Two Wheel Sunday – Calgary Motorcycle Festival

What’s Up Sunday?

In the span of six years, Two Wheel Sunday has become western Canada’s most important single-day motorcycle street festival.

two wheel sunday Calgary Canadian

The oil patch in decline, a truly nasty provincial election, and a series of forest fires in the north that sent entire towns into mass exodus—there was not much in the past year for Albertans to smile about. In the scope of things, a mere motorcycle event can’t fix the big picture problems but people need something to feel good about and “Two Wheel Sunday” in Calgary in early June 2019 ticked the box.

Now in its sixth year, 2WS has quietly become western Canada’s largest and most important single-day outdoors motorcycle event. Last year some 10,000 riders, their passengers, as well as random passers-by, participated in what is largely a grassroots event distinguished from most other similar homespun events in that it enjoys modest yet crucial and tactical support from dealers and national distributors. 

This year for example, Harley Canada brought its semi-trailer loaded with giant display booth and a fleet of 2019 models for an afternoon of “Softail Experience” demo rides. During the hours I spent at 2WS there was clearly strong interest from potential future customers as the guided rides cycled practically non-stop, pausing only long enough for the factory guides to catch their collective breath and re-check the burgeoning ride registration list.

two wheel sunday CalgaryCalgary dealers Pro-Am Motorsports and Adventure Honda also showed their support for 2WS with demo rides of the important new offerings from the Big Four factories, while Indian Motorcycles of Calgary conducted its own demo rides though they were staged in an adjacent site away from the outdoor venue occupied by 2WS.

Among the booths and displays tents of more than 100 vendors were other local shops including Universal Cycles, Cycle Works, and western powerhouse retailer Blackfoot Motorsports.

No grassroots event is ever complete without the presence of riding clubs, charities, tables of used parts to swap and barter or a show ‘n’ shine. This standard blend of attractions is central to the success of 2WS as a “motorcycle street festival”—a term co-founder Bobby Baum uses to describe the event. 

Its physical location on four blocks of a light industrial neighbourhood adds significantly to the character of 2WS, and Baum acknowledges the roles played by the municipality and private corporations in that regard.

two wheel sunday Calgary“We get great cooperation and support to put on the event each year,” he says. “The City of Calgary permits us to close off the street and use the green belt area for our vendors so bikes and the public can move about on the street safely. Pockar Management, which takes care of most of the property along the street, lets us use the parking lot areas for our displays and attractions.”

Location, location, location: this maxim carries as much weight as ever. And directly across the way from the event setup is a busy cycling-walking trail that is part of Calgary’s 1,000-kilometre urban pathway network. Its presence acts as a conduit for the general public to drop into 2WS as casual participants who may not have any other connection or interest in motorcycles but who have been drawn to the buzz emanating from this family-friendly event. Plus, it’s free to attend—so there’s that.

While I was in no position to keep a headcount of walk-up foot traffic, the full four allocated blocks were jammed with smiling people of all age groups, attracted by steady streams of gleaming motorcycles and scooters representing nearly every make and model. Or they might have been reeled in from the path and off the surrounding streets by the sounds of live classic rock kicked out by the “Older than Dirt” band. 

Or perhaps lured by clouds of mouth-watering smoke wafting from the grills of food truck vendors such as Bandit Burger—who sold completely out of product early in the afternoon.

two wheel sunday Calgary CanadianBolstering the food inventory was a fund-raising barbecue hosted by Magic of Christmas, a motorcycle-related charity. Two Wheel Sunday has raised more than $25,000 for local charity at past events—this year’s designated charity was Fresh Start Recovery Centre.

Two Wheel Sunday offers that potent blend of attractions requisite for any grassroots motorcycle event, yet it delivers this timeless blend in a fresh friendly, efficient way thanks in no small part to a strong team of well-organized volunteers (“Voluntolds”) who interact and banter with thousands of people yet still have the dedication and energy at the end of the day to make sure there’s not so much as a single scrap of paper or cigarette butt left littering the streets and grassy areas. Bobby Baum believes there’s now a surplus of goodwill built up for the event within the general public and the business and political community, he and his organizing team intend to keep the PR ledger on the plus side as Two Wheel Sunday continues its natural progression toward something that will quite obviously become unpredictably big.

  • Story and photos by John Campbell, Canadian Biker #343