CHAPTER 57 – Your Officers
Cruisin’ Across Ontario
“They head out nights and weekends, in two and threes, or tens and twenties, from chapters across Ontario and across Canada. They wear leather jackets and ride Harleys, Hondas and Yamahas and pretty well every make on the road. They meet at coffee shops, gas stations and parking lots, coming in from places like Lindsay, Hamilton, Oakville, Orangeville, Angus and stops in between. Some wear large eagle emblems across the back of their jackets or vests. Together, they form the membership of the Southern Cruisers Riding Club.”
John Payne and the Southern Cruisers – By Mike Garratty
Writers, publishers, firefighters, factory workers, lawyers, and truck drivers. It doesn’t’ matter what you do or what your ride, what size or make. Members don’t even have to purchase the optional Eagle patches or the shirts or other merchandise that is available. The only requirement essentially is that members ride and conduct themselves in a manner that does not reflect badly on the riding club.
The Southern Cruisers is an American based group started by Rick ‘Rickster’ Perry that caught fire across the States and quickly got noticed via the net by motorcycle riders here. One Ontario rider in particular noticed with interest the postings about the Cruisers. That rider was John Payne, the regional officer for Canada, and, until February, President (First Officer) of the Burlington chapter of the SCRC. Payne, a grey-bearded veteran biker, has been at the helm of that first chapter in the Hamilton area and supervised and watched it grow to about 350 members. He has also seen chapters formed from the GTA core to Vancouver in the west, up to what is known as the Polar Kap in the north, east to Quebec and Ottawa and out east to New Brunswick.
In the spring of 1999 when Payne first learned of the riding club from the internet, the American club itself was still relatively new, only a year or so old. Payne read all the info and found he was interested even though the riding club was geographically American based. He liked its simple approach, which matched what thought a riding club should be about, with the emphasis on riding and not too many regulations or rules, dues or fees. He sent off an application with a feeling he had little to lose.
“in about three days I received an e-mail welcoming me to the club and informing me that I was the first Canadian to have joined and I was given a ‘member at large’ ID number and that was pretty well that.”
Payne discovered there was a Toronto chapter but he also began to explore the idea of staring his own, based in the Burlington area after trying to contact the Toronto chapter but not meeting with any success. The Cruisers’ Canadian founder sent in a chapter application to the American home base. He was interviewed by the membership director who touched on such things as commitment and dedication and the demands of a new chapter. “I assured him that I was prepared to do whatever was necessary and Chapter 57 was born.
Shortly after the formation of Chapter 57 I met a fellow through the ISRA (Yamaha Star Riders) forum who happened to live in Burlington and was anxious to meet others who had a similar love of riding. We met over a coffee at Time Hortons’ and grew to become fast friends. His name is Ken Offless.” He became second officer and right hand man.
Burlington grew and it became necessary to form other chapters. The second was Orangeville with First Officer Kurt Wulf. Then Niagara Falls under Mike Riddick, followed by London under Scott Milne. Others followed including Durham under Bruno Marchese, Kitchener under Manish Patel, Newmarket under Mike Langevin, Kawartha Lakes under Richard Oulahen, Barrie was formed last year under Justin Kidd. New chapters include Toronto and Hamilton.
In Canada, there are about 20 Chapters with more than 1,300 members and over 1,100 Southern Cruisers right in Ontario. Approximately one third of that provincial total comes from the Burlington membership ranks while it accounts for about 25 percent of the national count. There are currently over 20,000 members spread amound approcimately 350 chapters in total. The southern Cruisers now are truly international and not just North American. There are chapters in Australia, France, the Czech Republic and the Philippines as well as across the United States and Canada.
Payne, a.k.a. Greybeard, has owned and ridden a variety of motorcycles, staring with Harley-Davidson. Now his ride is a bronze and silver Yamaha V-1100 v-twin. The Yamaha is definitely ridden. He estimates that is has well over 60,000 kms on it in four years. Payne tries to get out to as many of his chapter’s rides as he can, as well as the charity rides, the toy rides, the poker runs and even the new chapter inaugurals.
All the chapters individually and together are involved with a variety of benefits and charities. Individual riders also participate in a wide range of events from food bank support to help for crisis centres.
The list of involvements is a long one. A few of the stops on that road are:
- Radical Ride, Bikers Against Breast Cancer, the sponsored ride for Chapter 57, Burlington
- Barrie is now putting on a poker run named for the Southern Cruisers Cruise for Kids for the Seasons Centre for Grieving Children
- Literacy Ride out of Keswick, sponsored ride for the Newmarket chapters
- the Ashley Dyer ride for cystic fibrosis is the Orangeville Chapter 209 sponsored ride
- the Salvation Army Toy Ride which is the the sponsored ride for the London Chapter 262
- there is a ride in support of battered women, which is the sponsored ride for Chapters 261 Durham and 235 Lindsay
- the Huntington’s Disease Awareness ride which is the sponsored ride for Niagara Chapter 238 group.
This is not meant to be complete, but just a highlighting of some of the involvements.
Regardless, Payne may be able to do even more chapter visits than he had time for in the past. Early in February he handed the Burlington Southern Cruisers First Officer post to Brian ‘Hink’ Hinkley. Hinkley, known as the poet of the SCRC, has a reputation for promoting the club and a positive image on a 24-7 basis.
The growth of the Cruisers across the province has been phenomenal. There are over 1100 members in Ontario alone and this continues to grow each week. It is probably a combination of factors. One is simply that is is about riding and the basis for the cruisers was keeping things simple without a whole book full of regulations and requirements.
For Payne, after four years, it was time to let someone else take the chapter. Hinkley had been the community relations contact and fourth officer for the Burlington club, the larges of the Canadian chapters. ‘Hink’, said Payne, has actually gone out of his way with promoting the club and a positive image. These efforts amusingly even included stopping a police officer to tell him about the club. “He is a tremendous champion of the club,” said Payne of the new Burlington chapter first officer.
The growth both in the Burlington chapter and with the Cruisers across the province has been phenomenal. It is probably a combination of factors. One of them is simply that it is about riding and the basis for the cruisers was keeping things simple without a whole book full of regulations and requirements. And no monthly fees too, is attractive to many riders.
So too is another benefit of membership. Depending on what company, being a member can cut the bill on bike insurance, by enough to pay for anything from a pair of fall gauntlets to more, possibly a leather vest. Select motorcycle businesses even offer members’ discounts to customers on purchases and work, a good deal for members in a a club with no fees or membership charges.
There is a short list of requirements for joining, usually listed on each local chapters’s website. These basically come down to riding safe and not casting the club in a bad light and abiding by the group riding guidelines. Nothing too hard or unreasonable.
There are some costs to running the club and chapters, including the costs of wallet sized membership cards which are even laminated and printed in colour, with the Eagle logo that matches the jacket patch. These and other expenses are mostly covered by such things as 50/50 draws, said Payne. The members as a whole don’t have to pay anything, except for their gas and maybe coffee. Payne stresses it is a riding club and it is built around the weekly, twice or thrice weekly rides.
Another important part of the growth for the club has to be through the internet. Many riders hit websites such as Southern Cruisers, as well as motorcycle specific sites such as the Yamaha V-Star sites, Honda Shadow sites, Kawasaki Vulcan and of course Harley sites. It was through this type of cruising that Payne learned of SCRC. Most of the Cruisers’ chapters have forums as well as pages where riders, would-be riders and members can post pretty much anything, ranging from questions about how long a set of tires should last to what is the best windshield to questions ask if anyone is up for a ride from Barrie to the Big Chute on a summer Saturday. Also these help to keep costs down – no snail mail mailings – and allow connections to be forged.
The club was recognized for their accomplishments in January of this year by being awarded the MAX Award as the National Bike Club of the Year at the Toronto Motorcycle Supershow.
Check the Southern Cruisers Ontario website for a full list of the chapters, officers, photos, and, where applicable, the motorcycle forums at www.southerncruisers.ca