Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I visit a wizard, and go for a second group ride

When I interview you, one of the questions I ask is whether you are a solitary rider or don't mind riding in a group. It seems like a simple question, yet for a rider, it makes all the difference.

Group riding is a special kind of riding that is as different from commuting or fair weather solo pleasure riding as can be.

For one thing there is camaraderie, but that is not the key difference. The key difference is that riding in a group requires discipline and organization. Think Canadian Snowbirds (no, not Florida couch potatoes), or those group parachute jumps, or synchronized swimming, but not quite so demanding. Yet, for most more or less ordinary folks, group motorcycle riding is about as complex and demanding a road adventure skill as they are likely to encounter. It's a little challenging for humans. Oddly, insects, birds and fish do the most amazing stunts of coordinated flying and swimming and no one seems to get hurt. And yet we routinely disparage them (bird brain!). Silly humans.

Managing a group ride and making sure it's enjoyable for all concerned, means doing it safely. Doing it safely means that every single rider in the group needs to be singing from the same choir book, reading the same sheet music. It's an art really.

Last Sunday morning, for only the second time in my life, I participated in a group ride. If you are curious about my first group ride, click here.

Sunday's ride was the first group ride for the Toronto Moto Scooter Club for the 2016 season. The ride was scheduled to depart from the parking lot next to the Tim Horton's restaurant at Leslie and Steeles shortly after 11:00 a.m. More about that later.

I set out bright and early because I was meeting a wizard for breakfast. I needed to get to the restaurant located southeast of our townhouse, on Laird just south of Eglinton by 8:00 a.m. Ed Thomas is the wizard of whom I speak. OK, Ed's not really a wizard, at least I don't think he is. I say he's a wizard because... well, judge for yourselves.

Outwardly Ed seems plenty normal. Tall, slim, greying hair, and overall, a handsome appealing individual. But here's the thing: Ed has a space quite unlike any other I have been privileged to see. I think I understand ten percent of what happens, or what might someday happen, in Ed's space.

It's part Fingal's cave, part Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, and part Batcave and Fortress of Solitude, all mixed together with nuances of steampunk. Or maybe it's a kind of non-weaponized version of Q's 007 R&D lab. It's hard to grapple with. Ed's retreat is behind that little awkward nondescript door to his right in the photos above. Parked to his left is a 60cc Puch motorbike that Ed received as a gift from his father when he was 14. He still has every motorcycle he has ever owned. Now that's a fun fact.

When Ed gives you a tour of his creative space, it causes your jaw to gape with wonder. It's crammed with really cool stuff that allows Ed to pursue his many hobbies,
from woodworking, to problem solving, to printing, to motorcycle maintenance, to leatherwork to... well the list is a long one, and there was a lot for me to absorb in the short time we had. Ed was the designated tail gunner for the fast approaching group ride, so being late to the meet up wasn't an option.


Making the space do everything Ed needs it to do means being very creative. That's right in Ed's wheelhouse. The floor space alone would never suffice. So Ed has a mezzanine of sorts. Tucked away in a corner of the mezzanine is Ed's high performance work station, complete with scanner, printer, hard drives, console, the works. Also tucked away on the mezzanine is Ed's Puch motorcycle. It's been up there for a couple of years waiting for its crankcase seals to get the attention they require. In addition to the really cool tools, there is an espresso machine, and enough kitchen gear and cooking implements to allow Ed to entertain guests in style. If you're wondering how the motorcycle got up to the mezzanine, Ed has rigged a traveling electric hoist with a lifting capacity not too far shy of a half ton.


Another fun fact about Ed's workshop that would amaze my wife, is that it is virtually dust free. Ed has designed and installed an industrial air handling system with massive aircraft grade filters and a capacity in cubic feet of air per minute that no vacuum cleaner that we have ever owned can match.

When I was making my way back down from the mezzanine I brushed up against some machinery and made a mental note to dust myself off once I was back down. Ed saw me about to go through the motion. He looked at me with that look a wizard will give you after performing some subtle little magic trick. There's no dust! 

It's quite possible that Ed is actually able to do anything he sets his mind to with the facilities he has managed to cram into this tiny space. It never fails to inspire me when I am privileged to cross paths with someone like Ed. He knows what he wants, and he goes after it. Plain and simple. It's humbling when you meet someone like Ed because it makes you think about your own life and what you have accomplished. I think I'm OK... just.

I could go on and on, and post more photos, but this little article is no longer little.

It was time to hit the road. We had been joined by Karen and Jack and the four of us headed out to the Tim Hortons.
 
The group that gathered for this outing turned out to number seventeen riders. Remember I mentioned the importance of organization? The first item of business was dividing the group into two, each with a ride leader and a participant riding sweep, or tail gunner as the sweep is often called. The overall leader was Dan, and he briefed all the riders to make sure that everyone understood staggered double, and single file formations, as well as the hand signals the leader would use, and that all riders were encouraged to pass along as they were received. There are many such signals, but the core seven or eight signals are the ones every rider in the group really needs to know.

That's Dan in the blue shirt on the left
This ride was relatively short, about an hour out, and an hour back. The destination was the Stouffville (my son later informed me that it's pronounced stoville) and the Coach House Pub. Along the way I managed to snap a few photos for posterity.



Lunch at the Coach House was traditional pub grub, and excellent grub it was!


Among the folks I met was Wally. Wally introduced himself to me at the Tim Horton's. Wally had been following my blog since he hosted Stephanie Yue last July on her epic North American tour. You can read about that here. I look forward to getting to know Wally better over the course of the summer.

After lunch we hit the road again and headed south back to Toronto, but not before circling Musselman Lake. I shot a bunch of photos, but there was some kind of fat-fingered malfunction, and none of them survived.

I always learn something whenever I ride. This group ride was no exception. I learned something about the lay of the land north of Toronto. In my mind it was just an endless grid of long straight flat roads intersecting for miles northward at perfect right angles. Not so, I am very pleased to report. There were rolling hills and twisty roads, and a lake and a pond or two. Even a beach, and cottages, and other summery scenes. Who knew? Apparently most people, but not me.

All in all, a very productive and thoroughly enjoyable ride with a great bunch of people.

Can't wait for the next one.

8 comments:

  1. Splitting the large group, 17, into 2 groups was an excellent idea. I've been part of larger than say 10 motorcycle group rides and found the experience chaotic and unenjoyable...hence my penchant for solo riding or with less than 5 fellow riders.

    Yep, organization is key but I've found most folks tune out the instructions and plan to just "follow along" with the group, sheep mentality as it were.

    Large group rides let one experience the yo-yo effect, as the main body expands and contracts along. Not something I found desirable as you spend all your time minding the riders near you.

    The main point I have about group rides though, if you stop for pictures, the whole group stops to wait and one is left feeling he's interfering with everyone else's experience.

    Still, some folks like them, group rides. You're fortunate to have a good ride captain and sweeps.

    We Uralisti also use an experienced hand in the sweep position, if only to ensure all the rigs that went out, come back! :)

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    1. Dom I think that you're right and the sweet spot is ten riders to a group, and then stagger the group departures so that one doesn't run into the next.

      It worked out really nicely for this ride and discipline was observed by all participants, as those photos can attest.

      It helps immensely that the captain and the sweep at a minimum are in touch over their headsets.

      Interestingly, the headset I encounter more than any other is the Sena, but on the only two group rides I've been on, Scalas were used. When I bought my first headset I was set to buy a Scala, but when I requested one at the BMW / Harley Davidson dealer, the salesman asked why I wanted the Scala. I told him I had heard they were good. He said I should do as I pleased, but his recommendation was to buy a Sena. When I asked why, he said that the price was basically the same, but that the quality of the Sena was a touch better, and that the kicker was that more riders have Senas than Scalas. I have to say I have been very satisfied with the Sena, and as mentioned, I have almost always run into Senas, with the exception of those two group rides.

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  2. I am inclined to agree, I think Ed is a Wizard. Wow, what a workshop.

    I am glad you enjoyed your group ride, with the right group they can be a wonderful time, with the wrong group - misery. Been on both and rarely do group rides now.

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    1. I guess I rarely do group rides also since two rides in seven years qualifies as rarely.

      I did enjoy last Sunday's excursion though, and I'm likely up for another, depending on the destination.

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  3. I'm thinking, from here on in, there's going to be a version of 'Wizard of Ooze" playing in my head while doing oil changes.

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    1. Wizard of Ooze. Maybe I'll come to you for an oil change, and I'll be able to hum "I'm off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Ooze".

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  4. I like the workshop. I saw the video before the post (thank Google for that) and I was wondering what kind of a condo you got that came with such a great shop.

    I avoid groups. Even one other bike seems to make the ride less fun. What we generally do is agree to stopping points along the way and just meet at those points. Everyone choosing whether to ride solo or with a few others all at their own pace.

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    1. That's a really good point. Even stopping for photo taking when you're riding with one other person would put a crimp in the photography.

      There's something really cerebral about riding that tends strongly to make it a solo affair.

      Still, every now in a blue moon, a group ride can be fun.

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