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Bikers Reunion 2014

Jess Kline Rides the Freedom Ride • Credit: Martin Lortz
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Bikers Reunion 2014

Sign up for Bikers Reunion now!

There are going to be 1000's of bikers descending on New Liskeard on the first weekend in July. Skip the lines when you get there by registering ahead of time.
Registration is $15 per person. Campsites for $40 or $65 for RVs

The Biggest Motorcycle Event in the North

Editor's Note: We've covered the Bikers Reunion event every year for the last five year, and we can definitively say that much like Port Dover in the south, it's a motorcycle event that cannot be missed. But while Port Dover is wild and brash, the Bikers Reunion gives riders a chance to reflect; both on the Temiskaming Loop people generally take to get there and back, and in the incredible Freedom Ride that takes place on the last day. But it's got it's fair share of bands, lumberjacks and diving horses too!

harley hq

“You’re in” – words I yearn to hear when it comes to a spur of the moment invitation to join in on a motorcycle trip. This time, the invitation was to attend the largest motorcycle event in Northern Ontario. That’s right, I’m talking about the New Liskeard Bikers Reunion.  I learned that my friends, Claude and Mike, have attended the Bikers Reunion for several years now, and they had a blast last year filming an amazing commemorative video about the event:

I wanted a piece of that fun pie; I wanted to experience what they’ve described as an amazing event that’s brought them back year after year to Temiskaming Shores. If you read my last article, you will know that I NEVER pass up an opportunity to join in on a motorcycle adventure, and so I cheered when I heard “you’re in” and starting packing my bags.


I found myself on a Friday afternoon at Deeley Harley Davidson, waiting to pick up a new Harley to ride for the weekend. I had a choice between a Dyna Low Rider, Night Rod Special and Electra Glide Ultra Classic. Of course, I jumped at the chance to ride the Night Rod Special – the mysterious, sleek design of this bike and the v-twin engine just called out to me, teasing me to give it a try. It took me a little while to get used to the bike, which was completely different from my Suzuki SV650. The forward controls and riding position was something I had to get used to; but after a while I felt like I had been riding that motorcycle forever.

The three of us rode our Harley’s from Toronto to North Bay along some of the best motorcycle roads I have seen in Ontario. [CLICK HERE to read about our journey]. The following day, we headed to New Liskeard to check out the festivities. I immediately knew that this motorcycle rally was different compared to other events I’ve been to.  Right away, I noticed plaques lining the main walkway into the fairgrounds. These plaques explained how that event started in 1999 by Barry Phippen, and became an annual event in 2004 with the main goal of raising money for the local cancer ward at Hospital. Last year, the event donated $118,000 to the Cancer Care Unit at Temiskaming Hospital.


Lawn tractor races, roller derby competition, a motorcycle stunt show – this event had it all. When I needed a break from the excitement, I was able to go for a walk down the wooden boardwalk that wrapped around the Lake Timiskaming shoreline. I was in my happy place; the weather was perfect, the company was great, and everywhere I looked I saw motorcycles.

The guys said to me “wait until you see the Freedom Ride tomorrow”. I smiled and said I couldn’t wait to see what this parade was all about; but I don’t think I really understood what they meant. You see, I’ve been in dozens of parades and fundraiser group motorcycles rides before, so I didn’t expect this to be any different.

freedom ride

On Sunday afternoon, as bike after bike started and riders revved their engines, I started to feel an excitement in my gut. Group rides are always an experience; it’s amazing to feel part of such a large group of fellow motorcyclists. The sights, sounds, and smells of thousands of motorcycles is something you can only experience in person.

I don’t think the magnitude of the event actually hit me until we were at the Temiskaming Hospital. Thousands of motorcycles parked in the front and back parking lots of the hospital while motorcyclists went inside to deliver care packages to patients. We waited outside and I chatted with fellow motorcyclists. It wasn’t until we left that I actually got it. I looked to my right, and saw patients inside the hospital, sitting at the window and looking out at us as we departed. We left the parking lot, and passed signs that said “Thank you Bikers” and signs that asked us to return next year.

the kids

I took a deep breath, but couldn’t hide the emotion I felt. I immediately thought, “Why are you thanking ME?” I should be thanking YOU– for allowing us the opportunity to participate in your experience, to share in your pain, and to allow me the chance to reflect on my own life in that moment. It was leaving the hospital that I felt a presence with me – I’m not sure what it was – whether it was my grandfather, or cancer patients who had frequented this hospital… all I knew was that there was a reason I received an impromptu invitation the week before to join on this journey to New Liskeard.

The 120km parade continued on, touring through all of the small towns and municipalities that are involved with the hospital. Along the way I saw cars, trucks, and groups of people who waved, smiling and held signs that welcomed us and said encouraging words such as “thank you bikers”, “welcome bikers” “come back again bikers”. I have NEVER felt more accepted and appreciated as a motorcyclist in my life, and I’ll be honest when I say that I struggled with this concept. I didn’t understand what I had done to deserve such accolades; it was definitely a bittersweet moment.

We rode through the towns of Cobalt, Haileybury, New Liskeard and Earlton. Each new town we rode through caused a wave of emotion wash over me; I had to remind myself to smile, wave, and honk my horn in return to the hundreds of people who had taken the time out of their lives to make signs, and greet us as we rode through their town. This was by far the longest parade I had been in in my lifetime; the experience was amazing and something I will never forget.

I returned home after that weekend, and when telling my friends and family about the experience, I felt the same emotion from that day at the back of my throat. When I watched the 2013 Bikers Reunion Video, I recall Mike Jacobs saying, “This is it, this is the freedom ride. And it’s not some abstract notion of freedom found on a motorcycle, but it’s literally freedom from pain, freedom from suffering”. I found that I had gained a whole new understanding of the word ‘Freedom’ that weekend.

Finally, I’ll end with saying ‘Thank you’ in return to those who live in the New Liskeard and surrounding areas. Thank you for the support you have given your loved ones, for the tears you have cried, and the hours you have spent wishing, praying and hoping that your loved ones will overcome their challenges. Thank you to the hospital workers who, despite your own challenges, come to work each day and put in 110% towards caring for others. Thank you for giving me a memory that will last a life time, and an experience that I will never forget. My grandfather was with me that day; I could feel him riding next to me on his BWM motorcycle, and that is something I will cherish forever.


This article is dedicated to my grandfather, Larry Kline, who passed away in 2004 from Cancer.


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