Ice, ice, baby

Lo­cal mo­tor­cy­cle racers heat up frozen lake

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - AUTOS - PAUL WIL­LIAMSON

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.

PHO­TOS BY PAUL ‘WILLY’ WIL­LIAMSON / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

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.

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