Biker connections are great. They’re even better when your best bud from Grade 9 shows up at a reunion on an old, beat-up 80’s Goldwing.
Christian Thomas Forbes was a constant in my formative years. Comic book nerds, we’d spend countless hours ingesting four-colour adventures. He also awoke my interest in playing music, giving me pointers while playing in various high-school metal bands and eventually handing-me-down my first bass guitar—a bargain for $200.
It was inevitable that we would become downtown roommates in a crazy rooming house full of artists and performers. Sometime during this period, a motorcycle appeared at the side of the house but I barely noticed—at the time, I was naively still oblivious to the thrill of being on two.
It was also inevitable that our paths would eventually diverge. As years passed and life went on, our interactions were almost exclusively virtual, mostly via Facebook, with the odd reunion providing the spark.
It was also an inevitability that we would decades later cross paths on two. The resulting catch-up yielded a few things: my pal had reinvented himself as a paralegal after years in the printing trade; he’d also followed through with his interest in magic, performing card and coin tricks, and had moved to Niagara Falls from The Big Smoke to get away from the mayhem.
Another thing came up too: the little fact that he had never experienced a Friday The 13th in Port Dover…
As we walked towards the beach, I laughed as Christian remarked that it took him back to when we were 17 and trying to meet rocker girls at the CNE—same leather and tassels, but now with many, many motorcycles.
After taking in more PD13 flavour, a cup of joe at the Coffee Shop Of Port Dover gave us the best seat in the house. Watching the sea of bikers flow by, we had a rambling conversation about the topics we'd connected since our teenage years—sci-fi, comic books, and music—before meandering into the predictable-for-PD13 bike banter.
Here’s a little taste of what we discussed:
When and why did you start riding?
Started in 1991—a friend gave me a ride on his bike and I was hooked. He taught me how to ride; I bought the bike off of him, and couldn’t get enough. Went motorcycle camping a few times, had more rides than I could count, was a daily motorcycle commuter—absolutely loved it!
You mentioned you stopped for quite a long time; why did you stop?
Life got in the way—we needed a car. My old career died, I went back to school, started a new career; we bought a house. It was just one thing after another. Something kept coming up, pushing the motorcycle further down the list. The last year I rode was 2002 and, since then, I just couldn’t get things together enough to add a motorcycle to the mix.
Why resume now?
I had the means, always had the motive…the stars aligned, and it was time to get back in the saddle! If it wasn’t now, then when? I had waited over a decade—that was long enough.
Did you just hop back on, or did you do anything to brush off the rust first?
I watched every instructional video I could find on YouTube. I read as much as I could about motorcycling and dove into it as deeply as I could. Turns out, the subtleties take some time to come back…being in the right lane position, keeping up on your surroundings, cornering technique—a little work and practice, and it’s coming back to me quickly.
How many and what bikes have you had? Which was your favourite?
I started with a 1984 Honda Nighthawk 450, then a 1988 Hurricane 1000, a 1986 VFR 750, a 1978 CB 550K, and now a 1983 Goldwing Aspencade. Hard to pick a favourite—they all scratched different itches. I’d guess it’s between the Hurricane and the 550 for favourite bike.
Why an old Wing, rather than your dream bike?
I wanted to get out and ride right away. The "Oldwing’"was certified, at the right price, in the right condition, and ready to go. Insurance and a plate—and I was back on two wheels!
I also wanted something that would keep me busy over the winter, doing a bit of maintenance and some improvements. This is something I could do with my father, who has spent years keeping old beat-up cars running. Something to keep the old boy busy in retirement, and something over which we could bond and spend some time together doing.
What would your dream bike be?
Something big enough to tour on, comfy enough for two, easy enough to ride to be a daily rider around town, and fun enough to want to drive all the time. I would love to see what some modern touring bikes are like for this, like maybe a new Goldwing, or a Voyager, or a Star Venture… gotta find some demo days for these! Also, something sporty to carve twisty roads on. And then a sport tourer, something in-between these two. If I win the lottery, some motorcycle dealers will be very happy.
What do you think of your first Dover experience?
Love it! Great ride out to a charming little town, and they really rolled out the red carpet—scores of vendors, entertainment, food, drink, and more motorcycles than I could have imagined. Just looking at bikes could have filled the entire day. What’s more, the sense of community was beyond what I had expected. The siblinghood of riders was on full display; I met a ton of great people, the people-watching was superb, and there was an air of fun that was irresistible. Around 100,000 people were there to have a good time and share in the love of riding. Can’t wait for the next one.
If you were to give the younger you any riding advice, what would it be?
Find what you enjoy about motorcycling, and follow it as far as you can—if you like scraping knees, if you like touring, if you like cruising on some vintage piece of rolling history, do the heck out of it. There’s room enough in motorcycling for everyone’s taste. Just get out there!
It was late afternoon when we parted ways, with me headed north, and Christian due east—an amazing time seeing Dover again through the eyes of a first-timer. I see a lot more riding in the cards for these two old friends. Can’t wait till next season!