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Western Canada’s Rally In The Rockies 2020

A Harley Davidson parked in front of a tunnel.

In 2010 I rented a Heritage Classic from Calgary Harley Davidson Rentals. It was the first Harley I’d ever ridden and marked the beginning of my appreciation for the brand and their bikes. The funny thing is that I didn’t like it at first, but it grew on me over the 24 hours I had to ride it.

I owned two Harleys in the years following that rental experience and enjoyed immensely the time I spent cruising through the Canadian Rockies that are only 40 minutes west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada where I live. I sold both Harleys about 5 years ago and really haven’t ridden any for an appreciable amount of time since until just this past week.

A Harley Davidson gas tank emblem.

The Rally In The Rockies is Born

The Rally in the Rockies logo.

Some of my favourite roads were included in the planned “Iron Butt” route for the first annual Rally In The Rockies 2020. I got to once again enjoy them astride some Milwaukee metal thanks to Calgary Harley Davidson. The twists and turns found on the 1A, 93, 3, and Cowboy Trail (22) enhance the superb beauty found in the snow and glacier-rich rocky peaks, turquoise-colored streams, high alpine forests, and vast pastures with rolling hills running alongside the asphalt.

Fortress Mountain in southern Alberta.

Calgary Harley chose to organize this week-long Rally for the first time for two main reasons;

  • Bring together motorcyclists from across the country to share in the joy found while riding around these parts.
  • They also felt sympathetic for the many riders who had booked time off to attend the 80th Sturgis Rally, but now couldn’t because of the closed US border due to COVID-19 restrictions.

It’s all about turning a negative into a positive and really this should become a newer and better Rally than Sturgis in many ways. A smaller and much more intimate Rally is way more appealing, not just from a health perspective, but I’m not a fan of big crowds at the best of times.

Motorcycles riding in British Columbia near Sparwood.

Each day of the week-long Rally had different events planned ranging from Poker Runs to demo rides on new bikes along with a final day of food, show n’ shine, and live music.

The Invitation

Jim Pruner and Paco Montes at Calgary Harley Davidson.

After collaborating with Paco Montes (the Marketing Director for Calgary Harley) on my recent 2020 LiveWire Review, he invited me to take part in the “Iron Butt” ride portion of the Rally with a little help from their rental fleet manager Marion.

A 2019 Harley Davidson Ultra Classic Limited motorcycle.

She hooked me up with an immaculate and fully optioned 2019 Ultra Classic Limited that would ensure my butt would be in prime condition at the end of the 1000 km of riding. My butt had just spent 3 days enduring what KTM dubiously calls a “seat” onboard my KTM 790 Adventure over 1000 miles so you could say I was ready for a change.

Harley motorcycles on display inside Calgary Harley Davidson.

I was on cloud nine climbing aboard that luxury cruiser and happy to find how easy it was to link my iPhone to the display to get my music library pumping out of the booming stereo system. I could hear it clearly even at full volume while travelling at highway speeds.

The display on a Harley Ultra Classic Limited.

The interactive touchscreen was slick, easy to read, and user friendly. I would rate it second only to the BMW displays which are phenomenally good. While checking out the system I discovered Marion had programmed in several other popular motorcycling routes into the navigation system on the Ultra which would come in very handy if I wasn’t a local.

The dash display on the 2019 Harley Ultra Classic Limited.

Calgary Harley has rented bikes to people from all over the world over the years and they place pushpins in a large world map hung on their rental office wall to recognize where visitors came from. They can offer up a selection of riding gear for use that is included in the cost of the rental should you need it. They’ve taken extra precautions now when it comes to sanitization and quarantining any gear that gets used, so no worries.

Calgary Harley's world map showing where visitors have come from.

Hitting The Road

Jim and Jenna Pruner at Calgary Harley Davidson.

My wife and photographer Jenna (aka Curly) was equally happy to finally get on the back of a comfortable motorcycle with me for a ride. She’s put up with many brutally uncomfortable pillion pads over the years ranging from ZX6-R sportbikes to my aforementioned KTM 790 Adventure.

Highway riding in Alberta, Canada.

We cruised out of the dealership parking lot along with 14 other bikes around 9:30am and headed towards the Trans Canada highway’s parallel twin, the 1A highway. The weather looked slightly dreary and threatened to rain as we passed through Canmore and Banff but once we crossed the British Columbia border and arrived in Radium 3 hours later, the skies were clear and sunny.

Grey sky at Ghost Lake Reservoir.

Wildlife Sightings

We were treated to a rare double moose sighting along the highway. The duo of long-legged Alces alces posed beautifully for our group while we rode past but unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get a photo of them. We also came upon a small group of bighorn sheep grazing along the highway at one point.

Motorcycles on the highway in Alberta, Canada.

I rarely witness moose sightings for some weird reason so this was a treat! It’s quite common for me to spot grizzly bears, black bears, whitetail deer, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and elk along this route. If I’m lucky I occasionally catch sight of mountain goats, wolves, or the very rare pronghorn antelope.

Lovely skyline in Alberta Canada.

Friendly Radium, British Columbia

Upon entering the town of Radium we were welcomed by several signs letting us Albertans know they were happy to receive us. Unfortunately, there have been a couple of disturbing cases recently in some parts of BC where Albertan vehicles have been vandalized, likely prompted by COVID-19 fears amongst the local residents. It’s a weird time we’re living in thanks to this virus, but the positive message displayed gave me hope that this troubling time will pass and give way to more good days ahead.

A welcome sign in Radium, British Columbia.

From Radium, we enjoyed warm and sunny skies all the way to Cranbrook where we stopped for a quick lunch. I appreciated the way many vehicles pulled off the road to let our group of 15 bikes pass by them with ease instead of trying to find gaps in the oncoming traffic to find clear sailing.

Motorcycles parked at a Petro Canada gas station in Radium, British Columbia.

A Tunnel and The Frank Slide

From Cranbrook, we raced down Highway 3 East through picturesque towns like Fernie and Crowsnest Pass. Many old coal mining towns dot the road and provide great places for fuel and coffee breaks along the way. There’s even a small tunnel to ride through where you can treat yourself to the amplified sounds of Screaming Eagle, Vance and Hines, Rinehart, and other exhaust types if you like.

Frank Slide was next and is truly a wild sight to behold. It’s a rubble field of boulders piled over 30 feet high on either side of the #3 highway. It was created in 1903 when on April 29, around 110 million tonnes of limestone rock came roaring down Turtle Mountain burying the town of Frank along with about 70 to 90 of its inhabitants. There’s a great interpretive center located there which is worth a visit to help grasp the whole story.

Frank Slide British Columbia.

Frank Slide British Columbia with Turtle Mountain in the background.

Longview Twin Cities Saloon

The Twin Cities Saloon in Longview, Alberta with motorcycles riding up to park in the lot.

We turned northbound onto Highway 22 or the Cowboy Trail to take in some prototypical southern Alberta landscape views on the way to Longview, our final destination of the tinfoil version of the Iron Butt Ride. A true Iron Butt is actually 1000 miles in 24 hours as opposed to 1000 kilometers in a day. Iron Butt rides are bragging points because they’re tough to accomplish.

A Harley odometer reading just under 1000 kilometers.

I’ve never personally accomplished one, so I don’t want to try and take anything away from that, but for me I’d much rather stop and see the sights in this beautiful part of Canada rather than blow by them on a quest to cover a set amount of distance.

Motorcycles riding on Highway 22 near Longview, Alberta.

The Twin Cities Hotel and Saloon welcomed us at the end of the ride with cold drinks and warm food to cap off what was a most excellent day of riding filled with laughs and new acquaintances.

Bikers Are Buddies

Calgary Harley Davidson organized the Rally but brought in the good people from Bikers Are Buddies to execute the Iron Butt Ride and some other riding events during this week long celebration of two-wheeled fun.

“Popeye” did a great job leading the ride keeping us all safe out on the road with “Beaker” handling the Sweep duties. At times along the way it likely seemed a bit like herding cats, but they took it all in stride making it look smooth and easy. They are a friendly, inclusive group of people doing noble work in the community working to help kids (and adults) that are bullied, abused, or disrespected to feel safe through birthday ride-bys at homes and hospitals during the COVID lockdown along with other community service and fundraising activities.

Thank you BAB, for volunteering your time for this and all the other good things you do.

The shadow of a motorcycle with riders on the grass near Longview, Alberta.

Thank You Calgary Harley Davidson too for daring to be brave during these uncertain times and carefully executing this Rally safely and in style.

Next Year 2021

Calgary Harley Davidson during the Rally in the Rockies only allowed motorcycle parking in the lot.

I hope August 7 to 15th 2021 is a time we can have this Rally again, but with many more people in attendance from different provinces across Canada. We need to come together (at a safe distance of course with plenty of hand sanitizer and masks handy) to go out riding!

Motorcycles parked at the Calgary Harley Davidson parking lot.

I think by then things will be settled south of the border too and we can have our American friends come up to see something different than Sturgis. After that perhaps the international community will feel comfortable enough to fly in and rent a bike to ride too. I look forward to getting back some semblance of normalcy by 2021 or 2022 with a little luck.

People enjoying the festivities of the Rally in the Rockies held at Calgary Harley Davidson.

Put it in your calendars now so you can meet and ride with me amongst other local Calgarians that share our passion for motorcycles and twisty mountain roads. It doesn’t matter whether you ride a Harley or not either since we had a Yamaha, Honda, and even an Indian riding in the group with us. Don’t let that stop you from joining in the fun!

A limited edition Rally in the Rockies fuel tank cover on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Some people don’t enjoy riding in groups which was optional on this ride. My wife and I took off more than once to get ahead of the pack so we could fully enjoy the view and set up down the road to capture some video of the gang riding by. If you want to Ride the Rockies solo and just meet up at the checkpoints along the way, that’s totally fine. The Rally in the Rockies is easy going and eager to please.

  • Jim

Important Links:

Calgary Harley Davidson Rentals:–rent-a-harley-davidson


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Rally In The Rockies 2020 Image Gallery