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?