smorgasbord of awesome machinery and interesting folks. And while you can circumnavigate the show’s square footage in a matter of minutes, it takes time to take it all in properly.
Here’s a brief look at our favorites from the show.

Brad Richard’s 1962 Harley-Davidson FL What sort of bike does Harley-Davidson’s Vice President of Styling and Design build in his down time? A vintage panhead, obviously. This FL hardtail is flawless, front to back—from the deep green fuel tank right through to the quirky exhaust bends.

Gunn Designs’ 2018 BMW R nineT We featured Dan Riley’s R nineT flat tracker before, but now he’s reworked it to be even radder. The new version features a Hookie Co. R nineT body kit, matched up to a tailpiece of Dan’s own design, with a Saddlemen seat pad. Seeing this collaboration between two of the sharpest designers in the biz up close was a real treat.

Cabana Dan’s 1928 Harley-Davidson Peashooter Nicknamed ‘Social Climber,’ this vintage H-D hillclimber drew more than a few stares at the show. Many of its details are period correct, but look closer, and you’ll notice the tank has shrunk, the frame has stretched, and there’s a host of neat little details. Dan also gets 10/10 for the drilled headstock and stunning tank graphics.

Chi-Jer’s Vintage Bike Works’ 1974 ½ Penton 400 Would you have the guts to mod a classic Penton scrambler, or would you simply restore it? PJ over at Chi-Jers wasn’t afraid to let loose, and knocked it out the park with this Penton flat-tracker. The tank swap and mono-shock conversion are on point, but the really nice bit is John Penton’s signature on the tank. “He dug it,” PJ tells us. “I was utterly humbled.”

40cal Custom’s 1929 Harley-Davidson Model JD This contraption has the distinction of not only being one of the rarest motors at the show, but also of showcasing some of the best fabrication work. There’s precious little info out there on this bike, but reports are that the entire frame is a one-off. Our favorite bit? Everything on the in-frame tank—from the leather straps right down to the plumbing.

Church of Choppers’ 1991 ZX750R This brutal Ninja from master builder, Jeff Wright, ticks all of our early-90s boxes. With most of the fairing gone, all of its naughty bits are on full display, giving you the sense that Jeff built this one just for the fun of it. Best of all, we hear it was a total barn find.

1975 Harley-Davidson Sportster by Gardar Eide Einarsson and Trevor Wade This Sportster’s perfect stance and bare metalwork immediately grabbed our attention. But it’s the details that kept us circling back to it. Note the subtle artwork on the fuel tank, the super-sano cockpit, and the pass-through two-into-one exhaust.

Utopeia Moto Company’s 1977 Honda Z50 Chris Tope calls this the ‘Baby Black Bomber,’ and it’s cute as heck. This minibike’s sporting an 88 cc kit, clubman bars, a CZ100 tank and a classic cafe racer tail section. After all, who doesn’t love a cafe racer that they can carry off under their arm?

Federal Moto’s 2005 Suzuki DR-Z400S This custom enduro was the result of a client asking Federal Moto to build something similar to their ‘Sunshine State of Mind‘ Yamaha SR500. Federal obliged, but decided to retain all of its off-road functionality. It still has its 21F/18R wheels and long travel suspension, but it’s a whole lot prettier now.

Noise Cycles’ 2017 S&S Cycle Knucklehead Scott Jones brought one of the rowdiest Harley hooligan flat trackers to Mama Tried that we’ve ever seen. But he also snuck this into the show—a charming little chop packing an S&S powerplant. The proportions are perfect, there’s not a hair out of place, and the artwork on the tank is nothing short of exquisite.

We also spotted a new Kawasaki from Kevin Dunworth, a drool worthy Yamaha RD400 (above), Analog Motorcycles’ Ducati 250, and the prototype Custom Works Zon BMW we first saw at Mooneyes last year. And we caught a screening of Oil in the Blood, too.

But Mama Tried is bigger than just the bikes on hand. It’s a full Milwaukee takeover, filled with pre-parties, after-parties and endless hangs. We ran into friends we didn’t know would be there, and made a ton of new friends too.
Here’s looking forward to next year.
Mama Tried | Facebook | Instagram | Studio images by David Carlo, atmos images by Wes Reyneke | Wes visited Mama Tried as a guest of Harley-Davidson




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