Whaaa? More minibikes? Yeah, we’re obsessed. But really, when Mike Yoksich sent us a note saying there’s a wild minibike racing scene in Detroit and did we want to see photos, you think we’re going to say no? Not a chance. Here’s Mike, and the mini outlaws of Motor City.
Minibikes are in the DNA chain of most street racers. They’re the building blocks so many folks built their wrenching skills on. There are really only two basic types of minibike memories; “Damn I miss my minibike,” and “I wish my parents let me have a minibike.” Whichever you are, it’s never too late to relive those glory days. The scene’s alive and kicking on the streets of Detroit especially on the crazy abandoned banked bike track that the guys call the Thunderdome. If straight-line minibiking is more your thing, Krysti Baxter has a great racing program at Milan Dragway. If you’re ready to make the mini-move there’s a few manufactures turning out new versions of their old models with updated engines and clutches. The collector market flourishes with local shows and swap meets providing a ready source for old NOS parts and garage finds with the patina you only get after 50 years in a shed. Let’s take a look at some of the machines terrorizing Detroit.
For more like this, scope out Duane Allen Thomas’ DetroitHoodTV YouTube channel. It’s addictive. He’s a funny man. Ok, on to the bikes!
Kalman Keresi from Taylor, Michigan, works for Ford Motor Company to afford his habit. Kalman has 27 minibikes in his herd, including the first one his parents bought him when he was 10 years old. His radical 2016 Nitro 44 drag bike won 1st place in its class at the Detroit Autorama. The engine is a karting-style sleeved Box Stock Project aluminum block. ARC long rods carry Wiseco 2.815 pistons around a fully balanced crankshaft with an ARC aluminum flywheel and billet side cover. The cam is a 356 billet Dyno cam with dual 60-pound springs, Gage Motorsports roller rockers and titanium retainers control the 28mm intake and 25mm exhaust valves. The air fuel mixture is handled by a 24mm flat slide Mikuni and spark is provided by a PLV digital ignition coil good for 12,000 rpm. The engine runs through a twin disc Norm’s Cheetah clutch that’s hiding under the engine-turned clutch and chain guard. The combo makes more than 20hp on 93 octane.
It’s not just fast, it’s pretty too. The frame was painted Wild Cherry metallic and modified with wheelie bars and custom struts. The handlebars are mounted on risers off a Honda and are upside down like a cafe racer with a steering stabilizer. The rear tire is a 6 ½-inches wide by 15-inches tall Barris slick on a 6-inch Doug’s wheel. The front is a 15×3-inch Cind tire on an 8-inch Azusa rim.
One good bike isn’t enough though. Kalman’s yellow Azusa is set up for running the once abandoned, high-banked Dorias Bicycle Track in Detroit. Kal modified the Azusa’s frame with an X-19 pocket bike swing arm, front end, and brake system. The engine is a Box Stock Project with no modifications to the short block. Inside, the cam is a Black Mamba and there’s 26-lb valves springs with welded rockers. The ports are stock and the gaskets are ports matched. The carb is a 22mm Mikuni and Kal uses a Honda ignition. 12hp is channeled through a Noram Premier 12-tooth clutch to a jack shaft. The Azusa is plenty fast on the Dorias Track, where your biggest concern is leaving the top of the back and flying into the trees surrounding the track. I did some laps and you have to commit to at least 40mph or you’ll tumble down the banking. Definitely an experience.
Chris Meloche owns this blue twin engine modified Ruttman minibike that was stretched and repurposed by welder, Rusty Mayben. Chris is the engine man in this program, He started with two Harbor Freight Predator 212cc engines, and added forged Wiseco pistons to take the abuse from a 12hp Nitrous shot to each engine. The cams are custom grinds for the nitrous and the heads were ported by Dave Kuchtyn at Headwinds. The carbs are Mikuni 28mm flat slides soon to be upgraded to 30mm carbs after the next set of heads from Dave get delivered. The power is fed through two Bully disc clutches into a jack shaft. Chris rides the wheelie bars like a Top Fuel bike running close to 100 mph in the eighth mile at Milan Dragway. Like all racers Chris has his machine is in a constant state of evolution so we can’t wait to see what he does next.
When too much is never enough you get machines like John Volling’s “Monster”. John’s a certified auto tech and his shop, JB Auto, is the kind of place that will do anything you want–as long as you can afford it. John joined forces with Outlaw Fab Shop in Clinton Township, MI, to create a ride that could handle a 140hp 700cc Polaris snowmobile engine. The Polaris is stuffed with Carrillo pistons and rods that are anchored to a stock crank spinning inside a ported case. John fabricated the air induction system with carbs off an ‘03 800cc Polaris. A torque converter runs to a jackshaft and chain drive that spins the 18x8x8 Mickey Thomson ET Jr.s on a 8-inch Douglas aluminum wheel. The front fork is off an X18 pocket bike with triple tree risers and bars John built. The front wheel is an 10x 2-inch aluminum Douglas with a Shinko 10x 3-inch tire. Temperature and RPM are monitored via gauges on the bars. The best run so far is 6.41 at 116 mph in the eighth-mile. Shaggy LeBlanc–owner of Shaggy’s Raticals in Taylor, MI, applied the wild orange metallic paint and airbrushing.
Alan Brian from Yale, MI, is one of the scene’s custom gurus and his Facebook group, Michigan Minibike Scene, boasts more than 4500 members posting constant threads of minibike worship. His bagged Doodle Bug frame is filled with a 125cc 4-stroke engine featuring a suicide shifter with the hand clutch on the lever. The wheels, front fork and a lot of the running gear have been pirated from an x22 Super Pocket Bike. There’s a ton of attention to detail, like the MMBS logo stitched into the seat, and the sweet blue and green color scheme that gets carried all the way into the tire tread. Pretty sure Alan will be bagging his lawn mower for chlorophyll brush cuts soon.
Porter Soloman passed me on the way to the photo shoot riding his cobbled together street rig. With the insane cost of car insurance in Detroit, Porter eschews the world of cages for the freedom of riding his minibike everywhere year round.
Kevin Doc came up from Indianapolis with his bright red Honda powered drag bike. He started with a Nitro 50 frame with 38-inch wheelie bars. The engine is a GX390 big block stroker with a Bully Turbo 4-disc, 6-spring clutch. The front 10-inch rim has a 3.50-10 tire and the rear 8-inch rim is wrapped in an 18×8.0-8.
I can’t write about minibikes without mentioning Shaggy Leblanc from Taylor, MI. When he gives you directions to his house there’s the part where he says “You’ll hit the turnaround on Telegraph Rd. across from the State Police post and follow the burnout marks till you see my ‘40 Ford on the front lawn.” Shaggy runs Shaggy’s Ratical’s from his garage behind the house. He’s got a very cool Rat Fink met Frankenstein’s monster vibe. He might judge a man by the size of his metalflakes but overall he’s a pretty easy guy to get along with. He’s painted a lot of minibikes inbetween his car, big bike and art commissions. There was a ‘40 Willys in the paint booth and ‘59 Caddy waiting to go in. If you’ve ever been downstairs at Detroit’s Autorama for the Autorama Extreme you’ve most likely seen the incredible trophies Shaggy makes for the event. He does a lot of small pieces of art from parts he picks up along the journey. Shaggy’s grandson Junior spends a lot of time in the shop and he’s picking up welding as part of his elementary school skill set. Shaggy’s personal ride is an orange and silver metal flake Ruttman Horny Toad with 212 Predator motor. You’ll see him flying around the floor at Autorama during setup day.
Another one of Kalman’s bikes was at Shaggy’s when I was there. That one was a 1972 Ruttman Spider, with a AH818bK Tecumseh two-stroke motor that’s really rare. Tecumseh only made this motor for about two years starting in 1970 and if you find one, it will set you back nearly a grand. The Spider goes 0-to-40 in seconds. It features a Morris Fairbanks kickstart that Kalman modified with a new starter cup so he could kickstart the two-stroke motor. Kal decided not to paint this bike, it’s his rat rod mini.
With all these great machines running around, you can bet the show scene is poppin’. Old School Minibike had a show and swap May 7th and there was a great turnout. Frank Mathison the owner of Old School used to have a plumbing supply store in Livonia MI. but wound up selling everything, getting out of the plumbing supply business and into the minibike business full time. Seems to be working out great. Next time you’re in Detroit, look up the minibike scene. Seems like a guaranteed good time. More minibike madness in the gallery below.