I was attacked by a rubber chicken, offered a banana by a man in an ape suit, watched everything from a tinfoil alien to a cow ride past me – all of this in the midst of riding several hundred kilometers in a mad dash through puzzles and mysterious map directions.
Half contest, half tour, half Mardi Gras-like madness that makes you question reality and lose the ability to do basic percentages. There’s nothing out there quite like the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally – and it changed who I am as a scooterist, motorcyclist, and as a person.
And so did the experience of getting to know and work for it’s creator – Rob Harris, editor and creator of Canada Moto Guide – but we’ll get more into that later.
The MBSR rally is a scooter based event which runs every two years, and it involves solving puzzles, decorating your scooter and dressing up in ridiculous costumes and then riding 600-700km in up to 24 hours. (Depending on the engine size scooter, bigger scooters get less time to complete the rally.)
I’d read in CMG about the very first MBSR – which was basically just 5 people riding around Lake Ontario on Honda Ruckus scooters in 2004. By 2005 it had grown to 22 people and a more involved and planned rally (I wasn’t able to make the 2005 rally unfortunately, but that would be the last one I would miss.)
I joined up for the 2007 rally which took place in Belleville, Ontario (along with my ever patient wife, riding her Kymco Bet and Win 250cc.) By this point I’d been waiting to go on a MBSR for almost 3 years since riding about the first one, missing the second one, and then waiting when they changed to an every-two-years format.
And what was it like to ride the MBSR finally? A wonderful series of contradictions. It was painful, tiring, dehydrating and crampy. It was beautiful, adventurous, scenic and twisty. It was comical and serious, competitive and friendly – it changed several things for me.
For one, this was the longest trip I had every made on any two wheeled vehicle up to that point – and all crammed into about 13 hours of riding. The MBSR organizers had done a great job of picking and scouting scenic side roads that really showed you a side of Ontario you don’t get to see if you stick to the 400 series highways. The rally course curved through small towns, across old bridges, through forests and farmers fields – before ending up at Ottawa.
Along the way we chased historic plaques, read gravestones, posed for pictures in front of signs and with people and caused the occasional stir with locals watching our brightly coloured parade of characters riding by in bunches of small CC machines, laughter mixing with the noise of motors and CVTs spooling along.
And along the way – my perception of how far you could take a scooter changed – along with my perception of riding with others. For the scooter, I realized if you could do 600km+ in a single day, you could basically take it anywhere you wanted to go – just at a somewhat more leisurely pace.
Sure it wasn’t the best tool always for the job, and definitely not the fastest one – but there is a certain appeal in taking the slower road and concentrating more on the ride than on the time it takes to finish it.
The rally led to more than one change for me as well – there was a call for volunteers to blog about the event, and I ended up writing quite a bit about my preparation and my ride. This led to my writing in 2009 an article for CMG about my MBSR experience – “Mad Bastard 2009 – A Rider’s Perspective” and led to several years of writing the occasional article for Canada Moto Guide and Rob Harris.
Writing for Rob was a unique experience – and an always entertaining one. You never knew what he might ask you to ride or write about, and more than one article started out as an email seeing if I was available to grab a
press loaner machine the next week or attend an event. With others I’d come up with some half baked (if I was lucky) idea for an article and send it off to Rob and he’d respond with something along the lines of “That’s a stupid, ludicrious and thoroughly impractical idea – when can you start writing it?”
Without Rob, I can say I wouldn’t have had the idea to start up Scoottoronto – but he helped addict me to writing about the two (and three) wheeled vehicles I love and to share that love with others through the often interesting world of the internet.
To the great loss of the motorcycling community in Canada, Rob was killed in a motorcycle accident in May, 2016. Last years’ MBSR would have been the first one in a while he might have had the opportunity to ride in as a regular rider instead of organizing – but while to our loss he wasn’t there in person to be with us, I think his influence remains.
He taught several important things about being a motorcyclist – that it doesn’t matter what you ride so much as
the fact that you ride and enjoy it. That you need to take everything motorcycle related with a sense of humour – because fundamentally putting yourself onto a two wheeled vehicle that seems to be occasionally slapping the laws of physics in the face is something that is just a bit odd.
Along with someone who will be featured in part three of this series, he also taught me the importance of stories and the way we tell them. He taught me a little about the mythology of the motorcycle, got me exploring the world and wondering at what I found there, and allowed me to find my own voice while contributing to a magazine very much written in his.
Thanks Rob. I’ll see you out there, somewhere.
Our third and final installment of “The Ride that changed…. Everything” will be out in a week or two, and this time it isn’t quite as much scooter related. Which might be against the rules for Scoottoronto, but I’m sure I’ll yell at myself for breaking the rules and then go back to the usual scooter based online fodder.
See you all in part three!