VIDEO: Portland’s secret ‘Moped Death Race 2013′

The slanted November sun beamed over the race course. A man stepped through the knee-high, dried grass. He raised his hand in front of the burbling bikes, spread across the starting line in a row. He held it there for a moment then whipped it down. Their full fury released, they took off like a blast from a fire hose.

Actually, more like a dribble down a toddler’s bib.

Moped racers line up at the start of a clandestine contest of speed in Portland. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Moped racers line up at the start of a clandestine contest of speed in Portland. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

In any case, the clandestine, and probably extra-legal, Moped Death Race 2013 was underway in an unused industrial site in Portland this week. Calling it a “death race” is probably a stretch. It consisted of a small group of moped and scooter enthusiasts taking friendly laps around an old railway cement loading facility, conveniently laid out in an oval. That’s not to say they weren’t pushing their underpowered machines to their limits.

They pounded through the corners as hard as they could and laid their throttles open in the short straightaways.

“We get to a blazing — a blazing — top speed of about 25 mph,” said race organizer, Mr. Moped who spoke on condition of anonymity. “That’s fast enough to cause enough trouble as you could ever think. If you don’t think you can cause trouble at 25 mph, you come out here and race a little bit with us and you’ll enjoy yourself, you’ll have a great time and you’ll never understand the amazingness of a moped until you ride out here.”

A couple moped racers blazed a little too fast for their own good and kissed the pavement in turn four, which was quite sharp.

A clandestine moped racer shows off his road rash in Portland after scraping the pavement in a low speed crash. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A clandestine moped racer shows off his road rash in Portland after scraping the pavement in a low speed crash. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

“You can’t not have fun on a moped,” said Mr. Moped. “You’ll race, you’ll fly, you’ll crash and you won’t get hurt. You’re not going to the hospital when you crash. You’re just getting up, laughing it off and having beers after.”

Since they didn’t have permission to be on their makeshift track, they kept the race short. Within an hour, they’d had their fun, picked up and headed off with mopeds in their trucks and a couple cases of road rash.

Word in the moped underground is the folks over at the Maine Moped Factory are trying to find a sanctioned, indoor space to hold a semi-organized moped race later this winter. Get in touch with them if you’re interested.

And of course, don’t try this at home, kids.

Special thanks to the good folks at MotoPickers for the clip of the crash.

Clandestine moped racers compete for bragging rights, and a bit of fun, on an unsanctioned track in an industrial area of Portland. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Clandestine moped racers compete for bragging rights, and a bit of fun, on an unsanctioned track in an industrial area of Portland. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A moped racer whizzes down the back-alley track in Portland, reaching speeds in excess of 20 MPH. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A moped racer whizzes down the back-alley track in Portland, reaching speeds in excess of 20 MPH. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A moped racing rider makes his way around an unsanctioned course in an industrial part of Portland. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A moped racing rider makes his way around an unsanctioned course in an industrial part of Portland. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race.Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race.Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A gang of moped enthusiasts re-purpose an abandoned stretch of industrial zone pavement in Portland for an informal, clandestine race. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Troy R. Bennett

About Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.