Around the Bend (again)
Twisted ramblings of motorcycle journalist Max Burns, a selection from the final two millennia

The overview
The stats
The reviews
The awards
Excerpts from the book

Around the Bend (again) presents a wide-ranging collection of Around the Bend columns liberated from the past
pages of Cycle Canada magazine. Around the Bend first appeared in 1985, a private page burdened by few restrictions, a place where Max was encouraged to revel in various absurdities and obsessions as long as he maintained some connection to motorcycles and the people who ride them. The open road, risk, politicians, speed limits, life, it all became fodder for his soapbox oratories. This collection of 60 columns shows Max to be at his unpredictable best—or worst, your choice. So whether he's extolling the virtues of a chip stand hangout in northern Ontario or denouncing a South American airline en route to a sidecar tour of Brazil arranged by the Amazonas factory, please do join him for the ride—and the read. top

Adventures with Neddow

Country & Cottage Water Systems

Unresolved Connections

These are a few of my favourite roads

Around the Bend (again)

On Any Wednesday

The Dock Manual

Cottage Water Systems

The Winged Wheel Patch

The home page

The stats
Title: Around the Bend (again)
Subtitle: Twisted ramblings of motorcycle journalist Max Burns, a selection from the final two millennia
ISBN: 0-9730263-1-6
Publisher: Word Dust Press
Suggested retail: $18.69
Technical stuff
: 6x9 paperback (fits nicely into a typical motorcycle tankbag), 192 pages, full colour cover, foreword by Cycle Canada’s ex-editor Bruce Reeve, poem by Pablo Taylor, an introductory column by Max, and 59 Around the Bend columns "as seen in Cycle Canada."
Where to buy: Motorcycle Mojo Magazine. top

What Others Are Saying About Around the Bend (again)
“Max is located on the place where fun riding intersects with everyday living. Around the Bend is mostly like a good hour spent at a bar with an old friend just after you’ve both come in from a long ride through some interesting new place.”
—Andy Goldfine, Aerostich/RiderWarehouse, father of hi-tech fabric motorcycle riding gear, and organizer of the worldwide annual Ride To Work Day

“I always turn to Around the Bend in Cycle Canada because of Max’s ability to take a personal event in his life and make a story that is thoughtful, engaging and reflects his unique outlook on life.”
—Peter Hoogeveen, perennial Iron Butt contender and long-distance rider

“Max is a consummate pro as a writer, with a sheaf of national magazine awards to his credit, but he’s never lost the boyish impulse to write something nasty on the wall. I’ve wondered, at times, if Max isn’t in some sort of witness protection program—from some other solar system ...”
—Bruce Reeve, ex-editor of Cycle Canada magazine

“In tasty, bitesized chunks, Max discusses the subjects of motorcycling, from bench racing at the local hang-out to speed laws, from sliding across a frozen lake, to the behaviour of insurance companies, to the pleasures of rough roads. Max employs a light touch, but treats important themes, such as risk, friendship, discovery, and the art of waving. He’s funny, opinionated, and knows motorcycling inside-out, so his writing rings true.”

“Max Burns is pleasantly and entertainingly nuts.”
—Larry Tate, motorcycle journalist and raconteur

“I challenge anyone not to laugh out loud at some point—several points, for that matter—while scrolling through this book. Highly recommended.”
International Motor Cycle

"It's a humourous look at real life riding and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes to laugh."
Motorcycle Mojo Magazine top

The Awards
2004 Motorcycle Award of Excellence

The Excerpts: A sample Around the Bend column titled Avoid risk at your peril.

A warm, spring sun found pal Paul and I looking for a good excuse to take the day off, which we figured most likely lay hidden down a nearby Use At Your Own Risk forest-access road. We were out on our dirt bikes, aimlessly dawdling along, the leaves barely in bud, the blackflies still grounded. The road cut a long, gravel crescent through the bush from paved secondary highway to paved township road, the northwest end being the fun section, tossing and leaping about as if searching for a concealed emergency exit when the theatre’s on fire.

To the wonder of no one present, what began as a relaxed outing soon escalated into a full-tilt, take-no-prisoners battle for cosmic supremacy. For miles, Paul and I charged through the corners, throttles pegged to the stops, XL and XR just a breath apart, sometimes even touching. For miles, handlebars thrashed back and forth as humanity and machines slid and bounced a mere heartbeat from oblivion, none willing to give an inch. And for miles, under the helmets, behind the goggles, Paul and I both grinned and giggled as we flirted with death and dismemberment. This wasn’t mere foolish horseplay, mind you, it was important, a thing that mattered, a race of honour to see who could get back to the trailer first.

Midway through a corner–I don’t recall which–during a sudden slither–’scuse me Paul–a stray insight dusted its way into my helmet. That Use At Your Own Risk sign is in the wrong place. Rather than at the entrance to the forest-access road, it should be posted at the entrance to life, or at least at the entrance to adolescence.

Sissy stuff
Exposure to risk is an inescapable part of life. More than that, it’s a primeval need that to date evolution hasn’t managed to wean from our systems. Yet where evolution has failed, humanity itself is close to succeeding. Increasingly, we are becoming a society of sissies. Sure, we still want to take risks–to go mountain climbing, deep-sea diving, white-water rafting–just as long as it doesn’t involve any chance of injury or loss. After all, jeopardy is just a game show on TV.

So a person takes a risk, an accident happens, a person gets hurt. Could happen to anyone, right? Except the person who got hurt. Rare is it that the aggrieved pause to consider whether the incident was a result of their own desire, or even need, to push the limits. Somebody else must be found at fault, and if somebody can’t be, then blame it on El Niño. Either way, somebody else must pay.

Misplaced fault is particularly pitiful when the hurt or loss involves loved ones. How do you tell grieving parents that the main reason their kid’s now impersonating a potted flower is because they failed to ensure the child had proper instruction, had proper equipment, or was even made aware of any risk? You don’t. And overcome by disbelief, anger, and tears, they sue. Anyone; everyone. Psychologists call this transference of guilt. Lawyers call it a windfall. Insurance companies call it an excuse to increase premiums. I call it bawling for dollars. Isn’t there any onus on humanity to assume some responsibility for its own actions? Not even vegetables are entitled to a risk-free existence.

Speaking of which, years ago a few conservative acquaintances (they seem to have all forsaken me over time) claimed I was harbouring a secret death wish. They would point to the speed, the fast cars, the motorcycles, and anything else that set off their danger alarms, like old guitar strings that could snap in the night. As usual, that clichéd death wish was being confused with a life wish. If anything, life could use more Use At Your Own Risk options.

Couch victims
Given the choice, is it not better to die living than to remain living dead? The land of the living dead occupies the crypt in front of the TV, spits out the end of a narcotic needle, pours out the neck of a booze bottle, hides in the countless pages of over-regulation–basically lurks anywhere we subjugate our freedom in exchange for a preprogrammed existence, preferably with guaranteed minimal risk. Yet by seeking to eliminate risk, we unavoidably eliminate much of what makes breathing such a worthwhile enterprise.

Obviously it’s safer to simply sit back and watch. But so what? Where’s the advantage of being the last one buried if your spirit died years before you? When it comes to life, use at your own risk, and use often. Climb a mountain, hang-glide, bungee-jump, go out on a date. Or, to quote the Parry Sound Sportbike Rally’s perennial hard-luck winner Phil, “Ride fast and take chances.” But whatever you decide to do, make it your own choice and accept the consequences, be they success or failure. After all, you won’t have the chance once you’re dead or, worse, self-assigned to the comatose couch of the living dead.

As an aside, I won that race with Paul.