It was Rob Harris who first convinced me to participate in the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally, albeit reluctantly, six years ago, and I had no idea what I was getting into. This year, putting aside the sadistic memories of riding a small scooter for a great distance, I decided to give it another try. But Rob died last year and while first-timers to the rally never had the pleasure of meeting him, alumni made sure his memory was not forgotten.
Many touching tributes were displayed by organizers and participants over the course of the weekend, including scooters adorned with decals dedicated to CMG’s founder. A Rob Harris Spirit Award was created to celebrate the rider who best exhibits the essence of the rally and the number 01 was retired in his name, so each rally will now begin with a moment of silence honouring his legacy.
The genesis of the MBSR can be traced back to when Honda Canada provided Editor ’Arris with its new Ruckus for him to review on an early version of this website, but he struggled with how to cover the story. It was often used as a pit bike at the racetrack rather than a long-distance mount, and he could have used it to rip around town running errands but in typical Rob form, he opted to recruit a group of like-minded individuals and commit to riding around Lake Ontario. Thus began the idea for a rally that would incorporate feats of physical and mental endurance aboard tiny scooters.
Now, every two years, an unquestionably unstable group of scooter riders from all walks of life descend on a different unsuspecting small town in Ontario to participate in a symbiosis of scavenger hunt and endurance race against the clock. With silly costumes. Battling the elements, varied terrain, mental and physical exhaustion and quite possibly hemorrhoids, the MBSR considers itself the Ultimate Test of rider and machine. Points are awarded based on trivia questions and challenges found along the grueling route. Classes are appropriately called Day Pass, Therapy Needed, Heavily Medicated and Straitjacket, based on engine displacement, favouring smaller, older bikes.
MBSR has its own cast of pseudo-celebrities. There’s Donnie Orr, who’s attended the rally every year since its inception in an outfit paying homage to Quadrophenia. And there’s Todd M., who’s taken home the revered title of Maddest Bastard two years running. As one would expect, such an event attracts a vastly entertaining cast of characters with questionable sense and debatable psychological issues.
Although participants may have questionable motivation, they are also incredibly philanthropic — this year’s rally raised $10,416 for the Big Brothers and Sisters of London and Area.
Hosted this June in London, Ontario, on a route of 538 gruelling kilometres, there was also a 100 km bonus loop and a 3.5 hour ‘Wild Card’ detour for those who dared.
Assembling and setting off before dawn on the weekend closest to summer solstice, this committed group of outcasts and misfits was all smiles before, during and after the arduous journey that took us past farmer’s fields and through small towns. I rode a carbureted 125cc K-Pipe provided by Kymco Canada, and decided to match the black and white machine by donning a tuxedo with a white dinner jacket. I was attempting to channel my inner James Bond, but more than one person mistook me over the course of the day for wait staff.
I started off solo, since I couldn’t convince any of my friends to join me, but soon fell into formation with Wonder Woman and the Three Amigos. The weather forecast promised warm temperatures and sunny skies all day, so I left my rain gear and thermal base layer in the car. Naturally, in the true spirit of the rally, we encountered several torrential downpours, high winds and even hail.
Soaked to the bone and shivering by the end of the route, I opted for a hot shower and a cold beer instead of completing the bonus loop, but kudos to those who did. Beating out the reigning two-time champion, this year’s Maddest Bastard was Lee Martin. Dressed as Marvin the Martian, he left the hotel at 4:45am and began 18.7 hours of travel on a 49cc scooter. For his commendable efforts, he won a trophy, considerable bragging rights, a case of beer and most notably, a 2017 Kymco Newsento 110 scooter.
There are lots of riding events on the summer calendar, but the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally is truly unique. To put it into perspective, a friend who had been following along on my Instagram feed sent me a message asking if I had dropped acid over the weekend. Thanks to sleep deprivation and the colourful cast of characters around me, there were times when that didn’t seem like a stretch.
Rob may be gone, but the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally, with its high level of riding ability, resilience, intelligence and a sense of humour, will remain his legacy. I can think of no better tribute. Cheers to everyone who is committed to keeping his spirit alive, and see you in 2019!