You couldn’t possibly hit them all,
so route selection is key.
It’s a sleepy, summer, Saturday morning in Elmira. The few locals that are already up are walking dogs and taking it slow, but the clock has just ticked over to 8am and we’ve begun our first long distance motorcycle rally. We fill up, get a receipt showing our start time and place and text to the rally lead that we’ve started. We rode over to Elmira to start because this is a target rich environment with over 1500 points on tap.
How did we get here? My buddy Jeff met Wolfe Bonham, the creator of this rally, at Lawrence Hacking’s Overland Adventure and they became friends on Facebook. When Wolfe announced the rally on there Jeff asked if I wanted to give it a go and a rally team was born! A week before the event you get a rally book pdf emailed to you with various locations in it. You’ve only got eight hours to connect as many dots as you can and it would be impossible to hit all of them, so you’ve got to be crafty and find the best route from where you are to where the rally ends in Brantford.
The theme of this rally was birds and bees, so locations had some kind of connection to that idea and included everything from apiaries to bird statues. Since neither of us enjoy urban riding on hot summer days, we plotted a route that would take us cross country and out to the shores of Huron before looping back around to Brantford. Being new, we were afraid we’d bite off more than we could chew; we did anyway despite reducing our route goals half a dozen times.
The morning clipped along as we knocked out 1600 points in Elmira before 8:30am and were in Lucan by mid-morning. Things started to go sideways when we had to navigate miles of sandy cottage roads before eventually getting to Kettle Point on Lake Huron. Turning around from there at noon we were getting tired and the sun was relentless. One of our key goals was to try and get to a bee beard happening at Clovermead Adventure Farm near Aylmer. This only had a twenty minute window and was worth big bonus points. We caught a few more locations before hopping on the 401 and pushing to Clovermead, making it (thanks to a very helpful gate keeper) in the nick of time. Our cunning plan was to use the 401 as a pressure valve if we ran out of time, and it was already doing the job.
The bee beard was brilliant, as was Clovermead in general. A rally like this shows you all sorts of local spots you’d otherwise have no idea about. I was thinking about this as we got out to the bikes only to be told by Google maps that we were an hour away from the finish line with an hour to go! Perhaps the bee beard was a trap! We’d been tired but adrenaline kicked in again, the race to the finish was on! We got back to the 401 and flew on down the 403 elated that we’d made the bee beard bonus but anxious about getting to the finish. The traffic light coming off the highway felt like it was red for an hour! We pulled into King’s Buffet parking lot, already full of motorcycles of all shapes and sizes, at 3:56pm; that’s tight!
Staggering into the dimness of the restaurant I felt sun-blind. We drank lots of water while we wrote out a clean copy of our rally sheet that had to show times and odometer readings for each stop along with a photograph showing us and our rally flags in each location. A rally volunteer then checked off each photo making sure that it fulfilled the criteria. Most people hadn’t eaten during the day so the all you can eat buffet went down well while we handed in scores and had our photos checked.
Our goal was to not embarrass ourselves at our first rally so we were hoping for a mid-pack result. When the numbers finally came in we were 17th & 18th out of 34 finishers. To top it off Jeff won most miles covered and I won the most bee related points trophy (thanks bee beard!).
The camaraderie of the riders is infectious at the end of an event like this. There are no class distinctions between types of bikes and this rally had everything from big Harleys and the latest BMW adventure bikes to a 200cc Yamaha TW200 (which he took over the Burlington Skyway!). Tales of daring do were shared and the overall feel was one of a celebration. Everyone there felt like they’d achieved something difficult and there was a real glow to the competitors, though that might have been sunburn.
Everyone cheered and clapped as trophies went out for everything from the person who got most lost to the top scorers. Riders were awarded for smallest bike, 2-up and most efficient route as well as a raft of other prizes. The top riders scored almost double the points we did, showing real navigation and riding mojo. Afterwards lots of handshakes and names were exchanged and a lot of new friends were made. Revitalized after a big buffet dinner and all that good cheer, Jeff and I saddled up and waved to everyone as we rode into a welcome evening rain. I was only an hour away from home, but Jeff, after already riding almost 600kms, was going to put another 200kms on going to his cottage in Kincardine; that guy’s a machine!
Wolfe Bonham, the creator of this rally, is keen to put on more. As he said in the introduction to the inaugural Birds & Bees Rally, if you’re interested in doing more than just riding to a coffee shop and would like to discover new and interesting locations, long distance rallying might be just what you’re looking for. I, for one, prefer to ride with purpose, and this certainly gives you one. You can make this as hard or as easy as you’d like and the sense of satisfaction you get at the end is infectious. We’re already aiming for a possible October Hallowe’en themed ride that’s in the works, maybe with a slightly shorter route this time. Hope to see you there!
Jeff never says no to free gas! We plotted the longest route, but we spent very little time looking at traffic lights.
Iron horses of many colours – you’ll find everything from the RTW adventure bike to big cruisers and tiny nakeds on a long distance rally.
He’s been everywhere man, he’s been everywhere.
After riding hundreds of kilometres during the rally, everyone saddled up for the last ride home (or to a hotel – a number of riders travelled up from The States to participate, including one who did an 800 mile ride the day before to get there!).
From tiny Yamaha WT200s and KTM 390s to 1600+cc cruisers… there is no ‘right bike’ for a long distance rally.
We all rode off into the twilight as rain started to fall lightly between lightning strikes. A suitably dramatic finish to an epic day.
We bit off more than we can chew, but still made it in with four whole minutes to spare!
It now has pride of place next to the wine rack, and has left me looking forward to future rallies.
The Inaugural Lobo Loco Birds & Bees Summer Rally Final Results
Jeff does more burn outs than me, so he got longest route.
We were aiming for mid-pack. It doesn’t get more mid-pack than 17/18 out of 34 finishers.
On our recent cross-Ontario ride we were stopped a number of times by people who were curious about the Tiger. This is an eye catching, obviously modern looking bike with a Triumph logo, it prompted questions. If they see a new ‘classic’ Triumph, most of the general public think it’s actually a classic. They wouldn’t recognize the difference between fuel injection and carburetors even if it’s advertised on the bike, they just see an old machine.
Colourful Triumphs of yore.
The Naughties were neon!
The confusion of a new-looking Triumph (even though it’s 13 years old), and what they thought a Triumph should be isn’t too surprising, and I’m happy to fill them in on the triumphant return of the brand (it’s a good story), but it makes me question the modern bike colours and styles.
When we went to get the Tiger, 11 year old Max’s eyes bulged out of his head and I knew we had a winner. Who makes a Lucifer orange tiger with stripes? Triumph in 2003, that’s who. When they weren’t churning out violently orange Tigers, they were putting out a wild assortment of colours. Of course, this was before Ewan & Charlie jumped on their austere Bayerische Motoren Werkes R1200s and reset the aesthetic paradigm for adventure motorcycles.
Why so serious? That muted blue is as close as you get
to colour on a new Tiger. Other choices
include military green or grey. A purposeful
look is what sells adventure bikes nowadays… and don’t forget to dress like a starship trooper!
Nowadays everything has to appear relentlessly purposeful and ridden by people who look like they’ve just landed on an alien planet. Whimsy and fun are replaced by bikes that look like they come from Army surplus, and riders who just got decommissioned from the special forces. No wonder people were eager to walk up and start a conversation with the guy and his son on their brilliantly orange Tiger that looks like it just popped out of Winnie the Pooh. The public wants to be curious about motorcycles, but a lot of motorcyclists seem determined to make themselves as unapproachable as possible, and manufacturers have to cater to that attitude in order to sell. Besides paint options there is also the issue of styling. I find the compound curves and organic look of our 955i Tiger very engaging. Whomever was designing Triumphs in the early Naughties did it pretty much exactly the same way I would have. Since then Triumph, along with most other brands, have been chasing a more chiselled, hard edged look. Lamborghini did a stealth fighter aesthetic after the Diablo with crisp, folded edges and it seems to have spread. Between the muted colours, sharp edged styling and attitude driven rider styles, it’s little wonder that our whimsical Tiger had people approaching us. I realize manufacturers have got to build to the tastes of the day, but I’m hoping there are a group of motorcyclists out there who aren’t so serious and miss those fantastic styles and colours. If there are, there is hope that my whimsical Tiger won’t be so exceptional in the future.
Way back in the late 70’s we were new immigrants living in Montreal. We got a handle on our new land by camping, a lot. One of the most memorable trips we took was down into the Adirondacks in the spring, where we camped in the mountains. It was the first time I saw a rainbow trout; North American animals are so exotic!
I’d love to spend some time on two wheels somewhere nearby and mountainous, and the Adirondacks have a fond child-hood glow to them. I can access the back side of the Appalachians below the Adirondacks just a day’s ride south east of me.
Below are some variations on trips I might take in the future.
Two Nights with a loop (minimal luggage/lighter bike)
Things fell together just right for a ride out to the 1000 Islands in Eastern Ontario. My lovely wife had a conference in Ottawa, so we spent the weekend before where Lake Ontario empties into the St Lawrence Seaway. This meant, for the first time, I had a support vehicle! The panniers and top-box all went in the back of the car and I got to ride light and solo. It also meant I had a vehicle that could take pictures of me riding.
I’d dialed back the rear suspension for a single rider, so the Tiger was more compliant. The weather was, as it has been for weeks, sunny and very hot. It wasn’t so bad in the morning, but by noon it was sweat-box hot. We dodged around the GTA, not trusting the crumbling infrastructure, overcrowded roads and distracted yet aggressive drivers. Traffic was light and moving well north of the city on a summer, Saturday morning. We stopped briefly in Schomberg at Main Street Powersports for a quick stretch and look around what may be one of the most eclectic motorcycle shops in Ontario before pushing on into the heat. Bypassing Newmarket, we found mostly empty roads as we wound our way down to Uxbridge where we stopped for a second breakfast/early lunch at Urban Pantry (having a foodie and professional researcher driving your support vehicle has big benefits!). Every time I got off the bike it was that much hotter suiting up again. It was just past noon when we finished lunch and the air temperature was in the mid-thirties with humidity pushing it well into the forties. It was just bearable in motion so we quickly got moving. Pushing down to the 401 meant more traffic, but once on the highway we made quick time and the hot wind was better than stagnant air at traffic lights. My support vehicle pulled off at Port Hope where we discovered a lovely, old downtown during a hydration stop. I thought it would be nice to take the old King’s Highway (Lakeshore Road) along to Prince Edward County where we were going to check out some wineries and Sandbanks Provincial Park. At first this seemed like a bad idea as we were constantly stopped at traffic lights through never ending box store/strip malls in Coburg, but soon enough we left the last remnants of the GTA behind and found ourselves on a winding old highway that kept Lake Ontario in sight to our right. Crossing the Murray Canal Bridge, we entered Prince Edward County, which immediately impresses with a relaxed island vibe. Following wine and arts tour signs we meandered across the island enjoying light traffic and a stop at Sandbanks Winery, which not only had some wines on hand that you can’t get through retail, but also appeared to be where all the pretty girls go to drink on a Saturday. The bachelorette party looked to be well along at two in the afternoon. They jumped into a shuttle and were driven to the next winery, which was about five hundred feet down the road. They must have looked like a train wreck the next morning. We rode into the afternoon, stopping at The Duke of Wellington Pub for a much needed cool down and hydration. The view off the deck into the harbour was lovely, as was being out of the relentless sun for a while. It was a short ride to Sandbanks Park, but getting in was tricky. After waiting in line for ten minutes I pulled up with the car and said I’d just park in the same spot as the car since were all here as a group, but the kid at the gate didn’t know what to do about that and spent ten minutes calling people to ask what he should do… while I stood there on the bike on 50°C tarmac. He finally told us we had to pay two full vehicle admissions. It’s things like this that make motorcycling in Ontario that much harder than it needs to be. We’re not the same as cars or the massive SUVs most people like to drive around in, we don’t require the same space or resources, but rather than honour that Ontario seems to do everything it can to ignore it. The park itself was nice and the dunes that make it famous looked like something out of the Caribbean. We stuck around for a couple of hours and even went for a swim to cool off. If you walk down the beach a bit the crowds let up and it’s possible to find some quiet space to relax. Back on the road with sand in my everywhere and sweating freely, I was starting to feel this ride. Into the lengthening shadows we went, pushing across the length of Prince Edward County toward Kingston. I felt like I was in a sandwich press, the setting sun and the tarmac both pressing in the heat.
A welcome break came at the Glenora Ferry, which takes you from Prince Edward back to the mainland for free and runs every fifteen minutes in the summer. It’s only a ten minute crossing, but it’s a pretty one with beautiful views up and down the straights. The line up was a welcome fifteen minute break from the saddle that gave me time to change into some cooler jeans. Once on the ferry you can wander around and see the sights. Before you know it you’re firing up the bike ready to go again. If you have to get to Kingston from Prince Edward County in the summer, go the Glenora way!
The temperature finally began to abate as I rode away from the ferry. Shadows got even longer and the bugs began to thwack off my helmet. We dodged and weaved across southern Lennox County, eventually finding our way onto the 401 just outside of Kingston. A stop for gas had the Tiger using 19.7 litres to travel 412kms. That’s 4.78l/100kms or 49.2 miles per gallon on everything from urban stop and go to fast highway riding. Considering it’s expected to get about 40mpg, I’m really happy with those numbers.
It might have been dehydration and heat stroke, but the final ride into the 1000 Islands was pretty magical!
After a stop for dinner in Kingston we got back on the highway for the final forty-five minutes to Gananoque and our hotel in the Thousand Islands. The sun was well down and the air temperature had dropped. Stars filled the sky and heat boiled out of the sun baked pavement. Tucked in behind the windshield as I thundered down the dark highway, it felt as though I was riding through VanGogh’s Starry Night. We pulled in to the Glen House Resort just past 10pm. I immediately took a cold shower and flaked out on the bed.
Tree shade just outside of Newmarket
Downtown Port Hope, lovely!
Next to Lake Ontario in Sandbanks Provincial Park, where bikes pay the same parking costs as six thousand pound SUVs.
Making long shadows as the sun sets in Lennox County.
I find myself fighting a constant battle with non-riders over just how dangerous motorcycling is. They can’t understand why I would risk life and limb (or my son’s life and limb) to do something so superfluous. Unfortunately, the press is more than willing to inflame this perception.
While I was away this weekend a news story appeared that threw more gas on the fire…
“In an attempt to avoid collision with the fifth wheel, the motorcycles came in contact with each other, creating a domino effect and one rider, the deceased, came in contact with the fifth wheel, Eight men and one woman were sent to hospital with multiple injuries. The driver of the truck was not hurt.”
Where do I even begin with this? The people involved in this crash made a number of bad decisions that led to a disaster. A group mentality had them passing a vehicle en masse, something you never do. Any sane motorcyclist knows that your pass is yours and yours alone, even (especially?) when you’re in a group. You make the move when it’s safe and practical to do it, not because the people around you are. This is yet another reason why I don’t like riding in groups, there is pressure to ride as a unit instead of an individual. That kind of thinking is the antithesis of why I ride.
A few weeks ago I met up with an eclectic group of riders up by the Bruce Peninsula. At its biggest we were about half a dozen bikes. There were a couple of times during the ride when people crossed double yellow lines and dived around traffic. They’ve all been riding a lot longer than I have, but I found some of the moves a bit reckless, and didn’t follow. My ride is my ride, I make the decisions.
My best guess at what the point of impact looked like. In the video below it looks like the bikes are in a pile in the oncoming lane, so they attempted to pass to the left of a left turning truck and trailer. Done on Draw Accident Sketch.
Looking at video from the accident, it looks as though the bikers were trying to pass the left turning camper in the oncoming (left hand) lane – they were trying to beat the turning vehicle, which sounds like a bad idea no matter how you phrase it. This reads like a litany of things not to do while riding a motorcycle. Apart from the group mentality, attempting to pass a left turning vehicle on the left suggests a real deficit in road reading, let alone basic physics. This kind of riding is what stopped me from getting on a motorcycle just when I was going to get my license the first time twenty years ago. In that case a kid, late for work, gunned it through a red light and went over the hood of a left turning car; instant fatality. The cautionary tales that come from these situations always have more to do with poor road craft than they do with the perils of riding a motorbike.
Riding a motorcycle isn’t easy. 10% of my class failed to get their introductory license through a combination of poor coordination and inability to manage the many things you’re doing on a bike (you’re using both hands, both feet and your whole body to ride it), and that was in a parking lot. On the road there are a whole raft of other considerations on top of operating the bike. You need to develop advanced defensive riding skills because you’ll lose in any collision; it doesn’t matter who is at fault when you get in an accident on a bike. My suspicion is that these bikers thought their numbers and loud pipes would humble any other road user into waiting to let them pass. Using intimidation as a road management tool is a slippery slope. I’m not trusting my life to other people’s perception of me – more often than not they don’t see me at all.
Shortly after this happened I came across this great article explaining to car drivers why motorcycles act the way they do. I’m willing to bet the people involved in this accident had no familiarity with these habits. Riding a motorcycle is a difficult thing, but doing it well is very satisfying. Doing it poorly is just asking for trouble. If you’re a non-rider and you want to trot this out as an example of why motorcycling is dangerous, it’s a poor example.
ˈentrəpē/ 1. lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder. “the old bike finally succumbed to entropy amidst the weeds.” synonyms: deterioration, degeneration, crumbling, decline, degradation, decomposition, breaking down, collapse;
Out of high school it looked like my life’s work was going to be mechanics. I apprenticed as a millwright and quickly found a comfortable living doing work that I found satisfying. When I put down the tools and went to university I spent a lot of time chasing down philosophy and literature that was looking at a perfected idea of the world. The thought of spending my time thinking about machines that were in a continual state of decay (in fact, every time you use them they are literally falling apart), seemed silly. That they also produced pollution (both in operation and manufacture) and were generally quite wasteful put them further from my mind. I ended up leaving mechanics and my love of vehicles behind and going into I.T. after university for those reasons.
I’d been teaching English for a number of years when I had an opportunity to switch to computer engineering. I ended up going back to school to get my teaching qualifications as a computer technology teacher. At that training my instructor put me on to Shop Class as Soulcraft. Suddenly, here was a deep, insightful argument against academics for the sake of academics and a profound argument for why you should not only exercise, but celebrate your manual technical skills. Those skills are what can ground our intelligence and give it meaning in the world around us. You sometimes hear the term, ‘it’s academic‘ – meaning it doesn’t matter in the real world. If you’ve spent any time in institutions of higher learning, you’ve probably noticed how insular and self serving they are. The value they assign to academics is generated entirely by the people involved, there are no subjective criteria. When you tie intelligence to something in the real world, the real world will cruelly and repeatedly correct assumptions that would otherwise happily exist in academia. Having real-world hardened technical expertise is a very different thing than a background in academia. One is relentless and demanding, the other political and collaborative. As long as you tow the line in academia, you generally do well. You can tow the line all you want in engineering, but if you don’t submit to the demands of reality you won’t get anywhere, no matter how well you get on with your colleagues. I find I’m able to integrate the intellectual muscle developed in university with my manual skills very effectively; they aren’t concordant, they’re complimentary, but the idea that what I’m working on is in a constant state of entropy still bothers me. The very best you can hope for with a machine is to maximize the time it’s operational before it inevitably fails. I missed the perfection and timelessness of ideas found in academia.
A meditative mindset in the wind.
Like Pirsig in Zen, I often find myself ruminating while I ride. The complex machine interaction, balance and awareness needed to operate a motorcycle sets your mind in motion, but leaves your intuition free to chase down ideas. I write better after I’ve been riding because my brain is full of meditative juices. On our recent ride around Lake Huron, I was pondering this idea of entropy. I’m in my late forties now and the concept of entropy no longer applies to just machines. I’m watching everyone get older and struggle with the inevitable. Entropy isn’t just a state in machines, it’s how reality works. Everything is in the process of disintegrating, the trick is to dance gracefully in the decay. Holding back the inevitable is what life is, and if I can perform that life affirming act by resurrecting an old bike, or replacing a failed component in an injured machine, it’s not a wasted effort. Perhaps that is part of the joy I feel when I see an older vehicle on the road long after it should have gone to scrap; it’s a symbol of defiance against the inevitable. *** Do not go gentle into that good night Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953 Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) THE SECOND COMING Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand; A shape with lion body and the head of a man, A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Samurai Jack & The Mountain
The journey’s the thing – if you’ve got 20 minutes and
haven’t seen this before, it’s worth the time (and two bucks).