Opinion: Hitting a milestone

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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.’

Rob Harris was the founder of Canada Moto Guide.

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!

14 COMMENTS

  1. I have many happy memories from the early days. Late night sessions atfter hours on borrowed macs trying to get CMG ready for print. Being told my truck drives a bit funny with 10,000 magazines in the bed. Being declared the official photographer for a test ride because I was the one with a sleep camera. The sillyness of the trip up to the Numb Bum with that poor Yamaha BWs 50. All of the wonderful people that I met all with a thread in common, the love of being on two wheels.

    I was digitizing the Numb Bum videos that I have while my hi-8 camcorder still works. Maybe it is time to dig out the box with the TMG, OMG, CMG collection and scan that as well.

    Thanks for all the hard work. Best to you in the next 10000.

  2. Excellent accomplishment – especially considering the small motorcycle community in this country. I began picking up the OMG mag at local shops; wish I had kept the hard copies. I never met Rob, but plan to attend the Memorial ride.

  3. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you guys, but it’s a damned shame that Rob Harris isn’t still around to see this milestone.

    • We know. We’ll be thinking of him even more on Saturday, May 9, for the Rob Harris Memorial Run from Bewdley to Bancroft, when we ride up to fix the crosses at the scene of his death. Details will be posted closer to the date, but keep the day free.

      • I know … I know. Not related. But I shall be observing seventh of April (as in 1968).

        Met Rob once. I was pished. He was Englished. Seemed an alright lad.

  4. Excellent accomplishment from a hard working group. I believe the writing and review skills are high end in details and fortunately seeded with humour. You have earned every accolade. Cheers

  5. Found CMG Online’s “Soapbox” in 2001 when I started riding. Made more than a few friends from the Soapbox & attending the Pub Nights at the Fox & the Firkin (think I got the correct pub) Congratulations, & I hope you have many more years & many more stories. One thing I have always liked about the reviews vs the “big magazines”, is that they seem more “genuine”

    Still waiting for a review on the Moto Guzzi V85 TT (hint)

    • You and us. Pretty hard to get hands on a V85 tester. The Cali press fleet doesn’t really exist, and when the bikes are available, well, they’re in California, and we’re here …

  6. Outstanding, folks! I’ve been a reader from the outset, I think. Certainly since 1997. The CMG perspective was a big factor in my last three bike purchases (R1150GS, VFR800F, R1200RT). I’ve done tours that were inspired/prompted by CMG stories. I’ve been riding for over 45 years and CMG has been a big part of that.

    Good on you!

  7. Congrats, guys. It’s been a long, strange trip. I had a copy or two of the original printed CMG, and have been online pretty with it pretty much since the beginning.

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