To some, riding a motorcycle is life-threating enough. Just the idea that there is nothing between you and the road or other drivers, but a leather jacket and a helmet is enough to scare most. To others, nothing less than pushing it to the extremes will keep them satisfied and be wanting more. Bike modifications, red-lining to the edge and knowing that if you are not on the edge of your seat, you are taking up too much space. We took a look into the high-risk life of ice track racers and uncovered one of the more adrenaline-junkie females this heart-pounding sport has to offer. We caught up with twenty-six-year-old Courtney Schmale from Sylvan Lake, Alberta, and took a look into what it takes to hold your own on the ice track. Brace yourselves boys, this might be a bit hard on your alpha-male egos.
What is Motorcycle Ice Track Racing?
"If you ride a motorcycle in North America, in the far reaches of Montana, or Colorado, you probably have something for every season. Four different jackets, shoes for all occasions, and a set of both summer & winter tires for your car. What about your sporting activities? It’s one thing to own a set of skis for the slopes and rollerblades for some summer fun, but those high dollar items like motorcycles are only getting half a year's use. Well, no more need to fret over an underused engine, get that bad boy out in all seasons...even winter!"
"Some people take their bikes South of the border down to Mexico’s Baja or into the mainland to enjoy the dry season and pristine riding conditions, while others sadly prep them for the long winter months sitting alone in storage. Now you can prep your bike in a totally different way. These crazy cats kit them out with tire spikes and race them around on frozen lakes and specialty ice tracks. This particular sport is run much like any circuit motorcycle race, except it’s done entirely on ice, with a few motorcycle modifications to make it happen."
What you need to know...
"Your lightweight dirt track bike can be easily fitted to make for an on-ice race bike. One way this can happen is by self-modifying your tires. This, however, is a painfully slow process as you will need to install one stud at a time onto knobby tires in order to do the job. The other option is to buy pre-studded tires with spikes already in them. Unlike some motorcycle racing sports, there is not much in the way of drifting in this one. You need to handle the bike more like you're riding on dirt or mud, where you use the ruts to your advantage and dig in to gain more traction. Ice Track Racing is probably the only motorcycle sport where the fans beverage of choice is the hot chocolate and not the other frothy option. Let’s take some insider information from someone with more experience in the ruts and hear what Courtney has to say about the sport."
What got you into this crazy sport?
"2017-2018 was my first year taking on the ice racing circuit. Our Rocky Motor Club president, Brian Roberts, had approached me offering his personal bike to use for the season to give this crazy sport a try. Having a Cross Country & Hare Scramble Racing background on dirt, this offer was hard to pass up! As an adrenaline junkie, I am always looking for new ways to help make me become an all-around skilled rider. So this was a great opportunity to get out of my comfort zone."
What bike do you use and why?
"The bike I was using was a 2014 KTM 450 4 stroke."
What special mods are made to run on the ice?
"The basic conversions made to make this bike rideable from dirt to ice are: Ice studs to allow maximum traction over the oval ice track, guards over your front & back tire to help prevent ice chips flying at other riders or yourself and also as a protection modification for yourself and other riders as you end up racing very close together. There is a tether around your wrist for emergency shut off in case you fall and your bike needs to be shut off immediately. Those three modifications are mandatory at the very least. Anything after that is a personal preference on how you want your bike to handle."
What safety gear do you use that’s different than a dirt track ride?
"The safety gear worn is very much the same as you would wear while riding on dirt: a helmet, chest protector, neck brace, elbow & knee pads, and moto boots. You want to keep your body protected as much as you would if you were riding on dirt, as the ice has a very hard impact if you were to fall."
Have you ever had any bad accidents? If so, what happened?
"Myself, I have been very fortunate to have had clean races with no accidents. That being said, I have had close calls on the track towards the end of the day where the ice ruts become deeper and your stability becomes less."
Do you get scared out there?
"Well, let’s just leave it at this...if you are coming into corners not scared, you probably aren’t going fast enough. Being on edge and feeling a little scared is what this sport is about. That is where the adrenaline comes from when you are reaching speeds of OVER 100km/hr!"
Do you have any pre-race rituals?
"Before every race I always get my starting blocks in the right position, give myself little pep talks, and pray that everyone has a safe, clean race and most importantly, have fun!"
Can any serious cash be won at events?
"As far as serious cash winnings through our smaller club, there isn’t an abundance to be won. However, in the expert classes you have a chance to win as much as $250+ depending on your placing."
As a female racer, do you take any flack from the boys?
"As a female racer, I try to show that I can ride as hard as the male riders too. I enter not only the women's classes but also race in classes with the men too. It’s a great feeling that I can hold my own and battle it out on the podium with the male riders. The guys are so much fun to battle with and at the end of the day the only complaint they have is, “darn, I just got beat by a girl." Haha."
Are your parents supportive?
"My family is very supportive of my racing events. All of my family love to come out and watch all of us crazy hooligans rip up the ice track. It is quite the experience to even just watch the races. Even on the cold days, the crowd supporters are able to watch the event from their vehicles and tune into an FM channel broadcasting the race to keep updated."
How do you practice out of season?
"As Ice Racing is a seasonal sport, we are not able to practice. Therefore, I take in my throttle therapy and seat time from Cross Country & Hare Scramble dirt bike races throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons."
Do you have any advice to offer any ladies aspiring to do the same?
"I strongly encourage more women to come and try this sport. This is a great way to help you become more comfortable riding in higher RMP’s, railing corners faster, and become more aggressive on a bike. Ice racing is a growing sport and the perfect way to spend your winters. I have met so many amazing, supportive people through this sport. Any day on a bike is a good day. However, beware...once you try ice racing you will forever become addicted. BRAAAPP ON!"
There seems to be no lack of ways to modify an existing sport into something more adrenaline packed and cutting edge. In this case, a perfectly exhilarating summer sport like dirt bike racing, modified to fit your lifestyle and what part of the world you live in. If you want to check out some of Courtney's photos on the sport or send her your crazy questions, you can find her on Instagram.
Tire spikes and high revs, an icy addiction. Would you give it a go?