Rob Harris 1967-2016

Cate and Chloe Harris Trust Fund donations:

 

*

According to Rob Harris, there is no afterlife. No Heaven or hell, no wondrous place to walk into the light, no pearly gates or puffy white clouds or even fire and brimstone. Just – nothing.

He’d tell you this over a pint at the end of the day or, better yet, with his size 14 feet up on the edge of a table that held a bottle of reasonable scotch and a pair of half-filled glasses. And you and he would talk about many things: the Great Void; foreign policy; motorcycles, of course. This would continue for hours, until you were both tired enough for bed. But what you wouldn’t talk about would be Rob Harris, because he was more interested in you than in himself. You’d go to bed and never realize that while you knew more about his beliefs and your own, you didn’t really know where these ideas had come from – what formed them in his life.

Rob’s gone now, killed in a motorcycle crash, dead in the blink of an eye. Whether he’s looking down on us or not we’ll never know, not in this life at least. But picture him on the chair opposite, looking at you with that cheeky grin or maybe that good-natured little smirk, silent now for someone else to hold the air. He’s nodding that it’s okay. It’s time to tell his story.

*

 

rob babyRob was born 49 years ago in Harrogate, a Yorkshire town, at – if you can believe it – Number 24, Cold Bath Road. “And his house was tall, tall like him, it went on and on up.” That’s Courtney talking, Courtney Hay, remembering her 6-feet-4 partner and the father of their children, Cate, 8, and Chloe, 7.

He was the youngest of three. His mother, Janet, a social worker, died from breast cancer when Rob was only six years old and he pretty much ran amok with his brother Michael, or Mitchy, and his sister Sarah, who were three and five years older. Their father Donald, a property adjudicator, would drop them off at a rented cottage in the summer and leave them to themselves all day. The three were tight-knit and watched out for each other in everything they did. When Rob was 10 years old, Donald sent his kids to Canada to stay for the summer with their mother’s sister, Margie, who lived near Montreal. Donald remarried and his new wife wanted nothing to do with the children; when Rob was 16, his father moved away to the south, leaving his kids to fend for themselves even more.

Soon after, Rob inherited £5,000 from his grandfather and used the money to travel to Australia. He spent the better part of a year there, 17 years old and on his own, staying with distant relatives and new friends, and it gave him the itch to see more of the world. “He learned perspective and self-sufficiency and independence and responsibility,” says Courtney, describing the humanist principles of his parents, “and how you need to count on yourself and do it.”

Rob demonstrated this every day of his life by being a vegetarian surrounded by carnivores. A friend told him about factory farming and he decided early on that he wanted nothing to do with eating meat. He never imposed this decision on others and would sit happily with friends eating burgers and steaks, but he’d be the one with a cheese pizza, or a salad. “Nothing with an anus,” he’d say. A friend remembers waving a scallop under his nose at a mealtime years later: “I can’t see an anus on this,” he teased. “Maybe not,” shot back Rob, “but I can see an anus holding it.”

rob old houseEventually, in Australia, he ran out of money, so broke he didn’t even own a pair of shoes, so he returned to the U.K. and signed up for a one-year motorcycle mechanics program in London. He earned top honours and went to work for a bike shop in the city, but he wanted more and enrolled in a four-year co-op mechanical engineering program at Coventry University. As part of the degree, he worked for a kit-car manufacturer, but the company went bankrupt and nowhere else could offer Rob a placement. So he applied for a one-year work visa in Canada, came to Toronto, and found a job at a motorcycle shop.

When the visa expired, he returned to the U.K. to complete his degree, and then came back to Canada, where he worked as a mechanic at Toronto’s T.O. Cycle. He met a local girl and they got married, both of them in their early 20s, and still he was ambitious for more. “While he was doing his motorcycle mechanicking,” says Courtney, “he found that wasn’t quite enough interesting stuff to do for him, and so he started writing about motorcycles.”

Rob later explained the 1994 creation of the Toronto Motorcycle Guide in an interview with the Toronto Star: It was “something that used my brain and my love of bikes, and to a certain amount the engineering degree – the trouble with engineering is you can’t make jokes.”

cottageRob’s smiling on the chair opposite now, and nodding. Those were exciting days in Toronto, printing a paperback-sized, 28-page edition every couple of months. Its first cover was photocopied on pink paper to make sure it stood out, and Rob also used the colour to get away from the traditional machismo of motorcycles. After a year, the scope of the magazine expanded to cover the province and it became Ontario Motorcycle Guide, with roughly 3,000 copies distributed for free at bike shops.

It was successful enough that Rob quit his mechanic’s job and took an income from the magazine’s advertising, though he still had to make ends meet by tending bar at the Shark City Athletic Club on Eglinton Avenue East. The pressures of work and never having enough money helped take a toll on his marriage – “we were far too young,” he said later – and they divorced after just a couple of years.

young robThe magazine weathered through, however. Canadian Motorcycle Guide – or CMG – began as an accompanying web site in 1996 when an enthusiastic reader, Patrick Shelston, offered to set it up, just for the experience. And when an insurance broker agreed to mail OMG to his clients, circulation was bumped to 11,000 an issue. Advertising started to be more profitable. But then the brokerage was sold, and a replacement deal to distribute through the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council was short-lived, and “basically, OMG finally ran out of steam,” said Rob in the Star interview. “We tried all avenues to keep the circulation up, but it couldn’t be done.”

The magazine folded at the end of 1998, and Rob took off for a couple of months to Australia to rethink his options. But the Web site lured him back and he took on another job to help pay the bills, teaching motorcycle mechanics in the evenings at Centennial College. There were more girlfriends and relationships, and always motorcyclists coming and going through his life.

Rob introduced a number of contributors and many are still in the business; he gave a first break to Canadian writers like Costa Mouzouris and Steve Bond. At the turn of the millennium, one regular contributor was a young, professionally-ranked roadracer named Piero Zambotti, who left to become an associate editor at Cycle Canada magazine. In 2003, when Piero went off the road riding a Honda Gold Wing near Dorset, Ontario, and died in the ambulance from a ruptured artery in his chest after the stupid, senseless, unexplained crash, Rob was stunned.

*

Rob’s head is bowed now in the chair across the room, but let’s get this straight. People will say he was killed by motorcycles. They’ll say bikes are dangerous, and they’ll say he was selfish to risk his life with them. People who never knew him will shrug and say, well, what do you expect?

RobHCB200If Rob had been driving a car, he would not have died in the collision. The combined speed of the two vehicles was not much more than 50 km/h, and seat belts and air bags would have saved his life. But Rob would not have been driving on the road in a car, because he had no reason to do so. His motorcycle though – that was a reason to be there, and to live life to the fullest.

“I’ll admit I may have enjoyed this road at a rather quick rate of knots,” he wrote last year about the Black Donald Road, a paved road near Calabogie that’s not so far away, “but, like so many of the roads around here, it pulls you into a semi-hypnotic groove. Your mind releases its burden and automatically pulls all the mental levers into sync to guide you and machine effortlessly through the landscape.” That’s what he would enjoy the most on his motorcycle.

Rob was a skilled and careful rider. He never owned a car, though his name shared the registration for Courtney’s Kia. He was responsible on two wheels. He knew he had to be, because after all the work and all the struggles, he had a young family he loved even more than motorcycling. Like all of us who ride, he felt he could minimize the risks through caution and experience, and he did, down to almost no risk at all. This gave him far more personal fulfillment than he could hope to achieve without motorcycles, and he always treated the machines with respect.

“He was always aware. It was always in the back of his mind,” says his friend Costa Mouzouris, who was on that fatal ride with Piero. “It’s always there, always a concern, but you don’t think it will ever happen to you.”

*

 

Rob moved to Montreal soon after Piero’s death, partly to change up his life but also to make a fresh start away from a failed relationship in Toronto. Montreal was vibrant and he was close to his aunt; the fact he spoke no French whatsoever was never a concern.

rob with courtneySoon after his arrival, he turned up to register for a rally at St.-Saveur with his best friend, Jim Vernon, another transplanted Brit in Montreal who loved motorcycles, and the volunteer registration clerk was Courtney Hay. They began dating and then moved in together. Courtney’s government HR job helped pay the bills.

There was enough money to take a vacation and the two of them went to Mexico. It was there, on a beach, that Rob got down on one knee and proposed to Courtney. Actually, typical for Rob, his knee hurt so he had to get down on both knees and present Courtney with a ring he’d just bought from a hotel vendor with his last 50 bucks. Courtney said yes, but they never did set a date.

Their first daughter was born soon after, named Cate for the Cate Blanchett movie they watched while Courtney was in labour, two months early. When Courtney was pregnant the following year with their second child, they decided to move from Montreal to give their children a better life in a more affordable, family-friendly environment. Courtney’s father owned a holiday cottage on the beach near Bathurst, New Brunswick, and they started looking there for a place to call home.

“I knew I could transfer my job to Moncton, so we went looking for places in commutable distance and we found this lovely little town in Sackville,” remembers Courtney. “We stayed at the Marshlands Inn, where the Queen stayed, so we felt it was all good then, and everything just fell into place.” They bought a house on the edge of town and moved in during the summer of 2009, when Chloe was just five weeks old.

Courtney helped Rob with his CMG responsibilities. That included organizing the bi-annual running of the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally – an 800-kilometre roving rally that Rob founded in 2003 with three friends who rode around Lake Ontario on 50 cc scooters. Like most of Rob’s ventures, it grew in popularity because it was different from anything else on two wheels and it raised thousands of dollars for Kids’ Helpline, but it didn’t actually make much money for CMG.

11079513_10153825412750260_7259350247686999237_o copyIt was not easy for either of them to juggle parenthood with work, and Courtney began to resent her bureaucratic job. The marriage was strained, but she admits it was Rob who fought hardest for what they had and who kept them together. It was Rob who told her to quit her cubicle job, and to join him at CMG. And Courtney looked at the clutter that was burying the efficiency of the business and took over its organization, selling its advertising and leaving Rob free to work at making the content the best it could be. Everything finally came together, and the last two years were perhaps the happiest of their lives.

In 2014, Rob visited his family in the U.K. and asked his sister Sarah for their mother’s wedding ring. Sometime around Christmas that year, just after dinner, he asked the girls to call their mother into the dining room. Then he asked them to help him get back down onto two knees, and he presented the second ring to Courtney and asked her again to marry him. “I want you to know I’ve got your back,” he told her. “I know you’ve got mine and we’re in this together.” It was a renewed commitment for them both to each other and they were stronger for it. Courtney now wears both rings, but still, a date was never set. There were many other challenges to deal with first.

In New Brunswick, Rob had found a love for exploring the province’s back roads on dual-purpose motorcycles and recognized there was a viable business in promoting two-wheeled adventure tours of the area. The two of them created the Fundy Adventure Rally, and its inaugural 500-km ride in 2014 attracted 61 riders from Canada and the United States. Last year, there were 91 riders. The rally this coming September, with potential sponsorship from BMW and Honda, promised to continue the growth and the success.

Rob had big plans for CMG, now called Canada Moto Guide to satisfy both French and English readers: new contributors, a new focus, maybe even expansion into the U.S. Rob was spending more time on dual-purpose motorcycles and attended the launch of Honda’s Africa Twin this spring on Vancouver Island.

And then, last week, he flew to Montreal, met his friend Jim Vernon, and the two of them loaded Jim’s Honda CRF250 and a Husqvarna 701 test bike into Jim’s van. They drove to the Elmhurst Resort on Rice Lake, an hour north-east of Toronto, for a weekend of dirt-road rally riding.

*

“If I were in a sci-fi movie, my nemesis would be Dr. Sand, and his weapon would be grooves,” wrote Rob in his notebook that Friday, after trying out the Husqvarna at the resort. “If you look at the grooves of Dr. Sand, you are dead. You have to look ahead, apply a steady throttle, and trust that the 701 will steer through it….

“This is the Ganaraska Forest. A wonderland of trails to discover – wide, narrow, safe trails … but mostly sand.  The 701 could do it, but I wouldn’t say it was its happy place.”

rob with siblingsAnd then the next day, a damp Saturday morning, he wrote: “Weather!” He and Jim and another rider named Herb set off on an organized ride following a 300-kilometre loop north of the resort and tried to stay ahead of several dozen other riders on larger adventure bikes. When those riders stopped for gas, Rob scrawled more notes in his notebook – “Managed to keep ahead of the horde” and “Rallies are very weather dependent!” – and then he and Jim got a 10-minute head start and rode north up the Old Hastings Road.

The Old Hastings Road was built in 1854 to try to settle the area between Hastings and Bancroft. It was intended for horses and sleighs, but the poor soil meant there was little settlement and little use for the road. As such, it was never improved but just left to connect a few houses and hunting cabins. It twists and winds and whoops and dips for about 50 kilometres, and it’s a wonderful, narrow, little-travelled dirt road, with occasional patches of sand.

Jim says the two of them were riding at probably 50 km/h, perhaps a little slower than they might have done because the road was slippery from the damp. Rob was in front – he wouldn’t let Jim ride ahead because he said Jim would probably crash, just as he’d done on a ride through Labrador several years earlier. About four kilometres south of Ormsby, population 20, the road drops deep into a hollow and then rises to a crest that turns gently to the right. On the north side of the crest, there’s at least 100 metres of road that’s also in a hollow, too deep for any vehicle on it to be clearly seen from the south. On the road in that hollow, four members of a local family were driving home from Bancroft after picking up their mother from her shift at the thrift shop. Rob crested the hill in the centre of the lane, confident he could see a clear road ahead, the two motorcyclists well into the rhythm of the ride, 15 minutes from lunch.

1934091_12314290259_80_n copy“I heard the crack of a motorcycle throttle, and then I heard a backfire,” recalls the owner of a hunting cabin just south of the hill. “Except it wasn’t a backfire. It was the sound of the gentleman’s helmet hitting the pickup truck.”

Rob saw the truck on the other side of the crest and would have had a split-second to react. He dropped the Husqvarna and it slid through the dirt to the left, while he slid straight ahead. The left side of his helmet hit the driver’s-side bumper of the blue Ford F-150. The truck had been driving slowly but the driver slammed on the brakes and was almost at a standstill for the collision. All the force of the impact was in Rob’s speed and it was a head-on crash. All the Kevlar, all the fiberglass and carbon composite, cannot protect the brain from such a collision. As well, the impact broke Rob’s ribs, which in turn ruptured his heart and the arteries in his chest.

“He would have been unconscious in a heartbeat, literally,” reported the coroner. “Just a moment to know that something was happening, and then he was gone. Such a rupture stops all blood pressure instantly and the brain immediately shuts down. He would have been dead just a few moments later.

“This really was a flukey kind of thing. One missed gear change and he wouldn’t have been there. He’d have been a fraction of a second back on the road and would have seen the truck in enough time. But he wasn’t. He was in the worst possible place.”

*

Police and paramedics were there within 10 minutes, and the pickup truck driver worked CPR on Rob until they came, but there was nothing to be done. Courtney, at home in New Brunswick, was told of Rob’s death by police officers who came to the house. Her mother was visiting in his absence, there to help with Chloe’s seventh birthday the previous day. The two of them flew the next day with Cate and Chloe to Toronto. Courtney drove out to Kingston with her brother and father to formally identify Rob’s body at the hospital. It was barely 30 hours since the collision, and he was still dressed in his riding suit. There was a cut on his lower lip, but otherwise he looked peaceful.

“You know that little smirk he had?” she says. “That downward turn of the ends of his mouth, while smiling at the same time? He had that when I saw him. He looked beautiful.”

*

Rob’s been listening to his story in the chair, staring at the floor for the last little while, but now he’s looking up and his eyes are quizzical. He wants to know about the letters. It’s okay. Courtney has the letters. Rob softens and nods and smirks that little smile. There’s a letter for each of their daughters, typed out by him before he went away on a motorcycle trip in 2011.

rob with girls and courtney“My dearest Cate” and “My dearest Chloe”, they begin. “I am so sorry that you are reading this now. It means that something has happened and that I shall not be seeing you again.”

He tells of his hope that Courtney is with them, and his faith that she’ll provide for them. He tells of how he grew up without his mother and how he regrets that they will have the same hole in their lives. But then, as Rob would always have it, he shifts and looks toward the future.

“Don’t be sad for too long, and don’t let any sadness get too deep into your soul,” he tells his daughters. “The world is a wondrous place and life a precious if somewhat fragile experience. It should be lived to the full and without fear.

“So, be strong. Live life to the fullest. Respect your fellow human being. Treat your friends well. Love and honour your family and live life as the main performance, not a rehearsal.

rob with glass“I love you both and I want to thank you for being in my life. I didn’t think that I would experience life with children but then I hadn’t met your mother. It’s perhaps the most important and fulfilling thing I ever did and please know that I died a complete and happy man for having you both in my life.

“Much love and adoration forever. Be strong. Dad.”

And Rob’s gone.

Rob leaves behind his beloved family, his partner Courtney and their daughters Cate and Chloe; his sister Sarah Johnston and brother Mike Harris and their families, Helen, Jenny, Andy, and Thomas, and his father Donald; his in-laws Judy Crichton, John Hay, and brothers-in-law Joel Hay and Adam Hay and their families Jordana, Sean, and Jack; his aunt Margaret Le Gallais and his cousins and their families. He will be terribly missed.

Details of the Cate and Chloe Harris Trust Fund can be found here.

56 thoughts on “Rob Harris 1967-2016”

  1. My Goodness me. I’m a friend of Rob’s from Harrogate, we met at school in the late 1970’s. We caught up over the net many years later ( like 25) and shared a few things from time to time!

    I now live in New Zealand and always hoped to get to see the man in Canada on my way back to UK one day. Rob, that will never happen now but thank you for being my friend all those years ago when they were hard to come by.

    Your humour and desire to live life even at aged 11 will never leave me. Boy we laughed and laughed. Rest in peace buddy, I’ll drink a pint to you tonight my friend. xx

  2. Wow! I’m in shock on this crisp, snowy January morning as I came across this article about Rob.We met back in the early ’90’s, as Rob and Sonic helped me put my Eddie Lawson Replica back together. As well, I helped him with procuring his Macintosh computer and printer for producing the “pink one” and contributed one of the first articles to the OMG – the Ontario Motorcycle Guide. I visited Rob on a warm late June afternoon for a pint at Shark City whilst he was working and the entire place was transfixed on the TV’s watching a “slow speed chase” of LA police after a white Ford Bronco. Yup…the same Bronco that contained OJ Simpson. A moment frozen in time for many people…a reference point as is this news. I’m deeply saddened upon hearing of Rob’s passing and wished I would’ve had the opportunity to meet up with him to share a pint of my brew. Rest in peace bro!

  3. I didn’t know Rob,I have read some things he has written,I do feel the pain of his wife and kids.After reading this I feel as I did get to know a lot about Rob.My heart feels for those he loved and those who had the chance to make friends with him.I know I would have liked to be his friend.You see about 10 years ago I had an accident on my motorcycle having a collision with a moose.My daughter was almost 3.I managed to survive with a concussion and the muscles in my neck took a few months to get back to normal.Thankfully I am hard headed and had the great fortune to buy the best motorcycle helmet available.I had no broken bones,no bruises,no scratches.On the up side,the accident had helped take a dent out of my head that I had as a kid who stood too close to a batters box.I would like to think that. Rob would have laughed at how my story ends.R.I.P Rob and thank you for the stories.

  4. What a wonderful tale of Rob’s life! Our paths crossed a few times and I remember each one fondly. There was always lots of laughter wherever he was. I’ll miss him.

  5. I met Rob in Labrador a few years ago, and he later asked me to write an article for this site. I just heard about his death and I am terribly saddened by this and sorry for your loss.

  6. Wonderful and moving tribute to your friend, and my passing acquaintance (whom I felt I knew better than I really did, from reading his articles), Mark.

  7. Met Rob at his FAR, Fundy Adventure Rally, two years ago and was so impressed did the rally again. Super nice fellow. Non replaceable. RIP Rob.

  8. My heartfelt condolences to his family in the UK as well as Courtney and the girls.

    I first met Rob via an old girlfriends friend back in 1985. He was riding an XL185 in those days and then subsequently a CB200. I moved to South Africa and lost touch but when I got back to the UK in 2000 managed to track him down and found out he was living in Canada.

    Managed to meet up a few times when he came back to visit and was hoping to see him and Courtney and hopefully the girls when they were over here again in the near future.

    A truly remarkable fellow biker that inspired me to get back on a bike after 16 years of not riding.
    His CMG family will never be the same without him.

    RIP my old friend we will ride again together one day on that highway in the sky.

  9. It been since the 90s that CMG came to me as a break on insurance rates, and I instead ended up with an open friendly contact who I was instantly welcomed to have a beer and kick a soccer ball around with. So sorry Rob and yours. It should have been someone else who deserved it.

  10. It was 1999 or so and a group of newbie motorcyclists were enrolled in the Introductory Motorcycle Mechanics course at Centennial. Most of us arrived in cars and in comes this larger than life “Arris” on his bike de jour – I think a GS750 and begins to teach us the wizardry of keeping our bikes running. Most of us used sophisticated synthetic oil in our bikes; Rob used what was the cheapest at Canadian Tire. Boy, did we all learn a lot, and laughed, and got greasy and looked at each others’ tests when Rob left the room during the final exam. What a great time. What an infectious ambassador for motorcycling.
    I never did connect with “Arris” after the course but I’ll always remember him. What a shocker to receive the news only today.

  11. I remember reading OMG when first getting into motorcycling and looking forward to see who won the anusol award that issue. RIP Rob Harris and condolences to your family. Far too soon.

  12. I kind of hope Rob was wrong, and there is an afterlife; and Rob is there riding his favorite bike, down his favorire road, along with Piero. Goodbye Rob…..Ride in Peace.

  13. Wonderful tribute. I’ve been a reader for years. I think he was my kind of guy. My sympathies to family and friends. The entertaining ones are who I miss the most.

  14. Probably the best and worst story I’ve ever read in CMG. Best because it’s one of the most wonderful tributes to a person I’ve read, and worst……well, you know why. As a Brit who’s lived in Australia for over 40 years, I like to feel I’m discerning about what I read in the world of motorcycling. Rob Harris’s humour was the factor that brought me here and held me – I recognized it and loved it. My condolences to all of you who were his friends, and especially to his wife and children.

  15. Every moment I spent with ‘arris was a mix of energetic deep talk and total fun and passion for everything in this world. I didn’t have that many opportunities to hang with Rob, but my grief is such that it feels like I lost a best friend. I can only imagine the loss that those who worked with Rob feel and of course his dear family for whom I can only say I am thinking and crying for you all. I’m am so sorry to have not been able to attend Rob’s memorial on Saturday but I was out of the country … my loss. Every time I saw Rob, he made me feel really up and energized and that we were friends. I of course was looking forward to the next time we met … a terrible loss. I keep talking to him … maybe he is all around us now. My heartfelt condolences to all … Percy

  16. Mark,
    Rob could have no finer tribute, no finer friend. I was pleased and honoured to meet you at the funeral and to know you will continue to be part of Courtney, Cate and Chloe’s life. Courtney’s grandparents, my late parents, both very discerning and wise people, immediately embraced Rob into our large family with the respect and fondness you would well expect. They were very very happy for their beloved Courtney, their first grandchild.
    with respect,
    Charles Crichton,
    Courtney’s uncle and great-uncle to Cate and to Chloe.

  17. Thank you for the remembrance to Rob. I only met him a few times briefly, but one of my most vivid memories of him was the Sunday morning after the Ottawa Mad Bastard Rally carrying Cate in one arm. It was oblivious in the way he played with her how much he loved her & his family.

  18. Raising a glass of whisky in Rob’s honour tonight and sending thoughts and prayers to his family. Can’t believe he’s gone. Have followed his journey from the original OMG days through to now and was fortunate to share at least a glass of whisky or two with him over the years. His insights helped shape my own motorcycle journey from my first crotch rocket to my faithful 63 super cub and my current adventure tourer. The 2009 MB Rally was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done on two wheels. Such a loss. Mark – your words are such a fitting tribute and brought me to tears. Thank you. RIP Le Grand Fromage, the maddest bastard of them all. The motorcycling community ain’t the same without you.

  19. I had the pleasure of riding with Rob on more then one occasion. Always a smile, he used his quick wit wisely. He will be missed..

  20. I knew Rob from this site, but not personally, I never met him. Sounds like a great fella. Too bad for what happened. You can tell he will be missed greatly.

    Thank you Mark R for the quick peak into Rob’s life.

    God’s speed.

  21. Thank you for this Mark … Everyone who knew Rob knew that there was something special about him, and you have articulated that so well. I’m one of the many people whose motorcycling life was synonymous with Rob, having met him shortly after I got my licence. I’m so sad that I won’t see him again. I can’t even imagine how unbearable this is for his family and closest friends.

  22. As old friends from Harrogate we have been feeling Rob’s loss very keenly these last few days… We used to hang out together with Rob, Mike and Sarah back in the day, the cottage in the photograph was the scene of many messy parties. Rob was indeed a very special guy and he will be sorely missed. .Thank you for this beautifully written tribute. Love to all who are missing him, and especially to Courtney, Cate and Chloe.

  23. What a beautifully written account of Rob’s life. It brought tears to my eyes, and answered the “what happened??” question that has been on my mind since hearing the terrible news. I only knew Rob through his writing over the years since CMG first went online, but I always enjoyed his self-deprecating sense of humour and enthusiasm for madcap adventure. My heart truly goes out to his friends and young family.

  24. Beautiful mate… An incredible story. Thankyou for sharing. Stunned he is gone… I am in Vancouver, just missed him on his Island trip, though we chatted about rides as usual. I’ve got some video from a MBSR I’ll post for you, and everyone. I think you’ll enjoy it… Big hugs sorry I can’t make it this weekend. But I’ll be celebrating his life with a ride on Vancouver Isl… I’ll toast him with Scotch.

  25. Thank you everyone for your kind words. I’m just relieved to know that I’ve done some justice to Rob’s life, and I’ve managed to convey a little of the love and joy that he brought to life. I’ll be there on Saturday for both the service and the pub night. Please say hello and let me shake your hand like a Brit or, better, hug you like a Canadian, or best, raise a glass for Rob.

  26. Oh…
    He was such a nice guy.
    I feel so sorry for Courtney, Cate and Chloe..

    He will always be missed. Many knew him way better than I. Thank you for that very touching tribute.

  27. This is one of the finest written tributes I’ve ever read, anywhere, about anyone. Very well done, Mark. Well done indeed. I was genuinely moved by such a beautiful account of the life of a man who was clearly loved and admired by so many. I’d heard nothing but the best about Rob from Costa, and I’d had recently connected with Rob over Linkedin. I was looking forward to perhaps contributing some work to CMG if he thought it worthy. Work aside, I mourn more than anything the missed opportunity to get to know him as a person, and my heart aches for his family, friends and colleagues to whom he meant so much.

    Ride in peace, Rob, and hopefully I’ll meet you somewhere, sometime down the road.

  28. I never had the pleasure of meeting Rob, I wish I had.
    As fellow Yorkshireman, I felt like he was a friend.
    For about 15 years I read OMG/ CMG almost every day.
    I am grateful for for all the wonderful articles he wrote over the years.
    He will be missed very much by all.
    Condolences again to Courtney, Cate and Chloe.

    RIP Rob,

  29. Sounds like a life well lived and an tribute will written. Very touching and RIP big guy. Tail winds and twisty roads for you.

  30. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful account of Rob’s life – truly a touching memoir. And oh those letters wow. Tears of joy for his beautiful life and of sadness in the final chapter which arrived far too soon. From one motorcycle heart to another…RIP Rob. Condolences again to Courtney, Cate, Chloe; family and friends.♥

  31. I’m devastated to learn of Rob’s passing. We became friends back in 1999 when I was on sabbatical, and I picked up where Patrick Shelston left off on developing CMG online. I only knew Rob for a short time, but he was a very easy person to get to know well. After knowing Rob for a month, one felt as if they’d known him forever. He was a wonderful man, and I will miss him dearly.

  32. Thanks for this Mark – and your CBC radio piece too. I’m sorry for your loss.

    It’s clear this friendship meant a lot to you – this is wonderfully done and had to be tough to write. This is the saddest of sad and has been heavy on my mind since reading the news on Sunday morning.

    Thoughts of Rob, his family, and my friendship with him and how much I valued it have been fully realized this week. I still can’t even believe it.

    That letter – what a gift for his children and family. It’s just perfect. It shows Robs character that he wrote it and the words it contained.

    You’ll be sorely missed Rob. I know you didn’t believe in the afterlife but if there is I’ll look forward to tipping a glass and chatting with you in the future.

  33. I’ve written several articles over the years for CMG – and was lucky enough to work with Rob on several of them.

    He encouraged my somewhat peculiar sense of humour in my writing, while maintaining journalistic balance and ethics.
    Which wasn’t always easy, I can remember at least one set of drunk dialed phone calls during a long term bike lend from someone who wasn’t
    on the same page as the motorcycle distributor – Rob made sure that I knew that he had my back.

    His editing improved my writing. He’d occasionally have to prod a little as I stared blankly at a departing deadline, always with his sense of humour
    intact – especially when dealing with my oddball article ideas. He very much made pitching an idea a collaborative process instead of a agree/deny situation.

    His rallies got me out into a wider world than I knew existed, and led directly to some adventures I wouldn’t have had without them. He’s directly responsible for situations ranging from
    the absurd to the awe inspiring.

    I think that was his secret. A little awe, a little unfeigned enthusiasm at things new, hidden, wonderful. From technology improvements to the hidden places of Canada,
    he was always interested in the people and places around him.

    To the man who made being a Bastard a truly honorable thing,

    We’ll miss you Rob.

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