It may still be cold, but today is the first day of spring, dammit, and I’m going to roll the bike out of the garage and go for a ride.
Every year it’s the same – we complain about how long and cold the winter was, and we can’t believe it’s March and there’s still snow on the ground, and we pull our bikes out of storage and dress warm and hit the road.
And, of course, this will be one of the most dangerous rides of the year, because we’re rusty. Most of us don’t get to travel to warm places in the wintertime and ride motorcycles (yes, Costa, I’m thinking of you), but even if we do, it’s the other drivers on the road up here who are a concern. Just as they all forgot how to drive in snow back in November, they’re also not used to seeing bikes. They’ve forgotten to watch for that single headlight or tail light (why not upgrade them now?), and they’ll pull out in front of you without a second thought.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to prepare for this first ride, and we tell you all about it here. The basic preparation of the bike is important, but the preparation of the rider is even more essential. Just take it easy, ride defensively with every action, watch for sand and gravel that’s left over from the plows, and dress comfortably so you’re not distracted by the cold – then you’ll be fine.
The next most dangerous ride is after you’ve been out a few times and you figure you’ve got the hang of it. It’s fine to relax when you feel your reactions are back to being instinctive rather than considered, but if you let your guard down too much and start pushing your limits without realizing it, then there’ll be trouble.
This is one reason why clubs and colleges offer refresher courses in riding, for experienced motorcyclists who’ve become set in their ways. We could all use a refresher every year, and this is as good a time as any. Maybe you really are a great rider, but maybe not. Maybe you just have that one bad habit that will bite you later in the season.
My wife just signed up for a refresher course in May at Fleming College in Peterborough. It’s intended for experienced motorcyclists, or for riders who got their licence years ago but haven’t ridden for a while. She earned her licence 28 years ago, but hasn’t held onto the handlebars of a motorcycle in almost as many years, ever since she dropped my Honda Transalp at a gas station forecourt. For some strange reason, she doesn’t want me to reteach her the basics in a parking lot – can’t think why – so she’s signed up with the professionals. I’ll tell you all about it when it happens, but for now, she’s content to let the weather warm up some more.
Not me though. I’ll be heading out on the bike as soon as the March snow melts from the road. It’s spring, after all, and after a long winter, I’m going to damn well enjoy it.