Costa’s preview of the new BMW F900, posted Monday afternoon, was an achievement of sorts for Canada Moto Guide: It was the 10,000th story we’ve published since going online in 1996. It seems kind of fitting really, since the very first story for which we have a record is a preview of BMW’s 1997 models.
Actually, when you go back that far into CMG’s history, everything gets kind of murky. We were still figuring out the Internet and probably several hundred early stories from those last years of the last century were lost along the way. It’s safe to say, however, that we’ve now published at least 10,000 stories online, and that’s really something we’re proud of.
Canada Moto Guide began in 1994 as Toronto Motorcycle Guide, founded and printed by Rob Harris. Editor ’Arris was a mechanic and engineer, and a recent British import to Toronto. His story is told in full here, published a few days after his tragic death in 2016, but here’s an excerpt:
Rob later explained the 1994 creation of the Toronto Motorcycle Guide in an interview with the Toronto Star: It was ‘something that used my brain and my love of bikes, and to a certain amount the engineering degree – the trouble with engineering is you can’t make jokes.’…
Those were exciting days in Toronto, printing a paperback-sized, 28-page edition every couple of months. Its first cover was photocopied on pink paper to make sure it stood out, and Rob also used the colour to get away from the traditional machismo of motorcycles. After a year, the scope of the magazine expanded to cover the province and it became Ontario Motorcycle Guide, with roughly 3,000 copies distributed for free at bike shops….
Canadian Motorcycle Guide – or CMG – began as an accompanying web site in 1996 when an enthusiastic reader, Patrick Shelston, offered to set it up, just for the experience. And when an insurance broker agreed to mail OMG to his clients, circulation was bumped to 11,000 an issue. Advertising started to be more profitable. But then the brokerage was sold, and a replacement deal to distribute through the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council was short-lived, and ‘basically, OMG finally ran out of steam,’ said Rob in the Star interview. ‘We tried all avenues to keep the circulation up, but it couldn’t be done.’
But Canada Moto Guide, renamed to satisfy both English and French readers, kept going as a national online publication and went from strength to strength. Rob had big plans for expansion, but after his untimely death, we thought the site may not survive; the following year, it was bought by autoTRADER and we’ve grown since then.
I called up Patrick Shelston last night to tell him about the success of his baby. He’s now an IT professional, still in Toronto, and he was impressed to hear about the 10,000 stories. “It’s amazing, eh?” he said. “I never expected it to last when we first set it up. We always expected it to demise in the next six months, but here it still is. CMG still lives!”
We had a major setback last November, however, when the site crashed and some 4,000 of our most recent stories were removed from access. They still exist in our cache, but they need to be republished individually. As well, we’ve not been able to publish the weekly newsletter and round-up of stories. This has taken a long time to fix because we don’t want to just restore it and face the same problem again, so the Trader tecchies have been rebuilding and migrating all our content over to an entirely new platform. They’ve been working carefully to ensure we don’t lose our contacts and associated tags as they do so. As you can imagine, 10,000 stories means there’s a lot at stake.
Now we’re almost there. The site’s been redesigned to make it easier to access and navigate, and we plan to launch it next month. In the meantime, we’re working on the next 10,000 stories. Keep it pinned at CMG!