S&S: 60 Years Of Improving Performance

Article And Photos By: Savannah Rose

Originally Published In The April 2019 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

That’s a long time for any company to exist, especially in the motorcycle realm. But somehow, S&S has done it. Officially starting back in 1958, S&S Cycle has been continually making performance parts since. Through all the eras – through Panheads, Shovelheads, Evo, on up, through the good times of chopper-based TV shows, the bad times of 2008 and beyond, we’re still here. And not just still here, we’re killin’ it.!!! So, for our 60th anniversary, we decided to buck the norm of throwing a party with a band and some brews and do what we’re good at – a race. The company was founded on racing – George Smith wanted to take his knuckle, “The Tramp” faster and faster down the drag strip, so he began making parts in his basement. Eventually, they moved out to Viola, WI – where the S&S Cycle Ranch is now located. The new racetrack is just around the corner. So, what’s more fitting than a race? NOTHING! So, a race it was.

Hooligan racing is now all the rage – I personally started attending the races back in So Cal at the Costa Mesa Speedway, where random dudes brought everything from their high bar Softails to Sporties and even some baggers on the track. Well, “hooligan” has evolved out of that, to nearly-street-legal Sportsters modified for the dirt. We’re heavily invested in both Hooligan and Pro racing – you may notice some S&S logos on the new Indian FTR750’s that are dominating the pro dirt tracks, along with quite a few other varied bikes rockin’ our race exhaust! We put out the call for racers of all styles – Hooligans, pull-start mini bikes, pit bikes, tank shifters, and my personal favorite, the women’s class racers – to hit the dirt out here in rural Wisconsin, in the town of Viola, to be exact. And as they say, “if you build it, they will come” – these racers heard “new track” and came out in droves (even if they weren’t sure where Viola was!)

Beginning the day early, each group of racers got in a couple of practice laps before their heats. They zoomed around the circle track cut into the grass. Back in the day there actually used to be a horse racing track in the exact same location – Today we’re throwing a bit more horsepower at it! Racers are some of the most passionate riders out there – they come from far and wide and are often spotted in the pits making minor changes – they switch sprockets and change tire pressure – trying to get any advantage they can over their competitors. The “race face” they get at the starting line, waiting for the green flag to drop, is one of the most intense, ready looks I have ever seen. And there was no shortage of race face here.

Every time the green flag dropped, each racer was ready. It was high revving, clutch dumping action. There were even a few wheelies as the racers aimed to get the hole shot. Race after race went on, with little downtime between each heat. The crowds rolled in to catch the fun while enjoying complimentary beers from Door County Brewing Co, lunch from Big Boar BBQ, and of course, it wouldn’t be Wisconsin without an ice cream truck! Between races, Indian Wrecking Crew racer Jared Mees even took a couple of laps on the FTR750! Race after race, the excitement in the crowd grew. Locals from all walks of life came out to watch – local farmers rolled in on their ATV’s, employees from local businesses came down, despite likely never having seen a motorcycle race!

The best part, in my personal view, was watching young children enjoy the races – you could see them getting pumped and cheering from the sidelines. Future riders, getting excited! Hooligans took the track for the main – a great race, with a last-minute pass from Carlson on the outside in turn 3 – Kilkenny was caught off guard without a chance to regain position one. The checkered flag dropped, and Benny Carlson took the win, followed closely by Dave Kilkenny and Jeremy DeRuyter. All in all, it was an incredible race, and a great way to celebrate 60 years of Proven Performance!

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