A possible 530 miles, 99 riders started, 76 finished, two didn’t finish because of a not-so-small deer problem, and one ended up in a ditch. It wasn’t about speed, but how mad you were, and yes, there’s a fine line between mad and stupid.
How many riders do you know that can don a costume that turns one in to a walking, talking taco and then hop on a little 49cc scooter to ride hundreds of miles? Well, four riders did just that this June as part of a team called Fish Tacos. There were dozens of other riders in garb as ridiculous who rode just as far on scooters just as small; this is what the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally is like.
For the uninitiated, the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally – or MBSR – is an opportunity for scooter riders to prove their moxie while letting their crazy flag fly for one weekend every two years. The rally has traditionally been held in Ontario, though it was held in Quebec in 2009.
The Riders and their Rides
Super Dave, a samurai, a team called M&Ms, beer maids, bumble bees, gnomes, a Viking, a couple of cowboys, characters from Star Wars, a cross-dressed bride and groom, the Flash, zombie hunters… that’s just a few of the costume/theme choices made for this year’s Mad Bastard Scooter Rally.
The rally is not about speed, well, not entirely anyway. To win, riders have to collect points. Out of a total 1,000 rally points, 100 of it comes from the madness of your attire. It may not seem like a lot, but the competition for the max points here is stiff. This year, there was only one rider who managed a full 100 points; a heavily bearded Viking named David. In comparison my commando outfit complete with face paint that would’ve caused a stir anywhere else looked tame against these truly mad bastards.
There’s a sizeable 350 points up for grabs for the madness of the scooter. There’s some math involved here, but simplified it looks like this: older steed + smaller motor + dressed up scooter = lots of points.
Take infamous mad bastard and 2011 rally winner, Scooter Man, for example. On paper he rides a Yamaha C3, but in person it was like no other scooter you’d have ever seen. Clad in custom formed aluminum body panels, with strange hoses connecting to pseudo dual-penta exhausts (that’s 10), this was a machine that looked like something right out of a Mad Max film, except for the fluffy stuffed kitten mascot and bar end tassels.
There were vintage Hondas, Vespas, Lambrettas, late model Yamahas, Kymcos, Aprlias, big Suzuki Burgmans, and even a couple of the new BMW C-series maxi scooters being ridden this year. Also joining the ranks was an ultra rare Mojito Custom scooter. There’s said to be only one in existence in all of Canada, and to the chagrin of most, it was one of the machines involved in that afore mentioned deer collision.
The Route Taken
For 2013, the MBSR was headquartered out of a Travel Lodge in Belleville, Ontario – two hours East of Toronto. The hotel itself was in no way spectacular, save for having ample parking space for the swarm of scooters that descended upon it for that one weekend. The location, however, was the perfect urban gateway to rural riding bliss.
The route itself took us through farmland, rural townships, along countless rivers and lakes, past provincial parks, and through what at times felt like forests. Some of the views were spectacular, some of it monotonous, but the air was always crisp and the day humid but cool. There were a few stretches of rain soaked road where rain soaked riders rode on bravely. There wasn’t much in the way of wildlife along the route for some, but I was lucky enough to see a half dozen deer and even one fawn.
This iteration of the MBSR features the longest route ever plotted for this event. With a 418-mile main loop that was mandatory and a 112-mile bonus loop that was optional as the name suggests, this was long distance riding without ever getting on an interstate. The sheer time it took to complete this year’s extra long main loop meant that many riders weren’t able to take on the bonus section and complete the rally within their allotted time – only 11 riders managed it.
Rally organizers had carefully chosen our route ensuring that there weren’t major bits in disrepair or under construction. We rode through exhilarating elevation changes and grin-inducing twisties. Braking into turns, leaning hard through corners, getting on the throttle as you hit the apex are all joys that are had on motorcycle and scooter alike. For over four hundred miles Mad Bastard riders enjoyed just that while doing the extra bits that made this a ride of true madness.
The Rally Experience
In addition to earning points for garb and choice of ride, riders must complete the rally while satisfying a string of key tasks to the tune of 530 possible points. This involves collecting receipts from mandatory stops (proof that you actually rode the route and didn’t just tool around town), figuring out clues along the way and taking pictures of madness in action.
What kind of clues? How about figuring out how many arrows a guy in a canoe on a mural on the side of a cafe in some obscure hamlet is holding, or finding out who the pastor at a small village church is? Answering some of the clues was easy, like the fine for leaving garbage outside the gate of a transfer site, or the speed limit over a certain bridge. Answering others was much harder, like figuring out when The Red Brick school was built – we weren’t told exactly where it was – or finding out who made the signs on the bleachers at the Loggers Games Park – to find the park riders had to navigate a short unmapped dirt trail and cross a field infested with mosquitoes.
The highlight of the rally for most comes in the form of the photographs. Nothing makes for better bragging rights than having visual proof of the mad deed done. There are a number of suggested photo opportunities, but sometimes the best pictures are right out of left field.
An often underestimated component of the rally is navigation. Get lost out in cottage country where cell towers don’t exist and you’d better know how to read a map. Most riders opt to duct tape their official MBSR maps inserted in a Ziplock bag to their handlebars. It’s a crude but effective way of navigating while riding. After all, getting even 50 miles off course on a 50cc scooter could add an additional three hours to your time.
I rode the MBSR in 2011 on a 50cc scooter. Hunched over the bars with a fully open throttle, my strongest memory of that 350-mile ride of 17 or so hours was pain. I tip my hat to the four ‘Straight Jacket’ class (scooters 50cc and under) riders who did this year’s 418-mile main loop in 16 hours. “The clues slowed us down” were the final words out of this team of hardcore riding bastards.
Riding as a member of the two-man ‘Team Going Commando,’ fellow journalist Zac Kurylyc and I had quite a comfy rally experience compared to most. For starters, we were riding big displacement scooters; mine a Kymco Xciting 500 and his a Kymco Downtown 300, both machines graciously loaned to us by Kymco Canada for riding as working media. With ample storage space, I brought along rain gear, a change of shirts, extra socks, snacks, a second helmet, and I even had my phone charging with the dedicated underseat phone charger that comes standard on the Xciting 500. I also brought along an AirHawk seat cushion which I used about nine hours into the ride when my rear end couldn’t bear the effects of long-term sitting anymore. AirHawk promised to save my butt with that cushion, and I can happily admit to it doing just that.
Much earlier than when my rear end pains started, I found myself feeling rather unprotected wearing just a camo jacket and beanie helmet. Breaking unwritten mad bastard modus operandi I pulled over a few miles from our start and switched to a full face helmet and a riding jacket that hides its Knox armour so well that you’d be hard pressed to guess it had any. Switching into the retro postal uniform inspired Corazzo Postale was definitely un-bastard of me, but I played it off the rest of the rally feigning ignorance. Now had we been ‘Team Going Postal’, I’d have been well protected, stylish, and stayed a proper bastard; there’s always next time.
Go ahead point and laugh at scooters and those of us dressed up silly – I know at one point I would have. I’ve ridden big burly cruisers, liter-class superbikes and the some of the nicest touring bikes around. Not once did I imagine that I’d feel the greatest sense of riding satisfaction after completing a Mad Bastard Scooter Rally. It’s easy to ride a good looking bike, a fast one, or one built for comfort. Riding a small scooter for hours on end while navigating every mile of hundreds and figuring out answers to clues while staying positive enough to capture those mad moments on camera; that takes a lot of courage and determination. These are the very traits that make for riding legends.
For every rider who’s conquered the Bastard – especially on a 50cc machine – we know you’re very special. For those of you who haven’t experienced the exciting fine line between madness and stupidity, start your countdown to June 2015.