Adventure Riding, Urban Style
Adventure Riding conjures up many an image of the Canadian wilderness: back roads, trails, streams, wild animals, and in this fall season, loving the crisp air and fiery colours. With lots of obstacles to traverse, adventure riding is considered a welcome challenge that sets many a heart a-pumping.
In the Greater Toronto area, the phrase means something else entirely. Dodging kamikaze cabs and cell-phone-toting drivers, the Urban Adventurer also has to be wary of wet streetcar tracks and potholes that threaten to swallow small motorcycles.
Still, the Urban Adventurer rides on, spurning public transit crowding on the daily commute for two wheels, rain-or-shine, taking advantage of lower fuel consumption and free street parking.
The Toronto riding scene offers unique experiences as riders connect with like-minded enthusiasts. Two-wheeled tribes gather in the GTA anywhere there is a parking lot close to food, drink or fuel. Where they go is usually dictated by the type of bike and the type of riding they do.
Sportbike riders are generally younger and value performance and the latest in technology. The most brash and cocky of the tribes, their online gathering site, GTAmotorcycle.com is like the Wild West, with verbal gunfights galore. Still, it’s the pulse of the GTA scene with a staggering membership of more than 20000 riders.
Spending countless hours in hundreds of garages, the Vintagent is a different breed. Bike shows, swap meets and vintage track days are where you’ll find them displaying their craft. You can also find them Sunday mornings at Famous Sam’s in Stouffville, Leonard’s in Leaside, and Mars Diner in The Beach. www.cvmg.ca
Mods, Rockers and Cafes
Mods and Rockers have found their common ground in Toronto, celebrating their checkered past in a huge annual event which includes a cross-city ride. Restored Lambrettas, Vespas, Nortons, Triumphs, BSAs shine in the sun as their owners two-step inside to Gene Vincent and The Who. www.modsandrockerstoronto.com
Across town, the Café Racers strip down their (mostly) 1970’s-era Japanese machines, saving weight to increase speed. The end goal is to do the ton – 100mph on their smaller-displacement creations. Café Racers congregate at The Black Dice Café and online at dotheton.com, the world’s largest café racer forum that originated in Toronto, with a membership of over 19000 riders around the globe.
Toronto serves as base-camp for hardy riders tripping across Ontario and beyond. From small dirt bikes to cross-country dual-sport monsters, this bunch won’t stop where the roads end. Treks to James Bay and even the Trans-Labrador are on the long-range map, though short jaunts to Ganaraska and the Raglan Pits are cures for the off-road wanderlust, while curb-jumping and ditch diving are quick fixes to test the suspension. www.ADVrider.com
The Scooter rules the road downtown. Sidewalks sport parked scoots and street scenes are not complete without a fashionably-dressed scooterista. At the centre of this urban activity is the 800-strong Toronto Moto Scooter Club which provides a comprehensive online forum where the new rider can get tips on proper gear, maintenance, and basic operation. A contingent gathers to take in the sunset and Rosedale Valley Road every Tuesday at Dairy Queen at the top of Pottery Road. scooter.meetup.com/197
While not often a downtown animal, Harleys and their feet-forward Japanese brethren can be found cruising the avenues of the GTA. On any given Sunday, Tim Horton's (aka Timmies) lots across the region offer an impromptu showcase of leather and chrome.
The Southern Cruisers Riding Club’s Toronto Chapter 383 has been organizing rides since 1999. Timmies at Sheppard and Vic Park is the jumping-off point every Wednesday. Non-cruiser riders are always welcome, as long as they can keep up. www.southercruisers.ca
No destination is too far, even for the smallest 50cc bike. The GTA offers a few popular ride-to spots. In the east, newer riders can challenge their mettle on Twyn Rivers Road and similar twisties in the Rouge Valley. Western riders have made Belfountain a popular spot. Riding the Forks of the Credit Road’s curves and notorious hairpin rewards you with ice cream, coffee and sandwiches at your final destination. Nearby, Hockley Valley offers a great ride as well.
Thursday night hosts the biggest and most inclusive meet downtown at the Tim Horton’s on Leslie and Lakeshore. On a warm summer night there are bikes as far as the eye can see. Other notable gatherings around the GTA: Burrito Boyz Tuesdays in Mimico, Cruiser Wednesdays at Timmies Sheppard and Victoria Park, and almost any given night in front of the Hard Rock Café at Dundas Square. Farther out, the mother-of-all-meets at Haugans BBQ in Port Perry is a Thursday night tradition.
While some riders are all about the commute, others live for the weekend. Some do it solo and many more do it in clusters. Preferences aside, what it comes down to is the riding – that’s what makes this diverse collection of two-wheelers a happening scene.