Bram De Roeck is a fellow DTRA racer, co-organiser of Hell's Race and the photographer of the cover and intro page for Sideburn 30. We interviewed him to find out more about our Belgian friend...
Hi Bram, tell us about yourself
My name is Bram De Roeck and live in Brasschaat, a small town near Antwerp, Belgium. I’m 44 year old and work in shifts in a petro-chemical plant in the harbour of Antwerp. Married to my beautiful wife Lesley and we have two kids, Alick (19) and Lena (17).
What bikes do you own?
A ’79 Harley Davidson FXS Shovelhead which is my daily ride, a ’75 Harley Davidson XLCH ironhead chopper and the Co-built flat tracker powered by a 600cc CCM Rotax that you see on the cover. We have one more bike in the garage which is my wife’s ’76 360cc Honda CB. Oh and Lena rides an old 50cc Honda Novio.
How did you get into bikes?
The first ever bike (or moped to be more accurate) was an old 50cc Motobecane that me and my brother Hank bought when I was 12 years old. Our grandfather let us ride that thing on the little piece of land behind his house. We built our own jumps and raced each other all day long for days on end. Our grandfather used to be a rally and slalom racer himself so he knew how much fun we had on our moped. I’m forever grateful for that. What’s funny is that my brother and I still race together in the DTRA competition.
How did you get into dirt track?
First time I saw an AMA flat track race on the internet I was struck by the raw look of the bikes, the grace that these riders back their bikes into the turn, the close racing with lots of passes and the occasional crashes. I instantly made a promise to myself : “One day I will do this myself”. From then on I watched as many races (old and recent) as I could and gather lots of info. That inevitably led me to Sideburn Magazine. The first issue I bought was n°3 when it was just released since 1 & 2 were sold out and already collectibles (I was lucky enough to get my hands on n°1 & 2 from a fellow racer years later).
Fast forward a couple of years. Dirt Quake UK. The opportunity for everyone to have a go on a real dirt track with about any bike you could imagine. Of course 2 friends and myself jumped on the opportunity and off we were to the UK. The three of us rode old enduro bikes and when I look back, it gave us a slight edge on the competition. But anything for the win… In the final our friend David ended 2nd and myself 3rd . Needless to say we were completely hooked after this great experience. It was there that I talked with some DTRA racers and they actually convinced me (without them even realizing it!) to come race next year. It was Dimitri Coste who said : ”It only takes me 24 hours to load my van, make the trip from France to the UK, race and go back home.”
Once home I started making plans to convert the old enduro bike into a flat track bike. Took all winter with a lot of help from friends. Couple of months later I went to Eastbourne for my very first practice run. I was nervous as f**k but I remember standing next to the Brindley crew in the pits and they immediately gave me some tips and tricks and welcomed me with open arms into this new world just like everybody else.
One year later I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Co-Built bike and this is my 3rd year racing in the DTRA competition.
It's quite an expensive journey to race at the DTRA, what makes you and your Belgian friends keep coming?
We (Angelo, David, Kevin, Hank, Chris and myself) try to make as many trips as possible for the DTRA competition which is pretty expensive for us (Eurotunnel, gas, hotel…). But what makes us come back each time is the great racing, atmosphere and friends we made over the years. There is no rivalry (except on the track of course) and you can ask anybody for help or spare parts. You can even loan a bike if necessary!
Whose idea was Hell's Race and why did you start it?
Unfortunately five or six races per year and no opportunity to practice in Belgium are not enough to become experienced dirt track riders. We talked a lot about how to get more track time for ourselves and so the idea of Hells Race slowly was born. We knew there was a speedway track in Heusden-Zolder (B). Angelo and I came into contact with the track owners and after a couple of meetings we came to an agreement : we could have one of their three weekends to organize Hells Race which is kind of a mix of DTRA and Dirt Quake. All the same classes as in the DTRA plus the very first DTRA Hooligan Race and a Newbie class for everybody who wants to have a go. Only requirement for the Newbie class is you have to have a bike that has the look of a flat track bike so no mopeds, street bikes etc. Proper flat track only ! We saw a lot of riders from all over Europe. Practice on Saturday rained out completely but Sunday was a perfect day for racing. All in all a great success as well as a learning experience. Second edition was held in Lelystad (NL) and proved to be an even bigger success ! The Lelystad track is not more than 1.5 hours from home and open for practice almost every weekend depending on the weather.
You're the Chprbrn, are you surprised there is crossover between the traditional chopper world and the dirt track world?
I’m am not surprised at the crossover. The chopper world is mainly dictated by the Harleys and dirt track as well (at least back in the days). I think the iconic XR750 appeals to almost every chopper guy as well. And both worlds have long traditions. Most people that are into bikes don’t just stick to one part of the bike world in general. The recent Hooligan races for example at Born Free (the biggest chopper show in the US) do of course have a huge influence. People get interested more and more by watching these races and the sport is pretty much open to everyone. And let’s be honest who doesn’t want to race ? It’s one of the best feelings ever in my opinion.
Tell us about the cover shot.
The cover shot features Manon Hache (who also graces the cover of Dice Magazine issue 71 also shot by me) and the Co-Built bike. The shot is based on a sketch I got from Gary when he asked me to shoot the cover. I was surprised because I know he only wants the best of the best in the magazine! Thank you for the trust and opportunity, Gary. The set up looks fairly simple but I had to perform some death-defying stunts to get that one perfect shot I was looking for. Shooting from straight above is not as easy as it looks, let me tell you that.
What's on your bucket list?
Go watch the Springfield Mile (or any other mile) and maybe even race a mile myself one day…
See more of Bram's life and loves at his blog baron73.blogspot.co.uk
And BUY SIDEBURN 30 thanks!