Adventure and Motorcycling’s Changing Mosaic

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BMW R1200GS Adventure: A is for AdventureLoafing along through Ontario’s cottage country I have a Stuart MacLean moment.  There are a lot more Canadian flags here, displayed on flagpoles sprouting from houses or springing from lawns like an outgrowth of nationalism.  Astride the R1200GS Adventure, bumbling along, sitting upright and taking in the world you notice little differences – hints that Canada is still the cultural mosaic rather than melting pot.  A good metaphor for motorcycling if ever there was, but of late the composition and pattern of mosaic has been undergoing a change.

We don’t often pick a theme for a month here at OWD; the downfall of the Internet is that editorial tends to be more a mad dash chase than schedules and plans.  Happy happenstance sees us out on a spectrum of adventure touring bikes of late; not a random event so much as regression towards the mean thanks to the growth of Adventure touring’s prominence.

One could argue that Canada is pushing out the sportbike.  Our eleven days of ride testing in Toronto was done under the shadow of Ontario’s racing laws, a $10,000 fine for those caught exceeding the speed limit by 50kph and a vehicle seizure of up to a week.  Sneeze and you’ve exceeded that on a modern sportbike.

Here in BC our road racing laws are equally harsh, threatening license suspension and impoundment of vehicles if a police officer believes you are racing.  You don’t even need to be “racing” with another vehicle.

BC’s insurance rates aren’t peachy, but Ontario’s are designed to cripple riders financially.  No shock many riders we spoke to have left or are leaving the sport.  Bikes were a sparse sight through Ontario despite a fabulous run of weather.  Canada is a small market though, and if sportbiking were legislated to death here it would only be a blip on the global radar of companies like Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki.

So where do you use your race-rep?  The GTA is a collection of straight lines and congestion until you’re out of the city by an hour’s ride.  Vancouver is riding heaven by comparison, despite diminishing motorcycle friendly territory as the preparation for the 2010 Olympics sees the Sea to Sky dumbed down for SUVs to lumber through at 130kp with impunity.

Indeed, the RCMP and ICBC openly targeted motorcyclists in an April crackdown.  According to The Province newspaper, It was an $80,000 campaign of enforcement that completely ignored rider education beyond the usual “speed kills” advertising.  How many lives would be saved if that money were poured into a graduated licensing system to groom and train a new crop of responsible riders?

Speed kills yes, but by extension so does the licensing system and lack of rider training ICBC perpetuates.

Penalized for choosing the wrong vehicle, no wonder more riders are opening their horizons to adventure, with motorcycling’s mosaic becoming more interesting for it.

How tempting is blasting along enforcement minimal back roads shattered by frost and erosion?  Exploring the web-work of dirt roads that is Canada proper? Bimbling along taking in the sights in ergonomic comfort?  The challenge of learning new skills off road?  And the grins produced by showing up the occasional sportbike?

At that point society’s knee-jerk reaction against motorcycling becomes an irrelevant drive to turn the road going mosaic to a melting pot of mediocrity.  The importance of Adventure Touring is it’s the rebirth of motorcycle as travel and escape.

Dismounting the R1200GS Adventure I get a subtle science-geek thrill.  We’re on a glacial-sculpted bulge of Canadian Shield, the (if I remember grade seven correctly) first part of continent to be untouched by sea since it’s elevation.  Growing up on the west coast, you don’t really expect to be standing on such trivia.  The changing complexion of riding opens the world in restrained and unrestrained ways – reading Long Way Round on the plane out drove the latter home.

We plan to embrace change so in the coming weeks OneWheelDrive.Net will survey a number of “adventure tourers” spanning Honda’s 2008 Varadero, the road oriented Triumph Tiger 1050, and the world-lapping comfort of the BMW R1200GS Adventure.  All that will be chased up with a more sweeping exploration astride a KTM 990 Adventure and 950 Super Enduro… both with hard luggage.

Yes, you read correctly a Super Enduro with hard luggage.

Before that though, Google Earth and I need some quality time.  Route suggestions are always appreciated, but I’m thinking north looks good.  I like north, it has a nice round sound to it.

Neil Johnston

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