There are few events that I look forward to as much as the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally. I don’t even know why I find it so appealing. By motorcycling standards some would find it boring. I mean, who wants to ride a scooter for more than 700 km non-stop?
Ninety-three Mad Bastards, that’s who.
It takes a considerable commitment to hop onto a bike with single-digit horsepower and hit the road for hundreds of kilometres at a time. Wind and hills slow you down — a lot — and because you’re riding at a pace a horse could easily match while trotting, you’re exposed to the weather much longer than if you were riding a full-sized motorcycle.
Add to that the clues you’ve got to gather to collect “mad points”, and the silly, sometimes provocative photos you’ve got to take, also for points, and the challenge increases.
Oh, and if you’re a seriously Mad Bastard, you’ll likely show up dressed in costume with your bike in disguise, again to increase your tally of mad points.
But, there’s a method to the madness: the winner (with the most mad points) takes home a grand prize; this year it was a new Kymco People S 125 scooter provided by Kymco Canada. Not too shabby.
Oh, those mad bastards also raise funds for a charity, and this year more than $15,000 was donated to Kids Help Phone.
A STAR IS BORN
This year marked the fourth time I rode the Bastard, but it was the first time I did it as part of a team. Toronto Star Wheels editor Mark Richardson had asked me to join Team Death Star, and after pondering just how mad he was (it was also his fourth event, he won it in 2005, and he’s not averse to stripping to his birthday suit and recording it for points), I became a full-patch member of Death Star SC (Scooter Club).
My chosen steed for the deed: a 2012 Yamaha BW’s 50 with an all-new liquid-cooled and fuel-injected four-stroke engine, though the points system, which favours older scooters, did not work in my favour. Team captain Mark chose a Kymco Vitality 50 two-stroke. Team Death Star also had a club prospect riding along; former CMGer and current Cycle Canada servant, Steve Thornton, joined our ranks on the morning of our departure.
Perhaps as homage to his previous days at CMG, Steve quickly went all CMG on us by delaying our departure. The headlight on his Kymco 50 cc scooter wouldn’t work so we waited while Kymco’s Dennis Heilman tried to fix it, but alas, Steve had to eventually trade the scooter for an oversized (by Mad Bastard standards) Quannon 150. But at least he had a ride.
When we finally hit the road out of Barrie, Ontario it was shortly after 5:00 am; it was raining and it was cold. Not exactly the conditions you would want when embarking on a 726-km, slow-motion journey that could last up to 24 hours.
In those early morning hours I was pretty happy to see that my four-stroke Yamaha surprisingly had more power than Mark’s two-stroke Kymco. I’d outrun him on acceleration and had a higher top speed, topping out with the speedo needle buried past the 70 km/h-mark on level ground.
My elation was short-lived, however, as Mark’s Kymco had one kilometre on the odometer at the start of the rally. As the mileage accumulated it loosened up, and he’d eventually start to pull ahead in a drag race (a frequent distraction), though the Yamaha matched its top speed on level ground.
Hills were a different story. The Kymco had a more pulling power going up hills, and frustratingly for me, it continued pulling away going downhill too, as the Yamaha fluttered on its speed limiter, which cut in any time the speedo needle swept past about 75 km/h (the speedo indicator marks stop at 70 km/h but the needle sweeps past to about where the 75 km/h mark would be).
At least I could gain enough speed when tucking in on level ground that I could catch back up to Mark after having fallen behind, albeit very gradually. When you’re both running flat out it can take a while to catch up, even thought the leader is always within sight.
My frustration was vindicated when just 100 km into our trip Mark’s scooter ran out of gas. He was carrying a jerry can but we hadn’t yet stopped to fill up so it was empty. Fortunately fellow mad bastard, Harvey Miller, stopped and gave us some of the spare fuel he was carrying, saving us about an hour round trip to get gas. Thank you kind bastard.
As it turned out, the Vitality’s 50cc two-stroke engine had a huge affinity for gasoline, gulping down the juice at a rate of 5L/100 km (56 mpg). With a five-litre fuel tank, that meant we had to stop and fill the Kymco every 100 km.
The Yamaha may have been a bit slower in the hilly bits, but at least it ran on fumes, returning an impressive average of 2.2L/100 km (127 mpg!). I was really getting fond of the new BW’s.
THE SLOW WAY ROUND
This year’s route took us east out of Barrie, past Orillia and Kinmount, where it turned northwest towards Huntsville and the Muskoka area of Ontario. From there it meandered through cottage country, where the low speeds allowed us ample time to take in the stunning scenery.
After gassing up in Rosseau in the early afternoon, we then turned south through the prettiest part of the route. Highway 632 out of Rousseau was tailor-made for scooters. It was tight and twisty and the hills weren’t too steep or too long; we railed through there flat out. Actually, we’d been flat out since 5:00 am, but at least along this winding stretch it actually felt like it.
Covering distance at these speeds takes time, lots of time, and one can get… bored. I found myself looking for distractions to keep me entertained as the kilometres slowly ticked by. One exercise I enjoyed was playing “draft Mark”, where I tucked in and caught up with my team mate, then stayed in his slipstream to see how long I could stay with him going uphill.
Or I’d test how far back I’d have to be behind him before I could pick up his slipstream again. After several attempts I determined that I could get about four bike lengths between us and still pick it up; five bike lengths proved a tad too far.
I did this for miles…
It was late afternoon when we turned west near Coopers Falls. It had been several hours since the rain let up, though the sky remained menacing throughout the day.
We rolled into the party hotspot of Wasaga Beach at about 8:30 pm and pulled into a Boston Pizza for dinner. I was glad to dismount after 15 hours in the saddle and looked forward to a warm meal. I was expecting the lasagna I’d ordered to warm up my insides after chilling on the BW’s all day, but after cutting into it, I discovered that what appeared to be a piping hot meal on the outside was still frozen solid on the inside. Ugh…
“Oh, I’ll have that warmed up for you in a minute,” the waitress told me after I pointed it out to her, and she casually returned it to the kitchen. Meanwhile, I’m thinking: “You’ll have it warmed up in a minute? It’s not a fucking Pizza Pocket!” I was now looking forward to getting back on the scooter.
GOING FOR THE GUSTO
Just a few kilometres west of Wasaga Beach was a literal fork in the road and a big decision to make.
Turn left and it’s a mere 42 km back to the warmth of the hotel room in Barrie and a glass of single malt. You’ll have completed the main route of the Mad Bastard and can sleep with the satisfaction that you’ve officially finished to boot.
Turn right however, and you’ll be riding another 179 km on the bonus loop that included the mother of all inclines along Scenic Caves Rd just out of Collingwood. It was now 10:30 pm and if we took this option we’d likely be looking at about five extra hours of riding in the dark.
Steve and I were leaning towards the bonus-loop bypass and a glass of scotch. Mark, on the other hand, had his sights set on the media prize, a case of Mill St. Tankhouse Ale (members of the media were not eligible for the grand prize). He was determined to score the maximum amount of points and would do it on his own if he had to.
Although reluctant (to say the least), Steve and I agreed that we couldn’t leave a man behind and turned right with Mark. It was actually the least we could have done for a man who was so intent on scoring the brew that he’d earlier climbed atop a rock cut with his scooter, stripped bare and posed for pictures as cars drove by below.
So we rode on into the night … What a sonofabitch of a ride — kilometre after kilometre of darkness, with a cool mist gathering on our face shields and obscuring the view ahead.
We finally turned back towards Barrie after stopping in Orangeville for a mandatory fuel receipt (to prove we’d ridden the bonus loop). But by this time I had no idea just how far we had to ride back to Barrie, and I optimistically expected to see its warm glow around every bend and over every hill. It remained exceptionally dark.
It was only after what seemed like many painful hours that I saw a sign reading 18 km to Barrie.
We eventually rolled into the hotel a 4:00 am, 23 hours and two minutes after we left. We were the last Mad Bastards in and only had a mere 58 minutes left in our class, after which it would all have been for naught with a big fat DNF (Did Not Finish).
AND THE WINNER IS…
For his efforts, Mark Richardson took the win in the media class (and an impressive fourth overall) and went home with the Tankhouse Ale. I took third in the media class, 11th overall. I went home with a sore ass.
Percy “Scooterman” Adler took the overall win, riding his Yamaha C3 in the Straight Jacket class. Although he was entitled to the Kymco People S 125 scooter, he didn’t go home with it. He instead left it to rally organizers to be raffled off, with the proceeds going to Kids Help Phone.
Quite noble of him, but then what do you expect when you’ve just been declared the maddest bastard of all!