John Marcassa

Many people plan for years to take a once-in-a-lifetime motorcycle expedition with Renedian Adventures. But John Marcassa didn’t have years. He signed up to go to Mongolia because it gave him something to look forward to other than a brain tumour.

Intense radiation in 1978 cured the cancer in his head but he was told that one of the side effects was tumours developing at some time in the future. Thirty-six years later in December 2014, a golf-ball sized non-malignant tumour showed up. At first, John put his life on hold, but then decided that was no way to live. He’d been to Africa with Renedian in October 2013 and knew how much the experience had meant. After speaking with Rene at the Toronto Motorcycle Show in February 2015, he set his sights on Mongolia.


John’s roots with Rene go way back to when Rene was just starting his five-year around-the-world trip. The two met on the street in Timmins just as Rene was setting out but it wasn’t until many years later when Rene was selling his calendars that John made the connection. When Rene started doing tours, John was eager to travel with him.

One might think with his health issues, John would have misgivings about going to countries so remote and exotic. He claims to have none. He loves adventure, and frankly, he says, “If I can’t ride, I might as well be dead.”

John loved everything about Mongolia—the size, vastness, emptiness, and incredible scenery. He rode terrain from sand dunes in the Gobi Desert to “six or seven” water crossings.

“Riding has kept me going my entire life,” he says. “I started on a DRZ400 in the late 60’s and early 70’s. When I graduated from dental school, I moved to a Goldwing and have been riding long distance, high mileage trips on the street ever since. In 2012 I wanted to get back in the dirt and purchased the F800GS.”To keep his skills sharp, he takes courses every year, including the off-road courses offered by Clinton Smout at S.M.A.R.T. Adventures. That helped prepare him for the 2013 Spectacular South West Africa trip.

Living in Northern Ontario, John doesn’t have far to go to find adventure trails. Working three days a week gives him plenty of time to ride and he can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. He’s been to California and back in 10 days, ridden to Vancouver in four days, and last year rode to Yellowknife, NWT, then Montana, and back to New Liskeard in 17 days. “I’m not a guy that slows down and enjoys the scenery. I ride!”


He’s thinking of working less and riding more. “I don’t know how much time I’ve got left and I want to ride as much as possible.”John’s philosophy on life is simple. “If you’re facing adversity, work through it, look through it, and plan for something. Don’t dwell on the fact. If I was debilitated there’s not a whole lot I could do. But as long as you’re healthy, you can do something. Get out there and do it!”

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Photo Credits: Scott and Laurie Penwarden