One Thousand Reasons To Ride

I've owned a Ducati Sport Classic GT 1000 since 2008. It's been a cafe cruiser, it's been to California and back. It's a bike that always attracts compliments and is a joy to ride.

I wanted to capture a few details of the bike without it being washed and shiny. The bike is ridden, it gets grubby. It's how it's supposed to be. Come what may, the Ducati always gives me one thousand reasons to ride.

This is not Plan B

I’ve seen a quote attributed to actor Will Smith that’s essentially states that if you have a Plan B you’re contemplating failure and that in itself is failure. So, to demonstrate my sense of purpose and mental fortitude, this is not Plan B.

Given the weather forecast of thunder showers in the area I’m heading to it makes perfect sense to delay the ride for 24 hours. Today will be a quick trip south of the border and a chance to test drive the Nexus Card.

My first longer ride if the season took me to Sedro-Wooley, WA. One of those places that you normally ride through or bypass without a second thought as you head for the Cascades. Today Sedro-Wooley claimed its 15 minutes as my turn around point on a ride to check out the scootability of the minor roads as the Vespa may enjoy a long weekend away in Winthrop. One absolute hoot was passing through Acme. Yes, Acme. The beep, beep was loud and clear in my head as I rode through town, fortunately no Wile E Coyote spotted.

The Home Town Cafe, a real mom ‘n pop throwback provided a fair BLT for lunch and it was back on the bike heading north. Rather than stick on I5 to the Peace Arch I decided to peel off and head back to Sumas. After all, this was a Sunday afternoon ride, a leisurely jaunt in the beautiful Pacific Northwest sun. A little too much sun as it happened. The border line up at Sumas started started well before the quick-crossing Nexus lane so I was forced in to an extra few minutes wait astride an air cooled, nicely simmering Ducati. Once I reached my Nexus, all was well. Straight to the Border Guard, nothing to declare other than a full stomach and that was it. Canada.

By the end of the ride I’d covered about the same distance as I will on each day the Lillooet loop ride, so today wad an excellent warm up.

Road trip readiness

With the postponement of the Rockies road trip, an easy overnighter around the Lillooet loop has become the ride of the summer. Although nothing like last years adventure with memories that are deeply etched, the ride will still be in to new territory. I’m looking forward to riding through the Fraser canyon and thinking back to Charlie Boormans Canada ride, Lillooet, through Pemberton and down to Whilster has the potential to be spectacular.

Sunday morning is the off and the weather forecast will dictate clockwise or anti clockwise.

Late Saturday night and the weather for the last part of day 1 still seems unsettled. Having ridden in torrential rain for two plus hours last year I’m sure I can handle showers!

Although not as excited as last year, I’m sure once I get riding the freedom smile will appear.

Time to complete the Lillooet loop.

No Studs Please, I’m British. The Vancouver Motorcycle Show

Large engined cruisers make perfect sense. Well, sort of.

I’m not a hardened biker, never have been, never will be. However, I really enjoy riding bikes be they motorized or non-motorized. I’m also a bit a of ‘petrol (gear) head’ so, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to visit the Vancouver Motorcycle Show to take in the what’s hot on two-wheels.

The show checks all the usual exhibition boxes, dealers, accessories, clothing, special events etc so anyone that’s remotely interested in biking from ‘noob’ to expert, young to old, female and male will likely find something of interest.This annual bike fest is held at the Abbortsford Tradex, a swift 30 minutes down Highway 1 from Port Coquitlam. The site offers easy (if somewhat muddy at this time of year) parking and the show itself fills the halls.

I ride a retro styled Ducati, the GT 1000, and of all the bikes I could have bought I chose the Ducati because it really doesn’t quite fit in. It’s not a sports bike and it’s not a cruiser. It’s lightweight, handles well and looks stunning. I can ride it about town, I can tour on it; and it’s the touring aspect that I wanted to explore whilst at the show.

The GT 1000 to me is every inch a European bike, made for twisty roads and I find it easy to visualize riding the mountain ranges of northern Italy – think the opening of the Italian Job, just on a bike. As mountainous as BC is, the roads here are different. North and south of border there’s a lot of straight to the horizon paving and of course this continent is humongous. Long distance riding is almost a given and it seems that bikes here have evolved with that in mind.

As I made my way around the show, cruisers were everywhere. I guess North American biking has been defined by Harley Davidson and their mile munching high end Glide series (Street, Road and Electra). Needless to say the Hogs were very well represented. However, fifteen years ago, Victory arrived and their bikes must surely give Harley serious competition. The heritage may be missing, but the size and style of the continent crossing cruiser is certainly there. Needless to say Japanese manufacturers, with their own take on the large touring bike, were all represented as well.

When it comes to the compare and contrast, the North Amercian approach to long distance riding appears, at least to me, to be very different to my more conservative tastes. Like the continent, ‘big’ rules the roost. Long and heavy bikes with large capacity engines are the name of the game. It wasn’t until I tackled my first road trip that I really started to appreciate the point of the large cruiser. Hitting the interstate highways I became acutely aware that my own ride was tiny in comparison to the armchair on wheels low riders that ambled past me. Don’t get me wrong, the Ducati is no slouch and offers pretty relaxed riding. It’s just that these interstate journeys look so much more effortless on the cruiser. On these roads the large engined cruisers make perfect sense. Well, sort of. Although great for the long straight open road, part of the fun of riding is to take advantage of the curves and I’m not convinced that cruisers excel on curves. So although my riding position is more compact, I get to enjoy the thrill of the lean.

Taking another look at the cruisers on display at the show I was reminded that with great size comes great carrying capacity. The panniers and top boxes are immense. True kitchen sink capacity for the rebel with many material needs. Now I have to admit that I chose to add the Ducati side bags to my GT 1000 which at 10 litres each aren’t exactly roomy, however it does force me in to travelling light which has its advantages. A certain amount of style over substance leading to a simpler approach to touring. The

other part of carrying capacity, the human cargo is likely to be offered a far more comfortable experience on a cruiser. As much as I’d like to tour with my wife, she’s not too interested in riding a bike and the Ducati isn’t physically large enough for anything more than a day trip. I wouldn’t even think of tackling hundreds of miles two-up. However, on a cruiser I have a suspicion that a ride from Vancouver to San Francisco for example with a passenger would be rather effortless.

Casting my eyes over the cruisers for a final time I remembered another reason for not really hitting it off with these bikes. Studs. Even though my Ducati is styled after the 1970’s GT 750, I don’t consider the bike to be old fashioned in the looks department. I like to think of it as a timeless classic. The cruiser also has a timeless style about it, it’s just that sometimes manufacturers go a little too ‘pony express’ for my liking, metal studs decorating saddles and saddle bags. I suppose not originating from this continent, it really is a case of no studs please I’m British. I just find them too garish, detracting from the actual lines of the bike. Even though I’m a BC Brit, years of old world influence cannot be replaced overnight, and to be honest I doubt there will be a wholesale overwriting of my personal taste.

I enjoyed my time at the Vancouver Motorcycle Show. It’s a great place to catch up on what’s new or even have that opening conversation about bike ownership with an exhibitor. The show is a safe place to browse and dream as well as research the next purchase. Talking of which, am I likely to go cruiser in the future? I can’t honestly say no as I want to take on more road trip challenges which means either a second bike or a larger replacement for the GT 1000. Whatever bike materializes in the future, I can guarantee that it’ll be a stud free zone.

Music Therapy Ride

Being part of a massive bike convoy, now that’s cool.

I’d promised myself that I’d take part in the Music Therapy Ride, a once a year charity motorcycle ride for the Canadian Music Therapy Trust. I guess there are a couple of questions, what’s music therapy and why do the ride.

The Canadian Music Therapy Trusts mission includes the following, maintain, and improve the mental, physical, and emotional health of Canadians and I think that captures things pretty well, improving lives through music. The wiki entry explains the details.

Why take part in the ride? Well, I love being on two-wheels and love music. What better way to combine two passions and do some good.

In past years the route has been from Vancouver to Whistler. The 2012 route changed things up as the Whistler Gran Fondo was scheduled for the same weekend, and Harrison Hot Springs would be the destination. As the start of September neared, the anticipation rose. It would be my first experience of this kind of event, and the great thing was that Lesley would be riding with me on her Vespa, ‘Audrey‘.

The ride was sold out and I had no idea what that meant until arriving at the start point, Fraser Downs Racetrack, for breakfast. Bikes of all sizes, well actually mostly cruisers, were being parked up. There must have been at least 60 plus bikes in front of me and  there was plenty of space behind for more. After breakfast the true scale of the ride became apparent. Bikes everywhere. This would be one memorable ride.

How to get so many bikes from A to B in safety? The Vancouver Police Department motorcycle drill team, that’s how. A full police escort, motorcade style ride. No stopping for lights or turns, our escort ensured all junctions were clear, what better way to ride.

We eventually found out there was some 160 bikes (including four Vespa’s, so Lesley was not lonely). It was the biggest ride to date. Being part of a massive bike convoy, now that’s cool.

The noise of so many bikes starting was truly something to behold. A lot of cruiser riders mod their rides with new tail pipes that are amazingly noisy. Riders argue that it’s a safety device as car drivers can hear you coming. Personally I’m not convinced. A great engine note has something about it, but noise for noise sake just says ‘macho’ to me.

So, on a gloriously hot September Saturday, 160 bikes hit the road. Lesley and I were around half way from the front runners and I estimated that it would take over am minute for all the bikes to pass a fixed point. Just stop to think about that.

Count to sixty and imagine pairs of motorcycles passing the entire time. Amazing.

It’s pretty much impossible to convey the high, the emotions, the ear-to-ear grin that I experienced. Even better, I could share my feelings with Lesley as we were using the Sena comms system. I think we both got more out of the ride by being able to chat about what we’d just seen/felt as we rode.

The Km and time disappeared and after a pit stop at a Fire Hall just outside Mission, it was all too soon over. Harrison Hot Springs, the end of the ride, but not the end of the event. Lunch and an auction were next on the agenda.  There were many music related items to bid on, a really moving thank you from a music therapist and a cool acoustic set from a couple of members of 54-40.

The ride raised $60,000, was so well organized and full of friendly bikers. It was a totally amazing experience and has to be on the ‘must do’ list for riders in the area. Look out for the 2013 ride, it’ll be a blast.