Opinion: The Mad Bastard

It was sad news last week when we ran the story announcing the end of the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally. This event was created in 2004 by our founding editor Rob Harris and it embodied everything that was CMG, but I guess it’s run its course.

Scooters are intended as urban mobility and affordable short-hop transportation; they are not supposed to be ridden for 24 hours straight on the open highway, throttles pinned to the stop, scenery passing at an optimistic 50 km/h. So that’s exactly what Rob planned 15 years ago: an 800-kilometre international circumnavigation of Lake Ontario on pint-sized scooters, just to see if it could be done.

The original Mad Bastards take a break mid-ride.

Only half a dozen people took part in that original ride around the big lake, but the following year Rob convinced me to give it a try and I turned up on a borrowed Yamaha BWS 50, along with a few dozen others. This time around, Rob arranged a bit of a scavenger hunt and riders had to do “mad things” along the way to earn points. There was a lot at stake: Yamaha would donate a new B-Whiz scooter to the person deemed the winner.

I recall staying in Rob’s hotel room the night before our pre-dawn start from Oakville, and he lamented some of the challenges he’d created for the riders. “Get naked on the Kingston ferry,” was a potential issue, but he was most concerned about the challenge if we reached Rochester, NY: “Take a photo with a drug dealer on the street corner.” That may not have been a smart suggestion, he opined. “I hope nobody’s stupid enough to try to do that,” he muttered in the reflective sanity and safety of the room.

Mark Richardson gets his recognition from Rob Harris for being the Maddest Bastard at the 2005 scooter rally.

Of course, most of us did. I teamed up with Gary Davidson and we took photos of each other doing the various challenges. In Rochester, we met two lovely ladies outside a 7-11 who introduced us to their pimp, and the three of them were happy to pose for a picture with our scooters. Gotta love Americans. And on the ferry, riders quickly dropped their pants and I took various photos with their cameras of their bottoms, but Gary earned the win: he stripped entirely naked except for his strategically-placed helmet, right behind the unaware captain at the helm. Gary was awarded extra points for this but in the end, he didn’t fill out his paperwork correctly and the rally master disqualified him, leaving me to take the win and collect the scooter. It didn’t matter. We were a team and Gary rode away with his tiny new wheels.

In subsequent rallies, held every two years with as many as a hundred participants, teams were encouraged and there was usually a bonus for nudity somewhere along the way, just as there were bonuses for dressing up and taking crazy photos. The rallies left the lake – 49cc machines aren’t allowed on the Gananoque bridge, so if you missed the Wolfe Island ferry, you were screwed – and were held on different loops around Ontario and even into Quebec. You could ride on any size of scooter, but if you wanted enough points to win, you pretty much had to endure the distance on a speed-limited sub-50cc bike.

Scooterman’s scooter earned extra points in 2013 for being properly customized.

Some rallies descended into mayhem, but every one was unique. The Ottawa Valley rally that awarded “mad points” for photos at Storyland near Renfrew was a low point: participants took lewd photos with the fibreglass Snow White and performed unspeakable acts for the camera with her seven dwarves. On the Muskoka rally, I remember riding my scooter to the top of a roadcut and stripping down to just my boots for extra mad points, as passing cars honked their horns in encouragement. On the final rally in which I participated, in 2013, I rode in my bathrobe beside a Japanese guy on a Honda Ruckus who was dressed as a samurai warrior, his full-size katana sword tucked against the seat; my scooter broke half-way around the course and I was happy to ride back to the hotel in a comfortable truck, avoiding the final 12 hours of dark, frigid, miserable hell.

Every one of them is a Mad Bastard…

Rob Harris never made much money from the Mad Bastard, but he did raise thousands of dollars for the Children’s Helpline charity. He eventually sold the rally to BECO Motors, importers of Kymco scooters, which had been a major sponsor, but now that BECO no longer imports Kymcos, this summer’s rally will be the last.

Every year that I participated, I swore I would never ride the rally again – at least, not on a 49cc scooter. And then, I did. And this year, I will again. In fact, CMG plans to put together a team to ride the big loop out from Peterborough, and we’ll dress crazy and take mad photos and really make the most of it. In this age of political correctness, who knows when we’ll get another chance.

If you want to know more about the Mad Bastard, check its website here.

Doesn’t this look like fun?


  1. They are not designed for 24 hour endurance ice races either. Even if it does not run as a commercial / corporate sponsored event any more, I wonder if there is a core group of Mad Bastards that could keep it running in the future.

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