A long, long time ago when the snows were still on the land and the cold was affecting mind and judgment, somehow I decided that I really wanted to do the 2009 Mad Bastard Scooter Rally. (Okay, so maybe not that long ago.)
Not having a scooter myself I decided to contact my pal Dave Shepherd from Yamaha Canada and see if he could land me my first factory ride.
Dave thought it not a bad idea and at first he suggested a BW125. However, with his penchant for cruelty, he changed his mind. Doing 800+ km on a 50cc would provide a more torturous test, so he found me a custom-painted bright yellow C3 lurking in the corner of the Yamaha shop.
Dave and fellow scooter freak/Mad Bastard entrant Chris Anderson prepped the machine, and Chris even volunteered to transport my scoot to and from the rally, as he already had three other scoots to bring up anyway, making it difficult for me to back out too.
But no Mad Bastard rally is complete without a suitable costume and, along with my wife Joan, I paid a visit to Value Village and spent the afternoon running around the ladies’ section looking for underwear and brightly coloured gowns, much to the amusement of the staff.
Out of Value Village came forth Scooterman!
We arrived at the Gatineau hotel on Friday afternoon of the rally where a gaggle of scooterists quickly gathered around the bright yellow Yamaha. It is amazing how a crowd gathered around any object suddenly elevates the cool factor of that object.
I must admit that I was feeling a little out of place as I had no idea of any of the scooter makes, models, engine types, suspension systems, injection systems, driveline bits, turbo boost bits, dress codes or even how to operate the C3.
Despite these shortfalls, I stood tall and waxed eloquently to no one in particular about the virtues of my Yamaha 4-stroke fuel-injected race scoot and that I was in fact a Yamaha factory rider. Scooterman obviously impressed … ummm … nobody?
Post-registration saw the dinner and Riders’ Meeting and I will admit that I still wasn’t sure if this whole event was really a good idea.
Luckily my table mates were mostly in the same boat as me; new to scooters and nervously pondering the idea of wrist failure from holding the throttle wide open for up to 24 hours.
However, few seemed interested in game seven of the Stanley Cup final, but fittingly my Yamaha pal Chris was, so after the Riders’ Meeting we ended up in the bar where we sampled some fine rum and witnessed a great finish to an exciting playoff season.
It got late, I got nervous and there was no sleep to be had before a 4 a.m. start the next day.
DAWN OF THE DEAD
Saturday morning … warm dry and dark… a morning full of possibilities.
Having never ridden a scooter before, I had no idea of how fast it would go or if I would even be able to hold my own against the other riders. The C3 is a four stroke after all and in a 50 cc class, that can translate to a big power deficiency against a two-stroker.
But once on the road my trusty four-stroke machine did not suffer a speed deficit to the more sporty two-strokes. In fact, while I gave up a little on the uphill, my top speed more than made up for this. This was due to a certain modification performed by my now even better friend Chris.
Running full throttle through the deserted city streets of Gatineau, Quebec didn’t seem too bad after all. Heading into the hills of Gatineau, racing neck and neck with my new road mates, throttle pinned, I was having the time of my life.
Alas, my riding buddies were bound and determined to turn this event into a good time with frequent stops. I didn’t want a good time, I just wanted to do the whole route in the time allotted. Not doing so would have constituted failure … though I’m not sure why.
With reading glasses perched on the end of my nose, maps hung between the C3’s handlebars, the moment had come.
After a tearful goodbye from Chris (okay, he was glad to get rid of me) I turned and flew off in all directions before finding the route ahead.
Now I focused on running as continuously as possible, with minimum time off for fun and eating. The race was on, adrenaline pumping.
I even started to understand how the clue sheet worked and to pay attention to the details that might bring me more Mad Points and ultimately, victory. Sadly I missed the bit about the Timbits (10 points per Timbit garnered) … a sad example of how fatigue and ambition can undermine such great potential.
Along the route I inevitably ran into other Mad Bastards. In a full tuck, trying to extract every last bit of speed while creeping ever so slowly up on another rider was truly a giggle. Legal road racing … too much fun.
One Mad Bastard, running a modified Ruckus with a nice loud pipe, demonstrated the machine can indeed live up to its name. We ran together for quite a good stretch in the hilly bits, where his advantage up the hills nullified my top speed advantage. These kinds of encounters certainly added to the entertainment factor and kept the ride interesting.
I was flying … until suddenly disaster struck.
I had missed kissing the girl (one of the on the road tasks and worth a chunk of Mad Points). By now I was maybe 20 minutes down the road from her — struggling up a steep hill and feeling quite chuffed about my great progress — when I realized that up to 50 points (not to mention my reputation) was on the line.
What to do? I hated the thought of turning around, but I hated the idea of not saving the girl even more. She needed a super hero … and desperately. So Scooterman raced back, fighting the hills and now truly racing time.
The kiss went well, thank you.
After this setback, I had to give up my dream of being the first 50cc home. This didn’t mean anything as far as the rally results were concerned, but racing the clock also helped provide motivation, and for that I raced right on anyway.
I was well on the way again when I noticed my fuel gauge reading empty in the middle of, well, nowhere. I hammered on the gauge, thinking there was no way I could actually be out of gas. However, a quick peek into the tank showed that indeed I was.
The extra distance traveled to rescue the fair maiden had exhausted my fuel supply prematurely. But then just as I was pondering this situation, I looked over and saw a house with a garage door open and a container of gas inside. Even a superhero needs a bit of luck from time to time and Scooterman lived to fly again!
At this point I have to say that I couldn’t believe how light the traffic was and how much of the time I had the road to myself. Brilliant route with great scenery … I knew I wasn’t supposed to be enjoying myself, but I was. Sorry ‘Arris.
The reaction of onlookers was a constant source of amusement as well. Seeing a real live superhero on a flying yellow scooter brought out smiles and cameras and … I know what you’re thinking but you are wrong … no ridicule … WHAT?
Reaching Kemptville was the decision point on whether or not to do the Bonus Loop. It was also a great relief. I had made good time so I could finally afford to eat something other than nuts, which is how I felt after roughly thirteen hours in the saddle.
The fact I couldn’t walk straight or form complete sentences had something to do with it as well.
A sandwich wolfed down with a tall milk had me ready for the final push through the Bonus Loop. Up ahead I saw another pair of Mad Bastards (on one scooter!) and focused all my super powers on catching them.
These Mad Bastards turned out to be the Two up Two Crazy team and man, they were making good progress for two fully grown (albeit mentally deranged) adults on a 50cc.
With the constantly checking and rechecking of the route and imagining all sorts of wrong turn scenarios, my attention was kept sharply focused. Paranoid is a good way to be when you know ‘Arris is out to get you.
Crossing into Quebec, I raced into the parking lot of a crowded outdoor restaurant to ask directions. Everyone pointed and yelled out “Look, it is Superman”. I pointed out that I was in fact the one and only Scooterman and headed off in a cloud of dust, to the cheers and applause of mere mortals.
It started to get dark on the final run back up into Gatineau, adding to the challenge, but I was getting close to the end, so all was good.
As I flew through the outskirts of town, drivers were yelling encouraging comments out their windows (at least I think that’s what they were) and generally enjoying seeing a superhero in action.
I don’t think delusion at this phase of the rally was starting to affect my perception; however I was convinced the world at large was now a safer place with my imminent arrival back to whence I had started.
We arrived back with minimal drama to the enthusiastic greeting of fellow Mad Bastards. At this point my trusty steed flipped out, pinned me to the ground and started leaking fluids all over me. Seems I hadn’t been gentle enough on her throttle parts, and overcome with emotion as she was, she resorted to aggression.
I apologized, made up and that was it. Done.
Now it was a party, as returned riders greeted returning riders and all kinds of fun ensued.
I have to say that my run was pleasant and certainly made relatively easy compared to the many who had slower scoots and spent more time in the dark, cold night. They are the really Mad Bastards and I take my cape off to them.
The winner, Ben Yu Schott, was absolutely the maddest of all, spending 23 hours on the road and doing it right on an older machine too.
I truly want to thank the Supreme Mad Bastard himself, Rob Harris, and his energetic team for putting on such a loosely controlled act of lunacy.
My thanks also to Dave Shepherd and Chris Anderson (RIP) of Yamaha Canada, for providing such a fun machine to ride.
Do you think you can do better than Scooterman? The 2011 Mad Bastard Scooter Rally is happening on the weekend of 24/25/26 June in Barrie, Ontario. Registration is open until May 1st, so there’s still time to get your madness on!
CHRIS ANDERSON MEMORIAL
By Dave Shepard
Chris Anderson was in a boring job in the (what should have been) middle years of life. And then he did what many would have done if they had the courage – he gave it all up and went back to school to get the training for a fun job.
More specifically, he went to Centennial College where he signed up for the Motorsports program, which is a way of getting into the motorcycle repair business. Not long after completion of the 40 week course (in 2005, I think), Chris started work at Yamaha.
I became his journeyperson mentor and checked, corrected, encouraged and generally beat him up on his work and signed off his apprentice book, task by task, until in July of 2009, a very nervous Chris wrote and easily passed his Certificate of Qualification.
He made an important contribution to life at Yamaha and he could take great joy in riding anything on two wheels. His last ride was not too long after completing the 2009 MBSR. Chris was “just riding along” when action from another road user intervened.
Fast forward to today, April 8th, 2011 and I find myself awarding the “Chris Anderson Memorial” trophy to the winner of the YTA (Yam Tech Academy) of Centennial’s new batch of would-be technicians.
The smiling face from the photos is quintessential Chris. He lived life large and with humour. He is greatly missed.
Yamaha Motor Canada Ltd.