Quebec’s law against winter riding

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Canada Moto Guide’s new head honcho, Mark Richardson, is an insensitive blowhard.

In a recent display of his showboating, he posted a Facebook selfie in front of his Harley Low Rider with Rice Lake as a backdrop, boasting about his late-February ride. Temperatures in Southern Ontario that day peaked at about 17 degrees Celsius, so it’s entirely understandable that he would dust off his Dyna and fire it up for a spin.

However, he unsympathetically posted this knowing that even if the sun is shining and the thermometer inches its way well into the double digits here in my home province of Quebec (it was 15 C the next day), you can’t ride your motorcycle in winter without risking a hefty fine of between $200 and $300.

There may have been ice on Rice Lake last month, but the roads were clear and snow was well off to the sides of the road. A beautiful day for an Ontario ride!

This is because of the province’s winter tire law, which came into effect in 2008. It states that between December 15 and March 15, “all passenger vehicles registered in Quebec must be equipped with winter tires.” And this includes motorcycles.

If you’re unaware, a winter tire is officially identified by a pictogram that shows a snowflake outlined by a three-peaked mountain, and moulded into the tire’s sidewall. Winter tires not only have more aggressive tread patterns to deal with snow and ice, but they are also made from special rubber compounds that have better grip below 7 degrees C.

I’m in support of this winter tire law for cars – just not the way it applies to motorcycles. I remember noticing how traffic immediately flowed better during a snowfall that first winter the law came into effect. Cars actually accelerated away from intersections rather than sitting there spinning their tires uselessly. I’d noticed fewer cars overshooting stop signs and red lights. This improved traffic flow, at least within the city. It most certainly also helped reduce collisions and single-car crashes on snow-covered roads.

Uh-oh – starting to get slippery out there.

But (and I can’t really substantiate this claim), it did nothing for motorcycles other than take them off the road for three months, which is really a government rip-off because motorcyclists pay for 12 months of use when renewing their registration.

Now before you cry foul, Quebec isn’t the only place with a winter tire law, nor even one where that law extends to motorcycles. In fact, much of Europe has such laws in effect. In some countries, like Austria, Finland, Sweden, Norway and in northern Italy, winter tires are mandatory, and some of those countries threaten heavy fines if the law is disobeyed. Austria, for example, can fine a driver up to 5,000 Euros and seize their vehicle.

Other countries, like Germany, have a situational law in effect, meaning that winter tire use is mandatory only if the situation calls for them. A driver found to have caused an accident while driving in wintry conditions without winter tires, for example, will be fined accordingly, and the vehicle’s insurance will be void. It is therefore possible to operate a motorcycle any time of the year, as long as conditions allow it.

The Anlas Winter Grip Plus tires, only available in a few GS sizes.

If more tire manufacturers made winter tires for motorcycles, Quebec riders would be able to take an occasional spin on their bikes in winter. Right now, there is a proper winter tire available in Canada, made by Anlas. The Anlas Winter Grip Plus has the aggressive tread pattern, the ice-gripping sipes, and the appropriate pictogram on the sidewall. The only problem is that it comes in very limited sizes — a 19-inch front and 17-inch rear — meant to fit large adventure bikes like the R1200GS. Although I’ve never tried these tires to see if they actually work on snow and ice, at the very least they probably work better than standard tires in cold temperatures, and they’d allow an occasional sanity-preserving motorcycle ride in winter without the risk of getting fined.

There is a section of the Quebec law that stipulates that studded tires are also acceptable for passenger vehicles, and it doesn’t specify that they must have the winter pictogram. Unfortunately, no one makes such a tire for bikes, at least not for the street (Trelleborg once offered a studded off-road tire, but no longer does), and such a tire would be impractical on pavement, probably even dangerous. You could probably get some automotive tire studs and stick them in knobby tires, but those studs are designed to be inserted into holes already made to accept them, in winter tires with rubber that remains relatively pliable when cold, preventing the studs from falling out.

Ideally, if Quebec’s winter tire law were amended to parallel Germany’s situational law, at least in regards to motorcycles, then I’d be able to ride on fair-weather days in February, just like the insensitive blowhard Mr. Boss.

A lovely day for a ride in Quebec. It’s probably 17 degrees in Ontario.

24 thoughts on “Quebec’s law against winter riding”

  1. We all know Winter is 6 months here and trying to ride in those condition like Wet snow and black ice and so on is kind of hazardous, even if i have a ride to do this. Imagine , car dont see us in perfect condition . There is no perfect world but Cheese this winter getting on my nerve, good seasons all.

  2. if you go to the saaq site you can get an exemption for snow tires so you can take your bike on the road for 24 or 48 hrs, i dont remember which,i belive you are allowed 4 per year, the purpose of this exemption is so you can take your vehicle to your mechanic or drive to ex, florida

    1. no you cant ,, i went in march of 2017 to the Saaq ,they told me it does not apply to bikes. an that you need to tow your bike to the boarder if your going to florida.

      1. That’s the SAAQ idiots behind the counter who tell you that. They told me that too. But you can get it on line on the SAAQ website. When I told the SAAQ employee that she got mad because she didn’t have any more authority over me.

  3. Hmm. Does anyone think it’s possible to challenge the actual wording of the law? It states “all passenger vehicles registered in Quebec must have…”.
    A motorcycle has a “rider” and sometimes a “passenger”. A passenger doesn’t operate a motorcycle, the “rider” does. So is a motorcycle with a solo seat operated by a solo “rider” during winter months w/o snow tires contravening the law?

    1. Well, when you are alone in your car you are the driver. Passenger vehicle is a term used to distinguish between civilian vehicles and commercial or public vehicles.

      1. While at the Montreal motorcycle show,,,I had discussion with High Ranking Officer that want to ban all 2 and 3 wheels vehicules during winter period,, even if they have rated snow tires!- they are preparing a demand/ proposal to Quebec Authority SAAQ, to ammend the law,,,,,they feel for winter driving, theses vehicules are unsafe as they dont have proper stability or balance-now that snow tire are starting to appears on the market! someone in the industry should be looking at this!

    2. if you read the actual article of law,,,it s indicate that motorcycle is part of the *class of passenger vehicules*

  4. I’m looking at a set of Heidenau K60 Scouts that have “M+S” on the sidewall, which if I understand correctly means they’re rated by the Rubber Manufacturers Association for mud and snow. According to the RMA site, tires must also display the mountain/snowflake symbol to be approved for “Severe snow use”. So the question is, in Quebec at least, is the M+S rating sufficient, or do they also require the severe rating? If there’s no snow on the road, then the rubber compound itself is the more critical factor in traction. I wouldn’t ride the Scouts in cold weather myself (rubber is pretty hard), but some clarity from the Province on the real requirements (i.e. engineering/science-based) to ensure traction and safety would be good, rather than just specifying requirements based on calendar dates.

    1. Tires with the mountain/snowflake symbol have been mandatory since 2014. Before that the M+S symbol was acceptable, but not any more.

        1. I THINK with cars it’s only QC registered vehicles. I ride a bike in Ottawa but often have business in Gatineau (across the river), so I’d be interested in the answer to your question.

    2. At least it is in Switzerland and germany an official winter-tyre. I’using them every winter. It makes a huge difference. Especially when it’s below zero and you have snow.

    1. Unfortunately, we only have one choice in each wheel diameter available in Canada, and with only seven sizes available globally, that’s still a very limited selection. Hopefully the company will expand on these sizes.

    2. I’ve had the Anlas Capra X M&S’s on my Wee Strom, since last summer. Really nice tires, but I’ve only used them for short hauls on gravel roads. Mostly highway miles at this point, and they work very well for this. After a few hundred km’s break-in, they became quite smooth feeling, with no distracting noise. They’re only a little bit lumpy, just before you come to a full stop, which is to be expected for a knobby. A decent alternative to the venerable TKC 80.

  5. Well in less than a week we can get out 🙂

    I wouldn’t ride during that period anyway, but it does bug me because otherwise I would do short trips to and from the shop to prepare the bike for storage and for the riding season, which makes me believe this regulation is bad for business.

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