Opinion: Time for a new Mad Bastard

I bumped into a Mad Bastard on Sunday: Gary Davidson, one of the original six riders of the very first Mad Bastard Scooter Rally in 2004, and the unofficial winner of the 2005 rally. He was finishing up lunch with a couple of friends on the patio of Rhino’s Roadhouse in Bewdley, next to Rice Lake, and I had just arrived with my wife for a Father’s Day snack. We sat at adjacent tables but had to yell at each other across the patio – COVID regulations meant he couldn’t join us, or even approach us.

It was fitting for us to meet this past weekend because in most other years, the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally would have been running that day. It was a 24-hour rally for scooters and its creator, Rob Harris, the founding editor of this website and the Maddest Bastard of them all, ensured its timing would provide the most hours of daylight for the ride.

We reminisced across the patio about that 2005 rally, when we met for the first time and decided to team up to take photos of each other for the ride. Photographs were needed as evidence of completing challenges to claim points. “I’ve got a picture of your arse somewhere on my hard drive!” I called over, and the conversation at the other tables paused for just a moment. In fact, that’s not quite true. I did take a photo of Gary naked, but he was holding his crash helmet in front of himself to provide some modesty. We were on the ferry from Kingston to New York State, and Gary was standing behind the ferry captain who had his back to him as he steered the boat, completely unaware.

Ah, the good old days. “Remember the pimp in Rochester?” said Gary. How could I forget! One of the challenges of that year’s rally was to take a photograph of your scooter with a street-corner pimp in Rochester, NY. It was a stupid and dangerous challenge that Rob admitted was probably a mistake, but no matter; both Gary and I convinced two very friendly women in Rochester to sit on our scooters with their gold-chain-bedazzled male friend and – ka-ching! – another five points earned toward the final tally.

(The reason Gary was the unofficial winner is that his fully-naked photo on the ferry earned enough points to put him at the top, since everyone else just submitted photos of their quickly-flashed bums. But Gary didn’t fill in his paperwork correctly and so was disqualified, leaving Yours Truly to snag the enviable title of that year’s Maddest Bastard.)

Rob sold the bi-annual rally five years ago to the company that imported Kymco scooters to Canada and they gave subsequent runnings their best shot, but it was a lot of work for something so niche and last year’s rally was the final event. After all, scooters really aren’t designed to go touring in the countryside for an 800-kilometre scavenger hunt, and especially not the tortuous little 49cc scooters that top out at 50 km/h. “I didn’t run the last couple,” said Gary. “I thought it had become too much of a costume party and not enough of a rally. But there really should be something to take its place. There’s just nothing else like it anymore.”

We’re agreed on that. This is a terrible year to inaugurate a new rally, of course, but it’s a terrific year to start planning one for next summer. Next year, the longest day will be Sunday, June 20, and that give us 51 weeks to figure out how to make the most of it. We’ll be able to look back on a summer of cancellations and poor attendance, to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, and then we can incorporate all those lessons into a 2021 event that ticks all the boxes for success.

To my mind, it should be a 24-hour scavenger hunt opened up to all motorcycles but with classes for different sizes and styles of bike. There should be three different routes: a short route for smaller capacity (and seat-sized) bikes, a regular route for most bikes, and a regular route with some gravel options for adventure bikes. Entry fees go to charity and there would be no overall single award: donated awards would be given out as door prizes, but only to those who actually complete the rally.

This new rally would be like the old Mad Bastard except open to everyone – after all, most riders who like to travel for any kind of time or distance on a bike don’t have access to a scooter.

Sounds simple, huh? There’s no reason why it can’t be done, and there have already been some variations on it. The old Blackfly Rally was a 24-hour treasure hunt across northern Ontario, and Zac’s thinking of ways to reprise the Dawn 2 Dusk rally in Atlantic Canada. He hopes to organize something for this September that will take riders through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and even over to Prince Edward Island. Now that sounds like a fun event.

I even have a suggestion for a name: the Mad Bastard Rally. Now all we need is to find somebody mad enough to recognize its potential and start organizing it. Any takers?


  1. Any event with the words Mad, Bastard and Rally in the title, that doesn’t start and stop Delta Ontario (Bastard Township) is just completely missing the point.

    Seriously though, it sounds like a good format opening it up to all genres of motorbike.
    Perhaps cutting the timing down to 12 hours would encourage more participants – 24 hours in the saddle isn’t exactly a good formula for safe operation of a motor vehicle.

  2. Riding my 50cc was the most fun I’ve had on two wheels … when guys started showing up with support vans, I knew the spirit of the MBSR was done.
    I miss the zany aspect of riding 50 cc scooters from pre dawn to late evening and all the good crazy friends I made (who didn’t have support vehicles).
    Probably trying to make it too big brings in those who are more sane in their approach to life and that goes against my attraction to the MBSR. Also I felt that having a big prize for the winner distorted the motivations for some, which is why when I won in 2011 I gave my prize away for charity. You can win but not be the craziest dude and I think everyone that enters is a winner.
    Rob Harris had the ‘tude’ … a little dangerous and wacko … I love him and miss him and not sure if any event would be the same without him setting the tone … but I bet Gary Davidson could.
    I have my little beasty ready to ride if ever this were to happen again … but full size bikes? Are you MAD?

    with love,

  3. Not sure about the 24-hour thing, dawn to dusk sounds better to me. That time of year we get what, 14 or 15 hours daylight? Should be enough…

  4. After following the reviews of the original Dawn 2 Dusk, I bought a 250 to join in. Sadly it ended before I got a chance. I’ve still got the 250 in my garage. Bring it back!

    • Out of curiosity, what 250 model did you buy? I prurchased a Suzuki GW250 with the same intent, but sold it the next year when the D2D was cancelled.

  5. Did the silliness get out of hand probably. Would a more simplified version sans coustmes and make up of scooter be more open maybe.

    But the real reason it was and is great is being on the back roads on a wee lil’ engine scooter screaming to the heavens doing 70 odd kph for 800km now that is fun. In a perverse sort of way.

    Should it try to start up again next year? Nah hold off til 2024/2025 to hold 20th anniversary rallies.

    Either way when(I have faith it will) and if another rally happens I will be there to
    Test my will, my skills and my scooter.

  6. While I certainly wouldn’t object to another MBSR again – I don’t think it would be the same thing if you opened it up to all bikes. It’d become just another motorcycle charity rally – and there’s nothing wrong with that but it wouldn’t be the MBSR.

    The impracticality of the machines added to the rally – 50cc were the ones most likely to win, and there was (and is) pretty much no other long distance rally that caters to the wee machines in the same way.

    I’ve ridden the MBSR on a Kymco 150, a Tomos 50cc moped, a Sym Simba, a Sachs Madass, a Vespa P200, a Burgman 400 – and the one I’m most proud of finishing on was probably the moped. It was torture, it was impractical, it was silly – and it was glorious.

    It was the one place where the modern plastic cheap little scooter had it’s day to shine. The disposable vehicle, the unappreciated bastard stepchild of the motorcycle – it ruled the roost, for one long day.

    One 24 hour period of screaming weedwhacker engine and missed directions. Feeling like the cramped seat was going to be a part of your anatomy.

    It was impractical. It was stupid. And I kept coming back to do the same silly thing every time I could.

    This? It’d bring back the name yes – and that is something. But for me at least, it wouldn’t bring back the insane spirit of the thing.

    I miss it – but I don’t think an event which wasn’t focused on those crazy 50cc riding lunatics would scratch the same itch for me. But I never claimed to speak for more than a demographic of one anyways 🙂

    • While you make a good point about the necessity of scooters for the craziness of doing 24 hrs on one, I think the madness can come from the items / activities needed to be scavenged for the rally, and that opening it up to all sorts of bikes makes it more likely to actually see the light of day. Either way, hope it can come together… but I sure don’t want to be the one organizing it. 🙂

    • There would still be a scooter class for the rally, but it would no longer exclude those riders who don’t have access to a scooter, which is most people.

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