Canadian Motorcycle Rider

Your Canadian source for all things motorcycle!

Featured Articles - CMR_Articles_Feed
Stories about motorcycles with a Canadian perspective



Lake Superior Circle Tour

If this trip isn’t on your travel bucket list, it should be

Story by Dustin Woods
Photos by Dustin Woods and Alexe Sawicki

 
Whenever and wherever riding enthusiasts congregate and discuss the best places to ride, the old standards like the Pacific Coast Highway, Cabot Trail and Deal’s Gap come up often. I recently started hearing about another one lately that had me intrigued - The Lake Superior Circle Tour. The subject of perhaps the most famous Canadian ballad of all time, Gordon Lightfoot’s song about an ill-fated ship named the Edmund Fitzgerald and its 29 crew members warns of the peril such a treacherous body of water can hold. Measuring 82,103 square kilometres, it is the largest fresh water lake in the world and reaches 1,333 feet at its deepest point. While she can be vengeful when angry when tormented, she is also the source of unparalleled beauty. Spanning thousands of kilometres through three states and one hell of a big province, I was most certainly interested but it would take some planning and most of all, time.  After booking a week’s vacation and a BMW K1600GTL a month in advance, I finally set off during the first week of July to enjoy some long days on the open road and warm nights by the water.

Motorcycles are kind of like girlfriends; Travelling together will tell you pretty quickly if you can live with them or not. From the time I swung a let over the big BMW I knew we would get along just fine. After a decent day of riding from Toronto to the Delta Hotel overlooking the water in Sault Ste. Marie, I was still lively enough to get into some trouble at Smokey’s with the members of a Beatles tribute band called Beatles Magic who were in town to headline Canada Day celebrations the following night at the Roberta Bondar Pavillion. For a relatively small northern city, The Soo offers up a pretty solid Saturday night we quickly found out.

The next morning, rather, early afternoon, I met up with the gang from the Ultimate Northern Ontario Roadtrip - a motley crew of characters looking to track down and document the best motorcycle roads in the province. They were bragging about some of the roads they had stumbled upon recently and wanted to show off so we bombed up Highway 556 to enjoy some entertaining turns before heading for lunch at the Voyagers Lodge and Cookhouse on Batchawana Bay. The reality is that you get unique views either way you travel around the lake but I decided to go counter-clockwise so I could meet up with the UNORT gang on their ride.
Having gotten through my first couple days of riding on various roads and conditions, it still hadn’t ceased to amaze me how truly well engineered the K1600 is. Weighing in at 321 kg (708 lbs), its proportions never felt bloated since the weight is distributed low and evenly. The 160hp DOHC 24 valve liquid cooled 1,649cc powerplent is the lightest and most compact in-line six cylinder motorcycle engine in mass production and 70 percent of the torque is available at 1,500 rpm. Outfitted in Royal Blue Metallic paint with matching saddlebags and a cavernous top case that are all quickly removable, lockable and weatherproof, the Big K seems to boast every amenity under the sun. A perfect travel companion.

The next stretch of road up to Wawa and my accommodations at the Best Northern Inn offered some of the most spectacular views I have ever witnessed in my life. The last two times I had passed over the north shore it had been teeming rain, so thankfully this time I was able to truly enjoy it. After a hearty breakfast at the Kinniwabi Pines restaurant right next door to the Inn and gassing up at Young’s General Store, I had ample time to test the GTL’s cruise control. It definitely came in handy on route to Aguasabon Falls and the Terry Fox monument in Thunder Bay. Perhaps the most intuitive cruise control of any vehicle I have ever piloted, the system helped me keep my speed in check on the long stretches of smooth tarmac that are free of street lights and traffic, but not OPP. The trip also gave me ample time to play with the Multi-Controller mounted on the left handgrip that allows you to scroll though an intuitive interface that not only provides information on tire pressure and fuel economy, but also allows the rider to quickly adjust ESA II (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) settings between Comfort, Normal and Sport on the go. Throttle response can also be adjusted to Rain, Road or Dynamic settings depending on weather and road conditions. It also allowed me to easily switch between my iPod and favourite satellite radio station, Classic Vinyl while I rode. Surprisingly I could actually hear the music wearing a full face helmet thanks to the power adjustable windscreen, which also deflected a fair number of stones and bugs that would have otherwise been caught by my new visor.

After putting the bike to rest for the night in the motorcycle parking area at the Victoria Inn, I grabbed a bite at the 5 Forks restaurant with my old highschool friend Kristen who I always meet up with on my way through T-Bay. After dinner we wandered down to the waterfront where I was shocked at how it has been transformed. Astonishing strides have been taken to reclaim the area with new docks, galleries, shops, restaurants and art installations that pay homage to the shipping heritage and native history of the region. Not to mention a significant investment to restore the old CN rail station to its former glory. Every local I talked to in the area had recommended Hoito Restaurant as a must-do for breakfast the next day, so naturally I had to see what all of the fuss was about. Renowned for their traditional Finnish pancakes, I’ve become a convert and am not alone judging by how busy it was.

If you are at all interested in learning more about the areas you visit or like to indulge in a little culture from time to time, or perhaps just want a place to walk around and rest your backside, the Fort William Historic Park is definitely worth a visit. Unsure of what to expect, the experience was literally like stepping back in time to 1815. Surrounded by trained actors in period-correct costumes providing re-enactments of various activities and customs of that era, I felt like I was piloting a time machine. The feeling of being out of place didn’t stop there as I crossed the border into Minnesota down highway 61 and found that I seemed to be the only rider wearing a helmet. As it turns out, helmets are optional for riders with a full license over 18 years old in all of the US states that surround Lake Superior; Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The spectacular views of the pristine shoreline were occasionally interrupted by quaint lakeside towns like Gran Marais where you can apparently find the World’s Best Donuts.

With plenty of daylight to spare before my check-in time in Duluth, I decided to stray West from the water off Highway 61 to scratch another item off my own bucket list by visiting Hibbing, Minnesota, the childhood town of one Robert Allen Zimmerman. You likely know him as Bob Dylan. While it offered less epic scenery, Highway 16 boasted miles of smooth, sweeping curves so remote I actually started to think something was wrong at one point when I didn’t seen another motorist for about 45 minutes. Looking exactly as they did when young Bobby was still terrorizing the town, his childhood home and Highschool aren’t much to write home about but it was interesting for this die-hard fan to see where he spent his formative years and played his first gig. Rolling into the Canal Park Lodge in Duluth, I gave the Beemer a quick detail in their exclusive motorcycle parking area and wandered down Canal Park Drive. Packed with people of all ages, the former industrial area was alive with bars, restaurants and coffee shops. The sight of a margarita the size of my head led me to the patio of Little Angie’s Cantina for a bite and a couple cocktails while I enjoyed being a fly on the wall in a strange city.

July 4th saw me riding to Bayfield, Wisconsin where I celebrated the independence of our neighbours to the south with fireworks and live music on the rooftop patio of the Bayfield Inn after an incredible dinner at Maggie’s. Each and every day I witnessed the landscape slowly but significantly change and the ride up highway 41 to the Keewanaw Mountain Lodge just outside Copper Harbour on the Upper Peninsula was no different. I’d run into a couple named Mike and Linda Henderson back in Duluth who were admiring the big Beemer and told me what to expect on highway 41 and highway 26 over to Eagle Harbour but nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced. Far and away the best stretch of road I have ever ridden, I dialed in the throttle and suspension setting making the K1600 feel more like a supersport than a grand touring machine.

Over the course of the trip I passed through so many interesting towns that I wish I’d had more time to enjoy like Calumet, a National Historic Landmark District and Marquette which features a funky downtown core right on the water, not to mention the Shipwreck Museum in Paradise, MI where I could have spent a week. As I closed in on the last miles along Superior, it transformed into an almost tropical turquoise with sandy beaches. Sitting at a picnic table enjoying a cold drink in the sunshine, a gentleman who pulled in on an Electra Glide was curious about my ‘German bike.’ Reminiscent of an American Keith Richards, Jack had travelled all the way from Orlando to circle the greatest of the great lakes and was wondering where the best place would be to crush a six’er with his old lady. Despite his complete disregard for safety and decorum, he said something that stuck with me, “No wonder they call it Lake Superior, this is some of the best scenery I’ve ever seen in my 30 years of riding!”

Wrapping up the Lake portion of my ride, I crossed back into Sault Ste. Marie and spent a couple hours kicking around the Canadian Bush Plane Heritage Centre before spending the last night of my epic journey at the Carolyn Beach Motor Inn located in Thesalon, Ontario. Sitting on the beach in a Muskoka chair with a nice single malt Scotch watching an incredible sunset, I reflected on my journey and realized that we all have bucket lists whether we’ve written them down or not but most of us will never complete them. If the Lake Superior Circle Tour isn’t on your list of bike trips, it should be. And if you are wondering when the best time is to start planning your trip is, there’s no time like the present.

For more information, visit: www.ridelakesuperior.com


The Georgian Bay Circle Tour

Closer than expected, beyond your expectations
Story and photos by Dustin A. Woods

There is no more relaxing way to spend a vacation than taking a trip on motorcycle. Free from the distraction of e-mail, phone calls and various handheld devices that monopolize our time and attention, being at one with the open road allows time for reflection and refuge from the daily grind. How often do you see motorcycles parked outside of a therapist’s office? Exactly. Whether your first excursion of the season, or possibly ever, there are certain essentials that one should aim to achieve. The ideal first roadtrip shouldn’t be too ambitious but should still involve travelling a decent enough distance to get outside of your area code and comfort zone – the weekly ride to Starbucks doesn’t count.


Regardless of whether I camp or stay in a hotel, I always have a general idea of where I’ll be sleeping but leave plenty of flexibility for spontaneity and misadventure. I find doing a little research beforehand goes a long way to allowing you to learn about where to go and what to do. Unlike driving a car, you will be exposed to fatigue and the elements, so plan your itinerary and attire accordingly. Hope for the best but plan for the worst; that includes packing both raingear and sunscreen, a GPS or even a good old fashioned map, first-aid and tool kits. Better safe than sorry.

For my first trip of the season, I had a free weekend at my disposal, a 2012 Harley-Davidson Street Glide CVO and a full tank of gas. How much can you explore in between quitting time on Friday afternoon and role cal Monday morning? You’d be surprised. I did some sniffing around and found that Georgian Bay offers a surprisingly diverse selection of scenery and options for places to play and stay. It is a perfect distance because it is off the beaten path but won’t take long to get there and back. There is also plenty to keep you busy if you have more time to spend.

Being the summer solstice, I decided to take advantage of the longest day of the year by scoping out as many beaches as I could over the course of the weekend and had seen several interesting lighthouses and waterfalls I’d been told were worth a look. My goal for the first night was getting out of Toronto and ensuring I wasn’t under too much pressure to log serious miles the next day. I figured Parry Sound would be as good a spot as any and would be a big enough city to access fuel for both the bike and myself if I got there later than expected. I had stayed at the Bayside Inn several years ago when it first opened and not quite ready for prime time but it has improved by leaps and bounds to become a true diamond in the rough. After a long day of work and a few solid hours on the bike, a hot shower and one of the most comfortable beds I’ve slept on in recent memory were a Godsend. Being June, sunset didn’t occur until late in the evening so I had enough time to ride to Waubuno Beach to enjoy its colourful splendour.

The next morning I set off to check out Killbear Beach before heading North on Highway 69 to Sudbury. You wouldn’t think of such a city to top the list of beach destinations but both Bell Parks Beach and Moonlight Beach were well worth the trip. After enjoying a cold drink and some lunch, I headed west on Highway 17 then south on Highway 6 to Espanola, passing through the quaint little town of Little Current. A small town with a big heart, the main street was bustling with people out shopping, having patio drinks and even buskers entertaining passersby – something you would associate with the big city. Continuing south, the landscape abruptly changed as the smooth asphalt snaked through giant rock faces and pristine lakes one would associate with British Colombia. The scenery changed once again as I reached Providence Bay which seemed more reminiscent of the Hamptons than Ontario. Walking back to the bike after snapping pictures on the beach, a mother was trying to pull her son, who must have been five or six, away from staring at the gleaming Harley. I asked if he wanted to help me start the engine and his eyes grew as big as pie plates as he nodded enthusiastically. Asking his impatient mother’s permission, I propped him up on my lap and primed the engine, instructing him to hold the start button. As the 110 CI Screamin’ Eagle V-Twin sputtered and roared to life, he laughed and giggled maniacally, clapping his hands - a future rider no doubt. His mother seemed less impressed but I certainly made his day.

Circling Georgian Bay on the west side involves crossing the main channel between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay on the Chi-Cheemaun ferry. I arrived early so killed some time watching boats go by and enjoyed some fresh fudge from the Wigwam Gift Shoppe, which I highly recommend. The 50 km ride from South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island to Tobermory on the tip of the Bruce Peninsula takes about two hours and travels between the islands of Fathom Five National Marine Park, and passes the Imperial Tower of the Cove Island Lighthouse making you feel as if you’ve travelled to Nova Scotia even though you are only hours away from the city. Chi-Cheemaun, which I discovered means “Big Canoe” in Ojibway, is large enough to carry 143 cars and 638 passengers. I had no idea how large this ‘big’ ferry was and was surprised to see a number of transport trucks emerge from its raised nose upon docking. Spots fill up quickly so if you plan on doing the same, book early.


Being fortunate enough to have travelled all over the world, I am always amazed at how beautiful and diverse my own province is. Another reason why I wanted to visit Tobermory was the Fathom Five National Marine Park, which offers crystal clear water, grottos, and fascinating rock formations known as “Rock Pillars” like Flowerpot Island, not to mention 22 shipwrecks. Once a bustling port, Big Tub Harbour is the deepest natural harbour in the Great Lakes which offered shelter during inclement weather. Old wooden schooners, freighters and tugboats from as early as the 1800s reside in their final resting places at various depths surprisingly intact due to the frigid temperatures and lack of Teredo Worms (termites of the sea) that don’t exist in fresh water. These eerie relics serve as reminders of a time when weather forecasting and navigation were far less sophisticated and effective than they are today.

Visiting the Big Tub Lighthouse helps tell the story of the area, which is rich with nautical history and geographical anomalies. I wandered up the road to have a nice dinner at Bootleggers Cove Pub on the deck overlooking the water as the sun went down. Gorgeous. I then checked in to the ‘Adventure Inn the Bruce’ where I’d be spending the night and was able to drive right up to my room. Before I could even ask, one of the proprietors walked over with a slab of wood for my kick-stand. She pointed at her own Honda Shadow at the back of the parking lot, acknowledging that her and her husband do a fair bit of bike travelling in the off season so they know what bikers are looking for in accommodations. They were right. The close proximity of my door to the bike was especially helpful the next morning as I retrieved my rain gear from the saddlebags in the pouring rain.

Thankfully the skies cleared as I made my way to the Bruce Peninsula National Park and Lion’s Head down to Sauble Beach. Not only is Lobby’s Beachfront Restaurant right on the beach, but they also have “Motorcycle Parking Only” signs out front – always good to see. Eager to experience more unique landscapes on my way home, I decided to weave through Thornbury, Collingwood and over to Wasaga Beach, which I learned is the largest fresh water beach in the world! Tossing the hefty Hog around twisty turns down to Flesherton, I could spend a week exploring all the backcountry roads but I reluctantly headed back into the city. Although I hadn’t been gone for long, I was truly shocked at the amount of traffic congestion and aggressive tendencies of drivers that I hadn’t had to deal with all weekend. It turns out it only took me two days to become acclimatized to the slower, more relaxing pace of life.

The Georgian Bay and Grey Bruce regions have much to offer the two-wheeled traveler; wide open roads, genuine hospitality, motorcycle-friendly accommodations and destinations as welcoming as they are diverse. Whether travelling alone or with a group, the area offers something for everyone. On your next adventure, take the time to discover the regions’ incredibly unique geographic landscapes and fascinating nautical history, you won’t be disappointed. It won’t take long to discover around the watercooler on Monday morning who had the most interesting weekend either.

For more information, visit: www.visitgeorgianbay.com and www.ridegreybruce.com




Trail Tours - Offroading in the Ganaraska Forest

Trail Tours Adventures
- Offroading in the Ganaraska Forest


I'm in Ontario, it's vacation, and I'm up at 6 am. What's wrong with this picture? Nothing at all actually - The early starts is so that I make sure I find my way to Trail Tours; an off-road motorcycle school on the edge of the 11,000 acre Ganaraska forest. This off-road haven is just 20 minutes outside of Peterborough and approximately an hour from where I'm staying in Scarborough. Given my notoriously terrible sense of direction I want to give myself plenty of extra time. There's also the unknown of traffic seeing that's it's Friday and still a workday for most.

7 am - time to hit the road on my borrowed 09 Harley Davidson Fat Bob and get to the highway. Once I hit the road I'm pleased to discover that most of the traffic is coming in the opposite direction and I'm able to motor along at a steady pace. It's also very easy to get to the highway and I don't get lost. Bonus!

Just to skip the chase a little I'll say that Trail Tours is an off-road motorcycle and ATV school - with prices starting at $225 dollars you'll get outfitted in protective gear, get a dirt bike (or ATV), some training, and a have a guide and sweep rider for about 4 hours. That my friends is a great deal! Consider the expense of equipping yourself up for an off-road experience and do the math. It's a heck of a bargain.

The weather's been reasonably good the past few days but warm, and with the heat seems to also come the ever-present threat of thunderstorms and showers. We'd had some rain on Thursday which unbeknownst to me at this point would make for ideal conditions for my day in the woods on Friday - plenty of traction and no dust. Before I arrive at Trail Tours I stop at a gas station to check my directions - I'm a bit early anyway. I spot a nice KTM loaded on a trailer and take a seat on the curb close by. I figure that chances are good that its owner may be going to the same place as me. Turns out I was right - as I started up a conversation with Pat Steed and he's not only going to Trail Tours, he's going to be a sweep rider for the group I end up riding with that day. On top of it he's says that Trail Tours is very close to where we are now, and that I can just follow him in. This day is starting out on a good note for sure!

I ride up the dirt road and we come out in a small clearing at the edge of the forest overlooking a big field with a dirt track. There's some some truck trailers and a portable which serve as the on-site base of operations for Trail Tours. There's also a whole lot of dirt bikes and four wheelers. I can feel the adrenaline start surging with excitement. Oh, yes - this is going to be fun!

After parking the bike I start looking around and checking out the dirt bikes. I chat with Allan, who's been working with Trail Tours for the past 12 years, since he was 14 years old in fact. I also get a chance to talk to the owner, Steve WeyKamp. He's expecting a new addition to the family so, on this day he won't be riding with us, but I enjoy talking with him and he's obviously a great guy who's enthusiastic about what he does.

There's a small group today but I'm told that there's typically anywhere between 20 and 50 riders on a given day. A significant percentage of people who come to Trail Tours are first time riders. Corporate team-building groups are pretty common at Trail Tours too. Most of the people in our group have some road experience on a motorcycle but a minimal amount of dirt bike experience. Trail Tours have the terrain and machinery to accommodate ALL skill levels; from novice to expert.

Time to get the party started!

Everybody gets suited up in the supplied gear; boots, knee protectors, chest and elbow protectors, jersey, goggles, and gloves. There's a discussion of skill level; and whether you've ridden a motorcycle before too. This helps the instructors to group riders with those of a similar skill level.

Steve starts the day off by talking about what's in store for the day, giving the obligatory disclaimers, and a little promotion and thanks to all their sponsors. They're manufacturer supported and get new bikes regularly. The bike I end up on is a Honda CFR 230F. It's a nice air-cooled, single cylinder, 4-stroke mount that's both reliable and just the right size for navigating the trails of the Ganaraska. Sign in starts at 9 am, while the riding starts at 9 am and ends at 3 pm. That's plenty - believe me - it's enough time that you feel that you've gotten your money's worth but not so much that you've ridden beyond the point of extreme fatigue. If you're fatigued, that's when you'll start to make a lot of mistakes. You'll be sleeping fine after a day at Trail Tours. There's a break at noon for lunch (which is typically catered but we end up having some subs and sodas from a nearby sub shop). There's potable water available at the base camp too and you can grab a drink there or fill up a hydration system for the trails.

We start the day of riding off by gathering in field where they've got a circular track set up. An instructor tells us about proper stance on the bike for the various types of terrain we'll encounter. Standing up on the pegs is a typical position that helps you go over rough ground with ease. Through slippery corners, sit down and put your inside leg towards the front of the bike to get your weight forward. We also talk about small objects on the trail like logs, roots, and off-camber terrain and how to deal with them. The instructor watches us as we ride around the track and offers some each of us some personalized tips and advice.

We progress from that to riding, one-by-one, over a small log. We're given tips on throttle control, gearing, and looking ahead. Once we seem to have the basics under control and the instructors are confident - it's off to the woods. There's still some instruction to happen yet though, we practice our straight line braking. First with just the back brake, then with the front brake only, then with the front and rear combined. Stops are long and skids plentiful when using just the back. With the front it's easy to have the front wheel slide out but distances are reduced. Braking with the front and rear combined result in the quickest and most stable stops.

Once we've all given that a shot a few times it's time to practice whoops! Whoops are a series of bumps that are a lot like stationary and rounded waves. That doesn't sound overly fun inducing, but you'll have to believe me - it is definitely a good time! On a high-end and powerful bike such as the KTM the lead instructor was riding you kind of float over the whoops a bit. On our smaller bikes, which have less power and less suspension travel, the bike drops into the whoops a little more. We're told it's best to keep the throttle even throughout the whoop. It does sound like you're getting on the gas a bit harder when the suspension is uncompressed but it's not the case really. Standing is definitely the way to go if you want to have any speed.

Now that we've done a few loops of whoops it's time for the really fun stuff - it's time to be unleashed in the forest! One more quick lesson though - we're told that we'll cross many junctions while riding and it's each person's responsibility to take a quick look back at each junction to see if they can see the person riding behind them; if not, they're to stop at the junction so that the group stays together. If each person does this it saves the lead rider from having to stop the group, double back, and try to find the rest of the group. With hundreds of interconnected trails it can be difficult and time consuming so best to heed the significance of this advice. You'll spend more time riding the trail and less time sitting on it waiting if you do.

On to the good stuff:

The grin on my face is permanently ingrained at this point. I thought the good times had perhaps plateaued, that was before I experienced my first sandy berm. I now know that there are few things as enjoyable as hitting a sandy berm - inside foot extended forward (cranking on the throttle to induce plenty of wheel-spin) and sliding through a corner. I actually let out several "Yeahhhhh's" during these blissful maneuvers. Probably the most fun I've ever had on a motorcycle. I know that I'll return to Trail Tours now that my brain has triggered the endorphin rush that sandy berms provide. I must experience it again!

The Ganaraska forest is huge and the trails are ever-changing - a beaver had blocked our path with his new home at one point during the ride, but these guys know their way around the forest so well it's no issue; they just find another way around. It's shared terrain too and we come across a few other riders, and even a couple people on horseback. The fact that the trails are shared makes it important to pay attention and keep your eyes up, particularly when approaching corners or blind crests. We're told to try to stick to the right hand side of trails and be aware of other users. Good advice.

We ride on some 'easier' terrain in the morning. But after lunch we get into some more difficult and speedy terrain. There's plenty of challenges. There's sandy sections, puddles, mud holes, uphills, downhills, twists and turns, rocks, wide trails, and tough single track that you can just fit your handlebars between the trees. There's no pressure to ride above your limits but if you're quick you'll probably gravitate towards the front. There's no passing and riding is single file but each person gets a chance to take the lead should they want to give it a try.

Another really fun point in the day was a hill climb. Along the route we've taken we come across a relatively steep and sandy hill and we line up and take a shot at getting to the top. It's a bit tougher than it seems and the bike kicks up a huge rooster tail of sand in its wake. The bike floats around in the loose sand. If you look to the sides of the trail, chances are you'll end up there and have to turn around and ride back down for another attempt. Much to my disappointment I didn't make it my first try. I up-shifted near the top of the hill and lost a little momentum, then the front wheel caught a bit of sand and I climbed the bank at the side of the hill and set the bike down gently on its side. Darn! Mere feet from the summit! My next few attempts were successful though. Triumph! It was a really great feeling to get to the top. I experimented with starting in second at the base of the hill and the differences between standing and sitting.

Everybody took a few shots at the hill and most were able to get at least one successful run. It was a little more challenging on the 150cc bikes for sure. Those guys seemed to have a harder time with it.

After a bit more riding around it was starting to become clear that some of us were getting a little tired but we were on our way back to the base camp at this point so we just had to keep our wits about us for a little bit longer. Bikes were dropped and some minor spills occurred but nobody in our group got injured and all the equipment came home in working order too.

When we arrived back at base camp we lined up to be hosed down with the pressure washer. Bikes first - then us! Well, our muddy boots at least. We got the rest of our gear off and returned it to the Trail Tours folks. They take the gear and clean it up on site or send the equipment home for a more thorough cleaning. After it's all cleaned up the gear is put back for the next group of excited adventurers who'd arrive bright and early the next day. We share a few stories about the day and everybody seems to have had a great time and perhaps a little tired from an intense day of riding.

I'll be back!

Without a doubt, my day at Trail Tours was one of the most enjoyable days I've had on a motorcycle. I had a smile on my face from the moment I pulled into the parking lot to the time I left. The instructors were professional and informative, the equipment was well maintained and skill level appropriate, and the terrain is fantastic! Trail Tours and the Ganaraska forest is a short drive for millions of people. They're surely undiscovered gems for most - seriously, what are you waiting for?

Get yourself to Trail Tours - Pronto!

Check out the Trail Tours website HERE.

Here's a slideshow with all the pictures we took. Special thanks to Pat Steed who took the photo's of me. Pat and his wife own and operate Pat's Dual Sport Retreat.





Cruising with a guy named Fat Bob

Cruising with a guy named Fat Bob

5 days, 4 nights - that’s the amount of time I had with a black pearl Harley Davidson motorcycle going by the the name of “Fat Bob.” A member of the DYNA family of Harley’s, and introduced in 2008, it’s a stretched out and unapologetic motorcycle. You won't find any frilly leathers, unnecessary add-ons, seat heaters, ipod attachments and nor will you get any protection from the elements. It's just you and the road and that's obviously got some appeal judging from the abundance of Harley's on the roads.

The Fat-Bob might look strictly old-school but there are some modern touches under the skin whilst maintaining a minimalist and custom look. The cables run inside the V-shaped stainless drag-style handlebar (which are larger diameter than normal because of this). The bars are smaller diameter at the grip but the grip itself brings the diameter back out to the size of the bar everywhere else. It helps to have a large hand if you want to be able to wrap your fingers solidly around the bar.

Another example of the technology lying beneath the surface of the Fat-Bob is that if you buy the optional $440 security system you don’t even need to use a key to start this bike. Well, I should say you have to use the key to put the bike in the ignition position or as I say the 'at the ready' position but the key fob features a proximity sensor so once this is done you can put your keys in your pocket. Then, just put the dial switch in the ignition position with your hand (there's also an 'off' and 'accessories' position), wait for the electronic fuel injection whirring sound to complete its cycle, thumb the starter and the big 45 degree v-twin burbles to life. When you stop to get off, hit the kill switch, turn the ignition switch off and walk away with the key still in your pocket. The security system automatically arms. If you're leaving the bike for a while its probably a good idea to use the key to take the bike out of the 'at the ready' mode and lock the steering particularly if you're leaving it in unmonitored areas to make it tougher for unscrupulous folks to roll it onto a waiting truck. The security system includes an immobilizer in North America and and an immobilizer and siren outside that region.

Starting this big twin produces a very satisfying, deep and distinct, Harley-Davidson potato-potato rumble. That rumble resonates through a two-into-one-into-two exhaust. The exhaust is shiny chrome; there's carefully placed protective covers where your legs might easily touch featuring oval venting slots in the outer skin, purposely designed to resemble the cooling vents on a Tommy gun. It still gets a little warm though so watch yourself.

The Fat Bob comes from a line of bikes pegged between the big touring FL bikes and the XL Sportsters - the FX series. Mating the lighter front end of a XL to the FL frame produced a family of five FX bikes, renamed as Dyna's in 2006. The Fat Bob name comes from the fat 18.93 litre tank, with centre console, and bobbed rear fender.

The fenders cover up tires that HD commissioned Dunlop to produce specifically for this bike. The rear end has a beefy 180 profile tire on a 16" slotted disc cast aluminum wheel while the front is a 130/90-16 on a solid disc cast aluminum wheel. It's the front tire that really seems to stand out - it's a really fat front tire for a production motorcycle. I must say that it looks and feels right on this bike and contributes greatly to its handling and stability. I came across several stretches of highway and secondary roads with chewed up pavement. Bikes with narrower tires tend to wander on that type of surface as the contact patch tries to find the flat point on the road. Another infamous Canadian road hazard; tar snakes, are handled in stride. You can feel these imperfections but the Fat Bob just rolls right over them.

As one might expect, "Fat Bob" isn't a lightweight and checks in at 703 lbs fully fueled. But, it's pushed along by a big 96 cubic inch (that’s 1584 cc’s), air cooled engine - which does so with ease. It's good for a whopping 92 ft-lbs of torque at 3,000 rpm and mated to a 6-speed cruise drive transmission and belt final drive. Cracking open the throttle give you the sensation that you've just been launched from a sling-shot. A tough feeling to describe, but believe me - it WILL put a smile on your face!

So, you're probably wondering - how fast will it go? The answer is pretty fast, you can break the speed limit on any Canadian highway without breaking a sweat. I didn't feel the desire to try to ride fast on this bike though. The 60-100 km/hr range seemed to be a real sweet spot that the bike was more than happy to plod along at all day; I was happy to oblige, stick to the speed limits, and enjoy the ride.

It was a pleasant surprise just how nimble the bike was once under power. The big v-twin will nearly pull away from a stop with just a slow release of the clutch. The engine in this bike is larger than the one in my old Civic hatchback! So it needs to be treated with respect even though it's remarkably easy to ride. Despite its heft the bike is a breeze to maneuver at low speeds, amazingly so even. U-turns and parking lots are nothing to fear. The only time this bike is a handful is when you're trying to push it around a parking lot - so park wisely.

My loaner was equipped with forward foot controls but mid-mount controls are also available as a factory option. I've got a 32" inseam and the forward foot controls were a little bit of a stretch and during extended rides they did put my hip flexor muscles to the test. Despite the slight stretch it is a pretty comfortable position so definitely don't rule it out, especially if you've got a longer leg. The seat height of 663 mm (26.1 in) is very low and being able to touch the ground flat footed won't be an issue for just about anybody - reaching forward mounted controls would be an issue long before seat height.

From the riders perspective the seat is deeply sculpted and quite comfortable. There's support in the rear and I'd describe it as being almost tractor style in shape. With the forward mount controls, adjusting your position means you've got to pull yourself toward the front tire using the handlebars because you can't use your legs to do it. Behind the rider the seat tapers to a narrow point over the rear fender. Reports from my passenger indicate that it's not as comfortable as the rider's position. In stock trim, there's nothing for the passenger to hang on to except the rider and it's difficult to shift your weight. A sissy bar (basically a backrest) is an available option that you might consider if you regularly have a passenger, otherwise they'll have to hang on tight! A lower body massage does come standard courtesy of the v-twin rumble.

Instrumentation on the Fat Bob is excellent and packaged into a large, round, tank mounted gauge. The round gauge includes an odometer, time-of-day clock, dual tripmeter, fuel gauge with low fuel warning light and countdown feature, low oil pressure indicator light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights, and 6-speed indicator light. A discreetly placed button on the left side of the gauge lets you toggle through the display features.

The only thing missing from the instrumentation is a tachometer. It's not really an essential bit of information given the torque this motor produces. You're never too far from being in the proper gear. The 6th gear light is an especially useful feature that illuminates a small indicator when in 6th gear. That's a helpful bit of information on the highway and puts an end to checking if you've got that one last gear left. The gas cap on the left hand side has a fuel indicator while the right hand side is the one you remove to gas up. By the way, there's even a Harley-Davidson logo stamped in the steel of the inside ring of the gas tank! Harley logo's are everywhere on this thing!

Stopping power is provided by dual disc, 4-piston fixed brakes in the front, and a 2-piston torque-free floating disc in the rear. Black stainless steel braided brake lines come standard. When you're on a bike this large you need to plan ahead a little when stopping so be sure to pay attention to traffic ahead of you. Combining liberal application of the rear brake with the front keeps things level and seemed to produce the most comfortable stops for me. Don't jam on the front brakes without using the rear as well as you'll quickly overburden the front suspension.

Suspension is by way of telescopic forks in the front while the rear consists of a twin sided swing arm with chromed shocks. The suspension on my loaner wasn't tuned for my weight so comments about it could vary from your personal experience. Over rough pavement and sharp bumps the suspension seemed quite firm. Have your dealership properly set up the suspension for your weight and type of riding.

In conclusion:

My daily rider is a Honda VFR 800 - a sport touring bike - so the HD Fat Bob is obviously a huge departure. After putting about 650 km's on this bike I must say that I was a little sad to have to give it back. One gets a feeling of invincibility riding this American made motorcycle. I felt pretty cool, like I was king of the road. One thing is certainly true - it draws the attention of other motorists and people of all ages. I don't get nearly as many "Cool bike" comments on my VFR. Plus that torque and v-twin exhaust note is highly addictive. 650 km's was enough to see some of the attraction of these big cruisers - enough to know that I'll jump at a chance to ride anything Harley makes in the future.

Specs

MSRP starting at $ 19,059 for Black and $19,499 for color
2329.94 mm

- Length or a little over 7.6 feet long.
- Dry weight 303.77 kg (~670 lbs)
- Wet weight 318.88 kg (703 lbs)
- Fuel economy (claimed) 4.44 hwy / 6.92 city per 100 km's
- Torque 124.75 Nm @ 3000 rpm
- 2-year unlimited mileage warranty.


Special thanks to Harley-Davidson Canada


Roads Less Travelled - Touring Ontario: Algoma Country

Roads Less Travelled - Touring Ontario: Algoma Country
By Dustin Woods, photos by Robert Stimpson

Dustin Woods is an automotive and motorcycle journalist and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Based in Toronto where residents experience two distinct and equally frustrating seasons; winter and construction, Woods is happiest when the city fades away from view in the mirrors of a two-wheeled machine.

-----

While there are many fair-weather motorcyclists who are content to tear up the same local tarmac week after week, there are others who constantly gaze towards the horizon, ever searching out new roads that will prove more picturesque and challenging than those outside their front door. There are thousands of astoundingly beautiful, scenic routes across this great continent that await those who are willing to take the time to search them out. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained. One such riding destination exists between Lakes Huron and Superior known as Algoma Country.

Millions of years ago, during the Precambrian era, a multitude of lakes and rivers were carved out of the earth, creating unique rock formations and stunning views amidst the landscape. Much of this incredibly diverse and distinctive geographical entity remains virtually untouched, allowing a co-existence with nature unseen in most of the world.

A total of 11 National parks as well as nature and wildlife preserves span this landscape where it is not uncommon to come across foxes, deer, hawks, moose or beavers during a ride. This isn’t just tourism department PR either, as I was fortunate enough to come across much of the aforementioned wildlife firsthand during my brief experience in the area. Lacking in gridlock, road rage and even streetlights for the most part, this area has become a playground for nature and motorcycle enthusiasts alike.

There are many reasons why riders may avoid venturing too far from home; kids, pets, work obligations, or even the belief that they will have to ‘rough it’ while on the road. While enduring the lack of cleanliness in truck stop restrooms is something that is difficult to avoid during long road trips away from metropolitan centers, there are a variety of options available for lodging in Algoma Country. Whether you want to experience the pristine wilderness firsthand by camping under the stars or enjoy the indulgence of a pool, hot shower, wireless Internet and satellite television, you are likely to find accommodations that suit your needs. You won’t find a Ritz Carlton for hundreds of miles, but you won’t find the exorbitant cost or pretension that often comes with such luxury hotels either. Friendly, down to earth locals offer unsurpassed northern hospitality to the point where it is not uncommon for proprietors to open up their own homes to complete strangers when their motels are filled to the brim during high season.

An active gateway to the north, Algoma Country also offers access to eco-adventures, canoeing, kayaking and some of the finest fishing lodges in the world – that is if you ever want to get off your bike. For riders who wish to combine their two-wheeled touring with sight-seeing or outdoor adventures, there are many great places to be found. Whether you want to wait out a thunderstorm for a day or just indulge your inner tourist, Algoma Country also has many activities no matter what your interest.

The Algoma Central Railway offers year-round tours through 22,000 square miles of wilderness, including the world`s largest natural wildlife game preserve and the Agawa Canyon. Passengers witness some of the most scenic, pristine wildreness in the world, all from the comfortable cabin of a luxury train. After arriving in the Saulte following an eight hour bike ride, I decided to give my butt a break by stopping in to the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. Home to antique and historic aircraft, interactive displays and simulators, the Heritage Centre spans 25,000 square feet and can easily occupy hours of your time while waiting for rain to pass or fog to lift.

Having only a couple of days to spare in the area, we decided to tackle the Grand Circle Tour, although there are many options for routes depending on how much time you have. We ventured out from Algoma`s Water Tower Inn where we stayed in downtown Saulte Ste. Marie. While travelling by motorcycle can create a multitude of hassles when it comes to washing, storage and safety, the Water Tower Inn is no stranger to motorsport enthusiasts all year round. Located behind the grand hotel is a locking, secure storage and maintenance facility to keep machines away from the elements as well as prying eyes. Ditto for the Lakeview Hotel in Wawa.

Boasted as one of the top ten drives in all of Canada, the trip from Saulte. Ste. Marie to Wawa Ontario follows the coastline of Lake Superior along Highway 17. No two turns are the same with each one offering a new view of the great lake. Our scenic afternoon ride to Wawa (yes, we saw the giant goose) was broken up by lunch at The Voyageurs` Lodge and Cookhouse, as well as a few stops for photo opportunities and restroom facilities. After parking the bikes directly outside our private cabins at the Wawa Motor Inn, we changed out of our riding gear and headed off to the Best Northern Resort for a truly memorable meal.


Bright and early the next morning, we topped ourselves up with Tim Horton`s coffee and our bikes with gas to set out on a totally different day of riding from the day before. Where Highway 17 boasts wide open views of Lake Superior, Highway 101 towards Chapleau darts inland providing tighter turns and an equally impressive backdrop with sparkling rivers and mountain ranges. After topping up the bikes and ourselves in Chapleau, we set off down Highway 129 back towards the Saulte, stopping first in Bruce Mines and then St. Joseph Island. The most western of the Manitoulin Islands, St. Joseph Island resides within the channel between Lakes Huron and Superior and offers a combination of majestic views and small town hospitality. Home to one of the Friday the 13th destinations, the Hilton Beach Inn is often a favored destination for bikers of all kinds.

Regardless of whether you are just starting out on two wheels or are a seasoned veteran, the stunning landscape and smooth roads of Algoma Country will keep you entertained for as much time as you have to invest. The motorcycle-friendly accommodations offer high value with surprisingly little expense, which makes the trip all the more worthwhile during these difficult economic times.

So this summer, instead of doing the same old loop week in and week out, head up to Algoma Country for a change of scenery - you won`t be disappointed.