Last Minute Trip to the Italian Alps with Harley-Davidson

Words & photos by Forrest Minchenton



There are perhaps, serendipitous moments in ones life where your desires align with opportunities that arise.  It is in those moments that a feeling of deja vú, an almost precognition comes over you.  This feeling, those moments, have happened to me more than this once and in those instants I know that I am indeed on the path that I am meant to be. That the peaks and valleys of life that have led me to this trailhead, in fact had a purpose. Although, research and scientific approach reject this explanation of déjà vu being a prophecy. In science, déjà vu is seen as an anomaly of memory, but life is in fact full of unexplainable anomalies and I therefore, continue to embrace and trust in this mystical sensation. It is this approach to life that has led me along a unique path and one that is sometimes difficult to put into words exactly what it is that I do. When people ask, I usually answer with something along the lines of, “I make surfboards or ride motorcycles” or? Well truth be told I’m not exactly sure what my “career” is in the traditional sense of the word. Maybe I don't have one per say… I suppose I made a life out of what I liked to do for fun. Neither my family or myself are wealthy; it is quite the contrary really. They did, however instill in me a mindset to be creative, not just artistically, but in the design of life.  A life that needs no vacation.  A life that has a certain freedom. Like when META calls you just three days before this very trip and asks, “Want to go race Harley-Davidsons on Ice in the Italian Alps?”  and you answer, Hell Yes! It is that type of freedom!



 So how do I pack or prepare for a trip to race Harley-Davidsons outfitted with metal studded tires on ice in the Italian Alps, (something I have never done before mind you), with just three days notice? Well, like every other trip I go on, I fucking wing it! Stuff a Bell Helmet, some Alpinestars Tech 10 boots, and every damn Deus jacket in my closet into my gear bag.  Passport in one hand, ice cold beer in the other, my camera and some 35mm film dangling behind my back. Because after all life is a vacation. Right?




Planes, trains, automobiles, twenty hours and four bottles of red wine later, I arrived to a hazy Italian morning.  At least I think it was morning? Jet lag had me spinning, or maybe it was the vino? Either way, there I was in Italy albeit a bit cold. But I was here for the free wine, I mean the racing.. and straight ahead lay the Ice circuit, situated in a deep valley framed in with the steepest mountains I have ever seen, nearly sheer cliffs by the looks of them, which made my local mountains in California look like mere bunny hills in comparison.  As I descended down into the venue and upon the scene that would be the day one of the two day ice racing extravaganza, it was through a cloud of smoke that I saw it all. Not marijuana smoke people, no we aren't in California anymore, this was of the two-stroke variety. Vintage Husqvarna, CZ, Bultaco, Yamaha, Honda, Beta, 8 brand new Harley-Davidsons and a Jalopy? Yes, Yes and Yes. From comedic sidecars to a drool worthy period correct Bultaco in ice racer spec, to Steve McQueen’s personal Husky Cross 400 now in the loving hands of an ice racer.  Still being used, still being raced, on any Sunday. Mcqueen would be proud. Did I mention it was cold outside? Yet, still there were over 50 racers on the track, undeterred by the frozen feet and hands after half a lap. 50 racers, that means 100 buzzsaws in the form of studded motorcycle tires chasing each other down. One wash out while leading the race out front and your buddy running second place is running you over, tenderizing your backside, but that’s what motorcycle racers do. They lay their lives on the line and risk it all for…. well absolutely no prize money! Nope. They actually paid their own hard earned money to be here! They paid to be here to rub elbows, bang bars, yell and laugh at their buddies and fight tooth and nail like their life depended on it for a second to last place finisher spot. Because hell, its fun! 




Day one was the Deus Swank Rally on Ice.  Having won the Deus Swank Rally Bali beach edition at Deus Indonesia over the Italian boys back in October I was familiar with the format, and seeing that I had arrived after signups and practice was underway I got to beer drinking and bullshitin’ and catching up with the crew. Meanwhile I lost all feeling in my toes as they turned to ice blocks. The Deus Swank Rally Is about a 1.5 mile course set through ice and snow in a timed format and the fastest time wins. A few of the lads were really hauling the mail, getting unbelievable traction on the ice with those studded tires.  I obviously got excited and next thing I knew the Deus crew had me suited up in a set of their leathers and aboard their 2wd Yamaha Wr450f ice racer. Having not signed up, I had no racing number or paperwork, but hell no one cared! Pin it, they said! So with 1 glory lap I was one and done and ended up 5th place on the timed leader board. Satisfied, I headed back to the hotel to defrost and come back ready the following day to race.




The morning came around quick, but this was the day I had traveled so far to experience. Eight 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Rod 750s all identically built in Ice racer spec. Ohlins piggy back shocks graced the rear, Continental studded Ice tires, A flat track style seat and tail section, Twin Air air cleaners and Renthal grips were the first things that caught my eye. Orange and Black color scheme on the tank paying homage to the XR1200 race bikes of yesteryear. The bikes were unique and a stark contrast to the rest of the DIY race bike builds in the pits and on the track.  The Harleys growled to life and easily drowned out the rest of the two smokers that were within earshot.




The rag tag crew of motorcycle journalist, professional road racers, and a surfboard shaper (me), all lined up and politely jockeyed our way into position to be the first to ride these bad boys.  I ended up in the third wave and once out on the track was blown away at how responsive the 750 motor was. It felt like flat tracking, but on ice.  I hole shot my first heat race and held the lead for a few laps before Pro road racer Corey Alexander blew by me on the last lap, crushing my short lived glory.  A few heats later and a couple terrible starts and I was relegated to watch the main event from the sidelines, but I wasn't complaining. The fire pit was warm, the beverages were cold and the boys were racing! 

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