Don’t be a “Mob” Rider! The rapidly changing motorcycle scene in Ontario
What has changed here in Ontario these past 25 years in motorcycling? The answer is lots! It took 50 years but now motorcycling is now huge here in Ontario, however; I’ve been around long enough to draw some comparisons from motorcycling in my youth in England 50 years ago, which may hold a clue to the direction motorcycling is headed here in Ontario, Canada.
I grew up in the south of England and joined a motorcycle club in 1963 when I just turned sixteen. This was a time in England when motorcycling wasn’t just a sport but a way of life as many including yours truly depended on the motorcycle as a main means of transportation and the machines available at the time were changing rapidly. The new generation of youth spawned after the war in England in the 60’s was fairly accurately depicted in the movie Quadrophenia. Much of the footage shot in the making of this movie actualy was taken from the The Mods & Rocker riots in Brighton and the sound track was driven on by bands like “The Who” singing Pin Ball Wizard and My Generation! Motorcycle design was moving more to much faster, multi cylinder bikes from the old “stand by” singles. The club I belonged to included members who “road raced” and “grass tracked”, I guess because of our music the leather we all wore and rode motorcycles we were branded “Rockers”. The following year my club was caught up in the Brighton “Mods & Rockers” riots (which garnered international notoriety), not by choice but by the cut of our cloths, the machines we rode and our location but that’s another story! I first came to Canada in 1966 after experiencing many thrilling and hair raising motorcycle escapades, enough to fill a life time while riding in the UK. My old club mates told me not to ship my café racer Triumph special over to Canada “as there would be loads to choose from”, boy were they wrong! I was soon very disillusioned when I discovered that nobody rode motorcycles in Ontario, at least none that I could see! There were some metro cops riding “pie wagons” in the city and the odd gang like the “BDR’s” (Black Diamond Riders) would be seen on their occasional weekend outings but nothing on the highways. I was told that “only gang members rode motorcycles in Canada and you would be considered unsavory if you rode one”, wow, what a letdown! So I took up racing sports cars for two years until I discovered the CMA and entered into Motocross competition. This led me to road racing and riding in the late 70’s. This brings us to today’s motorcycle scene. I’ve happily observed the big increase in growth and popularity of motorcycling here in Ontario over the years, mostly from the 90’s onward. There’s a new breed of motorcycle enthusiasts who’ve found the open road freedom motorcycles have to offer. The makeup of current riders can be broken down into the following main segments: (my numbers guestimate based on my motorcycle training instructor experience.) Touring 20%, Cruising 65% and Sport Bike riders 15%. Like England in the 60’s and 70’s, today in Ontario I see some of the old riding traits with some motorcycle groups that are pushing the envelope beyond safety and creating a negative air with the general public for responsible riders! The press is calling some of these irresponsible groups “Motorcycle Mobs”! This strikes home for me because the same thing happened in the UK more than 50 years ago! I returned to the UK after many years later with my family and hunted down some of my old motorcycle haunts only to learn to my shock, that shortly after I immigrated to Canada, pressure from the police and the general public caused a new law to be enacted in the south of England that restricted group riding, wowser! This law was put in place in the late 60’s to prevent the same kind of hooligan riding we are seeing here in Ontario with primarily, sport bike, mob, stunt riding and was only removed much later in the 1990’s. So, my message is clear to these stunt rider wannabee’s, you can’t see it yet but if things get worse with this dangerous style of riding don’t be surprised if similar laws are enacted here in Ontario which would ban group riding and hurt all riders. If you want to demonstrate how good or bad a rider you are, arrange a safe place away from the roads where you can have your thrills and fun without bothering the general public. Many clubs organize such events, no one is a hero riding their bike down the highways on the back wheel, trust me, I’ve witnessed firsthand what Tarmacadam can do to a face and or body at speed, it’s not pretty! Back in the 60’s the more experienced members of our club use to bet on which newbie would be the next one to be carried off by the meat wagon, macabre you say, yes but we were usually right! There was an old saying among pilots, which we were taught to fly by during training : “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.” There but for the grace of God go I! I lived and survived that crazy era 50 years ago and I hope my words and experience sink in to the uninitiated reading this editorial. You are not invincible, “Be safe out there”. Written by Alan Masters