MBSR Blog #2 - A serious note on a silly event

The Mad Bastard Scooter Rally is a thoroughly silly event - comical even. You dress up in ridiculous outfits, decorate your scooters and ride the under-powered machines in a crazed fashion across distances and in places that really are not suited for small wheeled, small displacement vehicles.

It's crazy - and yet it changed my life in several very important ways.

And I have one person to thank for it in ways I quite tragically and literally cannot repay - Rob Harris.

Up until the time of my first MBSR rally, I was a rider around the Toronto area - I really didn't venture very far from home. I was however an avid reader of motorcycle adventures - in Canada Moto Guide and elsewhere.

Probably the furthest I had ventured on my machine up to that point was Kingston, on side roads and taking far too much time and being far too timid. I mean, it was a scooter, right? I was pushing the boundaries of what was possible - you kept hearing how you really couldn't take them out of downtown, and taking them out of a parking lot was sheer lunacy.

And then I read about the first MBSR, with Rob Harris and compatriots taking 50cc Honda Ruckus scooters around a great lake, and my world changed. 2004 MBSR Rally

I realized it wasn't about the machine - it was about the rider, about the experience, about throwing pride and common sense out the window and having an adventure - regardless of what the armchair experts told you was possible, practical, or doable.

I wasn't able to attend the 2nd MBSR - but by the third rally I was in. By then I had a 150cc Kymco Bet and win, and my ever-patient wife was riding a 250cc Kymco Bet and Win.


We decorated the machines with stickers (in my case saying "MAD! MAD! MAD!" and in her case "RUNNING WITH SCISSORS!" which caused her to be mistaken for an advertisement for a hair cutting place.)

We went from the starting point up to Ottawa and back around and down to Belleville. We took 12 hours to do the event - skipping the optional loop as we were exhausted. But we had made it - we did more distance that day than we had ever done before. We were taken through some gorgeous side roads, felt like explorers, felt challenged and felt part of a mad, crazy, wonderful group that were all together in an adventure.

The next rally I decided to go all out and rode it on a Tomos moped. It was of course the year that Rob decided we'd take a hugely steep hill (Foymont road) and I got to experience my moped coming to a complete stop while at full throttle - I simply ran out of power, and had to push the bike while running beside it.

We nearly got hypothermia, I got bad gas and stalled several times, we got lost and I'm pretty sure the locals in one town called the OPP on us when we rode through several times in the middle of the night looking for the right way to go. All in all it took me 21 hours on the moped - and my wife got a DNF because she stuck with me while riding her 250cc. (Which gets less time to finish.)


That was also the year that Rob asked people to do some blogs on CMG - which gave me a chance to write up some of my preparation.

When the rally was done - I wrote up an article and Rob ended up publishing it in CMG. 2009 MBSR - A Rider's Perspective

Next thing you knew, I was doing scooter reviews. (I suspect at least partly as the full time writers didn't really enjoy testing scooters for the most part, but I did genuinely enjoy testing the smaller machines. Especially as most of my riding is commuting in the city, where a 125-300cc machine really comes into its' own.)

I had a range of experiences while doing articles for Rob and CMG - things I wouldn't have the opportunity to do otherwise. Also various situations like drunken phone calls from an angry motorcycle dealer, a loaner bike malfunction in the bug infested middle of nowhere, and having the occasional moment during a test ride that strongly resembled the movie Deliverance.

But Rob was always there - if you were doing something for him, he would back you to the hilt. Even if you weren't, he'd help you any way he could. He was always good for advice, always good for a laugh.

For the 2015 rally, Rob decided to sell the MBSR rally to Kymco - something that was understandable given the rally had grown each year and was becoming more and more of a handful to manage.

The Monday after the rally I got a phone call from him - we talked over the rally, about my writing a report on it again. He talked a bit about how torn he was - on one hand the MBSR had become a huge amount of work, and he was glad to have a break from it - but on the other hand it was something that was very close to him and that he felt a certain sense of ownership for.

He'd stayed away from the 2015 rally to give Kymco a chance to run things without worrying about the "former ownership" - but he was at least toying with the idea of riding the 2017 rally and once again enjoying things from the seat of an underpowered, silly little machine.

Unfortunately - Rob passed away in 2016. Which was a blow to many people - his family, his friends, and the motorcycling community as a whole.

I'd actually been pondering not doing the 2017 rally myself - it takes a bit of preparation, the expense, and just the usual question about if I was up for abusing myself once again for the sake of silliness.

But now, there wasn't a question. I'd be there. And I'd be dedicating my ride to Rob. He'll be a part of the ride, he'll be along in spirit on this thing that he created.

Because sometimes the silly little things in life are the most important things of all.

Rob Harris taught me that, while making me a better rider, a better writer, and quite likely by example a better person.

The Mad Bastard Scooter Rally: Going crazy for charity

It was ten years ago I first entered an event in Belleville, Ontario called the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally.

I'd read on CMG (Canada moto guide) about a group who had taken 50cc scooters around one of the great lakes - taking many hours to do 800 or so KM in a mad rush. You can read some of the history here - http://www.madbastardrally.com/2004.html

By the second rally, this had morphed into a larger event... and things like scooter decorations and costumes had been added to the mix.

I joined, together with my ever patient wife Cindy, the third rally - in 2007.

I've decorated every bike in ever rally I've entered - and occasionally gone a little.... overboard. Some might say mad. Which of course, fits right into the spirit of the thing.








All in all over the years I've ridden the MBSR in the following machines:

2005 Kymco Bet and Win 150cc
Tomos Targa LX 50cc moped (This took 21 hours to complete the rally and that was a ... unique... experience.)
Sachs Madass 125cc
Sym Symba 125cc
Vespa P200 and Inder Sidecar

And this year will be my Burgman 400 and Armec sidecar.

That's half of the history - my next post will include some of how the MBSR changed how I ride, and how it influenced where I ride. After that I'll be doing a series of blog entries on my preparation and musings about the MBSR in my own unique style.

And then a big last post on the ride itself.

So as always....

To be continued....

Introduction Part 4 - The Cursed Rig

Ok - so we're backtracking here a little to tell the story of the sidecar rig that came around in the time of the Ural and finished in the time of the Burgman.

I'd always had a fascination for tiny scooter/sidecar rigs for some reason. So when I came into some extra cash, and since I had a shifty vespa (a PX125E kitted with a DR177 kit) I decided to look around for a sidecar to throw on. Cozy and Inder (among others) had sidecars that were reportedly a "bolt on kit"

Now I should have realized this was a bad idea - we'd had reliable P series vespas before, but we'd also had some bad experiences. Like the PX125 that broke down on the starting line of the Mad Bastard Scooter rally - and then on the next rally managed to have a throttle malfunction that caused it to be either racing or just stalling outright.

This is that culprit.


The Vespa sidecar ended up being obtained from Fada scooters, who installed the thing one evening and being the first of its type they had installed, soon found out the "bolt on kit" required quite a bit of adjustment to get to fit. (But they persevered, and did a great job and didn't charge me extra - great service from them.)

The Vespa got attached, then I spend the rest of the summer riding the thing around. It actually did fairly well, topping out about 80kph and handling Toronto traffic well enough.

But early the next year, the motor.... ended. I took it into be fixed and it would have needed a new top end, plus the rotary pad was scratched so a reed valve kit would have been necessary to get it back on the road - all together too much work when you combined it with a complete rebuild.

I found a P200 that the owner promised was in "running shape" with a primer body, and bought it cheap.

Turned out it needed several things as well.

After that, the wiring harness needed work. Then the lights. Then the tank lining starting degrading.

And to top it all off, the frame broke.

It ended up with a huge bill (probably more than the the scooter was worth) and it ended up looking like this after a lot of work.


I took it into the 2015 Mad Bastard Scooter rally - 600km over a maximum (For my CC class) of 18 hours, with puzzles and challenges.

And that was a punishing experience.

But apparently not punishing enough... because I decided to answer the question nobody had every asked.... could you make a Vespa into an offroad bike?

I decided I'd take it on some rail trails near my cottage as a proof of concept.https://photos.smugmug.com/Parktoparkpractice/n-zfxFdB/i-zmXgM4R/0/9db6dee5/L/i-zmXgM4R-L.jpg




And it turned out to.... work pretty well in fact.

Of course I have to admit... I had some prior history to go on for this.

In 1980 a French team entered in 4 Vespa P200 scooters into the Paris-Dakar rally. they crossed 10,000km from Paris all the way to Dakar Senegal - with 2 of the team finishing. (out of 90 motorcycles that started the race, only 25 finished... so they beat the odds by far.)




so I knew the P200 could in theory handle the abuse. And indeed, the playing around I did in the dirt went quite well. The Vespa had 9 inchs (just about) of ground clearance, which is better than a KLR650. It was lightweight, had a sidecar so it wouldn't fall over, and had manual gearing that would allow me to more easily adjust my speed and play with the clutch when needed.

We were going to do the park to park trail (a 150km off road trail in Ontario) - but first I decided to take it on the Overland Adventure rally.

And thats when things went wrong... yet again.

The exhaust stub - the little round piece that the exhaust bolts into, fell off. Midway through the rally.

Which was kinda bad - as I didn't have quite the right tools to put it back. I limped it back to the hotel, but to make a long story short - I decided I needed a break from 40 year old machines for a bit - and the "Lucky 13" got put up for sale.

Weirdly enough, part of me does miss the tempermental little machine - I did have quite a lot of fun blasting around the rail trails on it.

But I'm thinking one day... again if budget permits.... I might build another street scooter/sidecar rig.... and try it out on the trails.

Hmm... elite 250 takes 10 inch tires.... which you can get knobbies for.....

Ok my wife might kill me for that one.

So in this overly long, overly detailed and occasionally outright rambling introduction - where does that leave us?

Probably with more of a cautionary tale than anything else... but despite that I'll end with the observation that sidecars get into the blood after a while.

They're a strange sickness, neither car nor motorcycle and combining the best and the worst of both.

But they're one I wouldn't give up for the world.

Next on the Webmaster's Blog: What I am doing to prepare for the Mad Bastard Scooter rally, and how a Burgman 400 is being transformed into a Star Trek shuttle. (And why.)

Introduction - Part 3: Enter the Burgman

So as I mentioned I was heading into late fall (when my two wheeled machines get put away) and the Ural after much faithful service, was dead.

And the engine replacement was out of what I could really afford to pay at the time.

Enter in Kijiji, and some fervent hope that I would find something.

Online classifieds can be a fickle beast when it comes to finding sidecar rigs - it's such as niche market that you will occasionally find several rigs sitting at quite reasonable prices because nobody is buying, and you will occasionally find absolutely nothing for sale whatsoever.

I started scouring the ads - and then one popped up.

A 2006 Burgman 400 with Armec sidecar.

Not strictly what I was looking for - but the rig did have several advantages.

The automatic CVT transmission would be a nice thing in stop and go Toronto traffic for one. Then the full fairing would help for winter driving, keeping some of the cold wind and spray off me. (Plus it came with an oversized windshield.) The price was also quite affordable - $3900 when Burgman 400 scooters of this vintage were going for $2800-3100.

The mileage was also quite low - 12,000km. Which proved to be a double edged sword, as I will explain later.

I went out to see it, took it for a spin around the block - all in all it drove well enough. The Armec sidecar was originally designed for a Honda Helix 250cc scooter and was quite light - which meant it did tend to pop up in right hand turns, but not too badly all in all. It had decent pickup for a 400cc wtih a sidecar, and all in all wasn't in too bad of a shape.

So after some work to get cash transferred and get a trailer to pick it up - we brought it home.

Next I took it to Old Vintage Cranks, who had given me a store credit for the remains of my Ural - which would prove handy.

Here's the Burgman at OVC, being taken apart and several things being done:


Tires were old and were replaced (there was some minor cracking, and it just isn't worth trying to push tires that might blow out on you.) This led to the discovery that the exhaust manifold was basically rusted into being one solid piece - and it was recessed, making a major mission out of what should have been a quick cut off the bolts type job.

Front fork seals were replaced after it became evident that they were bad and leaking (getting oil into the front where it got to the brake pads)

Brake pads were replaced, and Ken at OVC added a spacer to the front suspension.

All in all, when they were finished mechanically it was running quite well and all the service items had been looked at and dealt with - it was ready for the road.

Here's the bike at the Overland Adventure Rally - where I took it with my Vespa P200 sidecar rig (which is another story, one of mechanical ineptitude on my part and overall woe.)


The following summer I did have to have further work done (this time at GP Bikes) when the starter motor failed.

At which point I discovered that the OEM starter motor was apparently $600 bucks. GP bikes did a great job of finding one aftermarket for $150, but I turned out to be extra lucky as one I had picked up with some other things ended up working - and it had cost something like $40.

Over the next while I would also replace the sidecar seats (which were getting crumbly and the plywood base was rotting a bit)
I dragged out the sewing machine, got some bargain basement vinyl, made some new seat bases and covered them with some leftover foam - and came up with these.


I also polished off some of the oxidation from the sidecar, and thanks to my wife (who works in retail window film) got some pinstipes and decals applied to the sidecar in red to help it match the burgman a little bit better.


Other things added was a RAM mount for my iphone for GPS use, a 12v and USB accessory plug, and a new backrest.

The stock backrest pushed me a bit too far forward, but I had read on the burgman riders forum about someone who had used an automotive headrest instead. (Replacements were available, but would have been $150 not including shipping)

The Headrest needed some bending in a vise, but otherwise worked quite well and was only $15 bucks.

All in all, after the above work was done the Burgman has proven to be a good city commuter. I can pick up the odd passenger, haul home groceries, and drive in winter and ice/snow conditions without falling over in an embarassing manner.

It also is quite decent on fuel economy (especially compared to the Ural)

We're still planning on a more motorcycle oriented sidecar rig when the budget allows, but the Burgman will likely stay a part of the stable for quite some time - especially since insurance is under $300 a year for basic liability.

So that's the story of my current daily driver.


Next time I'll go into the story of the somewhat cursed, but always entertaining.... Adventure Scooter 13. The rig that would put a smile on your face only to immediately glue a scowl in it's place.

Introduction to be continued (and yes I know it's the longest introduction in the world, with War and Peace starting to look like a lightweight, but I promise we'll eventually get the introduction finished and get to other blog entries of various levels of entertainment. And by various, mostly low levels.)

Introduction - part 2: Getting into sidecars

As I said, we had no idea what we were in for. Having the Ural changed how my wife and I took vacations - starting with weekend camping trips (the luggage space making it FAR easier to go motorcycle camping.)


But the biggest trip would come as a result of one of a big loss - the passing of my grandfather.

My grandfather, Jack, was a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast and a despatch rider in WW2. We decided the only appropriate way to go to his memorial in Victoria, BC was to ride the Ural all the way out there. The ride report for that can be found here - "Chasing Jack: A ride report"









You really haven't seen the country until you've gone across it on a motorcycle. And if you ask me, even more so on a sidecar. With my wife driving half the distance, I got to watch the country pass by from the sidecar. We got to meet new people, experience things that we really wouldn't have experienced from inside the cage of a cage.

The sidecar changed everything.

We did other trips - renting a sidecar in Provence, France to tour around on a trip we were lucky enough to go on with my grandmother on my mothers' side and a group of WW2 fighter pilots. (My grandfather Bob was a Typhoon pilot in WW2)
The ride report for that trip can be found here - Between Earth and Sky: A sidecar trip in Provence

We made more trips, ran rallies such as the "Going Sideways" rallies, went to the east coast and did the Cabot trail.

We did it all - but unfortunately after 50,000+ KM the Ural decided that the engine no longer wanted to have a moving crankshaft - and late one night as we were on the way to ride the Park to Park trail, just passing through Irondale, Ontario, the Ural seized up and coasted to a stop at the side of the road.

Our once shiny, now rusty and battered machine was dead.

We took it in - but the news was bad. The engine cases were damaged and a new engine was going to cost $6000 plus installation. It was a bad time budgetwise, and this wasn't really an option.

I decided after looking around to buy a used Burgman 400 rig with an Armec sidecar - to use as my daily driver instead of the Ural. And sidecar,

And the story of the Burgman will be part 3 of my introduction.... coming soon.