A chronology of bikes, roads, rallies and anything and everything motorcycle related

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Fearless Females

With all the hustle and bustle that comes with finishing up the school year, I haven't been able to post in a few weeks.  Thankfully though, all the papers, presentations and midterms are over and its safe to say I survived my last semester of school.

To get back into writing this blog, I decided to do some Google searches to find a topic that I hadn't talked about yet, and a very obvious one came up - females and motorcycles.  It turns out that today there are over 4.5 million female riders on the road (about one in every ten riders is female) and female riders are increasing annually by 28% compared to male riders that are only increasing by 7% annually. So what makes a fearless female stand out in this historically male dominated riding world?  

The Van Buren Sisters
Female riders have been making a statement for almost a century now. In 1916 Adeline and Augusta Van Buren, two sisters in the United States, made a name for female riders by riding from New York to California on Indian motorcycles.  This feat helped to break the gender stereotypes held around bikes in this time period, as the sisters were the first females to make this coast to coast journey.  

In the 30s, there were two women working towards a more female friendly riding world.  Bessie Stringfield was the first African American motorcyclist and competed in eight solo cross-country tours.  She then went on to join the U.S Army, working as a motorcycle dispatch rider which required her to ride through the Southern states in a time when racism was very prevalent.  Then there was Dorothy 'Dot' Robinson, who started the group "Motor Maids". This organization encouraged women to try motorcycling and was the first women's motorcycle club in America.  Dorothy was also the first female to win an AMA national competition, which broke down more barriers for females in the competitive world.  

Jolene Van Vugt
Almost a century later, the riding world is a lot more welcoming to female riders, but women are still working hard everywhere to make a name for themselves and prove the gender stereotypes wrong.  Jolene Van Vugt, who's Canadian, has been named one of the top females in the riding world. She currently holds four Guinness world records, and has a TV show and a 3D movie.  She was also the first female to backflip a full sized dirt bike and was the first CMRC Women's Canadian National Motocross Champion.

So whether they're known for pioneering women's rights almost a 100 years ago, or holding records and continuing to break stereotypes today, females have always been making a statement in the riding world.  As the amount of female riders continues to increase, it can be almost guaranteed that the riding world is going to see a lot more fearless females doing some pretty great things.  

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Bikes, Beer and Babes: The 2012 Niagara Motorcycle Show

In past posts, I've mentioned different motorcycle shows and events that I think are worthwhile attending and how they can be the perfect way for you to find a bike thats the right fit for you. This week on Facebook I was invited to the 2012 Niagara Motorcycle Show, something I wasn't even aware that existed.  After looking at the shows website and FB group it looks like a pretty awesome event to check out if you have any interest in bikes, beer or babes.
Nick Lee

For $20 you can you buy a one day pass to the event which is held at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls, or for $40 to you can get a three day pass.  The event is running from July 20-22 and has various components to it.  The event is classified as a trade show and along with its 250 venders there will also be live entertainment, celebrity appearances, stunt riders, a charity poker run and demo rides. If you're looking for a little customization like perhaps painting your motorcycle pink as I discussed two weeks ago, there will be custom shops present, along with leading manufactures and retailers.

Wall of Death
Even if you don't have a bike, or have no interest in purchasing one this event is still worth checking out.  Theres a food court, beer tent and even an award winning stunt show that I'm sure anyone can appreciate.  The "World Famous Wall of Death" will be present, which is a stunt show that has been running for over 30 years and has entertained thousands of spectators with its gravity defying act, along with Nick Lee and his famous 'World Burnout Tour'.  There also is going to be a 'Miss Niagara Motorcycle Pageant' which will feature 12 girls competing in various competitions to win the title 'Miss Niagara Motorcycle' and be featured on the cover of this years Niagara Motorcycle Calendar.

The event welcomes people of all ages, experience and both riders and non riders to come out, so whether you're there to shop for a new toy, appreciate some of the best bikes in town or just to drink a beer while watching a stunt show or the pageant, the 2012 Niagara Motorcycle show is sure to offer an afternoon or two of entertainment that anyone can enjoy.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

"The Best Road... In the World"

I came across this road in a clip from a 2009 episode of Top Gear (see bottom), where the host,  Jeremy Clarkson, declared while driving a Austin Martin that this road was "the best road.... in the world".  While Top Gear shows this road from the perspective of a driving a car, its easy to imagine it would be just, if not more, as enjoyable on a motorcycle.  Despite its low speed limit of 40km an hour The Transfagarasan offers everything any motorcycle enthusiast could ever dream of.

So what makes a road the best road in the world?  This Romanian highway is a 90km long stretch of pavement through the tallest section of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, connecting the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia.  It features constant twists and sharp turns, 5 tunnels, access to Balea Lake (a glacier lake that is over a 1000 years old) and reaches an altitude of 2,034 metres.

Built in in the early 1970s, it took four years to complete, used over 6 million kilograms of dynamite and claimed the lives of 40 workers.  It was used originally for military purposes; it was built as a response to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and used to provide quick access across the mountains.

The road now attracts motorcyclists, cyclists, hikers, drivers and thrill seekers from all around the world.  Along with the many bends, curves and natural beauty the road offers these ehnthusiastics some history as well.  Along it you can find the ruins of the Poienari fortress.  This castle was home to Vlad III the Impaler, who was the prince that inspired Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'.

So I guess to go back to the question asked earlier of 'what makes a road the best road in the world?' the answer is variety.  Where else other than the Transfagarasan road in Romania can you find this many twists, turns, tunnels, mountains, a glacier lake and some vampire history all in a 90km stretch of man made highway. 

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Pretty in Pink

2007 Pink Hibiscus Honda Jazz
For those of you who know me, its no secret that pink is way up there in my list of favourite colours. When I got my M2 my dad even custom ordered me a bubblegum pink helmet.  Pink and motorcycles however, is not a combination that is common on the roads (although I question why).  One of the only examples I know of off the top of my head was the 'Pink Hibiscus' Honda Jazz Scooter from 2007 (which I begged and begged for, but for some reason my dad thought that when the time came to sell it no one would buy it..).

2004 Harley Davidson Sportster $5,500

But since this option is no longer available new, nor is it an actual motorcycle, I decided to do a little google search and see what options are on the market right now for the fearless female who isn't shy about rocking a little pink.

The answer.... Nothing.

I did however find some great examples of people who didn't let this lack of pink on the market discourage them and actually went and customized their bikes themselves.

2001 Triumph Speed Triple $3,490

This idea of customization then raises the question of how much does it cost to get bikes like these all dolled up in pink? In Ontario, a paint job like the pink ones shown here will cost you about $500 in supplies alone.  If your not quite sure you have the talent to do the job yourself yourself, a professional paint job will usually start around $800 and take about a week, although different companies may quote differently depending on the bike.

If you're not prepared to commit to a full out pink bike though, you can also take the route I did and settle with a pink helmet or even a pink leather jacket.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Great Ocean Road

With reading week fast approaching, there is one thing on students minds: vacation. And who can blame them? Who doesn't love a little sun, surf and relaxation. In my search for a new motorcycle destination to write about this week I came across a highway that seemed to offer all three of those things to riders: The Great Ocean Road. Too bad its half way around the world in Australia though, if it was a little closer I think it would make a pretty great reading week destination. 

The Great Ocean Road
The road starts in Melbourne, although you have to travel 130km before the fun begins. When I say 'fun' I'm referring to the sandy beaches, large waves and surf on one side and breathtaking mountain ranges on the other. You'll also encounter historical ports, whale lookouts and national parks. In total, this two lane highway is 260km long and has a speed limit that never exceeds 80km / hour.

This road isn't just another pretty stretch of highway though. Built in 1919 by soldiers who had returned from World War I, the Great Ocean Road was constructed by hand, using shovels, wheelbarrows and explosives. It is now the worlds largest war memorial, dedicated to the fallen soldiers of World War I.

The nice thing for motorcyclists about this highway is that although it can be a bit of a tourist trap, with lots of cars and RV's, there are lots of passing sections and a few slow lanes that these vehicles can pull into. Another appeal is that even though the speed limit is lower, this road offers all the bends and tight corners that motorcyclists seem to crave. A word of advice though for all you thrill seekers and rebels; a common complaint about this road is the abundance of cops and speed traps, so try to stick to the speed limit!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Top Ten

It has been brought to my attention that certain readers seem to think they won't find this blog interesting since they don't have an interest in bikes. Initially I was offended, but then decided to take this comment as more of a challenge than an insult. To help appeal to those readers who aren't big motorcycle enthusiasts, I've compiled a list of ten quirky facts about motorcycles that anyone can enjoy.

1. Devil, Satan and Lucifer have all been names of motorcycle manufactures.

2. The worlds fasted motorcycle is the Dodge Tomahawk, which can reach speeds of 560 km/h and uses just a 2 speed manual transmission.
The Dodge Tomahawk

3.The first Harley Davidson motorcycle built in 1903 used a tomato can for a carburetor.

4. The Longest Motorcycle jump in the world is 107.29m long, set by Robbie Maddison in Melbourne Australia. 

5. The worlds biggest motorcycle was built by Greg Dunham, and is 15-foot high, 25-foot-long and is steered from a cage below the handlebars. The bike took three years to build, weighs 6,500 pounds and cost $300,000. 
Dunham and his creation
6. In 2010, in Canada, over one hundred and thirteen thousand new units of motorcycles, scooters and ATVs were sold at an estimated retail value of 1,417,850,000 dollars.

7. The worlds first million dollar motorcycle was a Harley Davidson designed by Jack Armstrong
The Million Dollar Harley
8. Motorcycles and scooters are, on average, about twice as fuel efficient as cars

9. 'Evel Knievel' is one of the worlds most famous motorcycle stuntmen. Some of his notable feats include jumping over 19 cars (1971), jumping over 13 Mack trucks (1974), and jumping over 13 double-decker buses (1975). 
Evel Knievel jumping 13 double decker buses
10. The worlds heaviest motorcycle was built in Germany and weights 10,470 lb.
The Harzer Bike Schmiede

Thursday, 9 February 2012

For all the “Petite” Riders out there..

Standing tall at 5’0, finding a bike that I could comfortably handle without standing on my tippy toes at every stop sign and intersection proved to be a bit of a challenge.  But as more and more people are starting to get into riding motorcycles, including an increase in women, the motorcycle industry is starting to adapt to the trend of the smaller, female rider.

The new Softtail Slim 
For the 2012 lineup, Harley Davidson has shaved down there classic Softtail and introduced the newest member to the Softtail family, the ‘Softtail Slim’. Essentially it's the Softtail, but with all of the ‘fancy stuff’ removed, leaving a vintage exposed steel look.  The pro of this strip down is it gives the bike the lowest seat height for HDs yet, at 23.9 inches (heights range from 24 - 36 inches) off the ground. The one con to this HD though may be its price point, starting at a base price of $15,499, it may be a bit out of some peoples budgets.   

For those of you petite riders who arent ready to drop that amount of money on a new bike, heres a few lower bikes I found that are a little bit more reasonably priced:

Honda Rebel: 26.6 Inch Seat Height, $4999 (new) 
Honda Shadow VLX: 25.6 Inch Seat Height, $5399 (new)

Buell Blast - 25.5 Inch Seat Height - $4795 (new, although no longer in production, so only used ones are on the market)

Friday, 3 February 2012

Bike Weeks, Rallies and Rides

At the end of my last post, The Sunshine State, I included a picture of the ‘bike week’ that takes place annually in Key West.  This made me curious as to what other kind of biking events go on, so I turned to my best friend Google and did a little research. 

Since biking and biker enthusiasm is growing in popularity with people of different ages and demographics, there are 100s of different events that take place around the world for various types of riders everywhere.  Since the results of typing ‘bike week’ into Google provide you with enough information to keep you entertained for a year or two, I’ve narrowed down the top 3 biking events I feel every biking enthusiast should attend.

Jay Leno has been the Grand Marshall for the event since 85'
An annual charity motorcycle ride, held both in southern California and Switzerland, that has raised over 22 million dollars in its 25 years of running.  This money has been donated to Organizations such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Special Olympics of Southern California.  Unfortunately, it was cancelled in 2009 due to the economy, but made a comeback in 2010.   
A bride and her wedding party at Daytona Bike Week 

2.  Daytona Bike Week
The most popular bike rally in the United States, Daytona Bike Week attracts over 500,000 people every year for its 10 day event that includes bike races, concerts and street festivals.  A large part of the appeal is that bikers get the opportunity to ride ‘The Loop’, a short stretch of road that is described as every motorcyclists dream because of its curves and scenery. 

The 25km long parade that took place at the EBF in 2011

3.  European Bike Week
An annual free biking festival that takes place every year in Austria and attracts around 70,000 visitors.  The European Bike Week was started by Harley Davidson and is known for its custom bike shows, concerts, parade, and its mile long stretch of dealers and vendors.

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Sunshine State

It’s the end of January and sadly winter has finally hit Ontario.  With the constant pattern of snow, slush, and freezing rain that seems to be on repeat (thanks a lot mother nature) I think everyone is craving a little bit of sunshine.  Going along with this theme it only seemed appropriate to make my first riding destination a hot one.

The Florida Keys are the perfect holiday destination for beginner riders, or anyone who desires a relaxing scenic stretch of highway.  The Keys are the most southern part of Florida and all of the major inhabited islands are connected by a portion of U.S. Route 1 know as the ‘Overseas Highway’. 


The highway is 205 km long and will take you from Key Largo all the way to Key West.  It’s a good road for beginners because it provides the tropical experience of palm trees, a warm breeze, and blue ocean as far as the eye can see, but doesn’t require a high level of skill that would overwhelm someone new to the riding scene.  The speed limit on this road never exceeds 45mph (72km), there aren't a lot of bends or changes in elevation, and its short distance makes it an easy ride.  For the ultimate thrill seeker the lack of challenge may make the Overseas Highway seem like a bit of a boring ride.  In reality though, if you relax and take in the scenery that is completely surrounding you on this stretch of ocean highway, you probably wont mind the fact that for the majority of the ride your driving in a straight line.                                    

If you do make it all the way to the end of the highway and stop in Key West for a while, renting a scooter may also be something to consider.  The island has a very lively ‘New Orleans’ feel to it and the common transportation trend, with both tourists and locals, is a scooter.  The nice thing about this island trend is that it won't break the bank (scooter rentals are fairly cheap) and its something that can be done in large groups because you don't need a motorcycle licence to rent one.


Monday, 23 January 2012

Choosing Your First Motorcycle

Before making any big touring plans you need to find the bike that’s right for you.  While some people may not think twice about hopping on that 1524cc Harley Davidson ‘Road King’, large bikes are not always the most practical option for first time riders.  Both physical and engine size are just two of several important things that need to be taken into consideration before you make this important purchase.

The first thing to consider is the combination of your ability and your riding needs.  Asking yourself how comfortable you feel with the various engine sizes available (starting at 50cc) is important because it is common in North America for dealers to offer a new rider a 700cc and say this is a good size for beginners.  In reality smaller engine sizes around 250cc are much lighter and easier to control when you’re just starting out riding.  While 250cc’s are somewhat uncommon in North America, where the general trend in the riding world seems to be ‘bigger is better’, several brands (shown below) do offer smaller bikes for beginners.


Along with engine sizes you should also be asking yourself where you will be driving your bike most and how long the duration of your rides will be.  Once you’ve narrowed these things down you can start looking at different categories of bikes and find a fit that’s right for you.

Other things that should also be considered are your budget, buying new versus old, things to go with your bike of choice and your body type (ie. height, weight, strength etc.).  For more in depth details on picking your first bike, here are a couple links I found that expand on topic:
If you're still feeling a little lost (the list of things to consider can feel a little overwhelming at times) it could be helpful to attend a trade show such as the North American International Motorcycle Supershow.  I've attended this show a few times and it never disappoints.  You're provided with the opportunity to see all the current bikes available on the market and each company has a trade booth with representatives to answer any questions you may have about the important purchase you're about to make (plus theres usually lots of free swag).