Ice, ice, baby
Local motorcycle racers heat up frozen lake
LAST Sunday, within moments of arriving at the icy motorcycle track carved into the frozen man-made lake at St. Malo Provincial Park, it became apparent this thrilling and chilling motorsport has gained some serious traction.
Back in 2010 — the last time we checked out the motorcycle ice races — these winter daredevils were typically roaring around the track on a ragtag collection of older two-stroke powered dirt bikes. More than a few of the bikes were seemingly held together with a combination of baling wire and duct tape. Nowadays, thanks to the tremendous popularity of fourstroke dirt bikes, things may not be as loud, but take my word for it, they are much faster.
Make no mistake about it, ripping around an icy track on a motorcycle is not for everyone. In fact, the majority of the more than 30 riders who make up this informal group of ice demons are seasoned racers who compete in motocross, road racing and motorcycle enduro events throughout the summer months.
Out on the lake, traction is achieved via specialized metal studs called Kold Kutters that are carefully drilled into knobby tires. Pre-load is taken out of the rear suspension for better handling in the corners. Carburetors have to be rejetted to compensate for the cold temperature.
The bikes are newer and the track is longer, but one thing has remained constant: Kim Houde, a former Canadian motocross champion and Manitoba’s most celebrated rider, is still the one to watch on the track.
Houde’s birth certificate reveals he’s north of 50, but you sure wouldn’t know it as he roars past riders half his age aboard a hopped-up Honda he purpose-built for the ice.
Houde’s daughter, Ami, a professional motocross racer, has also caught the ice-racing bug and was observed schooling more than a few of the boys.
Another racer who had the crowd’s attention was 39-year-old Jason Krahn. He’s one of the few riders still competing on a two-stroke bike that sounds like a chainsaw on steroids. When Krahn hit the track, all eyes were on both him and Kim Houde as the veteran speedsters literally tore up the course.
Nobody complains when Krahn beats up the track, though. He’s a diesel mechanic, welder and fabricator at Wajax Power Systems, and this winter he put together a rusty but trusty 1993 GMC Sierra plow truck the group has been relying on to clear the track.
Krahn’s 15-year-old son, Cole, is also a champion motocross racer who can really rip on the ice. Cole also has the distinction of being the only rider I witnessed take a spill. Thanks to the combination of motorcycle mojo and the protective gear he was wearing, Cole was back on the bike in moments, seemingly no worse for wear and certainly not any slower.
The question you’re likely asking is how on Earth do these riders stay warm while roaring around a track carved into a lake at speeds that easily exceed 100 km/h?
“Once the adrenaline kicks in, you don’t even notice the cold,” Jason Krahn said. “Things heat up in a hurry.”
Although the group doesn’t have a formal schedule, they will host a number of Sunday rides at St. Malo throughout the remainder of the winter.
Jason Krahn is one of the few riders still running a two-stroke dirt bike. He is also among the fastest.
Jason Krahn, left, built up this 1993 GMC Sierra to plow the icy track on the manmade
lake at St. Malo. The truck also gives him a perfect place
to warm up after racing.
Ami Houde, left, with father Kim and his Honda ice-racer.