The writer apologizes for the late publication of this article, which was submitted earlier but never received due to a technical issue.
A huge crowd or motorcycle riders, enthusiasts and the simply curious turned out Saturday May 31 for the 5th annual Motorcycle Awareness Day, held in the Grand Forks Overwaitea parking lot. With temperatures in the mid 20's, it may have been a bit warm for many of the leather-clad riders, but the clear skies and brilliant sunshine certainly brought out the sheen of the dazzling display of chrome and steel.
Kane’s Harley Davidson was on site for Spring Roadshow Demos and Mountain FM provided music and the opportunity to win tickets to the Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament. Voting ballots for the Show & Shine were available at the main tent and there were grab bags available for women who brought their bikes.
There were 40 entries in the Show & Shine, 50 in the poker run, and 10-15 on the 1 p.m. ride to Rock Creek. Groups of riders could be seen arriving and departing throughout the day.
Organizer Diane Muscroft works for RHC Insurance, the main sponsors for the event. "I'm passionate about motorcycles, and they [RHC] support me and so it's just great." The company itself is Kootenay-wide, but it is the local branch that supports the event.
Muscroft said they've always held the event at Overwaitea. "They've been really good to us." All of the proceeds go to a local organization, and this year the recipient is the Boundary Emergency and Transitional House Society (BETHS). "It really bloomed and blossomed this year, and just really expanded. It's just been incredible."
Money is raised through hot dog sales, the Show & Shine, and the poker run. A small amount is given as a prize for the best poker run hand, but everything else goes to BETHS, explained Muscroft. “RHC buys those prizes so that they also support local businesses, because they all come and do their insurance with us, so it's our way of giving back a little bit to those people as well."
Local rider Joe Elkin was out taking photos of the event to post on the Boundary Biker Babes (BBB) Facebook page. He is one of the group's token "cabana boys" who believes in supporting the 60+ female members. The BBB is open to both men and women who are looking for riding buddies in the area.
Anyone with a class 6 license could sign up for a 20 minute guided demo ride on their choice of 6 new Harleys courtesy of Kane’s. Company owners Leanne and Blair Kane brought the bikes down from the Kelowna dealership.
“It's hard for us to bring our whole store," said Leanne Kane, "But we try to do what we can to bring the bikes down to the people, because it's hard for everybody to come up and see us. Especially to come on a demo day which only happens twice a year, on a particular day. So we brought the bikes down to see what we could do to show people the new bikes."
Her husband Blair, who Kane described as "the big, handsome tall guy,” kept busy organizing the rides and showing off the new bikes to friends and strangers alike. Several people signed up for multiple rides so they could try the different models. Those coming back from rides could be overheard expressing their appreciation and commenting on how great the bikes were.
Kane said that one guy had just bought a used bike from them the day before, "so today's his first ride on his 'new' used, and he came down here to ride a 'new' new." That's the point of demo days. She explained, "Ride something different, ride something you've never ridden and there's no obligation to buy. You can just say that was great and I loved it, thanks, and walk away."
Kane’s is the only Harley Davidson dealers for the area between Armstrong and the border, including Grand Forks. Kane clarified, "There's a couple of guys around who do backyard work but as for a proper dealership, we're the only ones who come and service the area." Once a week, Kane's brings down a truck to pick up and drop off bikes. They only service Harleys.
"I think the people who live in these rural communities really appreciate that we do come down here and bring the bikes, and we like it," noted Kane. “You feel appreciated and that's the nice thing about it, that people say "thanks for coming" and "this was really great" and it makes it all worth while for us to come and do it."
Motioning towards an incoming group of riders, Kane explained, "These guys that just pulled in, they're the whole group out of Kelowna, the Harley owners group. They're guys that ride Harleys and they just hang out together on weekends, go for group rides. They have a ride out every weekend...if we're at an event they turn up. They come visit, hang out for awhile, then off they go again."
When asked to comment on the common perception that Harley riders are snobby, Kane laughed and said, "They're not snobby!" She continued, "I think there's some guys who think that just because they've got a black bike and wear leather...but these guys here," she nodded towards the Kelowna group, "The majority of our customers are between 40 and 60, 45 to 60 I'd actually say."
Kane described most of their customers as being empty nesters. "They're well off. Most of them have been professionals in their life and they've retired or they still are professionals and they've got some time now their kids are off their hands. These guys are not what people think of when they see Harley riders."
Kane believes you should always wave at other riders on the road, even if you think they won't return the acknowledgement. "We wave at everyone!" Granted, there are times that it isn't wise to take your hand off the grip, but "there's always a nod or, you know, a fingers out if you can."
"I think yeah, there's the two types of Harley riders,” suggested Kane. “There's the guys who are in the gangs, but they're not our customers. They don't come to the dealership to do business. They have their own businesses and stores that support them, which isn't [our] dealership. We rarely see someone with a patch walk into our store."
Blair Kane is a 3rdgeneration Harley dealer. In 1957 his grandfather, Bob Kane Senior, opened one of the Canadian dealerships in Lethbridge, AB. In 1959, he moved to Calgary and opened a second store, which his son Bob helped run. In 1983 Bob Kane Jr. decided to leave the Alberta winters behind and opened Kane’s Westside Motorcycles in Kelowna. In 1985 Bob and Blair moved the business to a bigger shop and changed the name back to Kane’s Harley Davidson. Five years ago, they moved into a massive new building on the highway.
Looking around at the crowd, one couldn’t help but notice the growing number women motorcycle riders and enthusiasts. According to Women Riders Now (WIN),2012 statistics (U.S.) showed that almost 25% of all motorcyclists are now women, an increase of 35% since 2003.
Despite these numbers, there are still skeptics out there. One anonymous older lady who came out to the event was surprised to see that a woman was taking one of the demo bikes out for a ride. “You’re going out for a ride? But there’s only one seat. You’re going by yourself? That’s so dangerous!” Fortunately, there are many groups and individuals out there who are promoting motorcycle riding for women.
International Female Ride Day©(IFRD), the world’s only synchronized women’s motorcycle “Just Ride” day, started by online magazine Motoress, held its eighth global edition on May 3. IFRD seeks to create awareness of female motorcyclists in every culture around the world, while also encouraging other women to take up riding.
Driven to Ride, a film that explores the spirit of women motorcycle riders, recently debuted in Colorado.
In a 2013 interview by Julie Kailus, documentarian Michelle Carpenter commented, “I think women today are searching for more independence and a sense of freedom. Being women, we are smart, we do research, we seek out education, and we have more deposable income available. The women riders in Driven to Riderepresent a diverse group of riders. They are successful businesswomen and entrepreneurs. They are mothers, daughters, sisters, and they are strong and caring individuals. They have a zest for life and they live life in the “front row.””
Kelowna’s Marianne Boettcher was happy to share her personal story with other women. "When I turned 50, my husband bought me a scooter and, after years of riding behind him, I got this little scooter and I thought that was enough." But it soon became apparent that a scooter wasn't enough.
After a couple of years Boettcher took the course and got her license, then went out “and bought the totally wrong bike right away. I fell off it a few times and then said ok, I can't do it. So I abandoned the whole idea and started riding with him again."
One day they went out on a HOG (Harley Owners Group) ride and Boettcher was surprised to see lots of women riding. There are over 300 members of the Kelowna chapter of HOG, which is an international organization. "They're all over the world,” she said.
Boettcher got lots of encouragement from the group, " So I went in to the dealer and bought myself a brand new 883, customized to fit." She rode that bike for just one season, and then traded it in for a softail. "We go all summer long. We ride 25,000 km every summer." She loves riding. "All my worries just blow away. I can't think about anything else because I'm busy riding."
Further information and resources:
The Kelowna & District Safety Council has information on motorcycle licensing and rider training here.
Alternately, click here for Okanagan training programs.
For motorcycle events in BC click here.
For a handy ride packing list courtesy of Kane’s, click here