Woodslee, Ont. farmer and former professional motorcycle racer Len Fitch says he knew he wanted to race motorcycles as young as eight years old.
Fitch was inducted in the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Toronto this past weekend, and he says he still gets teary-eyed thinking about it.
"I was speechless," Fitch said. "To be recognized by your peers is something very special."
Though Fitch knew he wanted to race motorcycles at such a young age, his father — who used to race motorcycles in Windsor and parts of Michigan — wasn't supportive of the idea.
When Fitch left the house and got married in 1966, however, he bought his first motorcycle and embarked on what would be a life-long love of bikes and racing.
"I think it's in my blood," Fitch said. "I love the speed, I love the people, I love working on the bikes — the camaraderie of it all."
Over the years, Fitch has raced at some of North America's most famous tracks, including the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., the Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Ala., and the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Mosport) in Bowmanville, Ont.
At top speed, his bikes regularly clocked more than 200 miles per hour.
"When you're going that kind of speed, you don't have much time to think," Fitch explained. "You have to be prepared … these things happen very quickly."
It's perhaps due to those high speeds that Fitch is no stranger to injury, having fallen off his motorcycle at least once for each of the 12 years he raced with the Canadian Motorcycle Association and the eight years he raced with the American Motorcycle Association.
"If you don't fall off, you're not trying, and I was trying," he said.
Listen to Len Fitch discuss his motorcycle racing career with Afternoon Drive's Chris dela Torre:
Fitch decided to end his racing career in 2010, after sustaining a "serious fall" during a race at the Mosport track.
"I was airlifted to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto with some serious injuries," he said. "And that's when it hit me. That was my final race."
Fitch said his daughter had travelled all the way from China to watch him race, and was standing on the very corner where he fell.
"At that point, I was 65 years old. I knew it was time to quit," he said.
Looking back at his 53 years on a motorcycle, however, Fitch has few regrets.
"My wife and I, I mean, we both know that I can't [race anymore], but when I was doing it, I loved every minute of it."