Motorcycle Reading: Red Tape & White Knuckles by Lois Pryce

I read Lois on the Loose a couple of months back so I put Red Tape and White Knuckles on Kindle for a read over the Christmas holidays.  Lois’s ride through the Americas was a great read, so Red Tape had a lot to live up to.

If you enjoy well edited, lean writing that is almost pathological in its honesty you’ll love Lois’s writing style.  She holds nothing back as she describes her long and arduous route from England to Cape Town.  Her vulnerability riding a motorbike colours the entire trip, making this very much a motorcycle focused read.

Now that I’ve read both books I often find myself wondering how the people she ends up travelling with find her depictions of them.  She is relentless in her assessment of how people deal with the challenges of adventure travel, and it isn’t always (usually?) flattering.

Lois is equally honest with her own fears and abilities while navigating Africa’s byzantine politics and sometime apocalyptic landscape.  Her doubts creep in throughout this difficult ride, but she also explains how she recovers which is a wonderful insight into resiliency.

You’d think that the physical aspects of trying to cross Africa on a motorcycle would be what slows her down, but just when you think that the Sahara Desert will be the ultimate challenge you’re scared to death of what will happen next in the Congo.  People are, by far, the most dangerous thing Lois encounters, though they are also often the saving grace.

Like Lois on the Loose before it, Red Tape & White Knuckles has some can’t-put-it-down moments (especially awkward when you’re supposed to be getting off a plane).  And like her previous trip this one leaves you feeling like you’ve been on an epic journey where the beginning feels like a distant memory as you finish.  Like the best journeys, this one feels like it changes you.

It’s better if it’s a tiger…

Toward the end of the novel Lois has an interesting talk with her husband Austin.  Lois’s atheism comes up a number of times during her trip through religion soaked Africa, and her discussion at the end about Austin (also an atheist) praying for her safety was enlightening.  It got me thinking about what being an atheist means.

I’d also describe myself as an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I’m lacking in imagination or meaning in my life.  If Life of Pi teaches you anything, it’s that you shouldn’t miss the better story or the resiliency offered by an empowered emotional approach to challenging circumstances.

Lois contrasts the dead eyes and mercantile nature of the Congolese with the gentle kindness she finds elsewhere. There is such a thing as being too much of a realist, of allowing the world around you to dictate your reaction to it.  We’re powerful creatures able to create our own responses to the circumstances we find ourselves in.

On our recent trip south I found myself putting on my lucky socks before I loaded up my son and all our gear to go for a ride in the Superstition Mountains (I know, right?).  Do I really believe these socks are lucky?  No, not if I dwell on it, but I like these socks, they make me feel like I’ve got my best kit on, they put my mind at ease, make me feel like I’m ready to do a difficult thing well.  That confidence has real world value.  Same with that lucky hockey stick, or my lovely motorcycle.  Am I superstitious?  No, I wouldn’t say I am because I spent most of my young adult life learning that things like fate or luck don’t exist, but I recognize the value of empowering myself with positive thinking.

If Austin found some peace in fraught times worrying about Lois in Africa then this isn’t a repudiation of atheism and reason, it’s an acceptance of the power of hope.  These tentative forays into the psychology of adventure riding suggest an untapped opportunity.  Lois’s honesty allows her unpack the complex psychology around dealing with fear, nurturing resiliency and developing an effective mental approach to the challenges of travelling off the beaten path.  I get the sense that she shies away from this kind of philosophizing, but I hope she doesn’t in the future.  If her purpose is to get more people out and about, this would aid in that.

Unfortunately this brings me to the end of Lois’s current works.  Fortunately she’s working on another novel due out soon about her riding around Iran

Around Georgian Bay

Everyone’s busy this weekend so, and to quote Freddie Mercury, I’m going to take a long ride on my motorbike.  Time for my first circumnavigation of a Great Lake, I’ll start small with Georgian Bay.  From Elora I’ll strike north to Tobermory.  There is a 1:30 ferry to Manitoulin Island, that’s the only must get to (gotta get there an hour before departure, so 12:30pm in Tobermory).

I’m aiming for Little Current to overnight.  We stopped there last summer and it seems a lovely spot to spend the night, and The Hawberry Motel looks the part.   That’ll put me 340kms and a two hour ferry ride into an 873km circumnavigation.

Sunday morning I’m on the winding road up to Espanola and then over to Sudbury before the long ride south.  It might seem like a stretch but the ride south includes some time on the 400, so I’ll get to see how the Concours manages highway riding while making some time down the other side of the bay.  Once I get back south of the Bay I’ll cut over to the coast and follow it around before heading south out of Wasaga Beach for the final push home.

This ride is the longest I’ve yet done, and it also includes a ferry ride.  I’m pretty revved up about it!  Friday night will be the pre-flight checks then on the road Saturday morning.  My buddy Jeff has said he’ll do the first leg with me up to Tobermory, so I’ll also get to do some miles in formation.  Another box checked.

Here are the posts from the trip:
Part 1: To the North
Part 2: An informed ride
Part 3: Highway Miles
Part 4: The Kit
Part 5: Media from the Trip

The Concours is sorted and doing regular duty commuting me to work, time to stretch her legs…


The Ferry

The Hawberry Motel

The Map

The Trip Itself

The Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group

The Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group:

“The Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group (CVMG) is a not-for-profit organization aimed at promoting the use, restoration and interest in older motorcycles and those of historic interest.”

Sounds like my kind of people!

I just joined.  I ran into them at the Toronto Motorcycle Show in 2014 but never followed up, I have now!

Being a member would allow me to participate in classic trials events with the Southwestern Ontario Classic Trials Group.

I’m sure there will be other connections to be made, more to come!

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The 2021 Dream Stable

 Some selective motorcycle wishes for 2022:


1986 Yamaha TY350 Trials Bike

about $2600CAD

A well looked after old bike that comes with lots of spares.  It would also let me tackle the Ontario Amateur Trials Association’s season of events and get my head around trials riding.




This is the accessible option in GasGas’s competition range of trials bikes.  It’s a lightweight, 2-stroke competition machine that isn’t quite as mad as their 300cc beasts.


about $25,000

This is a tricky one!  Old bikes are vanishingly rare in Ontario so I’d have to go overseas for this pre-war Triumph Tiger 100.   It’s £12,000 ($21k CAD) and I’d need to get it shipped over this way which would probably add some more thousands on there in terms of shipping and duties.


It’s not for sale so this isn’t exactly an easier classic, but it’s local and it’s a lovely 1961 BSA.  I’d have to convince the owner to sell it and I’m not sure what it’d need for the road, but it looks fantastic!


$2000 (but I’d offer $1500)
750 GSZ 750 F with 42k kms on it.  Not asking much and it’s ridiculous, but I like it for that – it’s a full 90’s colour commitment!  I’d actually like an 80s Katana but they’re hard to find.  It’d be my first Suzuki!  I like the organic shapes, but it’s a heavy old bus for the power output.


¥ 69,878 clip-on set
¥128,667 Katana body kit for SV650
¥198,545   (that’s about $2300CAD, maybe $3k with shipping/customs)
You need a 2016 or newer SV650.  The new ones are $7500.  A lightly used (5200kms) 2018 with some nice extras is $6300.
With a $10k CAD budget I could create a modern special as an homage to the classic Katana.  A bit more on top would get it a period accurate paint job. It wouldn’t have that big air cooled work of art on it though.


$2500 (I’d offer $2200)
It’s been dropped and has some scratches, but I’d want it to track ride so I don’t care about the aesthetics.  It’d get stripped down and ridden only on track.  It’s only 167 kilos to begin with and I’d take even more off.  This one’s only got 32k on it.  It’d get lightened up and mechanically sorted and then do what CBR600s do best – take corners at speed.
I still need a vehicle that could move this stuff to where I need it, but that’s another story.

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Trials Maths

Some more trials bike mathematical considerations on a Sunday night:

The madness of Ontario used off-road bike prices continues.  Here’s a 20 year old bike that needs a lot of work:
2001 gasgas TXT 200 trials bike in good shape, runs good , needs fork seals and brake work.
$3200 obo
So, you drop over three grand on it and then have to buy parts and rebuild the suspension and brakes.  You’re probably over four grand before you turn a wheel on this old, worn out thing.
A 2021 (as in brand new) Tanaci-Wong TWL200 Trials Bike:

Integrated electric start
Electronic fuel injection
Butter smooth hydraulic clutch
Ultra-progressive hydraulic brakes
Lightweight billet aluminum swing arm
Adjustable billet aluminum brake pedal
Billet aluminum triple clamps
High-quality flexible plastics
Transparent fuel tank means no more guessing
All chassis fasteners are high-grade stainless steel
Well protected exhaust system means no costly replacements

$3495 plus PDI/shipping/taxes

So, my option is to drop four grand on a 20 year old, broken bike, or spend the same amount on a brand new machine?  Someone’s going to say, “yeah, but that’s a Chinese bike.”  Where do you think all the parts on the GasGas were made?  Bet it wasn’t Spain.

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Motorcycle Digital Art

I’ve been collecting together motorcycle related art that varies from photographs to original drawings and heavily abstracted images.  An online tool put the photos together into a shareable album:

Early graphics are often lifted from TV (Doctor Who has a long and storied history with motorbikes) and abstracted photos eventually based on 360 photos too.

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2021 Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival

TMFF kicks off this weekend and, after a year of only fully remote streamed films they’re also doing live showings in theatres again. Back in 2019 in the glorious ignorance of the pre-pandemic we went down to Hamilton to watch a live screening of some of that year’s top films.  It was a great night out in a theatre full of russling motorcycle gear (pretty much everyone in the audience rode to the theatre).  I’d like to go for a ride to see films live but with my government turning me into Typhoid Mary I don’t think it prudent to share my burst pandemic bubble with others.  Fortunately, TMFF is still doing home-streaming and they’re showing one I’ve been looking forward to by Leaving Home Funktion‘s:  972 Breakdowns:  On the Landway to New York:
The technical setup is straightforward and they even shared a test-your-connection link this week so I know it won’t be frustrating when I sit down to enjoy this adventure.
The list of films this year is long and distinguished.  If you’re in Ontario you can watch them in the theatre if you’ve been missing that, but if you’re still in a defensive posture with COVID you can also just stream to your home.
In a year where I’m missing extended riding trips and feeling very much trapped by my circumstances, the chance to follow Leaving Home Funktion on their adventure across the world will feel like a much needed breath of fresh air.

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Watching The Sun Rise: Reflections on life and teaching in 2012/13

Stephen Hurley at VoicEd asked for a reflection as the year ends, so I’ll give it a whirl.  This is going to be tricky to do without spiraling into Nietzsche’s abyss.

This past school year started with the worst summer of my adult life.  I’m still recovering from my mother’s suicide and I probably shouldn’t have resumed teaching in the fall, but I did out of shear stubbornness.  Rather than trying to deal with this nightmare in a quiet year I got to do it during one of the most turbulent political periods in Ontario education.  You need only look over Dusty World in the fall to see the white water political ride education in general and my board in particular went through.

In a few short weeks, as OSSTF swung from a confrontational stance with the Liberal government that I supported by volunteering on our district executive and attending many rallies, I found myself suddenly muzzled by an organization that I realized I have very little in common with.  Rather than standing up for what is right, they would rather do what is expedient.  I’ve never been good at bending a knee to bullying, even if it does serve a political end.  It’s half a year later and our OLRB complaint against OSSTF for misrepresentation is still awaiting an outcome.  Being an idealist I find this very upsetting.  It seems any organization is politically self interested before it can stand for anything else.

It’s easy to forget that teachers are people, and the job is a deeply personal one.  This past year has had a number of strange confluences both personal and professional for me.  As my school and board tried to leverage the suicide of Amanda Todd to address bullying I couldn’t help but feel that this was manipulating misery for some kind of administrative end.  The contrite, ‘suicide is bad, don’t bully someone into it’ struck me as simplistic.  That cyber-bullying got selected by the media as the cause of her suicide (which a number of anti-technology teachers immediately trumpeted as proof that we should back off on it) was doubly frustrating.  That Amanda, like my mother, suffered from years of mental illness tends to be ignored because dealing with something as complicated as mental illness is more than most organizations, no matter how well intentioned, are willing or able to do.  That provincial and federal governments have basically bowed out of caring for the mentally ill has put a great deal of stress on already over stressed families.  If we’re going to address mental illness it better not be on a poster stuck up in a high school.  This trivializes a very complex issue.  Suicide is never a simple result of bullying, it’s the most profound, existential decision you’re ever going to make.  It deserves more than a soundbite.

Between the fractured politics in education and my own personal baggage 2012/13 has been a difficult year to manage.  As the storm subsided and we began our two years of government mandated contract, the school trundled on and extracurriculars resumed, kind of.  In a subdued second semester I began to get some closure with my Mum and tried to find ways to get back on my feet again.  The first semester was like watching a horse with a broken leg that didn’t have the sense to lay down.  At the end of second semester I’m able to stand without it hurting so much.

With some perspective on a year that felt like nastiness was crowding in all around me, I’m able to see the good that happened too.  My wonderful wife has done backflips to help me through this, all while battling the same political nonsense and working on her Masters.  My spectacular son continues to astonish me with how deep he is getting, even as the education system continues to wring its hands over how not-normal he is.  I got a new principal who knows what she’s doing and who appreciates the work I do.  I’ve been able to develop my professional interests both as a department head, teacher and online PLN presence.  My board has been developing a real 21st Century presence in educational technology and I feel like I’ve played an important part in arguing for that.  The year has been very professionally satisfying, if you ignore the Ministry, the union and the media… which is probably good advice.

Even with a nasty political infection, education in Ontario has been able to produce outstanding results, and I’ve been able to develop my professional self in satisfying and challenging ways.  No year is ever going to be without challenges, and the challenges of this year have been mighty, but that I’m able to find intense intellectual satisfaction in my profession is a great help when dealing with all the slings and arrows life can throw your way.

Stay On Target

Stay on target… stay on target!

You want to talk about extracurriculars?  About how teachers should do them for the love of their job?  How they should sacrifice their own family lives so that they can ‘save the children!’ The politics around this are thick, and they do a great job of hiding the real problem.

Education isn’t about extracurriculars, extracurriculars are about education.  Royan Lee, the education ninja, asked the question that got right to this during TVO’s The Agenda, last week.  He then blogged about it, which might help all those people so tied up in the politics that they’ve lost the plot.

We’re not in education to enrich those students wealthy enough to enjoy extracurriculars.  I didn’t do a lot of extracurriculars in school – I had to go to work every day after school from the age of 10 onwards.  If you think you’re saving the kids by coaching basketball after school, you’re only saving the ones that can afford it.  The fact that extracurriculars usually cost money (bus costs, equipment, etc) many families can’t manage further underlines this unfairness.

Education should offer everyone equal opportunity.  It should be the most liberal of social exercises; opportunity for all, regardless of socio-economic status.  There is an inherent classism in extracurriculars, but I’m sure all those passionate teachers who are rushing to pick up ECs again don’t want to think about that, they just want to win a few games and demonstrate their ‘passion’.

The teacher as evangelist isn’t helpful in any of this. The martyr teacher only wants to emotionally show how much they care.  As a parent, this isn’t what I want from my son’s teachers.  Passion is great, but if that’s all you’ve got, then quite frankly, you’re creepy, and ineffective.  I’m looking for my son’s teachers to be professionals who are always looking to improve their practice.  If they are so thick as to believe that doing extracurriculars doesn’t impact their ability to maximize classroom learning then they have already demonstrated a lack of understanding around the use of limited resources in a time sensitive environment.  Zoe mentioned this in the Agenda show, but was quickly shot down by edu-babble around ‘best practices’.  There are no ‘best practices’.  Teaching is a constant development of a very complicated process.  When I see teachers throwing out edu-babble to simplify our work and support political motives, it strikes me as a professional failure.

The Spicy Learning Blog

Royan’s blog post raises the question of what is so special about ECs.  If the list to the left are what make ECs so valuable to students, why aren’t these things happening in classrooms?  The target of education should be learning.  If ECs offer advantages, why aren’t they being integrated everywhere?

As I said in the comments of his great post, the education ship is rusty and running poorly.  It’s covered in barnacles like extracurriculars, standardized testing, reduced professional development, government and union politics, social opinion, poor teacher standards and weak administrative development.  While Royan is asking why we don’t fix the ship, the other teachers on the show instead go on at length about how important the barnacles are.

Extra curriculars shouldn’t be extra.  We shouldn’t be waiting until after school to offer this enriched learning environment to the few students who can or will take advantage of it.  We need to fix the damn boat, not get wrapped up in the union/government politics.

If that Agenda episode showed me anything, it’s that teachers are just as caught up in the politics of distraction as the media, government and public are.  Stop crying about what the rich kids are missing out on and integrate what makes extracurriculars so fantastic into a public school system everyone can benefit from.

Thank goodness Royan Skywalker got his proton torpedoes on target.

Old Bikes Have Soul: A ride out to Ross Hergott Vintage Cycle in Wellesley

This caught the eye of Alanna a few weeks ago and we rode out to Wellesley, Ontario to Ross Hergott Vintage Cycle today to have a look:

We’re both still in recovery from week one of year two of pandemic school, but we finally got ourselves into motion after noon and made our way through some fierce winds to Wellesley, which is one of those places that’s only 45 minutes away but I’ve never been too.

The goal was this all day vintage motorcycle ride-in and we saw old bikes on the road coming and going.  While we were there at least a dozen riders were hanging about, chatting and looking over what Ross had on display along with what they’d ridden over on.

Ross has a fanastic shop – the kind of place that looks like it has grown out of the ground with layers upon layers of collectables, tools and bikes that could only look like it does because he’s been there for decades.

We had a chat with a guy who rode a 125cc 1950 BSA Bantam over to the meet.  The tiny bike had been in his family for generations and he knew a lot about its history and restoration.  Old bikes like these tell a story simply because they are survivors.  Of the tens of thousands of BSA Bantams churned out in the 50s and 60s, only a handful remain, and to see one of them in fine fettle at this meet was a real treat.

My trouble-making pillion suggested the kid with the chopper pit bike take on the Bantam in a race.  It wouldn’t be much of a race (they didn’t exceed the speed limit at any time because they couldn’t), but it was fun to watch the kid stall out and the old BSA putter off down the road to victory:


There were a couple of well looked after 70s Triumphs for sale at this meet.  Going for about five grand, they put the lie to that Tiger I’d been looking at online in a previous post.  I’m still hoping I can find a reasonably complete older British bike that I can rebuild from the inside out for a couple of grand and then bring it back to working order.

I’d thought that project would be a Triumph but after seeing some of the lovely BSAs at this meet (I’m a sucker for a polished alloy tank) I’m starting to think that perhaps one might be in my future.  I’m hoping for a simple, light-weight, air-cooled machine that lets me get analogue in a deeply mechanical way.  A twin would be ok but a thumper would be even more on point, and BSA made wonderful thumpers…

That blue BSA back there scratches an itch!


I’d feared it would be a Harley Davidson snooze fest but there was an interesting mix of old British bikes and HDs on hand – no Indians though, which was a shame.  Harleys always make me think of mennonites (Wellesley is in the middle of mennonite country so they were on my mind).  At one point Harleys were state of the art machines but they suddenly decided to stop evolving and just push out variations on the same theme for decades.  The motor company’s recent bikes show a rejuvinated interest in modernizing their designs.  From Charlie and Ewan’s latest Long Way Up on electic HDs to their latest Pan American adventure bike and newest Sportsers, HD is flexing some engineering muscle and suddenly considering them doesn’t seem as absurd to me.  I hope this new forward-thinking approach pays off for them.  I want to be a fan.

We had lunch at the Nith River Chop House (great food, but don’t be in a rush, they won’t be) and then rode over to a Eco Cafe on the Connestogo River in St. Jacobs for a nice coffee on the patio overlooking the river.  There we ran into an old fella named Albert who must be closing in on 100 years old.  He’s dealing with terminal bone cancer but told us some amazing stories about the decades he spent farming in South Western Ontario while the world evolved around him while we all enjoyed our coffee and watched the river flow past.

I don’t often head into farm-world to the west of us (lots of bugs due to the livestock and tedious, straight roads), but this ride out to Wellesley had me looking at the landscape in a new way, and knowing there’s an interesting classic/custom shop out that way means I’ll be keeping it in mind for future rides.  If nothing else, the chance to ride on roads I haven’t been round and round on during this year of pandemic lockdown felt like a breath of fresh air.  The chance to see old bikes was the cherry on top.




HD have always had an eye for style – this modern art inspired badge is lovely, then they stuck it on with a couple of philips screws, which casts a light on the other side of Harley ownership.


I get the urge to customize but at some point throwing away a bike’s ability to handle for looks ceases to make sense to me, though you’ve got to appreciate the effort, I just don’t share it.  I like a bike that prefers corners to straight lines.



A 1971 Triumph TR6 650.  This fifty year old survivor was also in excellent shape, and only five grand!






If you love chrome, HD have you covered.


I can’t say Nortons have ever lit my fire, though I can appreciate the brand’s historical significance.  Having said that, this 750 Commando is a lovely thing!  Look at those pipes!



1970 Triumph Daytona, Seven-Thousand, five hundred of your finest Canadian Dollars!  Restored in 2014, it’s been sitting in someone’s recroom ever since!  A close-up look revealed a lovingly looked after old machine.


Birmingham Small Arms Bantam – and one of the smalled, simplest carburetors you’ll ever lay eyes on!




If any of these get your motor humming and your wallet out, get in touch with Ross, he might be able to help you out:  Ross Hergott Vintage Cycle.

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