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 - MOTORESS Blog
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. 
Continental Circus - MOTORESS Blog
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.
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.
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!
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Visit Northern Ontario Tourism for this article and a few more links/destinations.


22 August 2013

Thanks Jerry... for the Ducati 848!

Okay, so, I own this Ducati 749 Dark. I love it-  yet I ride it less than I wish to. There are a few reasons for that one being that I've usually another bike in the garage which I’m test reviewing. Another is that I use my KYMCO scooter around town - a lot. The 749 is not an everyday motorcycle – it works well on the track. But then there are its running issues. It’s mostly the computer and immobilizer system. Sometimes it runs, but then at the next turn of the ignition, it doesn't. I’m anxiety stricken when I reach for the ignition key- will it run or will I be stuck here?  Every summer I go back and forth to my special Ducati expert mechanic (GP Bikes) where each time a challenge is resolved until the next one presents itself, usually as early as on the way home. But those are the intricacies of owning a Ducati -though my earlier Ducati’s didn't behave this way; nor did they run controlled by processors. 


On this one particular lovely Saturday, I decided to take it for a good run  so I planned a meet up with a former motorcycle student and friend. Our rendez-vous was at GP Bikes about 45 minutes east of Toronto. The Duc started up and as always when I’m on it, I’m thrilled. I love the way it performs and the rumble in its ride. I was feeling incredibly happy. After arriving at the dealership, and getting our fill of sitting on numerous Ducati’s and Triumph’s - we went outside to get on our way. I turned the key of my Ducati, and … nothing. Nothing happened! Really?, I exclaimed - again! Fortunately I was at the shop – but the day’s ride was a bust. Seeking a solution I thought, let me ask Jerry (owner) of GP Bikes for a demo bike.  Fingers crossed!




































I found Jerry in-between customers- it was a usual busy summer Saturday all around the shop. I told him of the situation and before I completed the sentence surrounding my plea, he interrupted me asking...“what would you like… a Monster? Or maybe an 848?” …I was thrilled!
In Ontario, the avail of a demo bike is not a commonality. It’s a challenge for every dealership due to the stringent liabilities and insurances (the ‘SUE factor’ in North America). In Europe, taking any bike out for a test ride, including the one you’re about to purchase- is standard practise. Furthermore, it’s not common in Ontario that a dealership have a ‘demo fleet’ so to speak such as GP Bikes has. But it seems Jerry does; providing a truly impressive investment for customer satisfaction.

Though Jerry is aware of my activities in the motorcycle industry, I’m also just a plain 'ole regular customer. The immediate ‘no questions asked’ assistance extended to me gave me an overwhelming feeling of importance and trust. It had been a long time since I’d had such a terrific customer experience. 






















So I signed the waiver, took the 2013 Ducati 848 in matte black,- coincidentally the successor to my discontinued 749-  and off we went. We rode along the Loyalist Parkway which follows a pioneer colonial route bordering the Northern shore of Lake Ontario. The area is full of winery’s and spa retreats and terrifically winding roads. We enjoyed taking a ferry across the lake and of course - I had great pleasure riding the - start every time - 848!

The day was saved by Jerry and GP Bikes, the motorcycle dealership who continue to give me all the reasons to never stop doing business with them. 

Now, about that 848… 

Visit GP Bikes and join them on facebook.

12 August 2013

International Female Ride Day – Stand up and Take a Bow

Months ago, the 7th edition of International Female Ride Day (IFRD) rumbled across the world’s planet and it was –phenomenal! Women motorcycle riders on all makes and models got on their two-wheelers (and three wheelers), rode together, synchronized on one special day worldwide for the seventh occasion of IFRD. 

It isn't until the morning of the day, that first Friday in May, when I’m about to turn the ignition key on my own motorcycle that I pause and find myself overcome by the reality of the day. This glorious moment hits me! It's International Female Ride Day - I’m overwhelmed with the reality. I imagine the ladies in Australia, in India, Cape Town South Africa, Yukon, Iceland, Russia, West to East coast Canada and all points America- doing the very same as me - gearing up to JUST RIDE. And to think I made this happen - yes, I did, I created International Female Ride Day!


Motoressing blog























As an advocate for motorcycling; for women and motorcycling, this event without a doubt allows me huge personal reward. It’s not been an entirely easy journey though, and I've had to deal with some incredibly disheartening challenges- so much so that on numerous occasions I've contemplated "throwing in the towel". The fact that I’m self employed and that this campaign is nearly a full time task but provides no income for me is a challenge all on its own- bitter sweet you could say. It’s exciting and motivating to steer while being incredibly taxing on my personal self and my company. Yet my drive proceeds - doing the best I can. Yes, I fall behind on tasks- designing the annual icon, making it available on line and in various languages, website updates, Facebook page / group / event management, tweeting, responding to hundreds of inquiries, designing t-shirts, working with the industry and associations –policing; it's incredibly fatiguing, like this long sentence!  All costs for the project are personal. But adding to it all are the battles I've faced from other women. Jealously, material theft, wordage and date disputes, copyright infringement; those who have attempted to work against the effort. These are a minority yet a reality. One year I recall many sleepless nights while I contemplated the actions I would take to protect IFRD from a powerful global brand who- since introduction - have done their best to re-brand and take credit for the event. On the other hand within guidelines, I've assisted the industry on creating special events to promote their businesses; manufacturers’ national campaigns- and assisted women’s clubs who sadly, ended up preventing other women (those who are not members) from participating in their arranged happenings. Yet, when I weigh it all out, IFRD is worth it and coincides perfectly with all the reasons my brand RaceGirl in the nineties was born, succeeded now by MOTORESS; purely for the women and motorcycling! Thousands of women around the world continue to take a role and inspire us all within this unified camaraderie. And isn't it amazing all this within a world continuously dividing us from each other? 

When I’m asked by friends and those in the motor-sport industry to stand up and take a bow for IFRD’s successes – it’s purely from a place of privilege. IFRD has allowed me the opportunity to become acquainted with – and introduce make known to the planet - the most amazing women! It’s these women who’ve demonstrated by way of their ride day participation – IFRD resonates with them too.

And me, well, I’ll be ok; I always seem to manage. And yes, next year the running’s of this world wide action will be the same- too few hours in the day, far too many demands, no sleep and budget anxiety. Yet would I trade it? Not in a million IFRD synchronized worldwide women’s ride day miles!