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Saturday, 10 October 2015 00:00

Motorcycling in Canada - A Ride through Our History Part 7

Motorcycling in Canada - A Ride Through Our History - Part 7Atlantic Canada's motorcycling history is not as old as in other places of the country, but the history that is chronicled is as varied and interesting as that of any other region!


Jack Canfield - The Chronicle HeraldJack Canfield - The Chronicle HeraldMotorcycle racing was not as big a pastime in Atlantic Canada as it was in other regions of Canada until the 1940's.  Car racing was the big thing!

Atlantic Canada has has it's fair share of people who have impacted motorcycling.

One of those people is Jack Canfield. Jack raced both cars and motorcycles and throughout the years his contributions to both disciplines are many.

From the time Jack was 14 old, he was racing and winning. During the 40' and 50's he participated in 
scrambles, hill climbs, trials and dirt-track races taking home many a trophy. His accomplishments in the 50's and 60's include road race wins at Mosport & Daytona, but he competed all over eastern Canada and the eastern USA.

He became a sponsored rider with Suzuki after he took home the Canadian Motorcycle Grand Prix Championship trophy at Mosport. He won on a home built 250 Suzuki beating all of their factory riders!

Probably one of the biggest reasons that the name Jack Canfield is so loved and revered in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada is his passion and vision to see the Atlantic Motorsport Park in Shubenacadie, N.S become a reality. He not only spearheaded the park, but also launched the Atlantic Motorcycle Competition Riders’ Association.  Although Jack loved all motorsports, motorcycle racing was his passion and he contributed much to the sport he loved. Heralding from Charlottetown PEI, Joseph Bolger lit up the motocross tracks in the 50's and 60's.

Like so many racers, his passion was derived early in life. Born in 1930, he owned his first motorcycle at 14, it was a 1931 Indian Four.  At 16, Joe moved to the States but retained his Canadian citizenship. The move was made out of necessity. There was little to no work available on PEI. 
His racing career took off in 1956 aboard a 500cc AJS.
Rhist2Joe Bolger - Motorcycle Hall of FameNot only did he win the 1959 Canadian National Motocross Championship in the expert 250 class, he was sportsman of the year 5 times, and won the Eastern USA Motocross Championship series 5 times as well.  He was undefeated in the 1965 Eastern USA VS Canada International Motocross series!
As a racer, he also found himself developing parts and tools to support the sport.
He designed and built footpegs, motor mounts, wheels that were lightweight and soon found his products being carried in the Motocross Engineers catalogue. Many of the speciality tools he designed were picked up by Honda and carried in dealerships across North America.
His parts caught the eye of another manufacturer, and in 1975, Yankee Motors released a special Ossa that sported the Bolger Long Travel giving their machine 8 inches of rear suspension travel.  
Only 150 Ossa BLT's were ever produced.
Joe also had a passion for writing and was a long time contributor to both Cycle Sport and Cycle World magazines.
Roy Blakney - The Chronicle HeraldRoy Blakney - The Chronicle HeraldRoy Blakney of Moncton New Brunswick made numerous contributions to motorcycle competition He was an official, a promoter, a sponsor and offered his assistance locally, nationally, and internationally. He won numerous championships and races with his aggressive riding style between 1951 and 1966.
His list of firsts and seconds is amazing. It was estimated that he had logged over two million miles during his 71 years of riding. 
Roy competed in Canada, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.


John Johnson was the Norton motorcycle distributor for the Maritimes. 
He not only sold bikes but he raced vintage motorcycles.
In 1950, the bike pictured on the left was sent by Norton to Daytona to compete. In 1959, John Johnson used this machine and any Norton rider available to promote the races in the Maritimes.

In the early 1990's, the Norton Manx was brought out of the mothballs it had lived under for almost 20 years and Thane Gillies would race it while John maintained it.

John Johnson (L) Gary Gates (R) with a 1950 Norton Manx Photo from Brit CyclesJohn Johnson (L) Gary Gates (R) with a 1950 Norton Manx Photo from Brit CyclesA number of vintage races were won on this bike including the first of the reunion races at the original track for the Laconia Nationals held at Gunstock. In 2006 the Manx raced for the last time.  Gary Gates, pictured in the photo with John is the new owner of the Norton.
John Johnson was also well known in the Maritimes as a mechanic and machinist whose talents were heavily relied upon. His generous nature made him an appreciated sponsor of motorcycle racing and riders as well as a valued friend. Because of his passion, many a rider was introduced to the sport of motorcycling in the Maritimes!

I hope you enjoyed our short journey through the history of  motorcycling in the Maritimes.
Motorcycling has a storied history in Canada.  We have literally hundreds of racers and pioneers of the sport to thank for making motorcycling the enjoyable pastime it has become for so many.

While most of the historical facts and stories focus on the contribution of mechanics, engineers, machinists and racers, there truly is a more social aspect to the sport and that is touring and cruising.

Beginning back at the turn of the 19th century with bicycle clubs, the motorcycle became the natural benefactor of man's need to belong to a tribe and almost every club that was formed up into the 40's had a more social and less sporting side to it.  Road Riding was incorporated into pretty much every club that sprang up, but they all had their roots in racing.

In the 1940's the Red Devils opened up the first MC in Canada and our community would never be the same.

Join me next time as we explore the beginning of the One Percent culture in Canadian motorcycling.

Belt Drive Betty, Editor & Rider

Interesting Historical Tidbits:

1908 - "Anne of Green Gables" makes Lucy Maud Montgomery of Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Canada famous

1912 - Thomas Wilby and F.V. Haney make the first cross-Canada trip by car, travelling from         
            Halifax to Victoria in 52 days in a Canadian-built Reo

1923 - Drivers in Nova Scotia began driving on the right hand side of the road.

1927 - The first ever nationwide radio broadcast, was held to mark the 60th anniversary of       
            confederation, and could be heard as far away as South America and Britain.

1930 - Actor Gordon Pinset is born Grand Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador

1935 - Actor Donald Sutherland is born in Saint John New Brunswick

1944 - Rita MacNeil is born in Big Pond Nova Scotia

1949 - The Maritime Motor Maids started out as the Eastern Canada District. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland & Labrador.

1949 - Newfoundlan becomes Canada's 10th province.

1957 - Canada becomes the first country with a two screen theater.  Nat Taylor, owner of the Elgin Street theatre in Ottawa Ontario went on to invent the Cineplex or Multiplex style of theatres.

1964 - The Canadian Social Insurance Number comes into use.

1974 - Atlantic Motorsport Park opened.
Research for this article:
Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame
Maritime motorsports Hall of Fame
The Chronicle Herald
Motorcycle Hall of Fame
Brit Cycle
Last modified on Wednesday, 13 April 2016 23:23

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