“Never drive at night.”
“The three-position Lucas switch: Dim, Flicker, and Off. The other three switch settings: Smoke, Smolder, and Burn.”
“If Lucas made guns, wars would not start.”
Lucas Electric Limited was the primary maker of electrical systems for British vehicles for most of the 20th century, whether automobile or motorbike. If it was made in the U.K., it had dodgy Lucas guts, because good old Joseph Lucas pretty much bequeathed his company a mission statement that set up a history of notoriety.
Fittingly, Lucas was bestowed the title “Prince of Darkness,” cursed from the side of many a rainy road in Britain for more than half a century.
These days, reliability in all things on two wheels is at an all-time high, with Buck Rogers computers taking our rides to sci-fi land. The Lucas smokeshow is but a footnote, a blip in the timeline of technology.
But let it never be said that the Prince of Darkness no longer holds sway. It is told that contrarians of certain vintages venerate his name by dragging an old, Lucas-equipped bike into the cold and parking it in front of a pub. Sacrificing their livers, they drink to his memory, then push the two-wheeled carcass to the next pub, then the next, where the bacchanal is repeated until they can no longer stand.
And that’s how the legend goes.
So on Saturday night, I was partaking in pints myself at The Wheat Sheaf along with the Canada Moto Guide crew, kicking back after the Toronto Motorcycle Show. It was here where Boss Mark tasked me to infiltrate the cult mentioned above. Somehow, I slurred yes …
At the first stop, The Firkin On King, a Triumph Tiger Cub was chained to a bicycle post. Inside, it seemed everyone was already well into worship, as no-one really noticed my entry. The smell of leather permeated the air, worn by scruffy middle-aged Rockers laughing and drinking. I was deep in the Fort York territory of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group.
I made my way to the bar to blend in better and started a conversation with Harvey Bruce, the man with two first names. Turns out that he owned said chained Tiger outside. More of a dirt bike guy, he prefers the freedom of no licence or insurance, but had the Triumph around, which hadn’t been started “for about six or seven years now.”
I asked him if he thought it would still start: “Yeah, I’m pretty sure it would,” he said. “Just needs a battery. Oh, and a headlight.”
After witnessing an arcane ritual called a “raffle draw,” I watched the group suit up, unchain the bike and head to the next destination. Cultists took turns straddling the bike and either duck-walked or were pushed by their dark allies. The Lucas Memorial Push was on.
A few blocks west at Bathurst, it looked like we’d have to run a gauntlet past the wobbly CMG gang, who had spilled onto the street. As they hooted and hollered at us, I was surprised when two fetching Ducatistas quietly blended into the march. Things were getting interesting …
Second stop: The Foggy Dew, where I questioned Dan Graham, who helped set up the inaugural Push 24 years ago. He worked as a health and safety inspector for the city, and recruited bars that would host the ceremony. It was a more rough-and-tumble affair back then, with dives like the Black Bull and Bovine Sex Club participating.
I could barely stand when we rolled back to the Wheat Sheaf and took the same spots that the CMG peeps had vacated. Things were blurry from then on, with just traces of eating fiery jalapenos and drinking an umpteenth Guinness in the periphery.
Moving slowly the next morning, I told myself that I’ll have to train for the next one.