Motorcycle Club Cafe

     So when I became a member of this club it was something that I had never imagined.  I was ''warned'' ahead of time that you would now have to add time to every trip you take because you will surely be stopped and engaged in conversation for 20 minutes on average.  That's the absolute truth. 

   Then the rules changed again, allowing all manufacturers to run 1000cc, so Honda ditched the RC51 to focus on the CBR1000 four cylinder bike. All that said, the RC51is phenomenal!  I couldn't believe the difference between two very similar bikes.  The refinement of the Honda made the Suzuki look like an amateur.  Please check out the video  recently shot with my Sony a6000 camera.

The best so far happened at the carwash the other day.  I was in the bay getting ready make it sparkle again, when a large cargo van inched past the opening of the bay.  Two young guys were just staring at the Ural.  They didn't say anything .... just stared.  They backed up and pulled into the neighbouring bay.  A minute later one of the guys was standing in my bay, looking at the bike with his mouth gaping open.  But unlike others, he knew exactly what he was looking at.  His first question was, did I import it?  He did not realize that they were readily available here in Canada.  He was so excited to see it that he said he just had to shake my hand.  Here's why:  His direct relatives -- aunts and uncles -- live in the Ural mountain region of Russia. Seeing my bike took him back to his childhood when he would visit and ride around in Urals.  I believe he said two uncles owned them.  He told me about a time they loaded four people on one and drove up a mountain ... no road, up the mountain in two-wheel-drive.  Fantastic.  He was genuinely touched by seeing my Ural.  He finally left saying, ''Enjoy you badass bike."

     And that is what I love about this motorcycle.  I get to ride with my boy.  I brings smiles to so many faces.  Even if just for a second, they smile.  I have a feeling I may never return to a conventional motorcycle.

From Russia, With Love.  The Ural Takes You to a New World of Motorcycling

2003 Ural Northern Cruiser:  According to the previous owner, this was the very first Ural imported to Canada.

     Here are some of the amazing interactions I've had with curious passersby and Ural enthusiasts. One day I popped into the grocery store, which is totally doable with this bike.  Try grabbing family food supplies with your standard motorcycle.  Undoutably you are forced to carry an uncomfortable backpack and you are limited with what you can carry.  Anyhow, I come out to the bike to find a man standing beside, gazing at it from every angle.  He tells me the story of how his dad, mom, sister and himself fled Hungary in a sidecar motorcycle.  Said he had fond memories of riding around Budapest with his dad.

     Recently, I came to a stoplight and a guy waiting at a bus stop frantically pulls out his earphones and says, ''Can I take your picture?"  There's me, my seven year old son and dog on his lap.  The guy fumbles with his phone and gets the camera open and snaps a shot.  Then he holds up his right hand ... Half of each of his finders was gone.  He said he was a rider too.  Not sure what happened to the fingers.  Then he said he used to be an iron worker in Alberta. Weird.

    I was in Toronto's Kensington Market one day.  It's my favourite place in the city.  Its a four square block area with some grungy bars, fruit and vegetable stands and some pretty amazing restaurants with authentic Mexican and Indian food and much more.   Going back to the bike after shopping, there are two guys checking it out.   One is a little bit nuts (you get that in Kensington). Can't remember what he said.  The other guy starts the conversation like this: "Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"  That's right, he had a number of inquiries.... And after a 20 minute conversation,  I was on my way.

Now for Something Completely Different

Youtube viewers commented on this video that I stuck my knee out even though my lean angle was all of 10% ..  Hey the roads were wet or I would have gone way lower!!!!

Considering a sidecar motorcycle?  you must check out this video by Good Spark Garage / Wilkinson Brothers.

And that is what I love about this motorcycle.  I get to ride with my boy.  It brings smiles to so many faces.  Even if just for a second, they smile.  I have a feeling I may never return to a conventional motorcycle.

     Maybe it's my age.  When you get older and you've experienced more, your mind opens to new ideas.  At least that's how it is for me.  Meditation. Public speaking. Travel. These are some of the things I've embraced in the year before I hit 50.  I also have learned to slow down -- way down.  And hell, why have just two wheels when you can have three -- and take along your wife, your kid and your dog? 
     Late last season when i was riding my RC51 for a fourth or fifth season, I said to my wife that I wasn't getting anything out of this anymore.  I said we should go in a completely different direction.  We needed to ride together.  You see, 135hp was still a ton of fun.  The V-twin powerplant was still a thrill-a-minute, but I wasn't enjoying riding.  I just couldn't handle the ergos anymore.  After just a half-hour in the saddle I would start squirming around trying to get comfortable.  My ass hurt, my hips ached and my wrists were sore.  After two hours on the road I wanted to get off and kick the thing over.  On top of that, I had travelled for those two hours 30- or 40-kilometres per hour over the speed limit and constantly looking for cops, worrying about getting nailed for ''Stunting".  Here in Ontario that means 50km/h over the speedlimit, which gets your license suspended and your bike impounded.
     So, that conversation with my wife went something like this: ''Honey, I am seriously considering getting  a Ural -- a Russsian-built sidecar bike.  Here's the sales pitch: This would be a family memory-building machine. We would go on family trips  and me and my boy would go everywhere together with him in the relative safety of the sidecar since he is too young to be on the back of a bike.  It worked.  Since a new Ural runs in the $18,000 to $26,000 range, I would be looking for a used bike.  Not so easy to find. 

So believe it or not, I think I put six seasons in on that bike.  I mean I just couldn't believe how Kawasaki hit the mark on this bike that stood up so many years later... it had comfort, power and handling.  But all good things must come to an end.  I'd put a bit of money into it, including a new clutch (never ever take  your bike to Snow City Cycle in Toronto for repairs. I lost the bike for three weeks in the middle of summer for a clutch replacement) I pretty-much gave it away.  Next ended up with a Suzuki TL1000R... a rat bike.  It was repainted black with burgundy wheels and accents on the bodywork.  Nasty.  But that was a nasty ride.  It really kicked some butt with 135 v-twin horsepower.  And apparently rat bikes get stolen.  It was lifted off the street in front of my house.  So what next?  As it said I was in love with V-twin standard/sport bikes and that Suzuki further enforced that love.  So what do I get next?  Clearly... Honda RC51.  

    Back in 1999, in World Superbike, the machines were limited to 750cc.  They were inline-4s and V-4's.  The racing body decided that since Ducati was at a disadvantage with lower horsepower V-twins that they could go to 1000cc.  And they were winning.  Honda said, ''screw this'' and decided to go after Ducati and beat the Italians at their own game.  The RC51 won the SBK championship in 2000 and 2002.  And in America it won the AMA Superbike championship in 2001. 


Classic sport bike -- 1984 Kawasaki GPz900R.  Twenty-two years old when I became it's owner.  No regrets.

    I am not one who needs the lastest and greatest.  I have been riding motorcycles since I was 10 years old and I have never owned a brand new, straight out of the showroom, bike.  I've always had used bikes, but besides being used, they are always a little out of the ordinary.  I had a 1983 Honda VT500 Ascot.  How many of those do you see around?  It was a great bike. Fun as hell.  Handled well.  Had enough horsepower for a 17 year old kid at the time.  And that bike started my love affair with V-twins.  

    Let me clarify ... V-twin standard or sport bikes -- not cruisers.  After that bike I took a non-voluntary hiatus from motorcycling.  That is to say I went off to college, then first new, low-paying job in my chosen field, married a monster and had a couple of kids.  I wasn't until I ditched the monster and my kids were around 9 and 13 years old that I got back on two wheels.  So I was at an age when my thoughts turned to getting a bike that was iconic from the minute it hit the market, but something I could only dream of back in the day.  It was a 1984 Kawasaki GPz900R.  Yup.  The original Ninja.  With 116hp, that old thing was keeping up to some of the new stuff.  And with a set of Supertrapp exhaust cans on, it sounded amazing.


I picked up a 2000 Honda RC51.  A much prettier bike.  I am one to learn from my mistakes, so from the get-go I started chaining this one to a utility pole.  And I alway cloaked it in a full length cover.  It wasn't 's stolen.But what has happened is idiot drivers have knocked it over.  Twice last season. This season I had it out of storage less than 24-hours and a neighbour backed into it.  A bunch of bent parts had to be replaced.  Three-weeks later another ass pulls a u-turn, knocks it over and carries on.  Extremely frustrating to say the least.  I don't know how people can be so careless.  Thankfully I have a neighbour a couple of doors down who has his eyes trained on that street.  He saw the neighbour knock it over the first time and went out to pick it up.  That guy is getting a bill for the damage... but if Alex hadn't seen him do it, I know he wouldn't have said a word! 

Here in downtown Toronto a driveway or garage is often a luxury.  The house I live in was built in 1926 and back then not everyone had a car.  So none of the houses along one side of my street have neither a driveway or a garage.  Parking is on the street in front of my house, by permit.  My motorcycle is quite exposed.  Since I moved into this house six years ago, I have owned two bikes.  The first was a 1998 Suzuki TL1000R.  It wasn't pretty.  It has been painted black from the original white and blue colour scheme.  It was a bit of a rat.  Probably not the target for thieves.... Or so I thought.  Yup, under the cover of darkness they scooped it up one night... bastards.  My love of sport V-twins pushed me to find another.  So   

Bumps & Bruises: Owning a Bike in the City

Earlier this summer in Toronto, a 28 year old on a GSX-R1000 went out of control on a winding little street and was killed.  It was 1am.  There were no other cars on that street.  And the speed limit on that street was 50km/h.  Explain that.  Oh I’ll explain that.  It was on a curve and the guy was hauling ass.  He hit a cement utility pole and he was killed.  You know the really crappy thing?  There was a passenger.  A 20-year-old woman.  She was critically injured.  So this guy not only devastated his family and friends, but left a young woman fighting for her life.  Guess what? He wasn’t even qualified, through graduated licensing,  to drive at night or carry a passenger.  And there is a memorial of flowers at the post where he died.  Is he a fallen rider?  No, he’s a guy  who killed himself and caused grief for many more people.  


Last summer I went on a memorial ride for a guy who died on a rural road in Ontario’s cottage country.  I never knew the guy.  Never rode with him.  But we belonged to the same Meetup group.  He wasn’t riding with the Meetup group when he was killed.  He ran head-on into an SUV.  He was riding with one other guy who’s family is now suing the estate of the dead guy.  Guess why?  Because he caused the accident by driving like an idiot.  He is in his early 30s.  He has a 3 year old daughter who is now fatherless.  And don’t forget the SUV driver who has to live everyday with the image of a motorcyclist blowing into the front of his vehicle.  That is now etched in his or her brain for the rest of their lives. 

A memorial is placed on Rosdale Valley Road in Toronto where a 28 year old rider was killed and 20 year old passenger was critically injured.

  So I join about 20 other riders and go on a ride for this guy to the exact spot where he was killed.  They erect a cross with his name on it.  They took photos.  But no one said a goddamn word!  Nothing.  Before the ride I told the organizer I worked in TV and maybe we could get some coverage talking about the dangers of riding and how riders are trying to send a message to be safe out there.  Nope.  He didn’t want to make the ride about that… It was about raising a few bucks for the family, he said.  Really?  When are we as riders going to get our heads out of our asses and start calling out all the idiots who kill themselves or risk others’ lives?  The term ‘’fallen riders’’ bugs the crap out of me.  It implies ‘’honour’’ like a soldier fighting for freedom.  Guess what, folks?  We are just guys and gals on motorcycles enjoying that freedom.  For those who are truly riding with integrity and following the rules and get wiped out by another driver, I am truly sorry and mourn for them, but we need to end this culture of the ‘fallen rider’ for those morons who get themselves killed and cause so much pain for their families and friends because they are so, completely selfish.  

    Everyday when I get on my bike i think about my wife and kids and what they would do if I went down and didn’t come home… and I don’t do that risky double-line pass on a curve or crack my very capable sport bike out to 2x the speed limit just for a quick thrill.  Get it together, folks. 

  I posted this picture on the RC51 Fans Facebook page.  That’s the kind of motorcycle I ride, so I kinda hang out in that online community.  The caption I wrote with the pic was “Are we the luckiest buggers in the world for owning these bikes… or what?”  Of course, I immediately got a number of likes and some comments like “YES. PERIOD”.  But I got another that just pissed me off.  He wrote, “Never put your helmet on the ground.  It’s a sign of respect for fallen riders.’’  And then he posted, “I’m in a club.’’  I’m not sure what that meant.  What pissed me off is the fact, first, that I’m being preached at and second that I’m tired of guys who kill themselves by riding like idiots being made into martyrs.  That’s right.  I’m a TV news producer, so when a rider gets killed here in Toronto, if my station’s camera shot the aftermath, then I see ALL the video.  I see the wreckage, the skid marks and can very easily formulate the cause of the crash.  And I am going to tell you that, through this experience, 90% or more of those fatal accidents are caused by the rider who was killed.  




Fallen Riders or Foolish Riders?