MBSR Blog #7: Final Preparations for Going Mad.

This weekend coming up will be a madhouse (literally) of preparation.



Getting things sorted and ready for packing. Making sure all the costume bits are in place and ready to go. Making sure batteries and chargers and cameras and gizmos are working, have appropriate things loaded and running, and that I have extra electricality shoved into tiny boxes and ready to power things.

The Mad Bastard Scooter Rally is a chance to embrace a fundamental truth - that small displacement motorcycles and scooters are enormous, unqualified, undignified, gloriously silly, fun.



Don't get me wrong.. a bigger motorcycle has its place in things - you can't deny the appeal of a classically lined Triumph, the sexy swing of a sports bike through a corner, and the muted rumble of a big cruiser ambling down the road.

But there is something to be said for letting go of ego, for getting back to childhood and recognizing that anything two wheeled (or three in my case) with a motor and gas in the tank is a recipe for enjoyment.

When branding doesn't matter - it's all about the hand painted red go fast stripes on the neighbours moped with the dented exhaust that rattles down the road - but it doesn't matter because all you can see is a throttle and spinning wheels. The dented clanging exhaust hanging on by a thread of bailing wire is a roar only you can hear.

It's perception over reality - it's madness really.

And that's why I ride the MBSR.

Because it's pageantry, it's innocence, it's the crazed worship at the two wheeled church of motion.



And the bastard part? I suspect many riders who would never allow themselves to ride a scooter or moped would say that part with just a hint of envy, just a smattering of awe, just a tiny piece of admiration.

Because if you only see yourself on one type of bike, riding with one type of rider, riding the same roads.... I'm not sure you get the full experience of what being a rider is.



And that's a shame, and a tragedy, and a loss all in one.

See you out there, you glorious bastards.

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 #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.

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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.

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

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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)

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.)

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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.)