Editor’s Note: CMG runs an update of this article every spring, as a reminder. Take care out there!
So you’ve rolled your bike out of storage, changed your oil, checked your tires, brakes and everything else on our spring bike checklist, and now you’re ready to ride. Good job!Time to hit the road, but if you’re to avoid literally doing that, here are a few tips to bear in mind on your first forays …
1) Brush up your own skills – You haven’t ridden all winter. Although you may think you’re ready to go, your riding skills aren’t going to be as sharp as they should be. Your best bet is to find a parking lot, set up some cones and practice some drills like turns and emergency stops.
You can find a few good videos outlining this here, or here, or here. There are also some good reminder tips on cornering here and you can always check with your local motorcycle training schools to see what they offer as far as spring refresher courses. If you’re confident that you don’t need any of this, just take it easy and be extra alert for the first few weeks of riding until you’re familiar with the art of riding once more.
2) Other motorists – Very few Canadian motorcyclists ride through the winter (unless they’re in BC). That means car drivers aren’t used to seeing you, and that’s bad news. Ride as if you’re invisible (always a good practice but doubly important in the spring) and give them plenty of space. If you don’t already wear high-visibility gear, this might be a good time to start thinking about it.
3) Spring road hazards – A Canadian winter can wreak havoc on our already badly maintained roads, so please consider the following:
Potholes – Are at their worst in the spring, thanks to the freeze/thaw cycles over winter and the inability of the road crews to get out there and fill them in. As a result there can be some whoppers that can damage your bike or even cause you to lose control and crash. Always keep an eye out on rough roads where you’re more likely to find pothole-infestations, and be on the ready to stop or swerve around any big ones.
Sand – Many provinces dump a mixture of salt and sand on the streets all winter long. The salt should be long gone by now, but the sand remains, and usually settles on blind corners for the unsuspecting motorcyclist. Beware! This stuff is as bad as ice so treat it accordingly – try not to lean over, accelerate or hit the brakes until you’re safely past it.
Bridges – The road may be fine and clear, but if it drops below zero overnight then there’s a good chance that the bridges may still be a slippery, frost covered skating rink. Be especially aware on twisty backroads where you can get a little ahead of yourself only to turn a corner and wham! Skating rink.
4) Changing Weather – Just because it was well above the freezing point when you left home doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. Make sure the temperatures won’t plunge and leave you riding on a sheet of ice on the way home or unredressed and chilled to the bone. It’s a good idea to make sure there’s no freezing rain, etc., about to hit either. Also, avoid routing through higher elevations where conditions may still be positively wintery.