Area bike racing group enjoys winter riding on lake ice

CHIPPEWA LAKE — Though the recent warm temperatures have caused ice to melt, sport enthusiasts were able to enjoy the frozen surface of Chippewa Lake this winter and create their own type of adrenaline-rush of fun.

About a half dozen riders braved single-digit temperatures and fast winds to practice riding around a plowed track created by an all-terrain vehicle. Each bundled up in heavy winter gear and helmets for safety and warmth, and kicked up snow as they sped around curves and through short straightaways. Sometimes they attach GoPro cameras to their bikes or helmets.

"We ride for the thrill and love of motorcycling," said Ron Uplinger, one of the group's core members who hails from Cedar Springs. "I try to put on one or two races each year, and it's nice to put on a show at a festival."

The group, which usually consists of between 25 and 35 individuals, live in areas around Big Rapids, Rockford, Belding, north Grand Rapids, Cedar Springs and Ionia. They travel across Michigan to a number of different lakes and also to areas of Wisconsin to race on the ice. Gatherings are informal and there is no obligation for all riders to attend. Many show up to ride when their schedules allow.

"Most of us ride 454 cycles and some of us ride vintage bikes," Uplinger said. "A lot of us have racing experience with motocross or dirt bikes. Some of us have been racing for 20 years."

To make bikes safe and able to use on frozen surfaces, the riders convert their normal dirt tires to studded tires. Sharp screws allow for additional traction on ice and should not be used on other areas. And though it might appear too cold to ride to onlookers, bikers work up a sweat from racing as adrenaline kicks in and they concentrate hard on the path ahead.

Uplinger said Chippewa Lake is a good lake to ride on because it tends to freeze more quickly and produces thicker ice. The bikers ride on ice that is a minimum of 6 to 8 inches thick.

"We try to make the track between two and three miles long and we like to give some entertainment for the fishermen out there on the lake," he added. "We've also used Clear Lake in the past. People enjoy watching the races happen."

New riders are included all the time, Uplinger said. To learn more about the group, he invites interested individuals to call him at (616) 293-8376.