Opinion: The final Mad Bastard


A little old lady stopped one of the participants of the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally in the hallway of the host hotel and wagged a finger at his rally T-shirt. “I don’t like your name!” she said, and walked off in a huff. She has a point. “The Mad Bastard” is about as politically incorrect a name as you could think of, but now it’s all moot. Last weekend’s rally was the final run for the madcap event.

It will be sort-of replaced next year by “The Back Alley Scooter Rally,” organized by Rally Connex, which fielded a Mad Bastard team this year and loves doing dumb things with scooters. The Back Alley rally will be a GPS-based run through 70 or 80 kilometres of Toronto back alleys, much better suited for scooters than the 600-800 km of country roads on the Mad Bastard.

Somewhere in the wilds of Ontario, four of the Mad Bastards stop for fuel.

I wrote about the Mad Bastard in January, when its organizers announced this would be the final year for the scavenger hunt event. It’s a pint-sized version of the Iron Butt Rally that’s running right now, scaled down in every way with smaller machines and shorter distances, but no less heart required for its completion.

This year’s event ran in a giant loop through eastern Ontario, up from Peterborough to Barry’s Bay and back. Riders had limited times to complete the loop, depending on the size of their scooters, with the maximum being 24 hours allowed for the 50 cc machines. Almost half of the 58 scooters entered were in the 50 cc “Straightjacket” class, with top speeds of an optimistic 50 km/h.

More Mad Bastards make their way slowly and almost steadily around the 600-km loop.

“I never wanted to be riding anything else,” said Raph Kroll, who loaded his 50 cc Kymco Super 9 scooter onto his pickup truck at home in Revelstoke, BC, and drove 3,600 km east to ride the rally. He left his Harley-Davidson Street Glide and Ducati S2R 1000 Monster in the garage. “I’m not a scooter guy, but I am this weekend. Riding the Mad Bastard is about not being comfortable, and not being fast.” He rode as one of the Trailer Park Boys team, dressed as his doppelganger Ricky.

There were some breakdowns and flat tires, and at least one pair of riders left a broken-down scooter to be collected by the sweep truck, to continue two-up for more than half the distance on the remaining, running 49 cc machine. Robert Leccesse and Rachel Gies won the 2Up 2Crazy award for that endeavour.

A wild card option this year let the Mad Bastards go white-water rafting in lieu of having to complete the bonus loop.

The overall winner this year was George Reichert, who won a Kymco scooter and somehow completed the course on a 50 cc scooter with his Checkered Drags team in less than 19 hours.

There were several awards for such achievements that included the “Spirit of Rob Harris” award, presented to the person who most embodied the nature of the whole madcap event – its spirit is hard to define, but essential to strive for. It was presented this year to husband and wife team Jamie Leonard and Cindy Wilson, who truly embraced what CMG’s founding editor Rob Harris was looking for when he created the rally in 2004. Like life, it’s not supposed to make sense, but it’s supposed to be fun.

Left to right, organizers Sabina Heilman and Carol Anne Skorvaga with Jamie Leonard and Cindy Wilson, and CMG’s Mark Richardson.

And now it’s over. Rob sold the rally in 2015 to BECO Motors, which imported Kymco scooters. He wanted to free up his time to organize adventure riding rallies, though he died the following year. BECO stopped importing Kymcos in 2018, but still sells the Taiwanese scooters through its Toronto store, Studio Cycle.

“The rally was a very nice fit for promoting scooter culture, and it fit well into our marketing budget and our objectives,” said Sabina Heilman, the rally master. “After our relationship ended with Kymco, unfortunately the time commitment and the budget for running this event was just not there.”

Mark had a few words to say, as usual, but remembered fondly the role of Rob Harris in creating the original Mad Bastard rally.

Editor ’Arris wouldn’t have minded. In truth, he was always astonished that the biennial rally lasted as long as it did. He’d have liked to make money from the event, but it was more important for him that it raised funds for a worthwhile charity and that people enjoyed themselves. This year’s rally raised more than $12,500 for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and everyone had a good time. It helped that the weather was near perfect, but not a single participant on Sunday morning had a complaint.

And ultimately, political correctness and little old ladies be damned, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Scooters rule!

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