11 June 2014

Ride Around Lake Superior on a Motorcycle- You Will Love the Roads!

Vicki Gray Lake Superior

Last summer I spent nine glorious days riding a Triumph Street Triple R around the complete perimeter of the greatest of the Great Lakes - Superior. It was a brilliant experience – the combo of the bike’s performance, the roads, the wilderness – made me ever more fond of Ontario’s North. The incredible stunning freedoms we experience on these northern roads, on a motorcycle can only be best described by experiencing it yourself.  

If you’re thinking of a tour to do this summer- it’s really one that will leave you satisfied on so many levels.

Here’s my ride story…

"The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they called Gitche Gumeeeee..."! Helmet acoustics are fabulous I thought to myself, and continued to sing aloud Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". Though a tragic tale of loss, I enjoyed its catchy melody. I lifted my toe in sync with the song's rhythm, tipping the Triumph into sixth gear and still further along the wood-lined road to its hilltop. I rode on past the parking lot and along the foot path to the monument's base. I turned off the bike, dismounted and walked toward the towering one-legged bronze man, runner Terry Fox. It was here, 18 miles from Thunder Bay in 1980, his Great Marathon of Hope ended. I walked over to the look-out deck, and to the panorama of Lake Superior and Thunder Bay. I could see from where I'd ridden and to where I'd ride.

This was the furthest North in Ontario I had ridden…

19 January 2014

My Little "Hoek" Amidst Authors of the Great - "Continental Circus: Races, Places, the People and the Faces"!

For the past two years I’ve kept a secret. I’ve been editing a most exciting book project which was just recently published- “Continental Circus: Races, Places, the People and the Faces". It’s a priceless assembly of images and their stories by Dutch photographer duo Jan and Hetty Burger and my close friend, well known Dutch motorsport journalist Frank Weeink. Frank transformed into words the tales accompanying Jan and Hetty's astounding photos. Truly an amazing collection! There’s no question it’s a “must have” for any motorcycle race enthusiast or racing fan.
Continental Circus
From 1970 until 1976, Jan and Hetty Burgers were part of the so-called Continental Circus that crossed borders and travelled from race circuit to race circuit. Their pictures were published in magazines all over the world. Jan not only took excellent action shots but he and his wife Hetty were also fascinated by everyday life in the paddock. Their cameras documented the racing community which shared a passion for racing, but away from the limelight- paddock life could be tough and cruel for riders and their families. Jan and Hetty made friends and lost too many along the way. 
When Jan and Hetty left the Continental Circus their pictures were shelved in the attic and it wasn't until two years ago after meeting up with motorcycle journalist and TV commentator Frank Weeink, the idea for the book emerged - a book in which they wanted to not only portray the action on track but life around it. More than 6,000 photos, many forgotten but rediscovered, made it to the first selection and over 400 of them finally made it into the 192 page book. All-time greats like Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read, Jarno Saarinen and Barry Sheene are featured, as are more than 20 crowd favourites like Johnny Cecotto, Kenny Roberts, Jack Findlay, Tom Herron, Dave Simmonds and Teuvo Länsivuori. As they intended, the book also hails the often unseen heroes - the mechanics, the wives and the girlfriends while taking the reader on a tour to iconic tracks like Spa-Francorchamps, the Nürburgring, Hockenheim, the Salzburgring and Montjuich. On top of that, the book features chapters on crashes, sidecars, Formula 750 racing and legendary bikes from MV Agusta, Yamaha and Suzuki.
vicki Gray Blog MOTORESSING
This trio’s collective effort has made for a unique “Best of” motorcycle racing book painting a sometimes touching, frequently revealing, and always spectacular picture both on and off track -throughout the early and mid-seventies.
Vicki Gray Motoressing Blog
It was an enlightening works for me - I certainly learnt a lot (which is always the case when I hang out with Frank!) as will you when you get your copy. It’s a superb contribution to motorcycle racing’s history through the combined talents of Jan, Hetty and Frank.

A special thank you to Frank for getting me involved; and my sincere admiration for the combined talents of Jan and Hetty - and Frank's superb, always entertaining writing!

...of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t feel terribly privileged in having my name noted in the book ...my "little hoek (corner) amidst the great Continental Circus!"

Order yours here, it really is - a treasure!

30 September 2013

Ride Manitoulin - A Motorcyclist's Wonderland

Vicki Gray Ride Manitoulin BMW F700GS

As any voyager knows, the secret to truly experiencing any destination is by following the lead of its inhabitants. This was certainly the case for the eleven of us, each on our own dual-purpose motorcycles, as we followed Ride Manitoulin’s adventure ride expert, Steven Fox-Radulovich. Steven lives on Manitoulin and has been riding a motorcycle on it much longer than any of us—in fact, all his life. He knows his way around. One brief turn off the main road and he leads us onto an entirely different landscape that we’d never have discovered otherwise. The feeling of being up on the pegs of my BMW F700GS, weaving the bike over the packed dirt road accented by sand, mud puddles and gravel, all amidst canopied woods --simply thrilling! And when the dirt road ended, opening up to a clearing, the surface changed to the island’s core of blackened limestone. We rode across it to Lake Huron’s edge and let the water lap against our tires. At this point, our cameras all came out–not one of us intended on missing this chance to record an incredibly splendid scene. “Yes, this is riding Manitoulin!” 

The Ride Manitoulin Rally came about three years ago and right from the get-go it’s been given the double thumbs up by thousands of its attending motorcycle enthusiasts. Manitoulin is the world’s largest freshwater island, situated where the Niagara Escarpment meets the Canadian Shield, resulting in a ride environment unlike any other—and a terrain that satisfies all forms of motorcycle riding. So, if Steven’s Adventure Ride is not your preference, take a ride to Bridal Falls. Enjoy the sweeping turns along the way and a cool dip under the falling water when you arrive. Maybe choose the ladies’ Art Gallery Tour (men welcome) or take a ride to Gore Bay for lunch at Buoy’s Eatery along the waterfront. Here, locally caught whitefish and famed freshly-made pizzas will more than satisfy… and certainly enhance the fit of your motorcycle pants! Be warned, appetites run wild here!
Group Ride Vicki Gray Manitoulin

By the end of the event’s first day, Providence Bay’s usually empty football field has transformed into row upon row of motorcycles. It’s here, at the registration booth, that we first received our initial impressions of the event—a big, old-fashioned, “You’re part of the family!” welcome. It’s here that visiting riders meet folks like rider Lydia, a local school teacher, or Jenn, who had personally sewn each of the headbands found in the ladies’ ride goodie bags. Brian, from the Lion’s Club, and other personable volunteers from the community were also on-hand. And like these folks, at the heart of Ride Manitoulin lives a good cause: revenues generated are returned to the community and this year, will be given to the Manitoulin Family Resources Food Bank and CNIB Eye Van.

Alongside the usual biker rally activities—poker runs and games, this event steps it up to include rider training, which can help to improve everyone’s motorcycle riding experiences. As it happens, this is how my attendance as a motorcycle and motorsports instructor came about. With similar goals to the Adventure Ride, my workshops and particular exercises were designed to partner with Manitoulin’s ride environment, enhancing the overall ride experience. The workshop on push-steering and off-set steering, for example, was a direct response to the island’s fast-sweeping corners, blind hills and wood-lined, visibility-challenged turns. Advanced braking technique sessions were also prompted by the inevitable encounters that one is bound to have sooner or later with the island’s dense deer population. Manitoulin’s roads offer a superb environment to hone all of these rider skills, which can in turn be utilized to provide for greater ride enjoyment in the future.

When the Ride Manitoulin rally is over, the sail back to the mainland on the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry provides a final dash of spark to the island’s unique charms. Standing deck-side with the motorcycle safely fastened in the ferry’s cargo hull, I gaze affectionately towards the disappearing Manitoulin over the ferry’s stern. It’s then that I feel not only revived but above all, satisfied—having experienced a ride that you just won’t find anywhere else. A place I’ve fondly named, the motorcyclists’ wonderland!
Visit Northern Ontario Tourism for this article and a few more links/destinations.