The last year and a half have not been kind to many industries. The cancellation of numerous motorcycle shows hasn’t just had a negative impact on event organizers, but also the vast number of people and businesses that support them. From visual artists to sign manufacturers, caterers, exhibitors, and marketers, it takes many people working tirelessly behind the scenes to pull of an event.
In addition to being the name of the fourteenth studio album from Canada’s progressive rock trio Rush, Roll the Bones is an annual motorcycle and art show in Montreal, QC. Last year’s event was (predictably) cancelled due to Covid, but the event was back for 2021 with certain protocols in place. A group of us decided to make the pilgrimage to “La Belle Province” for the show and make a weekend of it in one of Canada’s most beautiful cities.
Given the constantly changing restrictions, the trip was a moving target right up until we arrived. Would a group of us be able to rent a hotel room or AirBnB? Could we cross provincial borders? Could those of us who weren’t vaccinated still attend? Being out of province, how would those of us who have had the jab show proof of vaccination under the newly imposed rules? There were many obstacles in place, but all of us were itching for an adventure so were willing to put in the effort and take a chance.
Thankfully, the biggest challenge ended up being just getting there. Montreal is infamous for its traffic congestion, terrible roads, worse drivers, road closures, and perpetual construction. It is a dubious honour that is well-earned. I felt bad for the Sportster riders in our group who were consistently bottoming out on the pothole-ridden streets. Each ride culminated in the examination of wheels to ensure there weren’t any bent rims. The next biggest challenge was finding a place to park without fear of being tagged or towed. Anywhere we went in the downtown core over the weekend, we spent more time looking for places to park than we did riding from one place to another.
Organized by Revolution Motorcycle Magazine and Clockwork Motorcycles, the show is positioned as a throwback to the custom motorcycle scene of the 1970s. Hosted at the grand Theatre Paradoxe event space and concert hall which was once home to the Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours church, the former house of worship made for an impressive venue. Unfortunately for event organizers and participants, the street in front of the church was closed and cordoned off due to, you guessed it – construction. The neighbouring streets were lined with cool custom motorcycles and classic cars owned by attendees who had been vaxxed and made the effort to show up.
Despite the challenges of reaching the destination, the event was a success and worth the ride. In addition to a selection of stunning custom motorcycles, there were various exhibitors selling their wares as well as a variety of artwork on display from renowned artists like Bryan Helm and Dan Lim. The outdoor space features something of a swap meet with a food truck and a stage where a kick-ass 50s rockabilly band was performing.
After a year and a half without attending an in-person event, it was cathartic to be able to experience a motorcycle show again – to meet up with old friends and even make some new ones.
Aside from being masked and showing proof of vaccination to enter, the event felt like any other. The experience may have required some research, patience and perseverance, but it seemed like everyone was just happy to get out of the house. The extra steps involved were a small price to pay for being able to enjoy a feeling of normality for the day. Here’s hoping there are many more to come.