The 2019 Mad Bastard Scooter Rally: A rider’s report by Richard Baldwin – Part One
(Editor’s Introduction: Welcome to the first guest article we’ve done on Scoottoronto, and thanks to Richard Baldwin who volunteered his write up of his experiences (along with his daughter, Kayla who was the youngest passenger to ever complete a MBSR run.) You can read part one below of his report, and part two will be following next weekend.
My name is Richard Baldwin, and I’m a Mad Bastard.
I wasn’t always. At one point in time I might have thought it was an insult to be called such a thing, but about 5 years ago that changed when a sudden impulse caused me to buy an EMMO E-bike, and I became a two wheeled rider.
(Editor’s note: We recommended he consult a therapist for these impulses.)
I’d already test ridden it the bike, then thought about it and one day I happened to be where the bike was, had the money and ended up bringing it home.
Before this, I had had absolutely no motorcycle experience at all – but I started riding the EMMO around town and eventually ventured out on longer jaunts around the countryside.
Despite being on a vehicle that was speed limited to 32 km/h, had pedals sticking out the sides, and which had great difficulty making it up any sort of hill – I thought I was king of the world and felt like the coolest guy on the planet.
(Editor’s note: We also recommended the therapist check into delusions while they are at it.)
Feeling limited by the speed and range, when I saw a 150 cc Taiwanese scooter it didn’t take long to decide on an upgrade in power.
After the EMMO, the first ride on the 150cc felt like it was breaking the sound barrier.
Having some real power under me now I started ripping out in the country at the breakneck speed of almost 90 km/h.
While this was fast compared to the E-bike, I still tired of being passed by every car on the road – so I sold the 150 and after some research, purchased my upgrade to my upgrade, a Honda Forza 300.
Finally, I was now the one passing cars – instead of the other way around. It ran great and was easy to handle, but it still wasn’t ideal for the wind and traffic on the highway. So it was time for one last upgrade, and I traded it in for a BMW C650GT, the largest, fastest scooter available in North America.
I’m still riding that scooter to this day, and I was set to ride with my daughter. I had my daughter fairly late in life, being in my 40s. She just turned 11 last month and has been riding on the back of my scooters for three years.
I made sure to teach her how to ride safely on the back and also ensured she had proper riding gear.
She is always happy to go on a scooter ride, and when I told her I was going on a long and crazy scooter rally, she immediately asked if she could come.
We had a long talk about what would be involved in the rally.
“This isn’t some ride around town looking to see if your friends would spot you” I cautioned her. “This will be the longest ride you will have ever done in your life, but I do promise it will also be your greatest adventure yet”. She was determined, and so it was settled.
She was coming on the scooter rally.
We soon found out that no child/youth has ever completed the MBSR and that this was the 6th event. So our goal, since we were not experienced rally riders, wouldn’t be winning anything. Instead, we were going to be there to experience everything the rally had to offer.
It wouldn’t be about trophies or titles – we wanted to see if we could finish it – and finish it with the youngest person to ever survive the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally.
Our registration was almost rejected – the rally organizers didn’t realize that BMW makes a scooter with such a large engine capacity and they initially thought it was a motorcycle.
After assuring them it was indeed a scooter, we were registered into the rally.
Registration was a fairly pricey affair, but it included 2 nights at the hotel, Friday night supper, Sunday breakfast and various other benefits.
Not to mention supporting the charity event for Big Brothers and Sisters of Peterborough themselves.
We started a “GoFundMe” between all the family and friends we knew, which were not a lot of people, but response was positive and the donations started coming in.
We raised most of the fee this way and made up the rest ourselves.
The day before the rally, our first part of the trip was just to get to Peterborough. This involved a 210km ride around the north end of lake Simcoe through Orillia, down the other side and across on 7 to finally arrive at the Otonabee Hotel.
Upon arrival there were over two dozen scooters already parked in the designated lot. There were people with costumes, music playing, and an air of festivity.
We were immediately greeted and made to feel welcome as some of the “Bastards” welcomed us, looking over my giant-sized scooter and asking questions about it.
I told them this was the king of scooters and wanted everyone to see the top side of capacity you could also get with this type of ride.
We later learned that there was a disadvantage to having such a large capacity scooter – while most of the scooters there were 50 to 150cc and capable of speeds up to 90 km/h – mine could easily reach speeds over 180kph.
Because of this I was put into the “Day Release” class which penalizes our time allowance on the rally by 8 hours over the small scooters.
This seemed reasonable as we were expecting to fly past everyone on this machine. It wasn’t until after the rally how much we realized that scooter speed meant nothing when it came to completion time, but those were the rules nonetheless.
I thought at the time it was a fair assessment and assumed I would be blowing by the smaller scooters and waiting for them at the finish line. It was a classic “hare and tortoise” scenario. I turned out to be sadly mistaken in my assessment!
Kayla, my daughter, has just turned 11.
With three years of experience riding on the back of my bike, it was no surprise that she handled the ride from Owen Sound to Peterborough with no complaints or issues. Her only request was occasional stops for ice cream.
At this point I knew this was going to be doable. Kayla is very aware of her capabilities and makes her own choices already. She not only knew she could do this long run, but was looking forward to it.
After a fantastic supper and Riders meeting on Friday evening – where they carefully went over all the details of the rally, although I failed to absorb all of it – we went to our rooms to get to sleep as early as possible for the big day ahead.
The first group of riders were up by 3:30 am. Having a quick breakfast and hopping on the scooters, on the road by as early as 4:31 am. The spirit was strong with the bastards as many were dancing, singing and doing crazy things at launch time. The MBSR facebook site has the videos to prove this!
These were the “Straight Jacket” class, riding on the smallest 50cc or less engine scooters. Many were also very experienced riders, and many had been in multiple rallies in the past. (Editor’s note: Some would say too many, but we still think they can be re-integrated with normal society.)
They had this down to an art, and already knew the lessons I would learn throughout the day.
Riding the largest and fastest scooter meant we were placed last to leave. We pulled out at 5:30 am. We were already an hour behind the first teams.
At this point neither of us had any concerns and still felt that we would be zooming by the pack within a few hours.
I decided that since the GPS would be less than helpful, we would hand write the turns and distance to travel on a small piece of paper and stick it in the window of the GPS cover.
Very “old school” but effective since holding directions while driving didn’t seem wise. We followed the directions on the map guide, being careful not to deviate from the route, and soon came to the first clue stop.
We had already caught up to several of the larger scooters who had left before us. The first clue asked us to count how many steps were at this spot – it was the Peterborough lift lock – although I wasn’t sure if we had the right set of stairs.
“But dad”, said Kayla, “the clue says the stairs don’t go to heaven, and these stairs go up.” We ended up taking our best guess and somehow got it right.
5 points to us.
The advantage of being able to catch up to the smaller scooter riders was that we were given a tip by another rider that some of the photo challenges – pictures of different things we needed to take with the scooter – were at this spot. There was a Muskoka chair and a canoe.
For these we had to take a photo of us, the item, and the scooter – ideally combining all that in an interesting or funny way.
Looking down the wet, slippery grassy embankment to where these items were, I decided my scooter was too large and heavy to take down the embankment to get into the photo. I would probably end up sliding right into the lock.
There was another way around but again, steep and gravelly just didn’t sound like a good idea. So we took shots of us and the chair and canoe just so we could move on.
Sadly, the photos did not earn any points, because we didn’t have the scooter in them. We walked back to where we had parked, enjoying the early morning quiet and lack of traffic, then moved on to find the next stop.
This is where things started to go wrong for us. First, as we were getting our gear on, the helmet, which I stupidly left sitting on the bike seat, slid off and crashed to the ground. The helmet was ok, but the camera holder was destroyed.
That meant no riding videos for the rest of the tour. Then, as we pulled into the next clue stop, I looked again at the list of clues and with a sinking feeling realized that there wasn’t just one question to answer at the last spot – there were five. We’d missed 4 clues along the way.
We had to go back! Once again I realized the disadvantage of my monster scooter and the maxi scooter class getting less time to complete the rally. Dismounting to check maps, turning around, remounting, re-gearing and taking off again all safely without getting stuck in gravel, hitting soft shoulders and tipping, and navigating around the clue stops was proving challenging.
Not to mention that my rubberized batman costume was not going to be doable any more – I was soaked with sweat under it, and suffering from the heat. I eventually had to take it off, and don it only for photo ops. I can only imagine how much easier all this zipping around would be on a 50cc scooter, with the extra 8 hours to finish the rally.
Back we went. We finished the rest of the clues properly, which took a good half hour, walking around, counting flagpoles (the question was how many flags line the sides of the entrance to the visitor centre. There was a row of flags on both sides, but apparently only one of the rows counted, so we scored a big fat 0 for counting ALL of the flags), looking for signage and such, then turned around and headed to the next stop.
No problem, it was still pretty early so should still be able to catch up and blow by everyone right?
There would be a wild card detour later on the route that we needed to be there by 2pm and only the first 20 to show would get a prepaid river raft ride. Should be easy on the bat bike – or so I thought.
The second clue stop once again threw us for a loop.
The title of the clue section was “Riverside Zoo” or something like that, we saw the sign for the zoo and pulled in. We were supposed to find a sundial somewhere on the grounds. The zoo was closed, the gates were locked and nobody was around, except for a very shady looking character hanging around in the parking lot. (Editor’s note – shadier than the other MBSR riders? Impressive!)
He was a young guy that looked really rough, old sweaty hoodie pulled over his head, smoke hanging out of his mouth, kind of skulking around and scoping us out. It was a little unnerving. He looked like the kind of guy you want to lock your car before you walked away from it, and here I was with a kid and a bike.
Not sure what this guy was doing hanging around the zoo parking lot at 6:30 am but I felt we should get out of there since we weren’t finding any clues.
He started walking over to us, waving his arms, trying to get our attention.
“Hurry up and get on the bike Kayla!”
I got my helmet on quickly and before I could get Kayla mounted and start up the bike he was on us. Here’s hoping that karate class Kayla and I took were going to pay off… “Hey, are you guys looking for those other scooter riders?” he asked.
“Um… well yes, we are, did you see them?” I replied. “Yeah, they all pulled in here a while ago and then went down to the next entrance at the other end of the zoo.”. “Oh… um. Ok! Thanks!” and we took off. Sure enough at the other entrance which was clearly NOT marked as the location of any zoo, was all the things we needed to find.
We solved the clues and finally were able to move on by 7 am or so.
I realized we were already a few hours into the trip and haven’t eaten anything yet, not even a coffee because we certainly were not getting up at 3:30 to have breakfast. And by getting up at 5 we barely had time to gear up and hop on the bike for our 5:30 departure. So at Bridgenorth, which was around 1/3 of the way through the page 1 map, we stopped for coffee and a light breakfast.
After all I had an 11 year old here to take care of and I didn’t need her getting peckish from lack of food on such a journey. We studied the map, discussed directions with some of the locals, realized that I had already missed the turn, finished our food and tea – and it was time to move on. I handed out a few “Mad Bastard” business cards which advertised the charity for the rally first!
We rocketed down the road at the speed limit for over 100kms. There was a clue spot in Lakehurst but we completely missed it. Probably from going too fast! Before we knew it we were in Buckhorn.
Here we were supposed to find some sort of artwork and mark down who did it. All we could find was a mural at the community centre and marked down the manufacturer of the sign which was on the plaque in the bottom right corner.
“It seems like art” said Kayla, and she was convinced it was the only artwork in town. I agreed, it’s the only artwork we could find in Buckhorn. (Which turned out to be wrong, we got 0 points for that clue. Apparently there was artwork somewhere that we didn’t see.)
Time to move on, by this time is was just after 9am. I noticed later that each page had a guide of what time it should be by the time you finish the page.
We were supposed to be done this entire page by 7:30 am and we were only 2/3 of the way through the first map page, and still hadn’t seen another scooter since the first stop. (Editor’s note – Everyone who has ridden the Mad Bastard knows well the panic you get mid day when you look at how far along you are – compared to how far you should be. The first is almost never as much as the second.)
Kayla was however, getting much better at her mounting and dismounting the bike, getting the helmet off, de-gearing and re-gearing. It was all getting smoother, but too little too late I was starting to feel.
We had to keep moving, but would feel much better if we could at least catch up to one scooter driver. Any scooter driver!
Barreling at over 100km/h from buckhorn to Flynn’s turn our hopes were answered. We finally saw a scooter. It was on the side of the road and the driver was nowhere to be seen. It turned out this scooter driver had blown a tire and called for the sweeper to pick him up. He was out of the “race”.
Which at this point I didn’t realize it was a race. I wish I did, but they clearly stated at the meeting the night before “this isnt a race! It doesn’t matter who gets there first”.
This was totally a race, just against a clock instead of other riders. So what to do?
(TO BE CONTINUED IN PART TWO, COMING NEXT WEEKEND)
- The 2019 Mad Bastard Scooter Rally: A rider’s report by Richard Baldwin – Part Two July 5, 2019
- The 2019 Mad Bastard Scooter Rally: A rider’s report by Richard Baldwin – Part One June 29, 2019
- A letter to a Bastard: Mad Bastard Scooter Rally 2019 June 24, 2019
- Scooter Rants: Why you should own a vintage scooter. June 6, 2019
- Registration ends tomorrow for the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally – the Last of the Bastards June 6, 2019