MRT Rally – Canada’s Best Adventure-touring Motorcycle Rally

You don’t need to own a variant of BMW’s legendary GS series to have a keen interest in adventure-touring or ‘Round the World motorcycle travel.  We’re happy to report there’s a rally that caters to the adventure-touring crowd, in British Columbia, Canada.  The MRT (Motorbike Rally for Travelers) Canada Rally, held last August 2-5, 2012 has quickly earned a reputation for being one of the best motorcycle rallies in Western Canada, especially with its focus on adventure-touring and world travel.

Wolfgang Simmert and Anny Langlois (‘A & W’ to their friends) are the couple behind the MRT Canada Rally, which celebrated its fifth year in 2012.  Simmert, a world traveler who has motorcycled extensively in Europe, Africa and Australia has been organizing the MRT Rally in Germany for some twenty yerars.

Now living and working in Alberta,  he’s applied his passion for adventure-touring by organizing the MRT Canada Rally.  Wolfgang and Anny’s aim is to bring the same fun, low key, informal atmosphere of the German rally to Canada, so rally-goers can meet seasoned world travelers and learn first hand from their experiences.       One big attractions at this year’s rally was the overnight adventure ride on the unpaved backroads north of Nelson, B.C., ‘guided’ by Wolfgang (a certified BMW off road riding instructor) on an F800GS and Pat Horan (team captain of Canada’s 2010 Africa GS Challenge squad) riding an R100GS.  The duo led a group of twenty-two riders (from novice to experienced) mounted on a variety of adventure bikes.

Many of the rally goers were from Edmonton’s Black Gold Beemers (Charter #141), such as Bruno Schoenfelder.  He’s an engineer who obtained a motorcycle operator’s license in 2010, bought a BMW F650GS one week later, competed in a GS Challenge, then completed an arduous trip to the Yukon and Alaska in 2011.  Schoenfelder recalls the ‘guided’ off road ride.  “I really liked the large group and feel of an informal ride with friends, and the feeling of pushing yourself a little and getting your speed up on gravel roads.”

Another BGB member, Dave Rayner (aboard an R1200GS and attending the MRT Rally for his second time) echoed Schoenfelder’s sentiments, but adds, “We had some marvelous views and saw incredible scenery on those remote backroads, while having the security of ‘support’ from expert riders like Pat and Wolfgang.”  Rayner’s advice to MOA members thinking of attending next year’s MRT Rally – “Go as a greenhorn and watch others’ techniques to determine how much more aggressively you can ride.  Everybody’s there to coach and support you.”

Simmert welcomes all motorcycle riders, no matter what make or model you have.  Some BGB members, such as Bjorn Johansen turned up on his 2010 Honda VLX1000 Varadero.  Johansen decided he wanted to join the off-pavement ride and prepared for the ride by simply pressuring down the street tires of his Varadero.  “I learned all about the advantages of standing on the pegs, but I also learned my bike is too big for gravel!”, he said, laughing.  BGB and 30-year MOA member Brian Hanasyk left his classic R90S at home and rode his Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom to the rally.  “We did about 600 kilometres (372 miles) over the two days on fire roads.  When I did this off-road ride at last year’s MRT, it was scarier than I was expecting, but it’s like a roller coaster ride, sometimes scary, then its fun.  And you really feel like you’ve accomplished something when you’re finished.  But what impressed me the most was the camaraderie of the group.  With all different skill levels, everybody was willing to help everybody else.”

While the off road ride was one of the MRT Rally’s highlights, Wolfgang had a surprise guest.  World-renowned motocross/roadracing/desert racing trainer “Coach” (aka Remy Stroud) showed up on his BMW R1150R custom-built sidecar rig.  Stroud was paralyzed in a racing crash some years ago but is now a much sought after trainer, delivering high performance riding clinics around the world.  “Coach” held an impromptu workshop on body positioning for different types of riding – slow speed, high speed and desert – and gave a superb slideshow on the physics of the interaction between body placement on a motorcycle while cornering.

Coach is one of a long list of well-known motorcycle travelers who have been special guests at the MRT Canada rally.  In previous years, travel legend Ted Simon (author of Jupiter’s Travels, the book that inspired Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman’s escapades), Doris Maron (the first North American woman to ride solo RTW) and Ted Bishop (Ducati riding University of Alberta English professor and author of Riding with Rilke, which Playboy magazine named as one of the best non-fiction books of 2006) have attended the rally and thrilled the audience with fascinating stories of their motorcycling adventures.

One of the most attractive features of the MRT Canada Rally is its location at the motorcycle-friendly Toad Rock Campground, located a few kilometres from the Balfour Ferry (said to be the longest free ferry in North America and part of the B.C. highway system.)  Toad Rock has excellent facilities, including a large, rustic, open air pavilion fitted with an pool table, couches, and an honor bar where visitors gather throughout the day to share riding stories and experiences.  The campground has a very clean hot shower facility with flush toilets and a variety of ‘camping’ accommodations such as an old school bus, travel trailers and a handful of cabins, in addition to the typical tenting sites.

And of course there’s the rally’s location, in the heart of B.C.’s Kootenay mountain range.  This region is blessed with the best motorcycle riding roads in Western Canada.

The MRT Canada Rally offers everything for the experienced or budding adventure-touring or RTW travel enthusiast – fantastic roads, a welcoming, friendly environment, and with on-site riding experts like Simmert and Horan, it’s hard to imagine a better event.  And it’s inexpensive.  The MRT Canada Rally is held annually on the first long weekend (a civic holiday across Canada) in August.  For more information, contact Wolfgang Simmert or Anny Langlois at:  http://mrtcanada.org/

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