On the Road: 2019 Calgary Motorcycle Show

Fun for motorcycle fans of all ages – by GREG WILLIAMS from DRIVING.CA

There is no ‘official’ theme for the 2019 Calgary Motorcycle Show, but there is an unofficial one. This year, it’s all about family.

“In today’s plugged in, busy world, creating new experiences that can be shared as a family is so important,” says show manager Laurie Paetz. She continues, “There is no better way than riding together. It not only will build a lifetime of memories but will naturally create quality family time.”

The Calgary Motorcycle Show, with all of the new models from every major manufacturer, takes over the BMO Centre at Stampede Park January 4 to 6. And, in order to introduce the youngest members of the family to balancing a two-wheeler, there’ll be a new attraction at the event.

The Strider Adventure Zone will appear courtesy of the brand’s Vancouver-based distributor, Matrix Concepts Canada. About two months ago, Matrix, an off-road powersport accessories distributor, picked up the Strider brand.

Strider balance bikes are very diminutive, low-slung two-wheelers that do not have any pedals and feature only foot propulsion to help teach the fundamentals of riding. A variety of wheel sizes are available and range from 12 inches in diameter to 20 inches for larger models.

“It’s all about getting kids as young as 18 months old to learn about getting their balance on two wheels,” says Brad McLean of Matrix Concepts. “With the Strider balance bike, they can learn to lean and steer without the complications of pedals (or an engine).

“One of the goals is to get kids outside at a young age, enjoying two wheels, and when they’re five or six it makes for an easy transition to riding a bicycle (or small off-road motorcycle) such as a Yamaha PW50 or a Honda CRF50.

“But it’s really all about creating the riders of tomorrow.”

The Strider Adventure Zone will feature ramps and rumble strips set up in a 40-foot by 40-foot area at the show. Children between the ages of 18 months and five years old will be outfitted in protective gear during a 5-minute set-up and briefing session before being let loose for a 15-minute riding period.

There will be 10 spots available every 20 minutes at the Strider Adventure Zone in Hall C, and parents must be present to book and sign a waiver. Helmets and gear will be available, but parents can bring their own if preferred.

For young members of the family between the ages of six and 12, the Yamaha Riding Academy takes the Strider concept to the next level – it puts youngsters in control of small-bore off-road motorcycles – specifically Yamaha TT-R50s and TT-R110s.

“We need to get kids interested in riding in order for our industry to survive,” says Clinton Smout of Smart Adventure Programs and host of the Yamaha Riding Academy.

Smout has been introducing youngsters to motorcycling for many years, and to date, has taught more than 30,000 of them how to ride at events such as the Calgary Motorcycle Show.

In order for a child to ride, a parent must be available to sign the waiver – it cannot be grandpa or an uncle. When it’s their turn to participate, the child is suited up in full motocross gear, including boots, chest protector, gloves, helmet liner and helmet.

“The only prerequisite to this is the kid must be proficient at riding a bicycle without training wheels,” Smout explains. “And that’s become a bit of an issue today, as we continually meet 10- and 11-year olds who’ve never ridden a bicycle, they’re so plugged into the games or iPads.”

Then, with the engine off, the child is taught to place their right foot on the peg and operate the rear brake pedal. They’re also instructed on gas on/gas off technique, and to lean their helmet to the left to make it easier to use the left leg and foot for holding themselves and the bike upright.

Next, the engines are started, and the young students roll on/roll off the throttle to identify how much gas is enough, and how much is too much. After that, the engines are shut off and each rider is pushed a half rotation around the circular course to prove they can balance the machine.

“After that, we start them up and off they go,” Smout says.

One of the most significant obstacles to overcome is getting around the corner, as target fixation tends to be an issue. Instructors encourage the youngsters to look through the corner to where they want to go. To this end, and to help if anyone gets too distracted, an instructor is placed at each of the four corners.

“At the end of the 20-minute session you can witness a change in the kid,” Smout says. “After all the years I’ve been doing this, out of those 30,000 kids, I think maybe five or 10 of them said, ‘That was alright, but I don’t think I’d want to do it again.’

“Fully 99 per cent of them say, ‘I want to do that again.’”

And that’s when the family gets involved, often with mom and dad purchasing off-road machines so they can all ride together.

“One of my favourite Christmas cards came from a family in B.C.,” Smout says. “It’s a fellow and his wife and their two children in full motocross gear with their bikes in front of the truck he had to buy to haul the bikes, and the caption says, ‘Thanks for the free ride!’”

There’s plenty more to see and do at the motorcycle show and returning favourites include the vintage motorcycle display hosted by the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group – Rocky Mountain Section, the family-friendly Ground N’ Gravity freestyle show that features stunts pulled off in the air and on the arena floor, and the Handle Bar set up by Ill-Fated Kustoms + TANK.

Paetz concludes, “This year, gather the family, the motorcycles and get outdoors to ride.”

IF YOU GO

Calgary Motorcycle Show at the BMO Centre, Stampede Park runs Friday, Jan. 4 from noon to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults (15 and over), $12 for seniors (65-plus) and $11 juniors (six to 14). Children five and under are free with paid adult, and $40 for a family pass (two adults, two juniors). She Rides Night is Friday evening, when women get half-price admission after 5 p.m. Visit http://www.calgarymotorcycleshow.ca for more details.