This is, statistically, the coldest week of the winter in Canada, with Feb. 6 being the coldest day of all. Whether it actually is this year is not the point; the fact is, everything starts warming up from here on in. Yay!
Try to think of this when you step out the door today into the brutal cold – or if you’re in Vancouver, into the brutal rain. We’re getting through the winter and there’s only a couple more months to go before we’ll be riding again. The days have been growing longer since before Christmas and now they’ll be growing warmer, too.
None of this means you can’t go for a ride now if the roads are clear. There was a thaw in southern Ontario last week and my neighbour Andrew took his Honda Varadero for a ride around town, just to blow out the cobwebs. I lent him the heated glove liners I bought last month at the bike show to find out how well they work and he returned slightly warmer than when he left. I went out on my own bike, too, but just up the road and back to run the engine and work through the gears; my Harley has lots of chrome and it’s a crime to ride her on salty streets. It was a reminder to put the wheels back on my old DR600 in the garage, which would have held no such reservations.
We could do this because we don’t live in Quebec, which is the only jurisdiction in North America – perhaps the world – to forbid the use of motorcycles in the wintertime. Actually, they are permitted if they’re fitted with winter tires, but such soft-rubber tires are fairly specialized and only available to fit a few models, like the BMW GS and KTM Adventurer. Good luck finding a set for a Harley Low Rider. And you have to be a die-hard indeed to buy winter tires for only a few hundred kilometres of use in Quebec’s sub-zero months. Those riders who fit them are tempted to leave them on year-round, where they’re less safe on hot pavement.
Even so, as Costa reported last week, the Quebec government has noticed their existence and is now moving ahead to forbid all motorcycles being on the road from Dec. 1 to March 15, whatever tires they’re using. It’s a well-meaning law that’s looking to close what it believes to be a loophole, but it’s misguided: Quebec’s motorcyclists don’t want to ride through snow and ice any more than the rest of us, but on those occasional warmer days, they do want the opportunity to fire up the bike and head out on dry pavement.
We’ve yet to find out who is responsible for this, though Costa’s on the case. We know the winter ban came from a recommendation from Quebec’s provincial police, but we’ve not seen any seasonal accident statistics to back up its implementation. There are probably two reasons: either it’s a way to remove low-powered commuter bikes and scooters from the roads, which do tend to keep riding in snow, just like cyclists, or it’s just a hit against Quebec’s notorious bike gangs – though they’re quite happy to drive around in trucks, as long as they can keep wearing colours.
Whatever the reason, it looks like the new law is quietly going ahead in Quebec and nobody’s going to speak up against it except us. And that really is a shame. The weather’s growing warmer now and the days are longer – if there’s a chance to get out on dry pavement, even just up to the end of the street, we don’t want to have to wait until March 15 to be allowed to do it.