When I was a kid, way up north in Kapuskasing, there were two men in town who had motorcycles — that I knew of, anyway. One guy had a big Harley-Davidson and the other rode a somewhat smaller bike that might also have been a Harley but could just as easily been something else.
I can’t remember the name of the fellow with the big Harley but he dressed himself like Marlon Brando in what is considered to be the first outlaw biker movie, The Wild One. Which means he wore a black leather jacket, jeans, and a motorcycle captain’s hat. The guy with the smaller bike was René Boulianne, and he lived on Bowman Ave. He kept his cycle in a tent, and I would sneak in to watch him change the oil and perform other routine maintenance tasks.
Try as I might, though, René Boulianne would never take me for a ride. I was in awe as he would talk about riding down Hwy. 11 to Toronto and back, but that’s as close to his bike that I ever got.
Marlon Brando, though (I might as well call him that), lived in a house on Dominion Ave., that had a garage in the lane behind. I would go over and stand watch as he would fiddle with this or that on the big machine, and every now and again, he’d say, “C’mon — hop on,” and he’d drive me around the block.
I remember one Saturday morning in particular, when it was about 9 a.m., and the sun was up in the east but not very far up, and I watched our shadow dance along the side of the road as we roared along Riverside Dr. I felt like a knight riding out to do battle, and it didn’t bother me at all that someone else was driving, because I didn’t see him in that shadow, only me.
I’ve mentioned previously about learning how to drive by watching my father’s every move. Which is true, but in fact, I would be sitting behind him in the back seat with my arms stretched out along the rear of the front bench seat, pretending to be riding a motorcycle to Toronto, just like René Boulianne.
Unfortunately, as I’ve also mentioned previously, I had a near-death experience on a motorcycle when I was 16 that kind of put me off riding the things my entire life since, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t feel the stirrings of romance when I see one on the road. Or read about them. Or go to motorcycle shows and find out about everything that’s new when spring is just around the corner and another riding season beckons.
Which brings me to the point of this story today. In two weeks minus a day, the Motorcycle Shows-Toronto, presented by Dalton Timmis Insurance, will open at the Enercare Centre down at Exhibition Place, and the world’s top brands will showcase their latest technology and newest products.
The brand lineup includes (in alphabetical order): Aprilia, BMW Motorrad, Harley-Davidson, Ducati, Honda, Indian, Kawasaki, KTM, Moto Guzzi, Piaggio, Polaris, Suzuki, Triumph, Vespa, and Yamaha.
The show will open at noon that Friday, Feb. 16, and run through till Sunday afternoon, Feb. 18, at 5 p.m., with doors opening at 10 a.m., both Saturday and Sunday. Family tickets (two adults, two youths) are $42; adults (15 and over) must pay $19 to get in. Youth tickets (6-14) are $11, and seniors tickets (65 and over) are $14. All prices include HST. Kids 6 and under are free. And if you want to save $3 off an adult admission, buy your tickets online at www.torontomotorcycleshow.ca before Feb. 13.
Besides the usual attractions — and more about them in a minute — here’s something that caught my eye. It’s “She Rides Night,” and it will take place on opening night Friday. According to a release from the show spokespeople, women now make up the fastest-growing segment of motorcycling. So “She Rides Night” will be an evening of celebration for women who ride as well as for those thinking about taking up the sport.
In addition to information geared for female riders, women will be admitted for half-price after 5 p.m. that Friday (that’s $9.50) and will be eligible to enter a draw that night to win a 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS.
The three-day Toronto event is the only Ontario stop of a six-city national tour, which started in Calgary last month. Riders will be able to see the new 2018 motorcycle, ATV, side-by-side, and scooter models that will be on sale at dealerships come spring.
Said Toronto Show Manager Neil Fardy: “Our show theme is ‘Passion does not take the winter off,’ and riders will have plenty to see and do to feed their passion here at the Enercare Centre. Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, and ride on two, three, or four wheels, we’ve got you covered with the biggest and widest range of new models you’ll see anywhere in Ontario.”
There will be approximately 500 bikes on display, plus the latest apparel and accessories.
Now, moments ago, I made reference to the “usual attractions.” A release from the show contained details:
The Yamaha Riding Academy for Kids: The academy will introduce children, ages 6-12, to the world of riding, with hands-on certified instruction and riding gear provided in a 15-minute session on the latest Yamaha TT-R off-road motorcycle;
Stunt Shows: Canadian stunt riding star Craig Latimer and Toronto’s Cesare Costantini will showcase their streetbike freestyle stunt-riding prowess during all three days of the show;
Kawasaki Double Take Giveaway: Saturday afternoon, showgoers can enter to win one of two Kawasaki Z125 PRO motorcycles up for grabs in the Kawasaki Double Take Giveaway later that day;
The Ontario Provincial Police Golden Helmets: The OPP’s precision motorcycle riding team will perform exhibitions of their superb riding skills aboard their fleet of Harley-Davidson Police Specials;
Yamaha’s “How To” Demos: Clinton Smout, one of the country’s leading motorcycle training experts, will demonstrate to riders how to safely navigate challenges like riding over obstacles and gravel roads;
Vintage Motorcycles: Take a trip down memory lane and see how motorcycles, scooters, and side cars have evolved over the years, featuring exhibits from the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group and Vintage Road Racing Association.
“Canadian Kawasaki has really upped their game at the Motorcycle Shows-Toronto with the three bike giveaways, and there’s going to be a good buzz at the Enercare Centre on the Friday and Saturday of the show when the draws take place,” said show manager Fardy.
“These Kawasaki models highlight the joys of riding and are sure to put big smiles on the faces of the lucky showgoers who win them.”
I wonder whether those smiles will be as big as the ones on that Kapuskasing kid’s face when Marlon Brando took him out for rides and René Boulianne let him watch as he changed the oil in his motorcycle.
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