Motorcycling in Canada - A Ride Through Our History - Part 4

Manitoba's early history with the motorcycle is as interesting and fascinating as British Columbia, Alberta or Saskatchewan's. In fact, the Manitoba Motorcycle Club is recognized officially as Canada's oldest motorcycle club. They were founded in 1911. In 2010 they amalgamated with the Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba.

During the early 1900's Manitoba had a bustling motorcycle community.

Photo located on the Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba Web Site

The Manitoba Motorcycle Club, and the Winnipeg RoughRiders Motorcycle Club are amongst the best documented of all of the clubs in Manitoba at the time.

The Manitoba Motorcycle Club had some pretty talented racers.

In October of 1911, Joe Baribeau of the Manitoba Motorcycle Club set the world record for 100 miles on a dirt track at 1:40:14 & 3/5 second. He shaved almost 2 minutes off the previous record! Not only that he set the pace at and average speed of 60 mph.

Joe was only a part of the Manitoba Motorcycle Club for two years, but his numerous victories and his huge love of the sport made a huge impact in those two short years.

Scranton Truth, Oct. 16, 1911

Baribeau went on the be a principle racer for the Hendee Manufacturing Co. (Indian).
His racing career only lasted until 1913 when he wrecked in Toledo Ohio. He only ever raced once after that, in Toronto in 1915.

There is one more first that goes to Joe Baribeau - his is the first recorded motorcycle wedding in Canada.

Winnipeg Tribune,  Nov. 5, 1913

The clubs of the day in Manitoba were very active. There were lots of hill races, TT races, dirt track races, socials and more. The motorcycle community of Manitoba was also very civic minded.

The Manitoba Motorcycle Club and the Winnipeg RoughRiders Motorcycle Club collectively offered up 100 motorcycles and the manpower to form a motorcycle unit for the war in 1940.

Winnipeg Tribune, July 19, 1940
Winnipeg Tribune 1940

Many Manitoba riders played roles in the way the motorcycle was used to impact our history and culture.

By the end of 1910, there were approximately 10 dealerships in and around Winnipeg and all were looking to fill the demand for the motorcycle.

One of the best documented was the Northwest Cycle & Motor company. 

Opened in 1912, over the course of their history they would sell everything from Harley-Davidson, Ducati, Lambretta and everything in between. In 1978 the dealership was bought by Harley-Davidson of Winnipeg.

Back in the day, the Northwest Cycle & Motor Company was not just a place for riders to congregate or drool over new machines. It was also a place for innovation.

In 1948 a gent by the name of Ben Benson worked at this motorcycle shop and he filed and received the patent for the Hydra Glide front end!

See his Patent here.

It is believed that he struck a deal with the Harley-Davidson Motor Corp. in late 1948 before his patent was approved in 1950.

Meet another interesting Manitoba rider; Albert E Bennett (1906-1968)

First Row, second from the left

Born in Rossburn Manitoba, he and his family moved to Winnipeg in 1909.

After a stint prospecting for gold in the Williams Lake BC region, he returned to Winnipeg where he held the position of superintendent for the Winnipeg Electric Company of 14 years.

He had also worked as an assistant engineer during the construction of the Norwood Bridge and held the position of executive director for Met-Wood Industries. Heavily involved with civic politics he served on city council for 5 years from 1955 to 1960.

Mr. Bennett is probably best known in our history books as the founder of the first air cadet corps in Canada (1938) and for his role in the second world war as the commanding officer of Winnipeg's motorcycle training unit.

I hope you enjoyed our ride through early motorcycle history in Manitoba....So far this ride through our history has had some colourful and talented characters involved!

Ontario is up next!

Here are a couple of videos from the Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba's YouTube Channel that I thought you might enjoy:

Interesting Historical tidbits:

1906: Quebec, it is believed that there were 3 motorcycles registered in the province 

1911: Ontario issues motorcycle license plates

1911: New Brunswick includes motorcycle plates as part of their first run of licence plates

1912: Manitoba issues motorcycle plates that are miniature in size and revert to large plates with no provincial emblems for motorcycles in 1914.

1912: The Titanic sinks off the coast of Newfoundland

1912: Saskatchewan issues miniature motorcycle plates with provincial crests

1913: British Columbia introduces motorcycle license plates that are miniature in size, in 1914 the
plate changed to the size of a regular plate but had additional mounting holes.

1914: Britain declares war on Germany, Canada as a colony is at war.

1914: Winnipeg MB, the Fort Garry Horse was founded and was Manitoba's only cavalry regiment

1929: Canada is the second largest manufacture of automobiles. By the end of 1929 there were 1.9 million registered automobiles in Canada.

1930: The average cost of a car was $600

1939: Prince Edward Island - this is the earliest known motorcycle plate for PEI

1938 - 1945: Canada stops producing civilian products such as cars, appliances and clothing, and focuses on military production.

I hope you enjoyed our ride through early motorcycle history in Manitoba....
Ontario is up next!

I hope you will help us find Canada's MOST rider Friendly Community


If you are blessed enough to be riding today, please remember to ride like everyone around you is blind and cannot see you.

Belt Drive Betty,
Editor & Rider

Research for this article:

Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame
Greg Williams
Winnipeg Free Press
Manitoba Motorcycle Club Archives
Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba
Canadian Car
Memorable Manitobans
Google: Patents
Eric's Plates
Winnipeg 100 Years
Winnipeg Tribune
Scranton Truth

All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. The Belt Drive Betty Blog makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site & will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

Post a Comment