Bob was born in 1943 and grew up in Ontario. After high school, he studied engineering at Ryerson Polytech. In the summer of 1966, he married Nancy and took a job at Houdaille Industries in Oshawa as a project engineer where he stayed for 3 years.
In 1967, he purchased a 441 BSA Victor from Bill Sharpless and started riding. He changed the gearing and rode trials for part of the year. He got the idea to ride motocross “scrambles” from watching a home movie and rode races around Oshawa on the Victor for the rest of the year. He raced as a Junior with many races against Ron Keys.
In 1968, he traded the 441 for a 360 CZ and moved up to Expert. 1969 was a great motocross year winning the Ontario 250 MX Championship on his new Husky, adding a 400 Husky and riding two classes.
During that time, Bob rode in the Canada US challenge races as well as all the local races around Ontario and Quebec – Motocross was his life!
Around 1970, Bob started riding some enduros. Sponsored by Carl Bastedo on a 350 Kawasaki Bighorn, he rode the ISDT in Spain resulting in a Silver metal. Carl then gave him a 175 Kawasaki enduro bike which was a great bike and he competed in Ontario and Quebec.
He was working with his Dad in their shop developing an early model ATV in January 1971 when he received a call from some guy called Gary Robison who was looking for an engineer/rider who might be interested in helping to develop a line of off-road bikes in Quebec and would I be interested?
“I was hired on in Valcourt, Quebec as a project engineer with the responsibility for getting a research and Development department up and running for the as yet undesigned and un-named Bombardier dirt bike. Looking back 50 years, it still amazes me what we accomplished, especially during those early years where they started out with nothing.”
For the next seven years, he worked with a team of Canadians and Americans, both French and English speaking. We tried to use the best ideas available at the time to create a series of 125, 175, 250 and 370 Enduro and Motocross bikes. Rotax (owned by Bombardier) did the engine development in Austria and we did the chassis.
At this time, Bob spent many months in charge of testing the prototype bikes all over the southern USA in order to determine that they were ready for production. The name Can-Am was eventually purchased from the Sports Car Club of America.
For the first year or so, he motocrossed a lot in Quebec but gradually, under the guidance of Jeff Smith, their competition manager, he focused on enduro and ISDT events. As a member of the Vase or Manufacturers Team, he rode in 1973 USA, 1974 Italy, 1975 Isle of Man, 1976 Austria and 1977 Czechoslovakia. Bob won one Gold, two Silver and two Bronze medals. He had one DNF in Italy when the rear wheel broke on day four of the six-day ISDT.
In 1975, he was promoted to Director of Engineering and along with Jeff Smith, they shared the responsibility of the product going forward. These were tough years because there was not much money available for new tooling and it was difficult to keep up with the Japanese with their ability to create a new model every year. Much of his time was spent working with suppliers to get upgraded Rotax engines and longer travel suspension components.
One of the interesting projects was the 250 Military bikes designed for the British Army. They needed a good reliable cross-country motorcycle and Can-Am had one. However, politics required that the bike had as much British content as possible. In England, with Robert Lebouef, they agreed on Dunlop tires, Reynolds 531 tubing, Reynolds chain, Girling shocks and Homer alloy fuel tanks. In the end, they produced 880 units for the Brits and about the same for Belgium.
In 1977, Bill 101 came into law in Quebec, making it impossible to have your kids taught in an English school. The family decided it was time to leave and go back to Ontario.
Bill hired on with Canadian Bluebird Coach in Brantford as a Project Engineer and continued with them in various capacities until he retired in 2002. He started new production facilities in Brantford and many foreign countries and finished up as General Manager for Canada in Brantford.
He rode old timers motocross a little, hare scrambles a bit and for the past 12 years has been riding Adventure bikes in Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.
Bob has been a pilot for 36 years and uses a float plane mainly in Northern Ontario and Quebec. He’s slowed down some but lives happily with Nancy in Parry Sound.