Alcohol is a dangerous thing. I’m not talking about the obvious here – drunken behaviour, drowning in your own vomit, etc. No it’s its ability to make a bad idea seem good that has caused the most grief for me in the past.
You’d think that I’d learn from my mistakes, but I have also found that what may seem like a profound mistake at the time of execution, can suddenly become one of life’s notable occurrences, shortly after completion. The event in question is the CMG Mad Bastard Scooter Rally - an endurance Rally using scooters.
Scooters … they sound sensible enough. The classic image is of old ladies boogying into town to pick up some food for Mr. Tiddles right? Well yes, and no.
Let me start at the beginning, or maybe even just before.
Although CMG is by far the biggest online motorcycle magazine in Canada, it’s always tough to be able to get the funds to do stuff. This means that in order to be able to compete with the more affluent print mags we have to be creative … but we also have to be cheap.
So when we managed to get our hands on a Honda Ruckus scooter (the street-fighter of scooters) for the whole summer, we also had to come up with something to do with it, which was not only cheap, but also creative, and hopefully within the CMG style of oddness.
The alcohol did its job – enabling the oddity aspect – and on one winter’s night Mr. Seck (the CMG photographer) and myself came up with the idea to take the Ruckus on an endurance ride. The original plan was to merely head north, get to a certain distance and then turn around and head back. Not bad, but that was missing the all-important grin factor – the bit that cracks a grimace into a smile on those who you recount your idea to.
That missing factor came in the form of Lake Ontario. At about 800km in circumference, a scooter traveling a maximum speed of 60km/h should be theoretically able to circumnavigate it in … oh, 13 hours? Allow another 3 hours for stops and another 2 for ‘mishaps/steep hills’ and you have an 18 hour ride, or there abouts. And what better time to host this event than on, or as near to, the summer solstice? Thus ensuring the longest amount of daylight possible.
Yes, that’s endurance (with a purpose), cheap (little fuel and no accommodation) and most importantly, odd. Hell, you could even say it was mad …
And that is how the 1st ever CMG Mad Bastard Scooter ride was born.
Trouble was, as soon as we started telling people, anyone with a scooter was immediately expressing an interest in coming along. We had never figured that anyone else was as mad as us, besides we had a reason to go, they didn’t. Well, if other mad bastards wanted to go, why not?
So the first ever MBS Ride became the first Annual MBS Rally and we immediately set out to see what we could make of it.
DEATH BY A THOUSAND LOONIES
Three classes were set up depending on the engine capacity of the scooter (the under 75cc being the maddest “Straight Jacket” class), with the main rule being that you return to the start location within a 24 hour window, bringing proof that you actually went around the Lake in order to qualify for official Mad Bastard status (receipts would suffice).
One of our first calls was to try and secure a location that would not only be open at 4 in the morning, but also stay open for the next 24 hours (or until the last scooter returned in that time period). We decided to try Motoretta Scooters on 554 College Street as it appeared to be a well-run shop and, more importantly, was located just around the corner from Mr. Seck’s abode (easing us into the early morning chaos).
Motoretta owner Morey Chaplick seemed to get it and not only offered up his store for the start/finish location, but also offered up a thousand dollars for the winner. Since this was technically a rally and not a race, we decided to modify the wording to a thousand loonies (it is a Mad Bastard Rally after all), with the winner being the one who was deemed to be the maddest entry. Although we didn’t really know what that meant, we figured that it would become self-evident pretty quickly.
A date was set (June 24th), and to keep things simple we decided to not try and set a route, or even a direction (clockwise or anti-clockwise), specifying that once you left the safety of Motoretta you were on your own.
All that was left to do now was to get the word out and do something with the Ruckus so that my 6’4” frame could fit on it well enough that I could endure 18 hours. Oh, and also be able to at least steer it – the stock position putting my knees firmly against the handlebars, making bar movement somewhat limited.
A special page was set up on CMG along with numerous announcements in various scooter-specific sites, inviting anyone and everyone along … as long as they were on a scooter. The Ruckus adaptation was made with a pair of aluminium extrusions allowing the seat to go back and up, giving more legroom and extra height all in one. Slap a sheepskin on top, and the job was not only done, it looked pretty cool to.
Well, in a CMG kind of way.
THE SHORTEST NIGHT
The Tuesday before the Rally revealed that only 5 people had pre-registered – and that number included Mr. Seck and myself! We’d hoped for a minimum of 6 to 8, but at least it wasn’t just the two CMG guys (which would have meant that the Rally would have to be renamed the CMG Sad Bastard Rally). At this point I think it's fair to call the scooter-purist guys a bunch of wusses. We got some "wow, that's nuts" replies from our posts on the various forums, but unless we see a healthier turn-out from them next year, the wuss name stands!
I was also starting to realize that holding the Rally on a weekday and the “once you leave you’re on your own” clause were probably not helping, but for this year at least that was the best we could muster. Still, there was no turning back now, and a small group helps to keep the potential chaos down, and that was a welcome thought.
Talking of chaos, one of the participants included a man named Bobb Todd. Bobb was a keener from the start and had gone out of his way to ride the course the week before on his GPS equipped 650 V-Strom, and had come up with an 800+ km route in a clockwise direction.
Trouble was, he lived in Owen Sound and it was proving difficult for him to get his 1981 Honda C70 down to Toronto in time for the dawn start. No problem I thought, why not stay at Chez Seck?
Then – thanks to a mix of fate and pure chance – we met up with what was to become another M.B. rider – Gary Davidson. I knew Gary from some previous motorcycling endeavours and although he had originally been interested in the Rally, he’d opted out due to a mix of a heavy workload and no one to bend his arm.
Unbeknownst to us, Bobb had arranged to meet Gary at Chez Seck in order to sell him a GPS unit, the connections only being made when Gary turned up at the front door. “I know you” being exclaimed in unison. There was no doubting it, this was meant to be and by the end of Wednesday night Gary had phoned his boss to tell him not to expect to see him the next day.
The MB posy now stood at six.
A plan to get an early night turned into 11:30 pm, with alarms set for 3:00 am – only 3 1/2 hours later. Bobb, got the floor next to my sofa-bed and duly confessed that he was a demon snorer …
Now, if there’s one thing that I can’t cope with, it’s snorers. I don’t blame them – shit, I even snore on occasion, it’s just that I have the tendency to focus on every snort, the rising crescendo being noted and analyzed at each step. Needless to say it makes sleeping impossible, and although exhausted, I spent the next one and a half hours focusing on every one of Bobb’s breaths.
Ironically, he didn’t really snore much, but the damage had been done and I found myself puttering down to Motoretta in the morning darkness with only two hours sleep under my belt and an estimated 18 hour ride ahead of me.
THE LONGEST DAY
Motoretta were true to their word, and shortly after we arrived, Jeremy – an unlucky Motoretta rep – showed up with a tray of coffees and a box of donuts.
In the next 30 minutes, Gary joined us, followed by Mr. Richard Szpin. Mr Szpin had eagerly contacted us when we originally announced the idea on CMG. The problem was that he did not have access to a scooter. As a writer for the Ontario based Ride On magazine we’d put him in touch with Honda Canada, who in turn had set him up with another Honda Ruckus for the ride.
A large and enthuthiastic Mr. Szpin showed up on a small and bog-standard Ruckus. Even Mr. Seck (who had secured another Ruckus, also courtesy of Honda Canada), had at least extended and softened the seat – thanks to a block of wood, some duct tape and an aftermarket air-cushion. Oh well, maybe he was making a point and going for the 1000 loonies…
With the first light of day illuminating some rather ominous clouds, a group of five MBs (one had failed to show, but I shall not embarrass Mr. Arthur Pidgeon by revealing his name) fired up their collective scooters and headed east out of Toronto …
Don't miss part 2 - 22 hours around Lake Ontario.
Air Hawk Comfort Seating for Mr. Seck's padded derriere helper.
Motoretta Scooters (554 College St, Toronto) for sponsoring the event and Jeremy for coming in to open the shop for us at a most ungodly hour.
Honda Canada for supplying the three Ruckus’s (Rucki?).
Bobb Todd for planning the route and inflicting the endurance rider ethos on us all when all we wanted to do was stop and sleep.