Earlier this year, Dan Raleigh told me he somehow, this still baffles me, booked the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna, MN , an hour south of the Twin Cities, and was planning a ride-what-you-brought, no rules, totally free event he was calling Moto Mania on August 1st. Dan already organized a monthly bike night at the local VFW called Moto Mania so I’m not sure why he didn’t pick another name. Regardless, I was excited.
I was so excited that I bought another motorcycle. I was originally looking at dirt bikes but ended up buying a 2003 XL883R which I immediately went to work turning it into a scrambler/tracker style bike. Having no dirt bike, flat track, or off-road motorcycle experience, I rode as many gravel roads as I could to prepare myself.
I headed down the evening before the event to help with setup and get a few laps in. About a dozen of us were there and had a blast riding around and hanging out before we all drank too much and passed out. I really don’t know who thought bringing a big bottle of 151 was a good idea.
On the big day, a mix of motorcycles and some 4-wheeled vehicles (including military Humvees!) took to the dusty track and it gave the event a definite Mad Max vibe. Every kind of motorcycle you can imagine was there including hardtailed choppers, café racers, Harleys with apehangers, sport bikes, dirt bikes, bikes with sidecars, mini-bikes, and even a scooter! 3-wheelers, ATVs, and UTVs were also represented. I got the opportunity to drive a 4-passenger UTV around the track a few times, drifting it through the corners, and that was a definite highlight. A few cars, trucks, a jeep, and a van went around the track too. My 883 ran great but I was slower than most of the people out there due to my lack of experience and comfort on dirt. It still felt fast to me and I had a great time!
There were a few accidents and there were broken bones and broken bikes but the hashtag that kept popping up on Instagram posts after the event was true, #noonedied. Josh, a good friend of Dan, was hurt the worst. He crashed and ended up with a broken collar bone, 4 broken ribs, a slightly punctured lung, and some scrapes. After getting patched up, he returned to the track later that night with his arm in a sling to watch the shenanigans including seeing 8 people riding on Jake’s Harley. A few other guys I know including Scott, Andy, and Kevin also suffered some minor injuries. Everyone stayed.
There were no organized races except for a few slow rides at the end. This was simply a ride as fast (or slow) as you want for as long as you want type of day. You could jump on the track anytime at will. There were no tech inspections and no specific rider or gear requirements. Really, there were no rules at all. This was simply a group of (semi-) responsible adults (and one or two kids) enjoying the freedom to have fun any way they please and take personal responsibility for their own actions.
Why that concept has become so strange and foreign these days is something to really stop and think about. Why is it so shocking that an event like this can even take place in a legit venue with full permission of everyone involved including the town where it was held? I wish it was more common.
Dan’s vision of a completely free and unique motorcycle event became a reality on August 1st 2015. “Free” has many meanings and they all applied to Moto Mania. To learn more about how and why he created it, here’s a little Q&A with the man himself.
How would you describe Moto Mania? ‘Ride in, show off, camp out’. That was the tagline that I used on all my postings and letters to supporters and sponsors. I think it paints a clear enough picture for what to expect with an event like this. I wanted to throw a party where a bunch of people could get together and show each other what’s up. Whatever you ride, there is always that thing inside you that makes you question ‘what are you made of – what can you really do with this bike?.... ’ Moto Mania is the answer I suppose.
Why did you create this event? The idea for Moto Mania stemmed from going to a lot of local bike events and bike nights and ultimately asking the question…what’s next? It is for sure cool to get a lot of bikes together and have some beers to talk about how sweet the bikes are, but it ultimately gets to a point where you want to see what your bikes can do. Often times the best parts of those bike shows are when people arrive or leave on their bikes. Seeing and hearing what the bikes can do is a big part of the experience. The idea for Moto Mania came from wanting to ‘do something more’ with your bike. It started as ridiculous conversation with other guys along the lines of ‘imagine if we had a whole place to ourselves where we could do whatever we wanted on bikes?’….
How did you find the location and how did you convince them to let the event happen? After I got the idea in my head that I wanted to put together an event where me and a bunch of my buddies could get silly on bikes, I just started Googling ‘race tracks in Minnesota’. Most results led me to tracks that were either closed down or being used full time and were too expensive to rent. A couple of the tracks outright told me that the idea I had was not possible. I stumbled upon a website that listed a dirt track about an hour south of the Twin Cities and the website had a phone number to call. I called it up and chatted with the owner. I laid out my plan (which basically was ‘Bring down a bunch of bikes, camp out, do whatever we want’)…and he said yes. I subsequently went down a few times to visit the track, chat with local representatives, get together the required paperwork (insurance, rental fees, etc..) and it came together. There was really not a lot of convincing that needed to happen (or at least from my perspective). I am a big fan of just putting myself out there and expecting good things to happen. So many times I was asked during the weekend ‘How did you make this happen?’ and my response was generally ‘Well, nobody else was doing it.’ – It never felt like it was ever difficult or overwhelming to put together. It was a lot of work, but it was a blast at every turn.
What were some of your favorite experiences during the event? The whole weekend was a favorite experience – if you were there you would know what I mean. From the ride down to the event on Friday, to the last clean up on Sunday afternoon – the whole event was excellent. Military Humvees and bikes sharing a track, old dirtbikes-choppers-café racers-scooters-3 wheelers-trucks-vans-hover round scooters-atvs-drones, all tearing it up and having a good time. The biggest compliment that I had all weekend was that nobody said something to the effect of ‘This is going to be the next (fill in the blank)’ – Moto Mania stood on its own and was like nothing else I’ve ever been a part of.
What surprised you during the event? I may have set up the pieces, but it was the people there that made Moto Mania what it was. The whole vibe of the weekend was cool and everyone took care of one another at a level that I’ve never seen before. Any worries that I may have had that people might get too ridiculous out on the track were alleviated when I saw guys slow down to let the kids on their 50cc bikes have their moments on the track. When someone took a digger or wiped out, everyone naturally took a break and helped their buddies out. I thought I would be a lot more stressed out about all the bad shit that might happen, but just the whole mood of the weekend was really, really cool.
Are you planning a Moto Mania 2 for next year? Planning for “Moto Mania: The Big Deuce” started on Monday morning after the weekend. I’ve already got the call from the track owners and the City that they want Moto Mania back again, so it’s on! I’ve always wanted to keep the event manageable and incorporated with vendors and sponsors that I trust and admire, and that is not going to change. How do you top racing bikes with Humvees blaring ‘Flight of the Valkyries’ while being chased by a drone?....stay tuned.
Who else was involved and who would you like to thank? Planning and ideas came from a lot of nights with beer and empty promises with my two friends Josh and Dominic. They have been instrumental with helping to support the efforts of setting up Moto Mania. The event was shaped over a lot of conversations with those two guys. Thanks for all the support, boys!
Asking for support and sponsorship is not an easy thing to do. To go to a business or organization and request help is a humbling experience. I never knew what to expect when I wrote letters to businesses, describing Moto Mania and hoping that they ‘got it’. I didn’t send out a lot of letters asking for support, but I did write and call the businesses that I trust and admire. When asking for support, even if you get an email back saying ‘We can’t help; but good luck’ means a lot. That being said, I was overwhelmed with the support that I received from the following vendors:
Heavy Clothing: They’ve been Moto Mania supporters from day one. They were the first company that I called to ask for support and Zac was on board right from the beginning. Heavy has been instrumental to the success of Moto Mania. It’s hard to ignore the impact that Heavy has had on the bike scene. Thanks, Zac.
Cycle Goods: Hans has been quietly making the best metal, hand crafted cycle and clothing gear in the business. He has donated some great work to Moto Mania and continues to be a huge supporter of the bike community. Besides making great products, he is one of the best guys around. Thanks, Hans.
Baas Metal Craft: Kevin ‘Teach’ Baas approached me to ask if he could lend support to Moto Mania. If you know his name, you know his work in the bike community. I was floored when he wanted to help support the event and was overwhelmed when he produced a handmade sign for Moto Mania. He invited me out to his home to pick up the sign and I consider it an honor that he has been a supporter. Thanks, Kevin.
Lowbrow Customs: Tremendous support from this company. I wrote a letter and asked for any support that they could offer and they came through with an overwhelming response. I received two large boxes full of gear, parts, and materials and a letter that said ‘have a blast’. They are a huge force in the bike scene and I am more than grateful that they offer their support toward this event. Thank you, Lowbrow.
Biltwell: A company that is a force in the bike community. I had no idea what to expect when I contacted them (I felt as if it was a bit of a longshot) and they came through with way more than what I hoped for. They sent along a box full of gear and banners and tremendous support from their customer service department team. Thank you, Biltwell.
Café Racers of Instagram: A HUGE presence on Instagram, I was shocked to learn that they were based out of my backyard (Minneapolis). I reached out to them to see if they could offer support through their connections on social media, and was stoked to hear that they would not only help to spread the word, but that they would be there in person at the event. Great guys doing tremendous work for the bike community. Thanks, CROIG.
Neanderthal Moto: A company that I reached out to through Instagram because I appreciated what they were involved in with their support of the bike community. I told them about Moto Mania and their response has been outstanding. They sent along product for the event and have been a great supporter of Moto Mania through their online contacts. Thanks, Neanderthal Moto.
No Style Productions: A film and video company based in Minnesota that does production work around the country shooting sports events. They approached me to shoot Moto Mania and I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Joe, the owner, shot film and video (including the drone operation) during the event along with his assistant and helped to make Moto Mania look like a legitimate event! Thanks, Joe.
Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys: A business that was a referral from a conversation with Lowbrow Customs. I contacted them about support and ended up having multiple hour long phone conversations with their reps on advice about setting the event up right. Everything from insurance, to sponsorship, they were instrumental in helping to shape the base of what Moto Mania would become. Thank you, Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys.
Moto 76: A company that contacted my buddy Dominic about offering support. They are a bike clothing company producing some great, high quality gear. They not only offered support through getting the word out, but sent out a guy to rep their company at Moto Mania. Thanks for making the drive and for all the support.
Casey Burres: An artist and friend from the Minneapolis area. He offered his talents early on in helping to create all the artwork for Moto Mania. Anything on social media is all about presentation, and Casey’s work to make the event look professional was instrumental to its success. Moto Mania would not be what it is without his work. Thank you, Casey.
Chop Cult: I can’t say thank you enough to Chop Cult for all the support. I never thought that the site that I visit daily would be one of the first and biggest supporters of what I was trying to put together. Thank you for all you do for the bike community and for all your help with Moto Mania.
Gophers and Cheese: From day zero, Brian has been a supporter and champion of whatever crazy idea I wanted to come up with. He has promoted the hell out of Moto Mania and continues to offer support through his excellent blog and social media outlets. He was there at the first bike night I hosted at the VFW in Minneapolis (along with 2 others) and he is someone I consider a friend. Thanks for everything, Brian.
Follow Dan and Brian on Instagram, and mark your calanders: Moto Mania 2: The Big Deuce - 7/23/2016.