Summer is here: Get to the racetrack!

Trevor Daley scoots around Shubenacadie. Daley earned a second and third at Shubie, a rewarding weekend for the Pro Superbiker. Photo: Rob O'Brien

Last weekend, I finally had the chance to get back out to a motorcycle race. With 2020 and 2021 Canadian Superbike races run in front of empty stands due to COVID regs, and no Nova Scotia visit on the schedule for the same reason, I was pretty excited to head off to Shubenacadie with riding buddy Matt Peachman for the third round of 2022, at Atlantic Motorsport Park.

There’s only one race weekend left for the year: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, formerly known as Mosport, on August 12-14. If you’re able, you should go—here’s why:

Finally, a bit of relief from the heat, as the sun sets, and relief from sky-high gas prices, with recent plunges in per-liter pricing. I’d picked up this KTM 690 Enduro R just before leaving for the races, and had to bolt on the rack in a mad rush, to strap down my camping kit. My apologies to the long-suffering gate staff, who had to admit us to Atlantic Motorsport Park long after the facility was closed down for the night. Photo; Zac Kurylyk

Why go to the races? Because getting there is fun, even when it’s disgustingly hot and muggy. So hot that, when Matt and I made our first gas stop in Salisbury, I went and bought a gallon of water for the next day, just in case there was a shortage at the track (and there was—the vendor ran out, just around lunchtime).

As we got back on our bikes, the chrome cruiserheads we’d parked next to made some comment about the temperature, and we made one back, and they rode off in their cut-off T-shirts and beanies. Matt and I rode off with all our vents and visors open, our jacket zippers opened wide at the necks. I wished I’d brought my mesh gear. But, after having travel opportunities heavily restricted for a couple of years, just getting out on the road and seeing places you haven’t seen for months is highly enjoyable. And we were able to jam in a few twisties along the way, up New Brunswick’s Route 111. We had to do a lot of highway as the day wore on, but it was still good to ride through Wentworth Valley as the sun was setting. Places like that look better, when you haven’t seen them for a long time.

A little insect friend in the foreground, a big corner in the background. I’ve camped all over the various corners of the Shubie track, and our stay down near Turn 9 was probably my favourite location so far. Alas, it was filled with mosquitos and other bugs! Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Why go to the races? Because camping is good for you. Seriously. Putting up your new tent in the middle of the night, with no instructions (after barely getting by the gate attendant) is a far more practical brain exercise than sudoko. It’s also a reminder to be more in-tune with nature, so you recognize things like mosquito-filled bogs next to potential tent sites, or anthills, or groundhog burrows. Matt and I didn’t notice any of those things, but at least we saw lots of local wildlife from our campsite! But we could also watch the morning’s practice from our chairs, something you won’t get from a generic McCampsite packed with families of screaming kids. And when we went home at the end of the weekend, there was no trouble falling asleep, after a couple of nights on air mattresses. Sure, some race fans stay in RVs, or even in hotels, but think of all the fun they’re missing out on!

Up in the stands off Turn 4. This was a much-needed break from Saturday’s oppressive heat, although I did miss the perspective from my favourite position between Turn 2 and Turn 3, on the infield. On Saturday, we moved to a grandstand just off Turn 1, and found ourselves surrounded by locals with ties to the regional ARL series. Their perspective on the series made the day a lot of fun. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Why go to the races? Because your friends are going. The racetrack is a great place to meet similar-minded bike enthusiasts. These aren’t the types to glumly shuffle around their local Tim Hortons parking lot, hoping someone will compliment their white-walled tires and their handlebar tassels. These are riders who are interested in speed and performance, and a lot of them are interested in moto-travel as well. The parking lots are often filled with plenty of sport tourers (or touring-biased cruisers), adventure bikes and dual sports, even vintage bikes. This isn’t a sport bike only scene. And after a few years, when you walk around the pits, you’ll start to recognize familiar faces, and they’ll recognize you. You’ll make friends, people you’ll camp with the next year and the year after that. This past weekend, I met riders who’d made the CSBK tour the key to their east coast trip, and other fans who’d spent years traveling to races all over the globe. If you’re serious about motorcycling, the racetrack is the place to be.

Pro Sport Bike saw some excellent racing, with Trevor Dion (#20) appearing like he’d walk away with Race 1 – and then crashing, and still retaining the last podium spot. He ran away with it in Race 2, and will no doubt be a name to watch in years to come. Photo: Rob O’Brien/CSBK

Why go to the races? Because racing is still a lot of fun to watch. Yeah, the pro grids are not what they were, back in the days of cigarette advertising, and a couple of key racers are injured this year. But at Shubenacadie last weekend, there were seven races on both Saturday and Sunday: Pro Superbike, Pro Sport Bike, Amateur Superbike, Amateur Sport Bike, Pro-Am Lighweight, Amateur Lightweight, and the ARL Invitational. The Lightweight classes saw some particularly excellent battles, as is always the case at Shubenacadie, with the lead changing multiple times between a handful of expert riders. And there’s always the other stories, too—like ex-CMG big boss Jacob Black, who flew out to Halifax at the last minute and rented a Ninja 300 track bike to compete, earning enough points to keep him in contention for the season lead. Every CSBK weekend has some sort of sub-drama like this, even if it’s as simple as a battle between friends for last place in a race.

I especially think, in today’s world of jaded pro sports millionaires who go on strike over their hockey/basketball/baseball/football contracts, there’s something endearing about athletes who are competing in an event with the highest of stakes for little to no financial reward. These racers and their teams are primarily there for the love of the sport, not for the love of money.

Why go to the races? Because it keeps the sport alive. This isn’t just a financial thing, although your ticket purchase certainly helps. A real racer will always want to win whether or not there’s fans in the stands (just look at CSBK’s 2020 and 2021 seasons, which had no fans allowed, thanks to COVID-19). But having that crowd cheering is all the more incentive to push for the front.

And let’s face it: A lot of things we’ve done for decades are now sort of up-in-the-air, thanks to mass lockdowns and the crumbling economy and looming carbon emissions restrictions. It would be easy for organizers and participants to throw up their hands and walk away, but as long as you and I keep going, that won’t happen.

The next race weekend See the schedule for the CTMP races here, running August 12-14. It’s close to the GTA, and there’s going to be lots of action, including three Pro Superbike races and an outdoor movie event hosted by the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival. It’s close to the GTA, and if you’re coming from elsewhere in Ontario, you can stitch together a great route to make a proper weekend of it!


    • Hey Alan, I saw you a couple of times but you were always busy. I spent more time just sitting in the shade this year!!!1

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