One of the things I love about the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally is the oddball mix of people that come to ride it. From the admin side you don’t really get know the details behind each competitor’s bid for madness but occasionally you get to read all about it post-rally, and that’s just what happened with Dick Davidson.
Dick is a rider from Syracuse, New York, and an active member of the local Harley Owners Group. Not your typical MBSR rider but then how would I know?
What I do know is that friend Mike Waters (the editor of the Syracuse HOG Chapter newsletter) took the time to write up Dick’s story and captured the essence of the event perfectly.
Mike was also gracious enough to let us use the story in CMG, so sit back and enjoy the madness.
For Dick Davidson, The Mad Bastard Scooter Rally was a “have to do” event ever since he first read about it in Cycle Canada magazine about three years ago.
The Rally is held every two years. The location varies among different host sites in Ontario and the fact that the winner would receive a brand new KYMCO motor scooter certainly was an attraction.
To be entered as a “rallyist,” you must be riding a scooter; that being roughly defined as a two-wheel vehicle that you “step through” to mount. To offset advantages held by larger capacity scooters the rally is divided into classes, each one having a different time in which to finish the route – the bigger the scooter, the shorter the time. Low power motorcycles (under 200cc) may also enter, but they are classified as guests rather than competitors.
THE QUEST TO BE A MAD BASTARD
Dick began his quest to find a scooter shortly after first reading the article. He wasn’t able to find anything for less than $800; an amount that seemed a bit extravagant for a one-time, 24-hour event.
Time was running out to enter the Rally, which would be held beginning June 25, so he paid the $195 registration fee and entered with his 1980 Honda CM200T. Our budding road racer would not be eligible to win the grand prize, but with the Honda, he at least anticipated a good time on the 600 km rally course.
The entry fee was for a good cause, Kids Help Phone, a telephone intervention service for Canadian children. And, of course, there were a couple of meals included. And as Dick pointed out, “They were good meals too!”
About three weeks before the event, Pam, a friend who works with Dick’s wife, mentioned she had an old moped, which had been sitting in her barn in Jamesville, NY since 1979. It was Dick’s to use, with one small caveat. He had to make it run. Pam would pay for any parts. Dick liked the idea of the challenge. Deal.
Pam loaded the bike, a 1977 40 cc Malaguti, on her pickup and dropped it off at the Davidsons.
Dick received a jolt when he first saw the Malaguti, “It had so much rust, I couldn’t even see the cobwebs.” What have I got myself into, he thought.
First step towards functionality was to make sure the engine wasn’t seized up. He removed a spark plug and gave the cylinder a healthy dose of WD-40. It turned over; so far, so good.
Next the carburetor came off and was disassembled. With no source for spare parts — yes, he checked the Internet — it was necessary to clean each piece and gasket from 30 years of tar and corrosion from the gas/oil mixture that had been left in the bike.
With the carburetor back together, the fuel tank and lines were cleaned.
The engine only needed something less than four tries and it fired up and ran like a top. Now it was time to make it roadworthy.
The tires were no better than the fuel system. They were flat and weathered. Dick went all out and got tires that were rated for 75 mph; dream on. New tubes and tires, wheels aligned, control cables lubricated and it was time for a test run. The Malaguti maxed out at 14 mph.
A quick calculation indicated that was not going to be fast enough to complete the 600 km course in less than 24 hours.
The first attempt to increase speed was to make the openings in the carburetor jets larger. Easy; just drill them out. Oops, now they’re too big and the engine won’t run.
Meanwhile, the clock is still ticking. Luckily a supplier in California had replacement jets. Dick ordered an assortment and dyno-tested various sizes, finally settling on #52, which boosted speed to 24 mph. This would give him two hours to spare in the Rally.
The Honda was no longer an option. Friday morning the Malaguti and the Davidson’s van were fueled and along with good friend Bob and wife Anna (who were coming for moral support), they were off to Barrie with the Malaguti hanging off the rear bumper.
PEDALLING UP HILLS
Upon arrival at the Holiday Inn, Rally headquarters, there were scooter demo rides available, but more importantly, everyone seemed anxious to see the Malaguti.
One other contestant stated emphatically, “You’re crazy!” Others were more benevolent and exclaimed that, “If you finish, there’s a good chance you’ll win.” That was exactly what Dick had in mind.
Phil, another participant, riding a 50 cc KYMCO that eventually finished in third place, asked Dick about the range of his cell phone. Dick didn’t have a clue. Phil then pulled a phone out of his pack and insisted that Dick take it with him for the race (this was to be the cell phone Dick called back for help with, but more on that later).
This was but one example of how friendly everyone was. “They were all as nice as Syracuse HOG members,” he remarked.
Most important on Dick’s evening agenda was dinner followed by sleep. Tomorrow would be a very long day.
Race day began before dawn on a cold, rainy morning. Dick would appreciate the cool air later when he found himself pedaling the moped up any hill where the machine could not maintain 15 mph. There were only three hills, out of many, that didn’t require his pedal-power.
Now registered with the Malaguti, Dick was a full-fledged participant and assigned to the “Straight Jacket” class, based on his engine displacement being less than 50cc. Since these were the slowest machines, this was the class that started first.
Racer #1 – the previous event’s winner — was a no-show. The next three left as a group and then Dick was in the starting gate. The cold rain continued. Many dropped out before even starting.
Two city blocks from the start and our hero was already lost. With the Malaguti running at full throttle, he was still able to read the paper map and instructions. He determined he was going in the right direction, but on a street parallel to the race course. This was soon corrected.
Racers left the start at one-minute intervals. Three kilometres into the event, most of them were already passing Dick and his trusty steed.
Seven kilometres after everyone had passed him, Dick came across the first scooter broken down and out of the race. Soon three more entrants passed him, but in the other direction, quitting the ride due to the cold.
Fearless and hearty, Dick pressed on when suddenly he is spooked by a woman in an automobile who he thinks is trying to end his race, and his life. Fortunately she misses, but not so fortunate was Dick missing a gas stop at Norland, Ontario.
He realizes this when a participant, who has passed him once, passes again and tells him that he not only missed the stop but that it was mandatory. Without a receipt from this station, he will be disqualified.
Dick turns around and heads back towards the gas station. Two kilometres before the station he runs out of gas and has to pedal.
There is about 25 to 30 kilometres between stop or turn points along the route. This gives Dick an opportunity to gauge how he’s doing. It’s not good news. He’s only averaging 11 mph, but at least he knows he’s on the correct route as he sees pieces of participant’s costumes along the highway.
A LATE LUNCH
Twelve hours after the start, Dick reaches the designated, mandatory lunch stop … at 4:30 p.m. He hasn’t eaten or drank anything since about 3:30 a.m. In addition to food and beverage, he has to get a kiss from the waitress, verified with a photo, to remain in contention.
Upon entering the restaurant, he hears, “There’s the missing man, we’ve been looking for you for hours.” She added, “They said they had a participant from the States.”
The last racer had left the restaurant about noon. Folks there urged Dick to get a room and get some sleep – he did look pretty whipped – but he insisted on continuing.
On he went.
Starting up another hill, there was a group of girls walking alongside the road. They challenged him to a race to reach another group of walkers further ahead. Dick declined the challenge, telling the girls it wouldn’t be fair as they could run faster than he could pedal.
He did stop however, for a photo op. The resulting picture was used during the closing ceremonies. Using his better judgment, he also declined an invitation to spend the night with the girls.
As dusk settled in, Dick was about one-half way, to completing the rally. Quick calculations indicated it was impossible to complete the course in the allotted 24 hours.
Although he had traveled 300 kilometres, it had taken him eighteen hours to do so. To complete the next 300 kilometres would take probably 18 hours (or more) and he only had eight hours left.
He called the rally headquarters and told them where he was. All he could hear was laughter in the background. Then the voice said “You are not going to make it in the allotted 24 hours. Make your way over to Muskoka Road and start heading back to the hotel. We will pick you up. You are about 100 kilometres away from the hotel.”
He called Anna; she and Bob Davidson came to the rescue. Dick called back to the rally headquarters and told them some friends were going to come out and get him so no need for the sweep truck to help.
Dick fed the mosquitoes while Bob and Anna took a little over an hour to travel the 100 kilometres to rescue him. Dick loaded the Malaguti; Bob drove back to the hotel, and it was time for the hot tub and to get some sleep.
DONE AND DUSTED
In the morning it was time to pack everything in the van and then go to the closing ceremonies where they enjoyed another delicious meal.
The winner of the rally, with 894 points out of a possible 1000, donated the scooter back to the charity to which Rob Harris, the rally coordinator, moaned, “More work for me to do.” But he was happy.
When Dick hears how much the tickets are and when they will be available for the 2013 Scooter Rally he will let everyone in the Syracuse HOG know. Maybe you’ll see a few more American moped riders next time.