Of all the different types of events we put on at the shop, one of our favorite things to do is the most basic: get together with our pals and go for a ride. While not essential, it helps to have a destination. On Sunday morning a dozen of us braved the gray, humid Chicago drizzle to set off together for Milwaukee and the inaugural Brewtown Rumble. Had the sun been shining and birds chirping, we have no doubt our numbers would have been greater. Yet for those who did show up to ride with us, we knew that if nothing else, we had a hearty squadron of rider who were ready to have an adventure, weather be damned.
We gathered first at Motoworks Chicago (1901 S. Western Ave), where we fortified ourselves with coffee before having a quick rider’s meeting. This wasn’t going to be a particularly technical or fast ride, but still best to get everybody on the same page. Our first stop would be Starbucks in Wilmette (not Winnetka, sorry about that, everyone!), and then we’d press on to Full Moon Diner. After Full Moon, the plan was to just blast up to Milwaukee for the show, and everyone would make their own way home from there.
Also part of our day’s adventure was seat time in a pair of Ducatis that are new for 2015. Johnny and I would spend the day trading off between the newly refined 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200 and the rough-and-tumble Scrambler Ducati. Johnny started on the yellow Scrambler, while I climbed aboard the new Multi. Even though Johnny and I were rolling Italian for the day, there was a terrific cross-section of bikes with us in our group of about a dozen riders. We had Triumphs, BMWs, Hondas, Harleys, Kawasakis — the whole gamut. What’s particularly great about that mix of bikes is that many simply aren’t bikes that we sell or service. To us, it’s such a great endorsement from the local rider community when they want to participate in Motoworks events, even if they’re not rolling on a Motoworks motorcycle. Thanks for that. It means a lot to us.
As we got underway, the drizzle dropped away completely. It was still gray and pretty iffy-looking, but we weren’t wet yet, so we pressed on. Johnny summarized what we were all thinking:
“This is going to be one of those days where either the weather turns spectacular, or we all get soaking wet.”
Thankfully, it was the former and not the latter.
Our group set off for Hwy 55 where we’d meet up with Lakeshore Drive and Sheridan Road to make our way North via the city’s most scenic route. It’s a route all of us windy city riders have taken dozens if not hundreds of times. Yet while familiarity can breed contempt, I think for most of us we’re just happy to have a fun, flowing road we can count on. As we transitioned from Lakeshore Drive to Sheridan Rd, Johnny leaned over to me at one of the stoplights, projecting out of his helmet. “I just realized I’m on the wrong Scrambler. This isn’t the one I fueled up last night. Let’s grab some fuel.”
The light changed and around the bend a Shell station appeared on our left. We pulled in and everyone took the opportunity to gas up. In our riding group we were lucky enough to have Alex Hawn, a local photographer and bike nut, on his brand new Indian Chief. Alex would wow us throughout the trip as he’d drive the massive Indian with his knees alone and turn nearly side saddle to snap photos of our group in motion. He offered to swap rides with Johnny until our next stop, and like any sensible motorcycle fan, Johnny took him up on the offer. So as Alex buzzed along on the diminutive Scrambler Ducati, Johnny now led the way on on the Indian. It was a fun juxtaposition because it’d be difficult to think of two bikes designed with more divergent priorities in mind.
Before we knew it, we were at our first planned stop. Well, sort of. We stopped at Starbucks in Wilmette, and even gained a couple riders to our group. The published stop was the Starbucks in Winnetka. Apologies again to those of you who waited for us there. We’re glad you were able to catch up at Full Moon. As we took over the Starbucks parking lot, the skies were still gray and threatening with rain. It wasn’t cold, thankfully, but the threat of rain was still present. I pulled off my stifling waterproof over-pants, content that being wet was better than being hot should the skies actually open up.
We weren’t at Starbucks long. In two shakes we were back on Sheridan headed north. We cut over to Hwy 41 and in what seemed like no time at all, we were stopping again, this time at Full Moon Diner. The lot was crammed with bikes, as it tends to be on any Sunday with decent weather. There were a couple of Polaris Slingshots in the lot as well, which are kind of like motorcycles, I suppose. While not all of that crowd was waiting for the Motoworks group to arrive, a decent number were. Our numbers were swelling. We all did a lap around the lot, taking in bikes of every shape, size, make and vintage. A few folks grabbed a cup of coffee, but within 15 min or so, I could feel the air changing. It was time to press on.
“Do you want to navigate?” Johnny asked me, pulling out his mobile phone.
“Hell no.” I replied, having no interest in becoming the ride leader.
“Well then you get the Scrambler.”
“Fair enough.” I said, more than happy to take a real crack at one of the most highly-anticipated bikes of 2015.
On our ride so far, I’d been aboard the all-new 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. While not night-and-day different from the bike it’s replacing, the new Multi does feature a new variable valve timing engine, a facelift, and some welcome updates to the bike’s ergonomics. I’d been gloriously comfortable on our ride so far — switching back and forth between Urban and Touring mode as the road conditions changed. I’d also been enjoying Multi’s wind shelter and rolling slingshot power delivery. My favorite bit was the new dash display. The dash on the Multi has always felt like some sort of futuristic military display. I half expect it to show me missile lock at some point. This is fitting, as riding the Multistrada feels about like what I’d expect an F-16 to be like to fly.
Switching to the Scrambler was a fun contrast. The bike felt tiny and impossibly light coming off the Multistrada. I’d come to the Scrambler expecting its 803cc L-twin to feel lacking after the big motor in the Multi. Not so. The Scrambler’s svelte dimensions and the aggressive tune Ducati have put on the engine adds up to a bike with a far wider performance envelope than I’d expected. I was putting that envelope to the test as Hwy 41 transitioned into Interstate 94. The Scrambler kept giving me everything I asked for, except for extra room on the saddle. That’s not the Scrambler’s fault though. I’m 6’3″, so most bikes don’t fit me quite right. The Scrambler wasn’t uncomfortable, it just wasn’t set up for highway running. I actually spent much of the ride with my butt parked on the pillion seat — a trick I’d picked up back when I only rode scooters.
Flying down the freeway, the Scrambler kept giving me everything I’d ask for. If I wanted more power, the Scrambler gladly gave it. If I needed to stick into a sharp corner, the Scrambler didn’t mind a bit. Were this my own personal motorcycle, I’d be doing a suspension upgrade first-thing, but otherwise the Scrambler just kept living up to its billing as a weapons-grade fun machine.
Our couple of little stops had done a great job of breaking up the short little trip into Milwaukee. Before we knew it, we were diving off the highway and arriving at the Pabst Brewery location. The streets were already crowded with bikes at the Brewtown Rumble and as we pulled up, the skies even began to break open a little bit — not with rain, but with blue sky. We’d made it safe and dry. Alex lined us up for a quick group photo and that was that. We’d made the run. Now time to enjoy what the Brewtown Rumble had to offer.
If you ever attended the old Rockerbox street festival at Fuel Cafe, then the Brewtown Rumble would have felt very familiar. Given that it’s the spiritual ancestor to this event, that makes a lot of sense. About a 6-8 square block area around the Pabst brewery had been quartered off for motorcycle parking, and there were quite literally bikes everywhere. There was a park courtyard square of sorts with a stage setup and a live band already belting out the tunes. Pop-up tents dotted the landscape and one could buy everything from burritos made-to-order to custom motorcycle fenders made from steel, aluminum or even copper. Even though the event was held in Milwaukee, we saw plenty of Chicago locals, such as the booth for Analog Cycles.
As we did our laps around the event, two things stood out to me. The first was the eclectic mix of bikes that were there. For me, this is always the hallmark of a great bike event. Unless you’re doing something themed like British Night Moto Monday at Five Star, it’s a bad sign if only one kind of bike shows up to your event. If some one bike makes up the overwhelming majority of the attendants, that’s just boring. The Brewtown Rumble did not suffer from that issue. Seeing all manner of interesting machines was reason enough to go.
The second thing that stood out was our surroundings. The Pabst brewery is a terrific location for this kind of event. It’s easy to get to, picturesque, but also just has a great vibe. Now I don’t spend much time in Milwaukee myself, but it was easy to see that the entire area around the brewery is transforming, and rapidly. The area seems to be exploding with development. I’m sure that for the locals, that’s both a blessing and a curse, but from where I was walking, it felt mostly positive. There we were at the intersection of the past and the future. In a way, that’s what the Brewtown Rumble itself really was this year. It’s the old event, but new. It’s a nod to a rich history, but forging its own path forward into the future. Personally, I can’t wait to see what this event grows into, especially with less rain in the forecast. My guess is that it’ll be wall-to-wall bikes in a great way.
So if you missed this year, keep your eyes pealed for next year’s dates. I think we’ve got a live one here. Chances are we’ll put a ride together again too.
Huge thanks to everyone who braved the drizzle to be part of our Chicago squadron. By the time we made it back to the shop, it was full sunny skies. It hadn’t rained a drop and we’d had a spectacular ride there and back.
Special thanks also to Alex Hawn for lending his eye and photographic talent to our ride, and for letting us use some of his photos here on BTM. Check out his full album from the event over on Facebook.
Did you miss out this time? Be sure to “Like” us over on Facebook. That’s where we post our event info, and it’s accessible even if you’re not on Facebook itself. Stay tuned, as the riding season is just getting going.