To commemorate CancerCare Manitoba’s 75th anniversary they embarked on a very unique fundraising and awareness campaign. Polar bears sculptures uniquely Manitoban to be displayed along Broadway in the summer of 2005. The bear maquette, a small sculpture used as a draft for a much larger piece, was designed and made by Richard Osen. Based on the maquette photos artists across Manitoba were asked to submit their ideas. Over one hundred and fifty submissions were received. When Sarah and Charles Johnston’s Biker Bears sketch was reviewed the Breast Cancer Pledge Ride immediately came to mind. By mid January 2005 the Pledge Ride committee had accepted the sponsorship for Biker Bear.
Sarah Johnston came up with the original preliminary design of Biker Bear. Her kids watched the Discovery Channel motorcycle shows. They loved watching Orange County Choppers. It was her kids that suggested that it would be cool to have a bear ride a chopper. With the help of some toy choppers, Sarah sketched the original rendering. She watched more chopper shows so she could come up with an attitude and wardrobe for the bear. She drew long flowing hair, sunglasses, a fish bone tattoo, neck chain, earring, dear skin leather vest with fringes, face stubble, and headband.
The “Bears on Broadway” were born at the LaFarge Canada plant in St. Boniface. 62 seven-foot-tall polar bears were crafted from concrete, each casting weighed 8000 pounds or 3600 kilograms. The “Bears” spent the winter grooming their new coats at the Kapyong Barracks. 51 Manitoba artists and over 70 corporations and citizens joined together to make the bears come to life. In the spring, May 2005, during one single night the migration began. Sixteen flatbeds trucks, two cranes, the artists, civil personal and volunteers moved the bears to their summer hunting grounds, Broadway and Memorial.
The wildest and coolest bear; Biker Bear took over Broadway and Hargrave. Biker Bear, sponsored by the Breast Cancer Pledge Ride, quickly became the crowd favourite winning “People’s Choice” in a Winnipeg Free Press contest. Artists Charles and Sarah Johnston and fabricator, Inderaj Jhass collaborated to produce the bruin that was “Born to Fish”.
It all looks simple on paper. But seriously, how do you take a seven-foot bear in a specific pose look like it’s riding a bike? Inderaj Jhass scavenged the parts for the larger than life chopper from his father-in-law’s farm. The back wheel was from an International Scout 4x4, the classic eight spoke rally rim with the biggest off road tire found in the used tire hill. The back fender was a utility trailer fender, completed with a sissy bar, a passenger seat and a personalized licence plate, BEAR. The Springer front end was made up of conduit pipe, donated by Forest Park Electric. The old harrow bar springs made the Springer front forks look like they actually
worked. The pick-up truck shock absorber gave the Springer its primitive mechanical action. “Bear” needed good light. So a trip to Value Village for a non-stick pot made an excellent nostalgic Tri-Light. “The bike should look like the bear scrounged around for the parts himself,” said Jhass. Charles Johnston gave the bike big horsepower with the painted six cylinders all with its six header pipes connecting to straight pipes. With all this performance the bike needed good stopping power, so some old Chevy grain truck brake rotors fitted nice on the back wheel. The only authentic motorcycle part was the Sportster front wheel.
During the build at the barracks, Biker Bear became a conversation piece. Every time a piece was added other artist would come over and admire the idea. Coffee breaks around Biker Bear were not uncommon. When the backend was being fabricated and the swing arm and wheel were anchored to the concrete. The bike, just like Orange County Choppers was just taking shape. Hubert Theroux, creator of the Blue Bomber bear “Big Blue”, jumped on the back wheel and said, “ Wouldn’t be neat if people could sit here and ride with the bear?” Right there and then the idea of having a passenger seat and a sissy bar was born. Biker Bear became the first and only interactive bear where the public could sit, climb and ride on for pictures.
The Breast Cancer Pledge Ride committee decided to auction Biker Bear off. Dan Roche of N C Machine & Tool Company was the successful bidder. Biker Bear did not go to his new home right away. He made an appearance that winter in the “Parade of Lights” in downtown Winnipeg and wintered back in the Kaypong Barracks. In the spring of 2006 Biker Bear made his final migration to his new home. Over 20 motorcycles escorted him to his new home on Hutchings Street in Inkster Industrial Park. PJ (Biker Bear) loves visitors, so if you are in the area please drop by.
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