DIGBY, NOVA SCOTIA – Master motorcycle builder Brad Ruel passed away unexpectedly at the age of 43. Having gotten to know Brad before he passed, we, like everyone, were floored by the news. The outpouring of love was enormous, and people were quick to voice their love for Brad. Less than two months later, we headed up to the Wharf Rat Rally in Digby, Nova Scotia, one of Brad’s favorite shows, to hold a Moment of Thunder, a roaring tribute where hundreds of motorcycles were to rev their engines in unison, so that Brad can hear it in the heavens. Check out the video below.
The Wharf Rat rally is Canada’s largest mutli-day motorcycle rally, on average bringing in 50,000 visitors and 24,000 motorcycles to Digby over the course of the 5-day event. We arrived a few days early to blanket the city with Moment of Thunder handbills, and meet as many people as possible to let them know about the tribute to Brad. We figured the more motorcycles, the better the tribute, right? Due to media coverage of the event leading up to the show, as well as Brad’s popularity, many people were already aware of the Moment of Thunder tribute planned for that Saturday.
Brad “The Wrench” Ruel was one of the most well-known and accomplished builders in the custom motorcycle industry. His passion and relentless work ethic to create, craft and construct custom motorcycles from frame to finished product was on display in the machines he created, and earned him much recognition. It came as no surprise, though, bike building was in his blood. His father had assembled his own motorcycles when Brad was a kid, and it wasn’t long before he was handing dad wrenches and getting into competitive motocross racing. The very first bike Brad built took first place at the national Easyriders Bike Show, and his second bike took first place at a national Rat’s Hole Competition. The accolades would continue for years to come, including Builder of the Year at Thunder Bay, two more Easyrider first places finishes, as well as being selected to build a cruiser-style bike on ESPN2’s “Metric Revolution Motorcycle Build-Off.”
He later bought a Harley-Davidson and was a customer at The Wrench, a shop in Orlando, Fla., that provided maintenance and repair services for Harley-Davidsons. He asked the owner if he was interested in selling the business, and before he knew it, he owned The Wrench. He changed the shop’s focus to building frames, parts, and complete motorcycles from the ground up, using his own concepts and designs. The rest, as they say, is history. Through all of his success, Brad remained the same genuine person, approachable and loved by anyone he came in contact with. Rest in peace Brad Ruel, forever our brother.