Ken Maely was a prominent figure in motorcycle racing. The Wisconsinite lived the majority of his life in southern California racing, working on and designing motorcycles. His calling card however, were his homemade ‘hot shoes.’ This piece of safety equipment is a protective metal cover that goes on the left foot of oval track motorcycle riders. The hot shoes would keep the foot safe when they skid across the ground in the turns and prevented the foot from catching on the track surface. Often made of various metal materials, they were trialed and tested for years before coming up with a formula that wouldn’t grind away in a few short races. Maely made the best hot shoes that anyone could find between the 1930s until the early 2000’s.
Because his father was a motorcycle racer, Maely grew up around the lifestyle. Born in 1925, Maely started his racing career at local fairs in the mid 1930’s. After serving his country in WWII, Maely moved out to California and started speedway racing. He competed all over the world and was known by many. Early in his career he started making hot shoes for himself to use. Other riders would borrow the hot shoes and be reluctant to return them. This is when Maely decided to make a business out of his expertise. Original designs were made out of ends of car bumpers and were often heavy and weak against the track surface. Maely’s materials on the other hand, came from band saws and other metal scraps. By 1951, word got to Harley Davison about Maely’s metalworking talents. They commissioned him to make shoes for their racing team. In the early 60’s Maely was designing and building bikes under a Chinese manufacturer. He spoke five languages fluently and was an expert in the motorcycle world. Many top racers sought his advice and coaching from around the w orld. He continued to build and sell his famous hotshoes right up until his death in 2003. He was inducted into the American Motorcycle Association’s hall of fame in 1999 and is still known as the best hot shoe maker of all time.
In the World of Speed archives you'll find an original Ken Maely motorcycle hot shoe on display. The shoe was raced with in the 50’s and 60’s locally.