It was a rude shock to wake up this week to minus-8 degrees, with a wind chill making it feel considerably colder. I’ve not put my bike away yet because I keep thinking there’ll be one more ride, but if there is, it’ll be a cold one.
My rule is to put the bike away when the salt spreaders come out to layer the road with brine. After all, my Harley-Davidson is a pretty bike with plenty of chrome. I could ride her on a salted road but I’d need to then spend an hour cleaning her to ensure against pitting and other corrosion and that’s just not possible when the temperature is below freezing. And let’s be realistic: it’s not much fun stretching out on a cruiser in winter temperatures.
My neighbour Andrew has the right idea. His Honda Varadero isn’t bothered by crud and crap and salt and brine at all, and nor is he when he wears his riding jacket and pants. He’s looking forward to a few more rides yet, and might not even put the bike away if the roads stay clear.
In Quebec, of course, the riding season is pretty much mandated by the province’s winter tire law. This says that only vehicles properly equipped with official winter tires can be out on the road between Dec. 15 and March 15 – and that includes motorcycles. It’s true there aren’t many days in those four months when you might want to go for a rip on your bike, but there will probably be a few, when the temperature warms and the ice thaws and you just want the feel of a bike beneath you instead of being locked inside a stupid car.
There are a few ways around this Canadian conundrum. One is to travel south in the winter and rent a motorcycle while you’re away, which is simple to do in larger sunbelt cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Miami. Another is to ship your own bike south, which is sometimes available for a group tour through your local dealer – get a dozen bikes to fill a trailer, truck them down to Phoenix or Tampa, and ride for a week with your buds. Or you can take an organized tour somewhere warm with a company like Edelweiss or Renedian Adventures.
And then there’s my way. Get yourself a beater bike and keep the battery on trickle charge and, whenever the temperature climbs above freezing and the road is clear, head out for the afternoon with a heated vest and some chemical hand warmers. Take it easy though: car drivers won’t be looking out for bikes, and there can be ice in the shadows and sand on the curves. This is one reason why I keep my 1986 DR600 – salt can’t do any more damage to that bike. What’s more, you’ll probably be glad to get in at the end of the ride and warm up.
We’ve got the complete guide to winterization at Canada Moto Guide this week. Make sure your bike is ready for the cold season.