Category Archives: The Open Road

Sets me Free. My Motorcycle and Me.

Motorcycle.
And Me.

I grew up smallest in my class. Being the little guy came with a slew of problems, the worst being the target of the class bullies. Needless to say, 9 year-old me wasn’t a big fan of recess,
especially since I preferred drawing pictures and writing stories to organized sports. In fact, athletics was a struggle for this
skinny kid providing more fuel for the ire of the mean boys.

(and some girls ~ I have the scars to show for it…)

My moments of true happiness occurred riding solo on my purple Baycrest hi-rise bike. It had one speed, a banana seat, and the crank creaked when you pedalled hard. I would ride it all day, away from the projects where my immigrant family lived, through a paved path that crossed the hydro field. Taking this path flat out, feeling the wind in my hair, whistling in my ears as I sped to no destination in particular.

How I loved that bike. On 2, I left behind the taunts and fists of the bullies.

Pedalled away from the pressures of getting good grades, and from the rough-and-tumble existence that came with the everyday in an assisted-housing neighbourhood.

On 2, I found me.

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Not the purple person mover, but my second bike – a Crappy Tire faux motorcycle special with front and rear shocks. That’s my bro and sis on their bikes in our Ontario Housing back yard.

Fast-forward three-odd decades and the skinny kid was all grown-up, with a career in design being his everyday. My purple Baycrest was a distant memory, left behind by adulthood,
replaced by responsibilities…and bills, bills, bills of all kinds.
I was no longer bullied, but the drudgery of everyday life became a new challenge.

I now had a big-boy 21-speed bicycle, but it was totally utilitarian – used to navigate the crazy downtown maze to get to work and back.

As an emerging photographer, I realized that I needed a more
efficient way, though equal in utility to get around the urban
tangle of Toronto to photo gigs. I Iooked into getting a small scooter – nimble in traffic, with the advantage of free street parking.

Settling on a rickety 150cc scoot, hitting the streets for the first time gave me a pleasant surprise.

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As I built up speed, the wind in my hair and whistle in my ears brought back the good memories and feelings of freedom that I associated with my purple bicycle. It was back – the peaceful bliss of being solo on on two wheels. The buzz of the motor
replaced the creak of the crank, but nevertheless it was back!

Happiness. Big ear-to-ear grin.

Another few years pass, and I’ve graduated to a full-sized motorcycle, faster, more powerful and providing me with the freedom the open road brings. Now I create pictures and write stories about motorcycling and am a part of a community of enthusiastic riders.

Most importantly, it all can be distilled into that feeling.

Of bliss. Wind-in-hair. Whistle-in-ears.

On 2, I’ve found me again.

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My first scoot Toulouse. As in “parts started falling off a week after I bought it.”

A Year Ago Today: It Was Very Easy Being (Kawi) Green

Facebook reminded me today of what I did a year ago. I had the opportunity to shoot Kawasaki’s new lineup On2 in Cayuga, courtesy of Ms. Motoress. Though the day was cold, windy and grey, I was really happy with the pics I took and best of all, I got to meet a whole sle read more

Merry New Year!

Biker New Year, that is…

Another season, another bunch of opportunities to enjoy LifeOn2! (At this moment’ I’m writing this on a sidewalk patio on St. Clair West, enjoying a glorious late-May day)

After a mild winter, I had my hopes up for an early spring. March was getting even warmer, so I decided to wake the scoot, which promptly started on the first crank.

A short ride to Crappy Tire for bikestuffs was then in order for me and my scooterpal Shelli. After ironing up a few bugs on the scoot, it looked like the start of a long season!

Mondo Shelli Crappy
Crappy Tire Run!

Then, April came. And didn’t go quickly enough.

Snowbound TMAX 500
Grrrr!!!!

Had a quick fix one miserably rainy day, thanks to The Motosocial and BMW Motorrad’s indoor shindig/gallery show, where I could straddle some beauties without freezing my bits off.

Straddling The R-Ninety
The MotoBoner™ Toronto!

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May The 4th Be With Us!

May the 4th was definitely with us, as Toronto’s riding season was unofficially kicked off by the inaugural MotoSocial for 2016. Motosocial Toronto happens on the first Wednesday of the month, and rotates between indie coffee shops to provide a fresh perspective for each iteration(and not regularly annoying the neighbours with all the vroom vroom).

Beasties Of All Shapes
Beasties Of All Shapes
A Row Of Italians
A Row Of Italians
Dark Horse Coffee
Dark Horses could not drag me away. Their pizza ovens did, however.

Hundreds of bikes took over a long stretch of industrial Geary Avenue. In addition to having Dark Horse Coffee and Grown Design as hosts, organizer Viktor Radics went big, treating us to food trucks and even a live band, Le Trouble, hailing all the way from Montreal.

Our usual suspects were there, including Treadwell and the brand-new spanking bike mag, Fast Times. You still could smell the ink!
Our usual suspects were there, including Treadwell and local, brand-spanking-new bike mag, Fast Times. You could still smell the ink!
Of course, Popo was there to watch over us midlife crisis hooligans...
Of course, Popo was there to watch over us midlife crisis hooligans…
Nova Era Bikers
Local Portuguese Bakery Nova Era stayed open late as I kept sending bikers over to try the Tosta Mista.
This kinda Trouble is lots of fun!
This kinda Trouble is lots of fun!

Par for the course, bikers of different breeds parked their steeds, mingling the tribes like never before. Harleys, beside sportbikes, beside ADVheads, vintegers, sidecareenists and scootergirls.

Old BMW Boxer
Veteran Of The Boxer Matches.
Slow And Low, That Is The Tempo
Slow And Low, That Is The Tempo
Ural sidecar rig
Sidecareenist among the two-wheelers.
The Coach™ Vespa.
Riding Coach™ is much more swank on a Vespa.

Between the Motosocial, International Female Ride Day, and Port Dover Friday The 13th, May shaped up to be a great month to be On2. Can’t wait to see what June brings!

EatSleepRider!
EatSleepRider!
Wouldn't be a MotoSocial without El Guapo...
Wouldn’t be a MotoSocial without El Guapo…

Have an amazing and safe season, folks!!!

The Bug On Two: I Probably Think This Song Is About Me. And My Motorcycle, Of Course…

A few months ago, my buddy Duncan posted a poem on Facebook and tagged me. To my surprise, it was about me and my former life in Aurora, and my rides to and from.

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Our man of the world is our Mondo
he used to wind up Aurora wilds
over hills he’d go
on the rural routes of Aurora roads
hawks soar slow caws go crow
over the ridge he’d winge in wind
he wound the sound of life on two
wheels and life spins round the movement
neverending

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Reconnecting into flows that flow in
traffic on Aurora road all you need’s
a wheel and off to life you go

And just like any of us he could
be hit by a truck as into life he steers
past cows who cud the bray
and while their summers away

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The bug on two rolls on and life
winds wounds that wind atop
and under rolls of goings-on
and apple groves and emptied chapels
on the roads that flow and finally roll
along Aurora Road.

~ Duncan MacDonnell, AKA Doc Pickles, 2015

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It’s since turned into a song. As if I wasn’t vain enough…

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My Motorcycle Life : Pride On Two Wheels

The Best Way To See A Parade Is To Ride It!

(originally published on Ontario Travel’s Moto Blog in 2014)

Heidi Giblon is an artist, a teacher, and a rider. In 2008, she walked into a scooter store and rode out with a Piaggio Fly 150. Like many of us on two wheels, her spur-of-the-moment purchase changed her life. Bitten by the bug, her bikes got bigger and better, as did her rides. She now alternates between her Honda VLX 600 and her BMW f700GS.

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Every year, Heidi’s biggest rides occur in late June/early July with the coming of Pride Weekend. Joining an assortment of lesbian and trans bikers in leading both the Saturday and Sunday parades, she truly is in her element of rubber, grease and gasoline. To mark her sixth year of participation, Heidi has these words on the parades’ personal importance:

“Riding in the Dyke March allows me to publicly express my solidarity with other women and LGBTQ riders who share similar values as I do. I am proud of how far our city has come in accepting the diversity of people that Toronto embraces. The Pride Parade has allowed me to celebrate unconditionally the woman, lesbian, artist, and motorcycle enthusiast that I am. At 50 it’s about time!”

Since the very first Toronto Dyke March in 1996, Dykes on Bikes have been at the forefront of the parade, revving up excitement within the throngs revelling on the sidelines. This year was special – Toronto was hosting World Pride and there was extra cause to celebrate.

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 Armed with a media pass, my plan was to shadow Heidi and her cohorts and take photographs of their progress along the parade route. With my partner Sara as second shooter, we hopped on my trusty Aprilia scooter and rode with them to the staging area, where a staggering number of gaily-decorated bikes were already lined up. Cruisers, sportbikers, vintage riders, trikies and a few “Fruits On Scoots” were representing, with the Detroit chapter of the official Dykes On Bikes MC riding the farthest, just to be in the parade.

 

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The air was electric, with nary a biker complaining of the heat and humidity the day had brought. Everyone was mingling, wisecracking and wishing “Happy Pride!”

 

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Being a straight male, I was warmly welcomed as a fellow rider. Right before the parade started, my new friends surprised me by inviting me to ride with them, an honour which I readily accepted. With Sara shooting pillion, we captured moments from a rider’s vantage point—rarely-seen by the media’s photographic eye.

 

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Led by the Amazons Motorcycle Club (the oldest lesbian biker club in North America, according to an article in Xtra! Magazine), the bikes started with a roar. Kickstands up, we fell into formation, horns honking and engines rumbling…

 

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As we turned onto Bloor Street, the staggering magnitude of the parade hit me—people as far as the eye can see! Allies, family members and well-wishers screamed their approval as we slowly rode by. It was a scorcher of a day, so those in the crowd with super soakers became our fabulous saviours!

 

Riding close to the front, I could hear Heidi bringing up the rear as she bumped the rev-limiter on her Honda to rile up the crowd. We stopped a few times to let the other 12,500 people in the parade catch  up. Dismounting, we high-fived the crowd, posed for pictures and hugged passers-by. Starting up again we travelled down Yonge Street, between a wall of people 15-deep cheering us on. At parade’s end, I realized that I had never participated in anything so big and so joyful before – truly a highlight of my motorcycling life so far.

 

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All in all, it was the best of times. I’d made new friends, reconnected with old ones, and gained first-hand insight into a subculture of a subculture. We’re all not that different, and it’s human nature that a shared passion like motorcycling can bring everyone together.

 

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Thanks Heidi for letting me tag along, and opening another door to new adventures in riding.


If you feel the need for more hi-octane adventures on two wheels, and the lure of skimming snow-covered trails, ride on over to my pals at  http://whataride247.com 

From Dust To Dusk And Beyond : Freedom Machine!!!

(originally published by Ontario Tourism on whataride.com)

Freedom Machine: (frēdəm_məˈSHēn) n. a conveyance that leads to a carefree feeling, through tangible factors – tactile, aural and olfactory. eg. wind-in-hair, roar of engine, smell of oil and gasoline.

We all have attachments with our various Freedom Machines. For some, it’s all about truly making them their own by adding, reducing, bending, chopping, replacing…

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So, when I first heard about the First Annual Freedom Machine Custom Motorcycle show from my pal Paul Dutra of Back Alley Moto last winter, I was intrigued. He was tasked with transforming a barn-found Honda CB750 to give away at an event which was a short ride from the GTA. Summer couldn’t come soon enough as I saw Paul put the finishing touches on the giveaway bike, with help from other participating builders and vendors, as they donated parts and labour to the build.

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I was thrilled when Freedom Machine invited me to display some of my motorcycle-themed photos and shoot the event, with full access to all the bikes and their builders.

On a perfect July morning, I packed up my photo gear and sleeping bag, straddled the scoot and rode northwest towards Durham, Ontario.

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The 400 was a slow-moving caravan of cottagers, so my decision not to slab it proved to be wise. I decided to take the fun way, and I was rewarded with a nice, twisty ride through Hockey Valley, Creemore and beyond. The thrill of riding new roads is always electric and I meandered, got lost, discovered and ended up having a nice lunch in Markdale, just down the road from the Freedom site.

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And what a sight the site was!

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Formerly a family-oriented dude ranch, Frontier Ghost Town was the perfect spot, its faux-western setting providing the perfect tableaux to host a gathering of metal steeds. It was creativity unbridled! The first few customs started rolling in before noon, and they kept coming…

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At the saloon, the feature builders’ custom bikes lined up at the trough, hailing from all over Southern Ontario:

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First Row, Left To Right: James Bloomfield, MotoArt Culture – Toronto  |  Kyle Green, DG Custom Cycle – Aylmer  | Mick Ackermann, ACP Customs – Hamilton Second Row, Left To Right: Rob Cloutier, Bullitt Custom Cycles – Acton  | Paul Dutra, Back Alley Moto – King City | Jason Parker Race Cars – Brampton Third Row, Left To Right: Cameron Bateman RoMoto – Toronto | Yasir Muhammed, Karachishop Yasir – Toronto | Adam King, Black Horse Cycle – Allenford

By mid afternoon, there was a long lineup of bikes at the entrance. Garage-built custom choppers, bobbers, trackers and cafes kept pouring in and were told to take their rightful places in Ghost Town. Stock rides filled the back lot, their owners enjoying the custom show – I’m sure seeds were planted as to what they wanted their next bike to be!

Crazy Customs

Lots to see and do beyond gawking at bikes and talking builds: rocking out to the bands on the patio, shopping for bike-related swag and throwing axes, courtesy of the BATL folks.

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My photos were displayed outside, taking up the whole side of the weathered barn, amidst wagon wheels and horseshoes.

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And where else would you be able to win a hand-built beauty with the price of a $20 admission? When it came time to raffle off the giveaway bike, the excitement was palpable. The hush when the winning ticket was read turned into excited shouts – at least from winner Jason Beanger from Port Elgin. Running through a gauntlet of back claps and congrats, he presented himself front-and-centre and promptly straddled his new acquisition.

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The sun set on Frontier Ghost Town to the sound of Rockabilly champs The Greasemarks inside the saloon, the seeming end to a perfect day.

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But the day wasn’t done as we decided to accept an invite to kick back in Chewyville, a community within a far corner of Frontier Ghost Town. The night became more surreal as we gathered round the bonfire, singing songs, dancing to classic tunes and generally getting happy with the Chewyville regulars, Freedom Machine organizers, vendors and guests well into the early morning.

Tutu Girl

For an inaugural event, the Freedom Machine Custom Motorcycle Show was a resounding success. Perfect concept, perfect venue, perfect execution, and best of all, perfect roads for the ride to and from. I made sure I did some more exploring on the way back, and can’t wait to ride that way again, next time with a friend-or-three.

 

Click here for more photos from this amazing event.


If you feel the need for more hi-octane adventures on two wheels, and the lure of skimming snow-covered trails, ride on over to my pals at  http://whataride247.com