Many Americans share perceptions about their northern neighbors that are seldom rooted in truth. For some, beer-guzzling bear wrestlers come to mind. For others, hockey hosers dominate the mental picture. Calgary, Alberta native Shawn Britton fits none of these maple-soaked stereotypes. Our friend Boozefighter Josh met Shawn on the El Diablo Run in 2008, and the two bikeriders have crossed paths at a number of events since.
Shawn’s self-effacing nature prohibits him from boasting about his motorcycle exploits, but anyone who rides a twin-cylinder Honda across three countries is officially a superhero in our book. Read Josh’s interview with Shawn and we think you’ll agree—this chipper Canuck has “Captain Canadian” written all over him.
Name: Shawn Britton
DOB: August 21, 1973
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta, Canada. That's the Hinterland
Occupation: Builder of fences
Bikes: A bit of this, a bit of that: a 1944 Royal Enfield WDCO 350 single; a stupid old panhead in a shovel frame; a hellishly frustrating '77 ironhead; my jewel of a Honda CB450, circa ’81. Only the Honda is a running bike—the rest are collecting dust
Outside interests: I thought motorcycles were a lifestyle? I really dig wrenching on almost anything. As Canada descends into the time of endless night, I'm working on a '68 VW Notchback and a '51 Chevy 4-door Deluxe
Why are you so awesome? I am how God made me? Hell—I'm not awesome, I'm just a dude
Your most radical chopper adventure: Tough call. I've ridden my Honda all over the place: four weeks in Mexico, Riding to the Gypsy run then to Atomic Custom's Ground Zero solo, went to Disaster Daze in Vancouver, Fuck I sound like I'm dropping names, “Hey look at how awesome I am!” What a dick! Seriously though, last April a few of us Canadians were lucky enough to ride with the Vegas Crew to the Biltwell Bash. Four of us rode from Lake Skinner to Oceanside. Flat out through the mountains and splitting lanes and acting like dicks. Just jamming hard with good friends. That was pretty rad
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever built or made: I built a fire extinguisher in a mason jar with baking soda, vinegar and a straw in the lid. It actually sucked real bad. It couldn't even blow out a candle. I don't know what the raddest thing I have ever built is. I think everything I have made so far could be better. But I am pretty happy with my Honda.
What got me into motorcycles: My friend Joel built a rad choppabobaloolah out of a ‘72 or ‘73 Honda 350. It was stupid loud, the exhaust was a full bore megaphone, it was a total death trap and it was awesome. He built it all himself and would rave endlessly about how awesome it was to ride like hell all over the place. So I had to find out for myself. He was right. Thanks Joel, you changed my life
What five albums would you take to a deserted island? The Sadies, New Seasons; Priestess, Hello Master; Slayer, South of Heaven; Patsy Cline, Best Of; The Black Keys, The Big Come Up. But realize this list will change in about ten minutes—can I just take my iPod? How about a book? I'd take “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse
What’s your favorite food? Street food. Anywhere I've ever been, street food is always the best. Pick a busy vendor. And for what it's worth, “tacos de cabesa” means “head tacos.” Yep, made with the meat from the head. Eyes, brains, cheeks. Good stuff
Favorite drinks: On a hot day, pineapple juice and soda; on a cold day, Mexican hot chocolate
What’s your vendetta against Mexico? What?! I love Mexico! I'd let it move into my place if it wanted to. OK, here's the deal with me and Mexico. The decision was made for a bunch of us to go on the EDR in ‘08. By the time the rubber hit the road, there were only two of us. No big deal. Graham and I drove to Temecula, unloaded our bikes and ripped around town for about 45 minutes. Then Graham's bike ate shit and tore up the stator. So it goes. We got it fixed the next day—big props to Bob at Temecula Motorcycle Service!
Since we departed well behind everyone else, we thought one of us should drive the truck and the other could ride his bike. Graham rode first and we swapped at the US/Mexico border. Forty-five minutes later, I'm on the side of the road with an overheating bike. In the truck it went. The next day, I think I have my shit dialed and go for a ride. It was a real international affair, Eric from Vegas, Paul from New Hampshire and Graham and me reppin' the big cold Canada. We're having a great time and about 30 minutes out I hear that awesome deep down knock that signals the end. So I did what I thought was best and twisted the throttle ‘til it would go no more and continued to down shift ‘til the bike locked up. I sat at the side of the road while the truck came to save my ass.
I ended up driving the chase truck for the rest of the trip. I was super lamed out but it was good because I met a ton of people I may not have otherwise. This epic fail of an attempt lit the fire to go back to Mexico and ride the hell out of it, and I did.
The following winter I rode from Ciudad Acuna to Tampico on the east coast then to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta on the west coast then north to Topolobampo and took the ferry to La Pas on Baja then all the way North to Tijuana and into the US. All in all I think it was 5,000 miles. I did have my girlfriend driving a truck behind me the whole way but the bike was only a passenger for three days. So that's my Mexico deal. I truly love Mexico. Some of the best riding I've ever done. It's pretty bananas: cliffs, cows, dogs, big trucks. Awesome. Mexico, I love you. Call me.
What’s the deal with Canada: It's pretty cool up here, man. We can't ride all year long like you tender fellas in California, so we have to make the most of it while we can. The scenery is giant. The Canadian Rockies would blow your mind. We spell things properly: colour, favour, honour. We also use the metric system, you guys down there have to get on board, man, it so easy! It's all based on the number ten! Not everyone up here likes hockey. I've heard it described as America Lite—tastes great less filling
How as the Gypsy Run: Awesome, epic, life-changing, high point, I could go on. Almost 10,000k solo across America on a 450cc rigid Jap chop. I was on the road for three weeks, riding all day, every day, except for one. You get kind of wierd when you only talk to gas station attendants, so when you do meet regular people you tend to talk. A lot. It was difficult for sure but I would do it again in a heartbeat. People always say, “Wow, a once in a lifetime trip!” Hell no! I'll do it again. America has some stunning beauty and fantastic people. Everyone down there should be proud of what they have.
Anything we missed? I'm left handed and I used to play the bagpipes