Normally, winter means the motorcycles are put away in storage, but for some, the cold season means putting spikes on tires and riding on ice. Robert Nightingale, founder of Malle London, is a motorcycle enthusiast who also happens to know his way around a camera. With an unseasonably cold flurry hitting the eastern portion of the country this year, the ice conditions were particularly good near Nightingale’s Manhattan home. This presented an opportunity for him to combine his two loves. Here, he sends us his first-hand account of the men and machines that race on the ice. He was also kind enough to film his adventure, for a short piece he calls, “The Kings of Winter.”
We got tipped off about a rare motorcycle ice race – up on the Great Sacandaga Lake, not far from the Canadian border. This race only happens when the ice is over 18 inches thick. That week the ice was just thick enough and we got word that the race would go ahead. So we headed up from Manhattan with a camera, to film the riders of the ice race.
In the middle of the huge lake were a group of trucks, trailers and men tuning their machines in the bitter cold. Three snowplow trucks crafted the track from the ice and snow. There were a mix of modified dirt bikes, quads and 3-wheeled side cars. Wheel-to-wheel and shoulder-to-shoulder they raced, at speeds of up to 90 mph on the hard surface. With every heat it got faster and more competitive. The lines were tighter, the riding positions more acute and the track became a chaotic cloud of shards of torn ice, snow, exhaust fumes and the vapor of fuel lingered in the mouth.
If the conditions are right and you can find the lake, this is pure racing – few rules, no sponsorships, no hotdogs or champagne podium finishes. Just a group of gentlemen in the middle of a lake, trying to win.