July 9, 2018
Caylee Hankins and Grant Martin are a creative couple; she’s a London-based photographer, specialising in lifestyle and fashion, his outlet for art is as a tattoo artist in Maidstone, Kent. But there’s more to their story – and it features motorcycles at its core.
Grant races flat track and is leading the UK Hooligan championship on a Street Rod 750. But Caylee races too – which is how they met, as she explains: “I’ve been riding bikes about 3 years and last year I entered the DirtQuake Rookies heat races, placed first and second and crashed out of the final! But Grant saw me try and go for the win and came over for a chat, and that’s how it all started.”
Grant’s background is motocross, which he did from an early age: “I had no choice, Dad put me on a bike as soon as he could! I raced at national level and spent some time in Australia pursuing a pro-level career. But I got fed up of getting hurt and simply stopped.” The need for speed never really left him though: “A year ago I turned to flat track, with a bike supplied from Maidstone Harley-Davidson which my Dad built in 2 weeks flat. Racing’s always racing – and tough, as it should be – but flat track is way safer than MX. And the scene is great. It’s a grass roots sport, even at national level, with maybe 160 riders and that’s what attracted me to it.”
Caylee agrees: “I think because there aren’t loads of people doing it everybody has time for each other. And while the Hooligan race may be the main event – even the pro-class guys like to watch a load of big V-twins thundering sideways around a track – there are plenty of other races going on and loads of action.”
With 12 bikes on the grid, heat races of 6 laps and a final of 8 laps there’s a reason the Hooligan races are the ones that get the attention. It’s an old-school spectacle mixing skill, bravery and tactical nous on bikes that really take some riding. And the races are sometimes held at night under lights, adding drama for the crowd, and pressure for the riders.
Grant’s impressive skill set was on display at the Harley-Davidson Ride, Ride, Slide! international press event, held in Croatia, in March. It saw the world’s motorcycle journalists take part in a 3-day Harley riding experience – a day touring with Road and Street Glides, a day carving corners on the new 2018 Iron 1200 and 48 Special and then a full day discovering flat track on heavily modified Street Rod 750s with tuition from Grant and ex-WSB and MotoGP star Ruben Xaus.
Grant loved being involved: “It was great to interact with the journalists and hear their stories. And for most of them it was their first flat track experience and to watch them progress, from super-nervous in the morning to fully committed in the afternoon was awesome. I love sharing knowledge, and in MX nobody does, but this was so cool. Every day I got a new set of people to ride with and by the end I was overwhelmed with just how good so many of the riders got.”
Both Caylee and Grant also had time to step away from the track, and ride Croatia’s winding back roads together on the two new Sportsters. Grant owned a Forty-Eight for a couple of years and was impressed by what Harley have done with the new Forty-Eight Special: “The way the new bike is set up now, with the mini-apes, is exactly what I did with mine, and it’s great to see a manufacturer looking at what people are doing out in the world, away from the dealership, and responding.”
Caylee was also captivated with the Forty-Eight Special’s abilities: “It handles corners so well, and the throttle feel is special. I felt comfortable on it straight away and got used to the feet-forward riding position quickly. I could manage the bike well too, its low centre of gravity really helped.”
Grant liked the Iron 1200’s simplicity of style: “It’s a sharp bike out of the box, and they’ve cleaned everything up that an owner normally has to sort. It’s just as good as the Forty-Eight Special but feels different, with the riding position and skinnier tyres. And we shared a really cool time after riding both all day – we stopped out in the middle of nowhere up high, by a wind farm, and looked down with mountains behind us. It was so quiet, and breath-taking.”
A thought echoed by Caylee: “We were completely lost in that moment, switched off from the rest of the world and in a beautiful zone. That’s what motorcycles can do; they’re transport, of course but so much more than that. And they take you places you’d never otherwise get to, in a way that’s so more alive than anything else. Coming from London I’m always second-guessing cars around me, but here it’s so free. The good tarmac (with no traffic) the friendly local people, the amazing weather… it’s been a wonderful time.”
It’s bikes or nothing for these two. They ride and race together for pleasure and are planning a future that revolves around motorcycles, both professionally and personally. Travel is high on the agenda: the USA, South America and especially India are on the cards, someday when they’ve hung up their racing leathers. They plan to live a life on two wheels, or as Caylee so neatly sums it up: “We just want to eat, sleep and ride…” And why not.