Diary of a Mad Bastard
By the time I write this, the Last Mad Bastard Scooter Rally would be one for the books. The sheer craziness of the rally is paramount, and much has been written and recorded about the riders and their antics over the years. This time around, I’d like to focus more on the unsung heroes of this undertaking: the roads themselves, and the sheer joy of riding them, costumes and insanity notwithstanding.
It’s a fact of life that all good things must come to an end.
Summer 2019 meant the last hurrah of The Mad Bastard Scooter Rally, after 15 years of being the go-to source for mirth and mayhem for scooterists everywhere. The organizers set Peterborough as this year's starting point of the ride, which would encompass the Kawarthas and Ontario’s Highlands. Hearing this, I put on my volunteer hat, and packed my gear as official photographer with my trusty backseat shooter Georgette tagging along.
Recap: The MBSR is a 600-km iron butt endurance rally/scavenger hunt that is ridden on scooters, mopeds and sub 200cc motorcycles. The rally favours the smallest, with 50cc bikes given both a head start in points and a time handicap: 24 hours to finish (my big scoot would only have 16 hours to git 'er done). Add to this some outlandish costumes, and it’s a spectacle that’s hard to forget.
The last time I wrote about Riding The Highlands, I talked at length how the best riding of my four-odd Mad Bastards have been in this climby-twisty region in 2009 and 2013. My bikes got bigger with each rally, and I was looking forward to seeing how my 500cc Yamaha TMAX would handle the tight twisties and big sweepers that this last rally would throw at me.
We arrived Friday afternoon at the Best Western Plus Otanobee Inn after a short highway ride from downtown Toronto. After check-in, we set out to gussy ourselves and our scoots—our Rainbow Brite theme being an homage to Pride Weekend in Toronto. Riding in the Pride Parade is usually an annual affair, though we passed this year due to the rally. We gaily decorated the scooters with lots of streamers, tassels, a coat-of-many-colours, unicorn horns, and a tutu just for me. If we were going to miss the parade, we were going to bring its spirit of inclusiveness to the roads we rode and the towns we visited!
Early(ish) to bed, since the first 50cc scoots were due to leave at 4:30 am… which they did in a cloud of 2-stroke smoke. Georgie and I photographed all the teams as they peeled out, then took a more direct route to get ahead of the pack.
Sunrise greeted us as we hit the road, the chill of night making way for the warmth of the approaching day. We were treated to long shadows and bright reflections from Kawartha Lakes in a scenic tableau. Arriving at Mississauga Dam, it was serene as we dismounted for our first pit stop, courtesy of Sparkplug Coffee. The air was fresh and the water on the lake was glass. A beautiful sight, combined with a golden silence—soon to be broken by the ring-a-ding-a-ding of the first arrivals.
We set to work, shooting riders as they came in. Hopping back on the scoot, excitement mounted, since the legendary 507 beckoned…
The 507 is often name-dropped by many a sport bike rider. It’s a fast stretch of winding road between Buckhorn and Gooderham where riders get to test their mettle. For a slow-moving Mad Bastard, the experience is different, being able to take in the beautiful early-morning vibe as the road rises, dips, and bends. With my big scoot, I had the best of both worlds, riding the speed limit until a speck in the distance started moving across the road.
It was a deer.
Scrubbing speed quickly, I stopped face to face with Bambi, who turned right around and disappeared into the forest. A close call, and a warning to keep to a reasonable speed and stay alert.
Amazingly, my backseat cohort was able to get an in-focus over-the-helmet shot.
Back at it, we were able to catch up with packs of riders, with Georgie pointing her lens their way as we passed.
We stopped briefly at the Fire Station in Wilberforce to photograph their railroad mural, one of many that dot small towns throughout Ontario.
North at Harcourt then eastbound, Elephant Lake Road is a fun collection of tight turns and fast sweepers—a thrill on the TMAX, which hugged the curves and stayed planted on the many bumps and ridges while devouring the hills. Par for the course, the scenery was majestic—we were getting a little tired, but not of the view…
It was 10:30 am when we got to the end of the road at the small Town of Maynooth. We were famished, having gone seven hours since breakfast at the hotel. I remembered the Sun Run Cafe from my last Highlands jaunt and we decided to kick back and recharge with a phenomenal Second Breakfast, with our lunch stop still a couple of hours and hundreds of kilometres away. We met up with a few adventure bikers there, who were intrigued by our undertaking.
Madawaska Road was next on the list—smooth, meandering, and not as demanding. Probably my favourite of the day, it’s the perfect road to open up the bike and find your rhythm in its sweeping turns. The big scoot roared, having no one to share the road with, aside from other Bastards who we passed easily in a perfect photo-op.
Gassing up at the Madawaska Country Store, we slowed down and joined a bunch of Bastards on Highway 60 for a straight shot towards Barry’s Bay, where an Avro Arrow replica stands on guard in Zurakowski Park, in silent tribute to its hometown test pilot, Janusz Zurakowski. Down the road, we stopped for official lunch at the Ash Grove Inn, and lounged on their Muskoka chairs at the end of their dock, facing the river.
We didn’t have long to relax, since our photographic duties required us to be at the Madawaska Kanu Centre by 2 pm. This also meant that we had to skip Old Barry’s Bay Road, which I remembered from my first Mad Bastard in 2009 as a thrilling series of bends. Taking the direct route, we were pleased to find that Siberia Road was quite squiggly.
Awaiting us at the Kanu Centre, the craziest of scooterists were already queued up to bring the Mad to the Madawaska River in an inflatable raft, shooting rapids and getting very, very wet…
We ordered a yummy affogato from the Centre’s espresso bar, then climbed down the riverbank by the rapids to capture the action. We heard them before we saw them: Mad Bastards a-hootin’ and hollerin’, some standing in the white water.
South on Siberia Road once again, then continuing deep in the forest on Musclow Greenview Road. I lefted instead of righted at a fork and inadvertently did a little dirt-and-gravel on Mountney Road. Losing time due to having to traverse rough road at 50cc speeds, we flew down Hwy 28 through Bancroft, then hit the most challenging Lower Faraday Road. With 25 km of tight, blind turns and dirty corners, often with quick elevation changes, it was a handful to ride on a bigger street-oriented bike. I’m sure the small-bore lunatics had a great ol’ time, though...
At the last Sparkplug Coffee pitstop at Chandos Lake Public Beach, we realized that even with our speed advantage, we were still far behind the leaders. There were still another 115 klicks to go in this final leg and there was no way to get ahead at the speed limit, so we decided to take the direct route once more, dicing with the cagers all the way down busy Hwy 28.
We managed to get ahead of everyone, though not by much. The first scoots arrived home 20 minutes later, with some opting to do an extra 100 km loop for bonus points. Exhausted and sore, we decided to check in to HQ and surrender what was on our memory cards in exchange for sponsor beer—Prince Eddy’s Cream Ale, which went down very nicely. We were dead-tired and had aches on our aches, so a soak in the hotel hot tub closed out an epic day.
Winners were announced the next morning over breakfast, with first-timer George Reichert, riding an Aprilia SR50, being crowned the Mad King. For his efforts, he took home a Kymco scooter courtesy of Studio Cycle Group, and bragging rights as the winner of the Final Bastard. Big Brothers Big Sisters were also winners, as the rally raised more than $12,500 for the charity.
And what next? Bastard team Rally Connex announced “The Back Alley Scooter Rally,” a more urban take on scooter craziness coming soon to Toronto. Great news for us scooteristas!
While it’s sad to see the sun set on the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally, our lovely organizers made sure it went out with a bang. Stellar roads all to ourselves, amazing destinations, breathtaking vistas, all washed in the irreverent spirit of the rally. Even Mother Nature co-operated, giving us the most beautiful of days to be out on two.
It truly was The Battle Of The Bastards, one that will stay with me for a long time. There are already rumblings to revisit the route, bringing more friends along to experience the madness once more.
And that’s the legacy left by this loved one. MBSR, you will be missed.