A Honda Gold Wing with Canadian Auto Association markings and a towing attachment has been seen on the streets of Toronto recently, but don’t ask for a two-wheeled towtruck the next time your Chevy Tahoe breaks down.
According to John Foreman, who tested the rig for the South Central Ontario arm of the CAA, the Honda "Retriever" isn’t up to the heavy loads a tow truck hauls on Ontario’s roads and highways.
The Retriever is made in Sweden. It’s a Gold Wing modified with a towing apparatus, and it can handle light four-wheeled vehicles, though its towing speed is limited to 50 kmh, which can be another problem, says Foreman.
During recent testing in the Toronto area, he found that it’s somewhat "labour intensive" to put into the towing position, and it seems unsuitable for big SUVs and other heavyweight vehicles that the CAA encounters every day in southern Ontario and across Canada.
"Otherwise, I liked it," he says — and no wonder: as a custom vehicle, it’s so unusual that an owner is likely to develop a fan club. Half touring bike, half chopper (like a sissy bar with an attached meat grinder), the Retriever is nothing if not eye-catching.
Foreman, who was a contractor with the CAA and is now a training specialist, says the big rig might become more appealing as a Canadian tow vehicle when smaller, lighter, hybrid vehicles become much more common here.
The CAA is using a motorcycle, and it’s a Honda, too. An ST1300 Police model is set up with CAA colours and all the gear necessary to get into locked cars, boost dead cars, and do much of the other non-towing work of an auto association.
It’s the only motorcycle in auto association use in North America, Foreman says — but it’s not the first. While researching the concept, he discovered that motorcycles were used by a fledgling Canadian Auto Association back in 1912. Meanwhile, the AAA in California is very interested in learning about the Canuck experience, Foreman says.
Foreman put 29,000 km on the ST1300 service bike last year, and he’s looking for qualified drivers in order to expand the auto association’s fleet of nimble, quick, and relatively inexpensive two-wheeled vehicles.
You’ll have to be good to get the job, but for those who are interested, Foreman can be reached at email@example.com .
At first the idea seems a little absurd. But having just returned from a couple of weeks in the Netherlands, I can see it working there, because there are so many cars that are smaller than what we are used to here.
Nothing new. I can remember as a kid that the UK AA and RAC both had motorcycles fitted with sidecars all over the country to do repair jobs.
The different associations gave you a nice metal badge to attach to the front of your car and the guy on the bike would *salute* you as you drove past if you had the badge! We would spend hours hoping to see the AA bike & get “the salute”.