Dualsport Plus in Canada
I love to travel. Pure and simple. As cliché as it is, the sights, the sounds, the smells and the flavors that remind you of NOTHING similar, is what feeds the constant desire. I understand that about myself and it winds me up every time I go through the process of planning an outing. “Not THIS time” I said to myself when planning a trip across the border….to Canada. “How different can it be? It’s Canada! They’ve got Starbucks, WalMart, Home Depot…its not like we are headed up the Labrador Coast or into the Yukon Territory. We’re going to Toronto. More specifically, Brantford Ontario. Home of Wayne Gretzky! This is HARDLY going to be an adventure in a far off land. This is just going to be a short little visit to see my new friends that I just completed 8 days in Baja with, just weeks ago.
It became an exploration of the Canadian backcountry, private time with SuperBike Champions and some personal instructions in the amazingly nimble and dexterous world of Trials Bike riding.
It started with quick jaunt across the US from San Diego to Buffalo, New York. There, I was picked up by my new friend Don Baetz who was one of the Canadians who joined me on the Baja Run with Lawrence Hacking, first Canadian to complete the Dakar. “Donnie” is a great guy and certainly an excellent ambassador of Canadian hospitality. He whisked me across the border and in a short hour of catching up and pointing out various sites along the way, we arrived and what would be my headquarters for the next week - Dualsport Plus!
Now I knew about this shop since I met their General Manager, Clint MacBride at the Altrider, HOH Rain Forest ride, last year. Clint is a guy in his 50’s who is quite adept on his GS 1200 and credits his abilities to a strong background in Trials Riding as a teenager. Trials. Totally new concept for me. I mean, I’ve seen the guys on YouTube performing like Cirque De Soliel on two wheels but I had never even SEEN a trials bike, up close. Its doesn’t even have a place for your BUTT! So when Don pulled in the parking lot and I saw a veritable stable of Trails bikes on display, strewn about on large rocks and boulders….it hit me. I’m not in Kansas, anymore. I walked inside to see Clint, smiling widely.
DSP is a completely unique bike shop. Its much more of a pro shop in a ski lodge with its spacious apparel floor surrounded by an expertly merchandised accessory wall with battle tested soft and hard ADV bags by folks like Wolfman and Jesse Luggage systems. The parts and service section was buzzing and additional accessory counter for outfitting your adventure. All under 30 foot ceilings, two story mezzanine, chard and burnt hardwood stairs leading to plasma screens throughout the shop depicting scenes and video of adventures, various track racing and…Trials bike maneuvers that will make you question the laws of physics. Although, this is clearly a place of business catering to not only the Trials guy but ANY rider looking to hit the road. DSP has a “club house” feel to it. Everyone is lending a hand, answering all my questions and showing me around. Even the customers! When I mentioned that I had never been on a Trials bike before, I was pounced on. Colton Long, the son of the owner and my margarita “wing man” in Baja had me step onto the pegs of a GasGas Trials bike as he held it so I could get my balance. Standing still on the bike…he stepped away. Down my foot went. “don’t do that.” He said, expressionless. He held the bike steady again, allowing me grip the front brake while cranking the bars to maintain balance. Only for a few seconds could I maintain, but I totally felt how this bike, with no seat, was set up to hold steady at even the slowest of speeds. A necessary skill when setting up your next move, in a Trial. I was fascinated.
“Welcome to Brantford! About time!” A familiar deep voice from behind me bellowed. Owner of DSP, Rob Long who had facilitated both the recent tour of Baja, Mexico and of course THIS trip welcomed me to his shop. Rob, Clint and Colton took me on a tour through the facility and the property outside and I saw the light. I was at ground zero for ADV in Canada.
At the picnic table on the back deck of the shop, Rob laid out the week. First, we are going to celebrate the “DSP Open House.” An event that they host to drive traffic into the store and welcome in the start of the riding season in Canada. BBQ, Games, Trials demonstration, a radio station live remote broadcast, giveaways….and beer!
Then we're going to ride trials bikes at a place in Brantford called “the Ciffs”. The very place that Rob, Clint and all of ther gang learned how to ride trials as kids, decades ago. Then we are off to the ski town of Barrie were the local ski resort Horse Shoe, hosts the Yamaha/BMW supported S.M.A.R.T Adventure Program
After the brief reunion, we headed to the hotel bar for some rehydration, Canadian style. Unpacking our KLiM gear, laid out for tomorrow, I turned in anticipating the events to follow.
The open house was more than I ever could've expected. It was a combination of a grand opening, the county fair, a motorcycle stunt show and a keg party. There were easily 300+ people they're milling about, checking out all of the new gear on display both inside and outside of the shop and then around back was an obstacle course made up of various shapes and sizes of discarded construction equipment that created a playground for world-renowned superbike champion Jordan Szoke.
Now, The Dakar Rally has always been something of interest for me and spending 10 days down in Baja with the first Canadian ever to complete the Dakar, Lawrence Hacking was a real treat. Thinking that we’d never cross paths again, he greeted me with a smile and said, you're coming on the ride? It seems that Lawrence was about to lead about 30 adventure bike riders on a two hour tour of the local Canadian landscape. Of course I agreed. When a guy of his caliber asks you to come on a ride, you don't think, you just agree. Rob offered me a new Triumph Tiger 800, and I was off!
Rolling hills, farmland, lakes, rivers, streams and even a waterfall were our points of interest for the short morning ride. After a quick beverage at a local coffee shop, we returned riding the route in reverse, back to Dualsport Plus.
When we arrived the place was buzzing! Jordan Szoke was performing his trials demonstration much to the amazement of onlookers. What was most surprising was the overwhelming majority of the attendees knew each other and were also Trials riders from years gone by. The stories were flying! But the center of attention was clearly, Jordan Szoke. This guy is not only the fastest Canadian on a motorcycle, but as they say, he's also the slowest! By that I mean, the way Trials competitions work, the rider approaches an obstacle as slow as humanly possible, balancing and setting up for the maneuver. Then once the maneuver is complete, they slow down… almost frozen, and work the bike around, nudging and bouncing the front and rear tire alike, shifting the axis and direction of the bike in anticipation of the next move. It was like watching a freestyle BMX rider. The bike never really seemed to roll, it just hopped, flew and danced like I've never seen in person. I was so curious how the fastest Canadian on track can also be this skilled on Trials bike. Two polar opposite motorcycle disciplines, and this guy is the best Canada has to offer.
Jordan was clearly the main attraction and was riding the bike most of the day. Surrounding the trials course was a live radio remote broadcast, some Trials coaching, children buzzing around on electric Trials bikes, barbecue hamburgers and sausages, several games that you might see at a country fair with prizes donated from various motorcycle accessory companies.
Dualsport Plus looks like what I imagine heaven to be like.
After the events of the day, Rob, the owner, invited myself, the staff and Lawrence and Jordan back to his home for an evening of Canadian hospitality!
We had an amazing meal, lots of new friends sharing stories and we even got the opportunity to screen our video that we made of our trip to Baja with these characters, just a few weeks before. It was an evening of overindulging of food, drinks, laughter and to top it all off, the Mayweather Pacquiao fight!
The next morning I woke up with a familiar feeling of my head telling me that I had a few drinks last night. That's nothing that a steaming hot cup of Tim Hortons coffee can't fix! Tim Horton was a famous ice hockey player that has a chain of coffee shops very much like an upscale Dunkin Donuts. Coffee shop, named after an ice hockey player… Yup, I'm in Canada!
Colton, Rob's son and manager of Dualsport Plus collected me at my hotel and informed me that a truck pulling a trailer, with every style of bike I can imagine is ready to take me up to Horshoe Ski Resort, where we are going to reconnect with Clinton Smout, owner and director of the S.M.A.R.T Motorcycle Academy. There, we’re going to get a chance to see his operation and see how he manages to have both Yamaha and BMW resource him with the best bikes available!
Clinton Smout was one of the characters that I rode with in Baja. I found him to be a super hilarious individual. He's part Eval Knievel and part Ned Flanders from The Simpsons. “Hidily ho there, neighbor!!”
All in all, he had just about 30 students varying from folks who had never seen a motorcycle before, to advanced riders that are looking to tighten up their skills. The school is set in a valley that creates a natural bowl for several hundred yards and a rider can perform all types of drills and skills of varying levels of difficulty without ever leaving the site of the instructors. The [erfect motorcycle classroom. Rain had dusted the grounds for a few hours overnight, Clinton referring to it as “dust control."
He began his morning briefing and broke us into groups. My eyes were set on watching "Raven" get instruction from a true motorcycle instructor, rather than me, a person who offers brilliant advice on how to maintain bad habits. She did phenomenally well!
After watching her train for a bit, the legendary Lawrence Hacking took a group of the Dualsport Plus riders on some true Canadian single track! Yep, here we go! Big bikes on single track. This should be interesting.
One of my favorite topics to discuss is how capable these big bikes really are. There are those that believe that bikes of this size are absolutely useless off-road. Without the proper instruction, they would be absolutely correct. Places like RawHyde training academy in California and Colorado, or Jimmy Lewis is Off-Road training academy in Pahrump Nevada or the Canadian counterpart, the S.M.A.R.T training academy are places where you can make trail riding not only possible, but incredibly fun.
My experience in Canada was an incredibly unique opportunity. Rarely does one get invited to fly across the continent to experience such a direct contrast to the type of riding that I'm used to. Rob Long and the staff at Dualsport Plus bridges that gap for me. To see their grand opening in all its splendor, to ride with and learn from someone like Jordan Szoke, reconnect with Lawrence Hacking and Clinton Smout all with the backdrop of the Canadian wilderness, has all the ingredients of an adventure novel. It makes me take pause and feel so incredibly blessed and fortunate that this journey that I'm on has so many peak experiences.
To Rob Long, thank you sir, for the overwhelming hospitality. Thank you for inviting us to your country, to your home and making me and my crew feel like a part of your team. Let's do it again