One Spiked Tire and Russian Imagination
Photos and story by Alessandro D’Angelo // alessandrodangelo.it
Unimotorcycle is the unholy combination of a motorcycle and a sled. It has one wheel, a few runners, and an absurdly powerful engine that propels the entire contraption across a frozen lake at breakneck speeds. Brakes? Pfft. They’re an afterthought at best. All of which is to say, you have to be crazy to ride one.
Unimotorcyle racing started in the 1980s in Florida, a fact few will find surprising. The “sport” quickly spread to Europe and beyond. A Russian unimotocyclist named Dmitry Gorbunov attended the Elefantentreffen biker rally in Germany in 2002, and thought it wasn’t nutty enough. So two years later, he decided to go racing on ice.
Location: the snow-blanketed town of Togliatti, Russia, where the temperature never climbed above -10 degrees Fahrenheit. The event drew about 1,000 spectators and 35 unimoto riders, many of whom came from hundreds of miles away.
Races began each day around 11AM and continued through the afternoon. Riders astride homemade machines seemingly inspired by Mad Max vied to post the fastest times. Many of them rode contraptions adapted from Honda and Yamaha motorcycles, with runners crafted from shovels and other stuff you’d find in the garage. The more eclectic machines ran on electricity and even steam, while at least one featured four propellers. One guy even cobbled together something that looked a lot like a pulse jet.
No matter what made them go, it was loud. “Like a lion that roars when you cut its balls.” A few unimotos scuttle out of control across the ice or catch fire after their motors overheated, but no one seemed too bothered. The fastest racer got a trophy and an enormous hunting knife, the words “Snow Dogs” engraved into a handle shaped like a dog’s head.
When the day’s racing was done, the real party began. People ate, drank, and sang karaoke until the wee hours.