MBSR Blog #6 - Musing on mechanical failure

So the other day, the Burgman rig decided that it really didn't need all the welds in the muffler, and that it would be a super fun thing if the baffles were in smaller pieces and rattling around like crazy.

Yeah, fun.

At any rate - while on my way to the annual Barrie-Huronia CVMG swapmeet things got rather loud. After investigating, I found the end pipe was loose in the muffler can - and that things had somewhat disintegrated inside. Since I was almost at the CVMG event, I continued on - muttering to myself about how many lives my loud pipes were saving - and then nursed it afterwards back home.
(With an attempted JB weld patch job on the end pipe, but it didn't hold - too hot)

Fortunately, I was able to get some weld put on thanks to a friend at work and this at least solved part of the issue. (The centre pipe rattling around in the muffler can) It's still louder than normal, but should hold together at least for the short term.

Which is a good thing, as the OEM muffler turns out to be crazy expensive (600 bucks) and while after market ones are available for closer to $300, I've had to order from overseas (so it'll take 4 weeks to get here... meaning it will likely be after the MBSR rally.)

So all this gets me to thinking... about some of the mechanical issues I've dealt with over the years of doing the Mad Bastard rally.

The first rally was on a stock Kymco Bet and Win 150 - and not surprisingly, I didn't have any issues at all. (Kymco generally makes a rock solid machine.)

The Tomos Moped did get bad gas which caused some issues - and I didn't have any tools with me to try and clean the carb at all.
Fortunately it managed to clear itself out (I did buy some carb cleaner stuff at a gas station and put it in the tank.)

The Sachs Madass 125 ran just fine on the rally (despite torrential rain, and a few issues due to a missed PDI - we ended up with a machine right out a crate and it needed a replacement stator as I recall.... but once setup, it was pretty solid.)

The Sym Symba 125 ran beautifully.... up to the point where a loose nut caused the rear swingarm bolt to come loose. (Which made riding interesting.) Not the machines fault really, as I suspect someone had messed up torquing it down... but does show the importance of checking bolt tightness periodically.

My wife rode a Vespa P125 in two rallies... in the first, it died on the starting line. (Turned out the previous owner had kindly spraypainted the motor a nice metallic flake silver/grey... without removing the stator first. Which was full of conductive paint.)

The next rally she rode it in there wasn't a single electrical issue.... though of course the throttle cable started sticking, so we had to disassemble it mid rally and lube things up... which still didn't totally solve things, but turned it from a guaranteed deathtrap into only a possible deathtrap. Plus she did some sick wheelies so I don't know what she was complaining about.

Then we had the Vespa P200 I called the lucky thirteen... which had... well everything on it fail. Over the time I had it it had broken exhaust, wiring, headlight, cables, frame, engine, etc etc etc. Though it did the rally surprisingly well before perishing the next year.

There's probably some other faults in there somewhere I am forgetting, but nothing that was a real show stopper.... but this brings us to the next musing on this topic: Mechanical preparation

What to do to your Bike before the MBSR:

Check the fluids. Do you have enough oil? Has it been changed recently? Coolant (if applicable)? Gear oil?

Check the tires. Make sure you have proper pressures, and that the rubber is in good shape with plenty of tread. Check them for damage as well.

Are your nuts tight? Well then get to the doctor. (Sorry, I had to include that joke somewhere.) Makes sure your bolts, screws, nuts and other fasteners are right, tight, and on the bike. A missing swingarm bolt makes riding very interesting in a not so good kinda way. Trust me, I know.

Are your electicals electricking? Headlight works? Taillight? Brakelight? Turn signals? Does the battery charge? (This can be quickly checked with a multi-meter placed upon the battery)

Bring some basic tools - some allen keys, screwdriver, maybe a wrench or two. What you might need depends on your bike. Some zipties are very handy for holding on broken bits. Take some thought about what is likely to be used versus how much space it takes up.

Get some practice riding it. This will help let you know if your bike is running right, especially if you take it for a longer ride. It can also let you know about comfort issues.... maybe your rear end needs some more cushioning due to primitive scooter suspension and potentially rough roads somewhere in the middle of Nowhere, Ontario.

Most modern scooters should be pretty reliable, and be able to handle even the endurance run that is the MBSR rally just fine - but you don't want to be stuck somewhere with the vultures feasting on your still-warm corpse and fellow MBSR riders stealing parts from your scooter.

Unless they'll work on my Burgman that is, then go for it. I especially need a new seat cover, so if you could perish in such a manner as to spare the seat I would appreciate it.

I'd also recommend a CAA+ plus type roadside assistance membership... while there usually is a sweep truck, it might be a quite lengthy process to get it to you. Which means you might be out there a while if you have to wait for them.

Which means the mosquitoes feast upon you, you perish, and I take the seat from your bike. Err... or someone does anyways. Definitely not me.

We only have a few weeks to go now.... if you are reading this and you're a new signup to the MBSR rally, congrats! You are about to have a truly unique and memorable experience which in no way is likely to lead to your death and the enrichment of my parts stock. Instead, you will be laughing, tired, excited, bored, sunburned and chilled... all in a single day's riding!

Where else can you possibly get that?

MBSR Blog #5: Decorating the machine

We're coming up to the final stretch before I do the MBSR rally - just about 4 weeks to go.

This means I have to start the decoration work on my scooter soon - the Burgman 400 sidecar rig.

This year's theme for our team and my costume is "Star Trek Redshirt" - so we'll be doing some Trekkie type decorations on the scooter. And as is traditional for most scooter decorations for the Mad Bastard Scooter rally, it'll probably be somewhat half assed and leave bits of decoration over several hundred KM like a plastic trail of breadcrumbs.

Which at least will make our bodies easy to find when we inevitably get lost, starve to death or are eaten by rabid squirrels somewhere in the middle of nowhere Ontario.

(Disclaimer: It is entirely possible the squirrels that will eat us are not actually rabid.)

So... what to do for a trekkie type scooter?

The Burgman already has that 80's futuristic type look - so by adding a few details we might be able to make it look like a shuttlecraft. If you squint hard enough, or someone pokes you in the eye before you look at it. Which I'll be reserving as an option when judging comes around.

First... I'll need stickers. I'll be getting some ones made that look like this....

And then something to make it look a little bit like a military vehicle...

After that will be some custom decals saying things like "Star Fleet Security" and such - my ever patient wife's work does vinyl installs and has a vinyl plotter so they will be making up some custom ones to add into the mix.

No photos since they don't actually exist as yet.... I just gave them some carefully drawn sketches that in no way resemble the scratchings of a 3 year old with crayons and excessive caffeine.

They'll probably look at them carefully, call me an idiot, toss those out and make something likely better. Though depending on how they interpret my writing it might be something completely different than intended.

The decorations will include also a tribute or two to Rob Harris (MBSR founder) - something I feel is important as it's my way of bringing him along for one last rally.

There will also be some work with LED lighting - I'm currently thinking of adding "Nacelles" to the top box on the back of the Burgman which will glow with blue LED light strips. I have the strips already, and am just figuring out how to make the nacelles.

Currently I'm thinking of using some clear plastic tubing I have to make them - and then just frosting them so they are translucent and not transparent. Should diffuse the blue light from the LEDS and give it more of an overall glow - at least that's the hope.

All in all, I think it should come together to make something recognizable... hopefully with a good touch of humour, and an even bigger touch of madness.

Because in the end - it's about both.

Not long to go, much to do - and it'll be interesting seeing how it all comes together at the last minute.

MBSR Blog #4: Choosing your ride.

You'd think choosing a scooter for something like the MBSR would be a simple thing.

But what to ride isn't the first thing you have to ask yourself - the first thing you need to ask is what kind of rider will I be?

Are you going full out to win? Then you'll need a 50cc, and you'll need to carefully consider which one.

Are you entering for fun, but want a small chance of winning, but don't want to outright hurt yourself with a marathon ride? You might be best to select a 125-150cc model.

Is your rear end made of glass, and you cannot be without an attached Cappuccino maker on your scoot? Then Maxi might be your preferred class. (That's part of the reason I'm taking a Maxi, but I'm also doing a sidecar with a passenger so a 50cc would.... definitely not work.)

Here's a breakdown of the Pros and Cons of each class of scooter:


The 50cc scooter is what the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally was created for - and really what it is all about. Points are awarded partly on the engine size, so 50cc is what you will need if you want a serious shot at coming out as the winner of the rally.

But it isn't as simple as just running out and grabbing anything 50cc or under. Not all small engine scooters are created equal.

A couple of years ago, there was an entry on a 40 year old scooter pretty much dragged straight out of a barn and put into the rally. It topped out (as I recall) at something like 40kph - if there wasn't a headwind. Or hill. Or too much pressure from sunlight. Or people looking at it.

The rider (again, as I recall) spent something like 22 hours before realizing it was mathematically impossible for him to finish. I have huge respect for that rider, especially given the rough conditions (rain all morning, cold) and how physically tough it is to power on through when your machine isn't powering much of anything at all.

But while I'm sure they got extra mad points... they didn't finish.

So first thing you need to look for in your 50cc is - how fast is it? You'll want it to go at least 60kph on the flat. Minimum. I used a Tomos Targa moped several years back which topped off at 65kph under best conditions - though it couldn't climb a hill if my life depended on it and it almost did. It took me 21 hours to get back to home back... and no bonus loop.

You'll need to balance age of the scooter (Older is more points) with power - things like the Kymco Super 9 liquid cooled 2 stroke scooter will go higher speeds, but will not get you as many points as something older. You can't go wrong with something like the Yamaha BWS 50 either - if its stock, you can pretty much pin the throttle and drive until the gas runs out. There are also things like the Honda Cubs if you want to go vintage - they can be quite reliable if in good condition and also can get you the scooter age points.

Mopeds - if your butt is up to the challenge, go for it - but know that you might be peddling a bit to get it up hills and might be out there a very long time indeed.


This is the sweet spot for having a chance to maybe win - and yet having something that you can hit 80kph on and maybe come close to doing the speed limit on the rural roads. My first MBSR was on a 150cc Kymco Bet and Win - a real tank of a scooter. It was something like 12-13 hours for us to finish (no bonus loop) and with a top speed of 90kph for the most part I wasn't holding up traffic.

They quite often have a good price point in the used market as well - they aren't as crazy cheap as a 50cc (which loses half its value every 30 seconds of riding) but they are available at a relative bargain price, and anything less than 15 years old and not jumped in a dukes-of-hazzard style - should be reliable and easy to drive. You probably won't win on this as the 50cc's really do have (rightfully so) a huge advantage, but you will have a shot if you do everything right.

Maxi Scooters:

Maxi scooters have a theoretical change of winning the MBSR. For example, if all of the smaller engine CC machines run off a cliff in lemming-like fashion, you might win. If a meteorite strikes the middle of the rally and sweeps away all the lighter machines, maybe you'll end up number 1 on the podium.

But I wouldn't hold my breath. (And I recommend you don't either. Breathing really is a wonderful thing.)

But the maxi scooters tend to have power to spare - making it easier to get to the rally. You can hop on a 400 series highway and not end up immediately as a SUV hood ornament. (It will take several minutes for that to happen with a Maxi.) You can bring your heated gear, coffee maker, bread maker and probably enough luggage for several weeks.

This is what you want if you're crazy, but not THAT crazy. You might talk to yourself, but you rarely argue with yourself in public. And almost never about setting fire to things, like the 50cc riders. (We won't mention the moped riders and what they mumble as they walk along in their dazed, crazed fashion.)

Plus if you are crazy enough, you can add a sidecar to your Maxi. Then you can bring along a passenger to slap you awake occasionally - or just to hand you a fresh Cappuccino.


As I said, there are many factors to weigh when choosing your ride - and it all comes down to how you want to ride the MBSR.

Just out to experience the event and have a pleasant days ride? A Maxi might be your best bet.

Looking to get a little madder, but you still have some social skills and sense of reality? Get something in the 125-150cc range.

Does your imaginary friend have an imaginary friend? You need a 50cc. And help.

Factor in age of the scooter - more points versus less reliability. Factor in practicalities as getting the scooter to the rally... will it take you several days of riding with a 50cc just to arrive, increasing the chances of you falling asleep and being eaten by a badger along the way? Do you want to buy a used, cheap, ugly machine and really go to town on the decoration?

Choose the way you want to MBSR - there is no wrong way to do it, and you'll have a great time any option you pick.

Unless you pick a moped. And then have to have it surgically removed. Because it's hard to live that down when you go to see your doctor.

Winter Riding Tips: Or how I learned to love frozen body parts.

We're well along the way into Spring now - and pretty much out of anything resembling frozen water falling from the sky, but I thought I would take a break from my MBSR blogging to talk a bit about something that makes getting a sidecar really something special.

Winter riding.


"But Jamie, what is the point of winter riding?" you might ask. "Why would I expose myself to the dangers and discomfort of the scary white stuff, when by all that is natural and sacred my motorcycle should be peacefully sleeping in my heated garage?" you might also ask.

Winter riding needn't be either unpleasant, or unsafe - especially with a sidecar. With a two wheeled motorcyle you stand a strong risk (depending on tires, road conditions, etc) of hitting a patch of ice unexpectedly and then through a brief period of sky, ground, sky, ground, scream, thud, moan. (Which may not seem terribly brief while experiencing it.)

3 wheels will keep you upright, and as long as you give extra space and are aware of traction limits - you should be safe enough riding around in the snowy wonderland that is Canada in winter.

One disclaimer I should give is that I'm a Toronto rider, so for the most part I do get clear roads in winter. Also, my personal limits would be about -20C - the bike gets a bit more difficult to start up below that.

First things first: Get yourself warm gear.

Gear Advice:

First rule of winter riding gear is you need to block the wind and cover your skin. This will mean things like a windproof/water resistant suit, balaclava that covers the neck, warm gloves, etc.

For a suit, I recommend personally a one piece suit - personally I use the Firstgear Thermo which is an insulated rainsuit. It does an excellent job of blocking both wind and rain and is a great outer layer. Snowmobile suits also can work quite well for this. Keep in mind what the suit is made for - snowmobile suits may not have any abrasion resistance, and may be subject to melting if accidentally put against a hot exhaust.

A suit like this works well - this is the Firstgear Thermo.


For balaclava - get something that will cover the neck. Occasionally when it gets close to -20, I'll add a balaclava and then add a second neck warmer on top of that. You have some big blood vessels that go through the neck, and you can lose a huge amount of heat if cold air gets to it - so make sure you get that covered.

Gloves - personally I have a couple solutions I use. Right now I am using ATV handlebar mitts (with a hole added for the mirrors on my machine) and thin gloves combined with heated grips. The handlebar mitts do a good job of keeping wind/snow/rain off of my hands, and the thin gloves allow for dexterity when handling the controls.

Something like this:


I've also in the past used snowmobile mitts - Canadian tire occasionally sells leather ones, and the all fingers together one piece design really helps in keeping hands warm. Seams are not your friend when it comes to winter riding gear, and the mitts leak less air. Plus keeping your fingers together helps in keeping them warm.

Snowmobile boots might be an idea - something that is windproof, warm, waterproof. Especially if you ride in the city where salt is prevalent and slush gets all over your feet - even up and above on the footpegs or floorboard.

Which brings us to....

Taking care of your machine in Winter Riding:

First of all, if you are in an area like me where salt is used, be aware of the effect it can have on your motorcycle. Salt causes rust on steel, and will put and eat away at aluminum parts as well. One solution is a winter beater bike - something you don't mind getting a bit rusty and beaten up by the elements. Which will happen when you ride in winter.... plastics crack more easily, crud gets frozen into the bike and scratches form, vinyl tends to rip when cold, etc etc.

A protective oil product can help - spraying it can help protect metal parts of your machine. I've used ACF-50 which is an anti-corrosion product used by the aviation industry and it does a really good job. Just make sure when spraying the oil to keep it off of your tires - traction is bad enough in winter, you don't need to add oil to the mix.

If you have a chain, clean and lube it - ideally after every ride. It will extend the life of your chain. (Though I admit, if you are a back yard parker like me, this may not really be an option every time.)

In an ideal world - you would thoroughly wash the bike after every ride but without an enclosed space with adequate drainage, this likely isn't a real option. In which case do a very thorough wash as soon as it warms up - and again after a couple of weeks.

Especially during Canadian springs it can be a while before all the salt leaves the roadway.

Consider using a battery tender. Motorcycle batteries are small, and the oil used in a bike gets thicker the colder it gets - making the bike harder to start. Also components like starters may have greater difficulty working in the cold, which when combined with a battery losing capacity due to cold means your bike may not start when you want it to.

A battery tender will keep the battery from losing charge (possibly preventing damage) and will make sure you have the charge.to get the motor spinning - it can take a lot of cranking the colder it gets.

General riding tips:

Keep in mind, when riding in winter, that even on supposedly dry and clean pavement you will have reduced traction. Your tires will be colder, resulting in less grip. Ice can hide on the road, resulting in less grip.

Give extra distance ahead of you, be cautious in your braking and steering, and be gentle on the brakes whenever possible.

Be even on the brakes as well - use both front and back brake together.

In addition - keep in mind the "Traction bank". You have a set amount of traction, which is reduced in winter. If you use part of this to steer, this reduces the amount you have to brake. (And vice versa.) Therefore if you are steering, you need to be careful with how much brake is applied.

Also, be aware of other drivers. Frequently car drivers will forget to allow extra braking distance.... which makes it important for you to. If you can avoid panic braking, you can hopefully avoid the driver behind you being unable to stop and hitting you from behind.

In general - be aware, be cautious, and ride it like you borrowed it from your extra picky grandmother.


Winter riding can allow you to scratch that motorcycling itch when all of your friends are still stuck looking at pictures of past rides and moping morosely on a couch in a terribly depressing rec room. Because in winter, all rec rooms are depressing if you are a real motorcyclist.

Just be aware of the limits of your body, the limits of traction, and the limits of awareness of the drivers around you - and you'll be able to be out riding when others refuse to. You'll be that guy who gets called a crazy bastard at winter meetups, and takes a certain perverse pride in it.

Because you're a rider - and even the forces of nature can't stop you.

Except lightning. I got nothing to keep you safe with that.

Oh and tornadoes. And tigers will probably mess you up.

Actually.... nature can stop you. Nevermind. But still, winter is yours!

MBSR Blog #3 part 2: Propping myself up

In my last blog article I talked a bit (and showed some pictures) of the scooter and costume efforts in past Mad Bastards.

Last rally for example, I not only steampunked my Vespa/Sidecar rig, I built an entire life size steampunk robot to ride in the sidecar. Articulated body, lights, moving gears and all.


He was combined with full costume (Leather steampunk vest I sewed myself, extra lights on the scooter.... which didn't really help that much in the end as I managed to leave them on overnight and drain the battery.)

I'd done a steampunk theme the rally before with a loaner Sym Symba- doing a hand tooled leather seat cover, and a fake steam engine that went on the back of the luggage rack, again with moving gears and lights.



So having done steampunk two rallies in a row... this year I decided to do something different.

Also, I'm doing a team costume as my brother will be joining in on the insanity - as he has for the last few rallies.

So we needed a good team costume. And to my mind, a good team costume for the MBSR has to conform to the following rules:

1. You have to be able to wear the costume the entire day.

This sounds deceptively simply, but when you are talking about being out for 18 hours on a scooter, both riding and running around like a crazed person (which is after all, part of the MBSR tradition), you would be surprised on just how many body parts you can chafe. Including on occasion ones belonging to innocent bystanders.

And they really don't forgive you for that, even if you drop by later with baby powder and pie.

So - have something reasonable to wear.

2. The costume has to be safe to wear.

No long scarves, capes, or anything that can be caught in the rear tire for example. While the resulting decapitation would probably get you a few extra mad points, you might have some difficulty in collecting them at the end of the rally.

Plus those of you with a really cool hat collection would need to find a new hobby, and you don't want that.

3. Plan for a variety of temperatures and conditions.

The MBSR is held around the summer solstace for the simple reason that it is the longest day of the year - and maximizing sunlight is a good thing on a rally as long as this. (You'll know why when you've been riding in the dark for a while in the middle of nowhere dressed like a lunatic.)

This means with our lovely predictable Canadian weather that of course it will be a constant 18 degrees C., with no rain or wind and just the right amount of constant comfortable sunlight.

Or likely not.

Several years the temperatures have been low enough when starting off at 4:30AM that there is a touch of frost forming on the scooters.

One of those years there is was a participant wearing a kilt.

I'm pretty sure the combination of those two things led to the loss of several body parts he was particularly attached to. Or no longer attached to, as the case may be.

Bring some layers - you can always wear your costume at the start line and layer up over it for the first few hours of riding. (Generally there is less in the way of photographic challenges during the first little bit anyways.)

You can then peel off the layers later on when the temperature climbs - and it can go from the edge of frost up to full on sweatbox summer over the course of the day.

Which it did the year there was an entry with a gentleman wearing a full ape suit for the entire day. I'm pretty sure the results of the shower after the rally caused an entire hotel cleaning crew to quit outright.

So bring rain gear, warm layers, warm weather and cold weather gloves, sunglasses, sunblock, etc.

4. It's all about the funny photos, and the laughs you get along the way.

I still get a laugh thinking of the year we rode behind two guys in viking outfits - they were chanting, singing, waving plastic axes, had boxes of "Loot" on the backs of their scooters and looked like complete and utter nutbars.

That's just about perfect.

You want something that adds to the carnival feel of the whole event. It's all about the laugh, the pose for the perfect comedic shot.
Half the fun is just in the sunday morning slideshow, showing everyone in their finery acting like proper MBSR lunatics. It's like Halloween on steroids, but combined with two wheeled fun... and what could be better?

So think ahead, not just for the immediate sight gag... but funny photos you can take along the way.

So what did I come up with for this year?

Right.... following my own rules it had to have an element of humour.

It had to be something at least somewhat original in terms of the rally. Though some classics do repeat.

It had to be something allowing for comedic photos along the way.

And it had to work as a team costume.

Which got me thinking.... team costume... team....

The Away Team. Star Trek redshirts.

With this as a starting point - I began to think... what would the Star Trek redshirts do if they had actual vehicular transportation instead of being abandoned without food, water, warm jackets, etc - on a hostile alien planet with murderous creatures.

What if they were given helmets, jackets, and then stranded on a hostile alien planet with murderous creatures? (Possibly pirates, or a guy in a kilt or ape costume?)

Things like matching helmets, jackets and props were obtained. The bikes will have added lighting and various vinyl decals added to give an "Away Team" feel to the whole shebang.

I even added an additional crewmember for the comedic value. A skeleton in a redshirt we'll be calling "Bones".

I figured it would save time if we brought someone pre-killed.

I'll be adding in the occasional teaser picture of the costume prep for this year - but I'll leave a lot of the details out of the public eye until the rally day itself.

And I fully expect to be laughing, amazed, and impressed by the efforts of all the other entrants in the rally.... some people leaving bits of home made costume in an easily followed trail for 600km, to the people who look like they stepped out of a major Hollywood production.

There will even be the odd one that will make you stare and think - and you'll get the joke several hours later and cannot stop laughing. Which again feeds into the whole lunatic thing.

And being part of a lovable group of utter lunatics - is after all - pretty much the entire point.

MBSR Blog #3: Preparing for the MBSR

The Mad Bastard Scooter rally has a certain.... uniqueness.

So far as I know, it's the only scooter rally where you are encouraged to decorate your bike and wear crazy outfits.

And over the years, people certainly have gone all out to do just that.






From ape costumes to vikings, from spaceships to pirate ships, you name it and somebody has done it on a MBSR scooter.

I've turned mopeds into army bikes.



Made props and costumes... learning some sewing and leatherwork and other skills along the way....









The process of assembling a MBSR outfit and scooter decoration is half scavenger hunt, half hollywood prop build. It can take months of building, ordering bits, putting it all together - or it can be a last minute rush to glue things onto a used and abused scooter and throwing some spraypaint on some painters overalls.

It's the process that I find entertaining.

(To be continued in part 2)