Our resident, Motorycle guru and guest writer Renee “Belt Drive Betty” Charbonneau, shares some insight into the Canadian Motorcyle community with her first post on Man Wants, a must-read for the touring rider & traveller….
Canada is a vast country (9.985 million km²) and it sparsely populated by comparison to many other countries in the world. It’s the sparseness and the vastness that make Canada both an appealing place to consider coming for a ride, BUT, it’s also what makes a lot of people stay away, at least when it comes to riding it by motorcycle.
Canada boasts every kind of motorcycle riding imaginable and we can also boast some of the world’s MOST scenic riding.
For the touring rider, Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail on the east coast along with the ROCK (good old Newfoundland) offer up some of the most alluring and amazing scenery anywhere. Labrador offers the adventure rider some of the most challenging of riding. On the west coast there is the Yukon & Northwest Territories and British Columbia.
Breathtaking views, all sorts of wildlife to be wary of and in awe of, and of course the twistiness of the adrenaline-pumping mountain roads make these places magical to ride. For those who thrive on adventure riding, the adventure truly starts in the Yukon and Northwest Territories!
Sandwiched in the middle of the two coasts are Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island and each and every province has its own distinct and unique beauty to offer.
So, where is a rider to find the best riding, the best events, the best customer service, or the best community to ride to in a country as vast as Canada?
We thought we’d ask the Canadian Riding Community and hence “Canada’s MOST” Rider Friendly Community Contest was born.
We determined that we wanted to centre the contest around rural Canada and the smaller centres. The larger ones get all kinds of marketing and promotional support, but they aren’t usually the places most riders want to see.
Riders, well they want to explore, that’s what they bought a motorcycle for, most of them anyway.
During the 2015 riding season, Two Hills Alberta showed the riding community such a great time, that they were voted the MOST Rider Friendly Community in Canada by the riders. They became our very first community to win a trophy, a road sign and $35,000 in marketing. They were featured on EastLink TV, on YouTube, in newspapers, magazines and on radio (Both HOG Radio and Kick Stands Up). The exposure helped them grow their rally from 300 people to around 600 and thank goodness it did! With the economic crunch, people were not spending the money at the rally that they had in the past and so the rally ended up doing OK instead of losing money!
So what is it about this little town of 2,500 people that makes it special enough to win the hearts and minds of the riding community in the west that they would be so proud of it, to vote for them?
Simply put, the people are what make Two Hills the welcoming little place it is.
It wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, the residents of Two Hills were pretty skeptical when they were presented with an idea to have a motorcycle rally to support building a monument to fallen riders, thereby becoming a place that would attract riders as tourists.
Town folk were nervous. They watch the news, read newspapers, they see the horrible things that some bikers are accused of.
In spite of their fear, the town’s people, well they knew Bob Ross and Mark Kussman, and they both ride and when Mark and Bob announced that they were going to give it a go, the town folk did their best to not be too negative. Slowly, year after year, the town’s people have grown to love the motorcycle community that attends the Run to the Hills Memorial Rally. It wasn’t always easy, but going into year 11 the town is pretty proud of its rally, the memorial gardens and the chapel, and the soon to be erected, fallen riders monument.
When you ride into town you’ll see people waving at you, the motel, gas stations and food stores and restaurants all love having the riders in town.
Besides the monument and the gardens at Wayside Memorial Park, the rally has given back into the community of Two Hills in countless ways. They have paid for things like the new bathrooms at the rodeo grounds and a defibrillator for the Ag society. They also paid to have the driveway at the monument and gardens site paved – no small feat there! Wayside Memorial Park was once a rest area, an abandoned and falling down rest area. The rally has paid to refurbish the restrooms; the old BBQ shack is now a chapel with a wrap around veranda and an outdoor BBQ area. Plus they purchased a storage shed, tables and chairs…yeas this team has done a lot with the funds from the rally!
The riding community won the town over by being respectful, clean (the rally campsites are never ever left in a mess) and kind.
If Canada is a bucket list destination for you, I urge you to fly your bike over, or rent one from one of our Rider Friendly Business Association members like EagleRider Calgary and come visit the beautiful, quaint little town with a big heart, Two Hills Alberta, Canada’s very first MOST Rider Friendly Community!
By Renee “Belt Drive Betty” Charbonneau