Way back in 1998, New York City’s Guggenheim Art Museum opened a radical new exhibition entitled The Art of the Motorcycle. While controversial to art purists, it presented motorcycles as both objets d’art and historical milestones of industrial evolution, going on to become the Guggenheim’s highest attended exhibition in history.
Subsequent appreciation for two-wheeled wonders led to similar shows and museums which displayed motorcycles in art gallery-style settings.
The current spiritual successor of these gallery shows is Mama Tried — the event was named after Merle Haggard’s 1968 ht by the same name — a two-day builder invitational which takes place each February at the former Eagles Club in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hometown motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson puts its considerable weight behind the show, and lots of vintage Milwaukee Iron was present throughout the weekend’s activities.
Held within the five-level music venue, the main ballroom’s show floor was improved over last year’s exhibition with brighter lighting and display risers for the rows of motorcycles. Expanded show hours made for less-crowded viewing of the approximate 110 motorcycles on display.
Mama Tried is unique in the variety of bikes it curates. Exhibitor Tony Prust of Analog Motorcycles in Waukegan, Illinois, brought out a custom café racer built around a 1968 Ducati 250 engine, and has attended all six years of past shows.
“It’s one of the most diverse shows out there. It doesn’t have to be all awesome builds, it doesn’t have to be all choppers. It’s kind of a really eclectic mix of what (show founders) Warren and Scott like,” said Prust.
To that end, the field included both foreign and domestic makes of every era. Competition bikes, off-road bikes, cruisers, café racers, bobbers and choppers all shared the floor equally at Mama Tried.
Historically significant and well-restored bikes were there too. Michael Lange of Waukesha, Wisconsin, showed his 1925 Harley-Davidson FHAC Twin-Cam board track racer, one of only two examples known to exist.
“Mama Tried is a great chance to visit with old friends, meet new people and view some fantastic bikes,” said Lange, a longtime motorcycle collector who has attended the show from its humble beginnings. “This show has become one of the highlights of my year.”