Sunday, August 4, 2013

Who's There? Percy Hart's Quest to Ride

Photo © Yamaha Motorcycles
Summer of 1978 was when I first saw it. I remember not being able to contain my excitement and thought how beautiful she was. Tried as I might, there was no rest for me that night. As I lay awake dreaming I would one day feel the freedom of riding. I did eventually fall asleep with what I am sure was one of the biggest smiles recorded in history for a twelve year old. The object was a brand new 1978 Yamaha Chappy. It was as Green, as I was with envy for the young man who proudly rode around our neighborhood. I remember asking my mother if we could get one. “Are you out of your mind “ was likely the reply she wanted to shout out, however she softly said, “we cannot afford one, and I am not comfortable with you riding one. When you are an adult and no longer living under my roof, you may do as you wish”, was the reply I remember, however that was so many years ago and mom’s reply may have been a little different.

Photo © Motobecane
I remember being sad for weeks until one day one of my uncles came knocking at the door with an old broken down classic 1970 Motobecane Cady Moped Scooter. It was beautiful bright yellow and in my eyes it was the most pristine moped in the world and it was all mine. In actuality, it was rusted, scratched and had several dents, not to mention she would not start, and even though my mother likely did not speak to my uncle for months, he assured me that with a little elbow grease and time, she would be as good as new. I never did get her started that summer and carefully wrapped her in a tarp and gently parked her on our third story gallery of our apartment building that fall. The following summer after unsuccessfully finding anyone to help me with knowledge or time and me without money to fix up my Yellow Steed the dream started to fade and as a young thirteen year old my attentions soon shifted to girls.

Photo © Honda
Late in the summer of 1979, while attending a Corn roast with friends of my mother, someone pulled out a Blue Honda CT70. I was so elated and was not sure I would be able to contain my excitement when I was asked if I wanted to try riding. I do not remember ever answering a question that fast and I said “Oui merci” and I proudly jumped on this beautiful Honda and took her for a spin. I remember the layout of the route I was going to take. A 100 meter stretch of gravel road with a 90 degree right handed turn and then a stretch that was 500 meters long with another 90 degree turn, this time to the left. I sat on the Honda which was running and was given brief instructions which I don’t remember hearing at that time as I was lost in the dreams of a boy who was finally going to RIDE. I started off slow for the first 100 meters and was in heaven. Nothing was wrong in the world at that very moment and as I made my very first counter balance right handed turn I was having thoughts of one day owning and riding my very own Steel Horse. As I was now approaching the second turn and had shifted into third gear, I started to panic. I was speeding down a gravel road, no helmet and no skill when I realized that I did not know what to do. Do I release the throttle and slow down? Do I down shift? How am I going to make this turn while speeding along at 40 kilometers per hour. Questions I seem to remember asking myself.

I was coming up quick to the bend, and due to panic and likely 30 + years of elapsed time, I can’t remember how or what I did to keep the chrome side up however I managed to make that turn although I do remember hearing yelling in the distance with instructions that I must have understood, but after almost hitting a Hydro post which was more reason for my mother to stand tall on her statement to me about “ not while your under my roof “, I managed to return the CT70 to its rightful owner without crashing her. I soon decided that with no tools, skills or money to repair my old Cady and no one to coach and guide me, that I would put the dream to ride to bed and so we recycled that old girl.  From time to time as I got older, I would see a bike and think how cool that would be, but I never found the desire to follow up on and learn. I simply had too many other distractions and hobbies.

There were two other times I was asked if I wanted to “take a spin “and both times I said sure. Once on a Honda CB350 and the other a Suzuki GSX 1100 (I may be wrong on both models, but not the brands) and both times I remember having the same feeling. I have no skill and don’t know what I am doing. Sure clutch, shift gear, throttle was all so simple and came naturally to me, however riding as anyone who has done it knows requires more thought, training and confidence.

My Brother Steve
aka "The Kid"
Photo © Percy Hart
Years later I found myself at the age of 46 years old receiving a phone call from my younger brother asking me if I would be interested in taking a course to obtain our class 6A license together here in Quebec.  As my brother, Steve, and I had not shared many bonding moments through the course of our lives and after experiencing two life threatening moments a few years earlier in my life, I said yes and called the driving school before doing anything else. I wanted to live and experience as much life as possible. I figured that if I was taught by professionals what I needed to know, the parts of riding that came natural to me would help me succeed in completing a dream from my childhood and further complete my life. While taking the course together and discussing what type of bike to buy, my brother said to me one night, “You need a Harley Davidson”. I had been looking at other models to learn and hone my skills on that I had always admired from my late teen years which where Honda Nighthawk 750 or Honda CB900. Although when Steve mentioned Harley Davidson, which had never entered my mind, I decided to take a look and began reading up on the bikes and in speaking to people the sense I got was that Harley Davidson was more than just a motorcycle, it was a way of life. It had everything to do with the brand and that appealed to me.

I was now after all a middle aged man and required some sort of comfort, yet had to have a bike with a classic look and feel and found the bike of my dreams.  Harley Davidson Heritage Classic. That was the bike for me…yes sir..please and thank you! As our riding course was coming to an end and I now had to make a decision and purchase a bike of my very own, the lady of my dreams said "How much is that? Are you out of your mind? Try again, and spend less Mister!" I understood clearly what this meant and after a short time thinking about this, she was right. “Start smaller, learn to ride, make sure you enjoy riding and then upgrade to a bigger bike later” she said. The Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom was my new favorite bike. Yes it was… It was after all less expensive, smaller and still a Harley Davidson. The Sportster did have that classic look of what a motorcycle should look like in my mind and I found a used one that had been the pride and joy of a fellow just like me.

My Classy Sporty and I
Photo © Percy Hart
The Lady of My Dreams...
Photo © Percy Hart
 Photo © Wendy McRae
"The Kid" and I
Living the Dream
Photo © Percy Hart
The price was right.  The bike was clean, well maintained and it was all mine. I learnt how to ride on that Sportster but more importantly I was introduced to a world that I had never known. I was introduced to some pretty awesome people from all walks of life with a similar passion. Thoughts of riding soon consumed my days and what really made this journey complete was when my kid brother and I took our first ride together earlier this summer.

Brother's Having Supper
Photo © Percy Hart
The past year has been one of the most rewarding in part because I have realized a childhood dream. I have met people who I am proud to call friends but more importantly because I realized that dreams can become reality when you believe. All you have to do is try.

"A Couple Who Rides Together, Grows Together"
Photo © Percy Hart
I did manage to sell my Sportster and purchase my Heritage Classic. I do have my full license and cherish the past year’s experience of learning and riding and I will never be able to thank my brother enough for pushing me to do this.  I look forward to exploring the back roads with my wife, my friends old & new, my brother and all alone on solo rides, they after all good for the soul.

Percy Hart


  1. Thanks Percy for sharing this with us. Loved your write up and enjoyed going down memory lane with you! I hope you will contribute again in future as I noticed you have been taking some spectacular solo rides as of late.

    Ride Safe Brother!

  2. Mario, I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to share a dream that not only do I love, but has allowed me to see the world from a new perspective. You Rock my friend

    Percy Hart

  3. Well said Bubba.

    Bill Potten

  4. Well written and said!!!:)

    Debbie Wainer

  5. Awesome story, look forward to bonding down the open road.

    Steve Hart

  6. Great story Percy! Love reading your writing Mario!


    1. Percy wrote the entire piece! He is a natural born writer! :-)

    2. Hey Mario..I may have put pen to paper, but you inspired me to do so my friend and all I did was write from my heart..Heading your way soon...


  7. great stuff both of u! merci percy & mario!

    Jacques Plante

  8. I remember owning the exact same chappy!

    Sidney Fruchthandler