OUR GREAT MINDS

    by Liane Angerman, Associate Editor

    Fun in the Fast Lane

    “My mother was horrified when i purchased a cool orange 1970 Honda cl175 [after] I’d spent the summer working with Ontario Forestry,” recalled Chris Hopkins, Founder, CEO, and Director of Canshale, describing how he began his lifelong love affair with bikes.

    It was a pretty little bike. There were other bikes that kind of went in and out of my life quickly,” he explained, listing off nearly a dozen. While he refutes being a cult cyclist, Hopkins does admit that a host of O&G individuals have witnessed his vintage ’68 Norton Mercury encased in glass in his office while he served as president and CEO of Oilsands Quest out of Calgary.

    Winsor Harmon, who plays Thorne Forrester on The Bold and the Beautiful, shared, in an exclusive interview with The OGM, how being a Ducati owner has changed his life: “I’m changing a lot of things in my life. I’m tired of traffic. I don’t even own a vehicle anymore. My transportation is my Ducati now.”

    He has owned his share of Italian cars: Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, and even a Toyota Prius. Harmon asserts that being a cyclist is a lifestyle choice, not necessarily a matter of affordability.

    “If you have to be in L.A. and be in traffic, let’s enjoy it. Instead of taking upwards of an hour [from Toluca Lake to Hollywood], I can get to work in twelve minutes. When I get to work, I have a smile on my face; I’m in a good mood. I’m actually making more friends here now.”

    Harmon is one of the growing global populations who take to their motorcycles each day to contest rising gas prices and reduce their carbon footprints. Where large displacement, high-performance bikes are concerned, Hopkins also has strong opinions.

    “I don’t know anyone who buys a motorcycle to save money on fuel,” agrees Brent Robertson, the self-proclaimed “Boss” and founder of Canada’s largest custom motorcycle shop, Precision Frameworx.

    “High-end bikes will [remain] gas guzzlers,” he states. The rumble and roar is a major enjoyment factor, which Harmon claims “gives me goose bumps” when he starts up his Ducati 848 Streetfighter.

    Harmon and Hopkins both share an arduous passion for their Ducatis tending to refer to them using romance-novel terms.

    “I fell in love [with my 848 Streetfighter] when I saw it on the showroom floor … it took my breath away … I can even compare it to that of a woman. It’s that beautiful,” says Harmon. While Hopkins just purchased a BMW R1200GS, his 2006 Ducati Multistrada 1000S RS is “[f]ast, light and oooh so Italian—gorgeous!”

    While some may be definitive, “many [cyclists] struggle to define or describe what they want and need.” says Robertson, who runs Canada’s only DOT (Department of Transportation) manufacturer, comparing his business to that of a custom-suit tailor.

    “My job is to help transform a vision or a fantasy into a reality that fits like a glove … [My] clientele expects to own something different [that] sets them apart.”

    Customizing is all about bringing fantasies to life and allowing them to breathe a life of their own once the owner takes control of the wheels. During the initial consultation, key points of discussion revolve around vision and budget. One of Robertson’s 1800 clients is an O&G executive who came to him with a snapshot of a medieval maiden slaying a dragon. From that meeting was born “The Dragon Slayer,” a $60,000 soft-tail bike, which took Robertson and nine full-time staff members about nine months to complete—the average build takes typically two months from concept to the roadway.

    While most of the bikes that leave the shop are much less costly, most clients are Harley-Davidson owners who are willing to spend between eight and ten thousand dollars to ramp up their stock Harley. Cheryl Quaife, who is in her fifties, is one of those people. “In North America alone,” says Robertson, “women bike owners have increased by ten percent in a single year.”

    Eight years ago when her husband purchased a chopper, and “only a handful of girls” were riding, Cheryl no longer had a back seat to ride on. With an operator’s license under her belt, her husband’s “Fat Boy” underwent a Precision makeover. It took on a new motor, seat, hot-pink paint, and rims, plus a connotation of a female dog emblazoned into the metalwork giving the bike her name, and it has since pulled first place in “The World of Wheels” twice.

    Attesting to the beauty and comfort of a complete custom fit, only one customer he knows of has remarketed his bike from the 238 bikes that Brent has manufactured, since the inception of his business in 1999. To make owning a custom bike more affordable, last year Robertson incorporated Thug Motorcycle Company to serve the client who has a budget between twenty and forty thousand dollars.

    In cities like Calgary, AB, where economics and weather varies, metric bikes are popular. Metrics are Asian-made bikes whose components are built to meet the standards of the universal metric scale, while existing companies (like Harley-Davidson) still utilize an SAE scale to save on having to change out all their components. Brands such as Suzuki, Aprilia, Kawasaki, and Honda are fine examples, and they can be snapped up anywhere between two to ten thousand dollars.

    Take Aprilia’s “Tuorno V4 R APRC” superbike with 167.3 hp at 11,500 rpms and a three-map handlebar selection (sport, road, and track). With a price tag around $15,000, it vies competitively with both Italian- and custom-made bikes. Kawasaki’s “Vulcan 1700 Vaquero” with a four-stroke, V-twin engine and a six-speed overdrive, in either “candy burnt orange/ebony” or “flat black,” will set you back about $20,000.

    Scooters are popping up as a commuter favorite, or for those without a specified motorcycle license (or perhaps a revoked one), Suzuki’s “Burgman 650 Executive” boasts a trademarked electronically controlled pulsed-air (PAIR) injection system to aid emissions reductions.

    Older drivers and new drivers are popularizing the three-wheelers, like Piaggio’s MP3 250, and tend to reap snickers reminiscent of childhood in their wake as they cruise along roadways. With three wheels and a three-gallon tank, it tops out the commute at 77 mph and a price tag around seven thousand dollars—five grand more than a common two-wheeled scooter!

    One cannot argue that motorcycles are kinder to the environment than cars that run on petrol. However, the majority of motorbikes still require gasoline and likely won’t be crossing into the electric lane any time soon. “Italians have a way of building things—romantic, sleek, sexy, and elegant all tied into one. [Ducati] is everything Italian … If Ducati can make a product that is electric and can perform like it does, I’m all over that!” says Harmon who is both “emissions- and recycle-crazy.” Hopkins said he’d pass on any electric bike, but asserts, “If there’s going to be a breakthrough, it’ll likely be in the diesel fuel models.”

    Indulging in long scenic tours is a large part of the riding pleasure and a breathtaking way to travel the globe. Cheryl has ridden from Los Angeles to Cave Creek, AZ, and back with a smile on her face. Harmon’s fantasy is to return to Italy, where he modeled in his early years and very recently completed some work on the set of the show. He wants to tour the Ducati factory and purchase the newest 1199 Panigale S (perhaps in red or shiny black—“unless Ducati wants to make a special color for me”), and he wants to rip up their test track before bringing it back to L.A.

    In an interview from the airport lounge on a layover enroute to Santiago to join a scheduled tour to Ushuaia, Argentina, from Osorno, Chile, with a friend, Hopkins reminisced about last year’s fantastic ride through the Atacama Desert in Chile to Machu Picchu, Peru: “I try to travel internationally once a year. My dream tour would be to ride from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and … south, the full length of the Americas to Ushuaia … and back again.”

    With snow falling over many parts of the globe this time of year, Hopkins’s remedy for enduring cold winter nights entails surfing the Internet for tools and apparel, planning next year’s tour, and, on occasion, buying a bike.

     

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