Lawrence Hacking’s Overland Adventure Rally is one of the few events in Ontario that my friends and I look forward to every season. The event is regularly held at the Mohawk Inn in Campbellville, Ontario and it is catered mainly toward the adventure touring riders with a strong emphasis on building camaraderie and having fun. All kinds of bikes are welcome and participate but the event is dominated primarily by adventure & dual sport bikes. I usually ride my 1992 BMW R100RT to impress all the dads and get people laughing a bit but I’ve also ridden the event on the new Aprilia Caponord 1200 in 2014. Ride whatever you’ve got and you will always have a good time.
Lawrence Hacking is a well-known Canadian motorcyclist, writer and dad. He’s famous for being the first Canadian to finish the legendary Dakar Rally on a motorcycle in 2001. The Dakar Rally is an extremely difficult off-road race only completed by a few of the world’s top riders & drivers. It involves gruelling days blasting through sand, dirt and gravel in the hot desert sun as well as navigating through various countries and cities. The annual event was founded back in 1978 by Thierry Sabine and was popularly known as the “Paris-Dakar”. Until 1995, the race would always begin in France and end in Dakar, Senegal. Today, the race begins in different countries and offers different routes to keep things interesting, but it’s still the race for the real adventurer.
Lawrence Hacking’s Overland Adventure Rally exists to share this passion for adventure riding with as many people locally as possible. The event gives everyone a little taste of what it could be like to participate in the annual Dakar Rally. What’s different is that rather than being a race, the Overland Adventure Rally is more of a social gathering with an epic on and off-road adventure ride in the middle. There are some entertaining and skill building events that are available to the participants before and after the ride itself and lots of social time—an opportunity to hangout at the Mohawk Inn Bar for a drink.
The Overland Adventure Rally starts on a Friday and wraps up early on the Sunday morning. Participants can either stay at the Mohawk Inn where the event is hosted or they can camp in the KOA Campground directly connected to the Mohawk Inn. This year, on the Thursday and Friday before the event, off-road skills training with 8-time Dakar finisher Simon Pavey was available to all the fully registered participants. Simon runs an off-road training school back home in Wales with his family and he’s the guy that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman hired to train them before going on their Long Way Round motorcycle adventure. Heck yeah, that’s cool!
Registration opened at 3:00pm on the Friday this year while vendors and sponsors set up their booths and displays. After registrations, participants can browse a great collection of vintage adventure bikes and dirt bikes around the expo area or simply grab lunch or a drink at the restaurant. At 5:30pm on the Friday, the event is kicked off with a social dinner in the back yard of the Mohawk Inn. This is a great way to meet other riders in a bit more of a personal and low-key environment. Many participants don’t show up until Saturday morning so the atmosphere is much more relaxed on the Friday evening. The dinner is usually followed up by an inspiring presentation to get everyone excited about the weekend.
Saturday is the main event and it’s when my friends from Town Moto and I joined the party. We rode in from Toronto that morning, registered and had a bit of breakfast. Registration opened at 6:30am and riders from all over Ontario cruised in to get set up for the 8:00am Ride-Off. At registration, all participants were given a Rally Raid Style Road-book to navigate like a real Dakar competitor. A GPS route-map can also be requested ahead of time for back up—do this when you register online. The main route is for the adventure riders – the riders that want to get a bit dirty. It’s a combination of paved roads with a great amount of gravel and un-maintained, tighter dirt roads. You will always have a smile on your face on this route, enjoying the scenery and anticipating the next surprise. There is also always a pavement-only route for the road bikes.
The riding/adventure portion of the day ran until about 4:30pm with a catered lunch stop from Noon to 2:00pm. Dinner was served back at the Mohawk Inn from 5:30 to 7:30PM and it was the perfect way to wind down and fuel up after our daytime adventure. Afterwards there was an inspiring presentation by Simon Pavey and Lyndon Poskitt with the night wrapped up by a comedy show from Jonny Harris.
The Overland Adventure Rally is an event that I’m really thankful exists. Its a positive and welcoming event that gives people the opportunity to ride at their own pace, have fun with their own friends or really branch out and make new ones. Riding together, especially in the more difficult offroad stuff definitely brings people together. Lawrence, hats off to you and your team for another successful event. It’s always executed well. We lock it in our calendars every year once the new date is announced. I can’t wait for the next one.