“I just wanna have FUN. Do the wild and crazy shit with my buddies without anyone telling us that we can’t do this, or we can’t do that.”Mel Stultz, Founder of The Frozen Few.
It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention. The Frozen Few came into existence as a direct result of the “monster” that is now, The Race of Gentlemen.
Mel is the founder of both The Frozen Few (TFF) and The Race of Gentlemen (TROG). Eight years ago, TROG started as a grassroots event, featuring races on the beach with vintage cars, pre-1934 -1947 American built motorcycles – men and women racing with their machines, fully decked out in race attire from a bygone era. As you can imagine, visually, it was like watching a forgotten moment in time, easy to romanticize by moto enthusiasts and the press. Over the years, TROG was published on the cover of Hot Rod Magazines, featured in countless motorcycle magazines, and other popular mag rags such as American Airlines and Rolling Stones magazine, virtually guaranteeing the overwhelming success of the event year after year. Loyal racers and spectators from all over the country looked forward to making their annual pilgrimage to the shores of Wildwood, New Jersey.That in itself is a good thing, but it can also be not such a good thing.
The bigger the event got, the bigger the headache and logistics of putting on such a large scale event – dealing with the town council, with the police, getting permits, answering to the sponsors of the event, and even figuring out the porta-potties, year after year. Make no mistake, Mel is still very passionate and proud of what TROG has become and has accomplished so far, but for a guy like him, who isn’t a big fan of structure in the first place, he felt like he had become its keeper. “TROG became a monster, and running it became a job. It took the fun of it for me,” says Mel.
Enter The Frozen Few. How does one create something similar and as compelling as TROG and yet, make it vastly different from the opposite side of the spectrum? How can he get back to his roots to create something fun again with wild, raw, and unstructured friends that answer to no one? How do you create something that is visually awesome, photogenic, and gets the public talking, piques their interest, keeps them wanting more, but at the same time keeps it anonymous, mysterious, controlled, and exclusive?Those were the questions running through his mind when the idea of running vintage Harleys in sub-zero temperatures in the dead of winter – on ice – struck like a sharp shard of ice cutting through the clutter. The idea sounded crazy. Really crazy. Even crazier was the fact that Mel had never been on a motorcycle in winter and on ice before! Precisely the sort of recipe Mel needed and the impetus to create The Frozen Few.
A collection of invited men, mostly Americans, a Japanese and a Canadian, with their vintage Harleys, equipped with rugged studded tires, make up the balls out ice racing crew, also known as the “Crazy Eights” (although there are more than eight of them now). Decked out in their retro-looking heavy dark leathers and wool, high military-style boots, and masked up to embrace the harsh elements, TFF look like a clip taken from an old movie of mysterious, hardened men, bonded in brotherhood, about to do some serious business on their motorcycles. Forever in search of frozen lakes and rough snowy terrain. It is not uncommon to findthese fellas racing on lake ice in sub-freezing temperatures, crashing into each other at 50 mph. Full of adrenaline, generally just being wild, crazy, and competitive, all the while having fun and doing whatever the fuck it is they want to do, with no one telling them that they can’t.
The very first race for TFF actually took place on Canadian soil, at an old, derelict, and forgotten steel mill right at the border of the United States and Canada in Sault St. Marie. By luck or design, Mel was on a speaking conference at the border when a friend turned him on to the mill. He knew right away that this was the perfect setting to bring TFF to fruition. The WOW factor was there: stark, harsh, and beautiful. The old abandoned buildings during the dead of winter looked like a wasteland that gave it an ambiance of a place long forgotten but remained steadfast of old stories, old lives, and souls ready to be resurrected. He envisioned snow flying, bitterly cold days, man and machine battling the elements as they race on an ice track with a massive, high ice berm to satisfy the Crazy Eight’s need for speed.
He approached the City of his plans and created the ice track by convincing the City to dump all the snow from plowing throughout the winter onto the property instead of into the river. The snow was plowed and pushed to where they wanted to create the snow track around the property, and a water truck sprayed it all down to freeze the track, but an ice track wasn’t enough thrills and spills for TFF – Mel envisioned and wanted to build a wall berm made of ice. He found a dude through the motorcycle community, a former Olympic skier who ironically broke his leg on a motorcycle and couldn’t ski anymore. This guy grew up in the Alps building ski jumps and ramps. So when Mel told him about his crazy idea, he simply said, “I can do that.” He was hired on the spot and flown to Canada to make it happen.
When you look at the ice wall pictures, they don’t really do it justice of just how substantial it was when it was completed. However, from the riders’ perspective, it was downright nerve-wracking going at it, at high speed and iced over. I’d say that it is pretty crazy and dangerous and takes the adrenaline rush to a whole other level. Some of the Crazy Eights loved it. Others were not so sure. Even Mel asked the question, “Is this fun or is it stupid? Or is it stupid fun?”
Everyone raced, of course, including Adam King, the Canadian contingent in the crew. In his youth, Adam raced motocross, and that background gave him a spark of confidence when he first laid eyes on the track and the wall. He knew instantly that he had to conquer it. The moniker “Crazy Canucks” fits perfectly because Adam was so savage in his riding of the ice wall, with each successful pass, his confidence grew. But, how do you know when you’ve pushed it to the limit? You crash. Adam rode that wall so high that he actually flew over it and crashed on the other side of the wall. When the crew got to him, Mel said that he’d never seen that grey and green shade on a human being before. Adam suffered a broken collar bone from the crash, displaced by about four inches, but that didn’t keep him from coming back for the rest of the weekend shenanigans, after a trip to the hospital. So what’s next for this band of ice chomping race crew moving forward? Of course, there have been other races by TFF since that very first one in “The Soo,” but it takes an enormous amount of time, effort, and money to plan and execute every one of these races and get-togethers. Social media portrays an incredible visual display of their adventures; however, most don’t have a clue what it takes behind the scenes to get it up and running. The prep work alone to get the terrain ready is daunting. So when the opportunity came up to acquire an old boys scout camp in Upstate New York, equipped with cabins and a mess hall, Mel jumped on it like a hot potato. Appropriately named “Camp Hanky Panky,” the heavily wooded property has all the right elements to make it the new “hub” for TFF. Ample storage for the bikes and equipment, a vast array of terrain from wooded trails and roads, and frozen lakes to satiate the crews need for speed – it was a no-brainer. Unencumbered by authorities and neighbours complaining about noise, restrictions, and partying, it’s an ideal remote location to take it all back to where it all started for Mel.And that’s just to have FUN again.
Welcome to TFF, the Crazy Eights, and forever part of the brotherhood. Full throttle ahead.