The Dawn 2 Dusk: Looking back, and forward

When I heard Eric Russell was reviving the Dawn 2 Dusk Rally this year, moving it to Ontario, I had mixed feelings.

I was happy to hear the small bike rally I started with Rob Harris would live on, but I was sad that it was moving away from the Maritimes. Although it took a lot of work, Editor ‘Arris had described the Dawn 2 Dusk as “the best ride of the year,” and I thought he was right. It’s limited to bikes between 125cc and 500cc, and there are no prizes, just 600 kilometres of great riding. There are more details of this month’s rally here.

In the first year we ran it (2011) we visited three provinces, saw the Bay of Fundy, took a ferry ride to PEI and got lost in Canada’s smallest province, had impromptu drag races down secondary highways, and pulled off a 600-km ride in cool fall weather. It was a lot of fun, and more importantly, it proved the idea worked.

In total, we ran four Dawn 2 Dusk rallies in Atlantic Canada, speeding through the unexplored back corners of the Maritimes, where a small engine just meant bigger fun. You can find the stories of those rallies here, here, here, and here. And this article explains why you should try out this year’s Ontario version.

The CMG Konker: A made-in-China copy of a Suzuki DR200. It was flogged like a rented mule every year, and survived all that (plus a Fundy Adventure Rally). Piloted here by Michael Uhlarik, who was shocked it didn’t explode.
You’ll meet the nicest people on a Honda, or whatever

A small-bike rally is a group effort, because odds are someone is going to need help along the route. Maybe you’ll run out of gas and have to start knocking on doors, asking for a jerry can (or ask your fellow riders for a siphon, so you can borrow some of their fuel). Maybe you’ll need to borrow another rider’s tire irons or toolkit in case of a breakdown, maybe you’ll need to cannibalize some parts off another rider’s bike to finish the day (it’s happened before on the D2D!). Maybe you’ll have to borrow a sheepskin for your seat to fend off a flaming case of monkey butt. If you’ve got a problem en route, you’ll likely need some help to solve it.

Putting yourself out there for an all-day ride on a small bike takes you a bit out of your comfort zone. It’s a much lighter version of the adventure riding phenomenon: the more vulnerable you make yourself, the more likely you are to meet someone nice who will take care of you.

But even if all goes well, chances are you are still going to meet some fun people. We’re talking about a rally designed for tiny beginner bikes. Nobody normal shows up to that sort of event. You’ll probably meet some pretty serious motorcyclists, too. Some of my favourite riding buddies are people I met through the Dawn 2 Dusk rallies.

“I think I can, I think I can!” Editor ‘Arris gains a few precious km/h by sticking his head between the clocks to minimize wind resistance.
You’ll test your limits (and your bike’s limits)

A lot of motorcyclists don’t have the money for a track day, and most riders don’t have a suitable bike or gear anyway. Most of us don’t have the time to go on a round-the-world ride. So how can you have a mini-adventure that pushes your limits?

If you’re looking to see what you’re capable of on a bike, it’s pretty hard to beat an all-day street ride that takes you down interesting roads. Especially if it’s on a small bike—you’ll figure out how to maximize cornering speed, how ride on through discomfort, how to minimize wind resistance to gain a tiny bit of speed, how to extract maximum fuel mileage, and how to get the most power out of your engine. After all, you’ve got a full 12 hours behind bars to think about all of this. By the end of the day, your bike will feel as familiar as your office chair (even if it’s much less comfortable after that much time in the wind).

An event like this can stop you from getting in a rut, visiting the same old places on your bike with the same riding partners. Rain or shine, it gives you a good reason to hit the road.

I knew about the beautiful roads on the Advocate Harbour run, but the Dawn 2 Dusk gave me a reason to ride there, with no excuses.
You’ll find new roads

The original Dawn 2 Dusk rallies introduced riders to roads they never would have found on their own. Whether it was the Advocate Harbour run in Nova Scotia, Route 845 in New Brunswick’s Kingston Peninsula, or PEI’s meandering Rt. 10, everyone found something new when we rode the Dawn 2 Dusk. The scouting runs always took Editor ‘Arris and myself down roads we hadn’t explored before, and we loved sharing those routes with other riders.

But even if you’re a very experienced rider and know every good road within a 500-km radius, you probably haven’t spent the time figuring the most efficient way to tie them together, avoiding towns and traffic. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work to arrange a route with relatively smooth and fun roads, especially with this year’s optional off-road segments. Run the D2D, and someone else has done all that investigation for you already.

The original Dawn 2 Dusk riders from 2011. Everybody here was a serious rider, and a repeat attendee.
It’s all about the ride

A lot of big motorcycle rallies seem to focus on things like “biker breakfast” (do they cook up a biker on a griddle?) or “biker bingo” (do you win a biker?), rather than actual riding. Not so with the Dawn 2 Dusk!

We had out-of-province riders come year after year to the D2D because we didn’t mess around with that stuff. We were looking for good roads, and even if the weather wasn’t optimal, we were determined to finish the day without taking any of the bail-out options for a quick escape home. And we did finish each day. In fact, we made our goal so handily that Rob and I used to always kick around the idea of a 750-km D2D ride, to make it more challenging. Maybe next year?

This year’s Dawn 2 Dusk rally runs on June 17, starting at Honda’s Canadian headquarters in Markham, Ontario. For more details, see our previous story on this year’s event.



  1. Thanks for the write up Zac. I started riding in NS but now live in Calgary. Have a bike here and one in Vancouver and the riding out of Vancouver is beyond amazing. Multiple epic day trip options and even better 2 or 3 day trips. Calgary, not so much. Keep up the good work. We will remember Rob and Nicky. Cam

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