Newsletter: Riding in snow

Winter’s finally hit the Toronto area and we’re expecting snow tonight. Bah humbug! It doesn’t mean we have to put the motorcycles away – but we really should. It’s very, very dangerous to ride a two-wheeled vehicle in snow.

I hope Zac’s story last week about his heroic ride from Toronto to New Brunswick last month hasn’t inspired anyone to push their winter limits. It’s not the cold that’s the issue, because we have plenty of heated clothing available and snowmobilers are happy enough, but it’s the slippery, treacherous snow and ice.

Oliver Solaro, aka Brokentooth, catches a mid-day, mid-winter nap.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to tackle a two-wheeled winter. Oliver Solaro screws studs into his tires and takes off on the ice roads with more traction than if he was on dry asphalt, and ice racers can tip their bikes safely over at more extreme angles than any flat-tracker. After all, a tire with studs in it has barely any slip at all.

Three-wheelers, like the Can-Am Spyder and the Harley TriGlide, also have the advantage of sliding predictably on slippery pavement – not that I’d ever recommend anybody to ride a TriGlide, whatever the weather.

Or you can do this, which looks like the most fun possible with snow!

Eston Stites, CMG reader and winner of B.C.’s ice racing Open Pro class, shows how it’s done on his KX500. Photo by Fat Kid Photography.

But a two-wheeled vehicle, even with winter tires, on a snowy road? Forget it. Yes, you can do it, but there’s no room for error. I once tried to ride to my girlfriend’s house in the country on my dirt bike and found myself pushing through a snow-covered road. One tap of the front brake and the wheel would lock and I’d be down. I rode slowly with both feet skimming the ground, following a tire track, and a car came up from behind and then sat on my ass until I finally stopped at a stop sign and waved him past. If I’d fallen, the car would have driven over me. It was terrifying.

That was the same year I commuted all winter on that dirt bike from Brampton to downtown Toronto to attend Ryerson. I dressed in a snowmobile suit and was proud of being so macho, but if the roads were not clear, I’d have to take the bus or stay downtown and party. Good times.

Some people, like Ed March, really do have to be crazy to ride in snow. It makes all the difference to have studded tires.

This week, on Dec. 15, Quebec’s winter tire law will take effect and all vehicles, including bikes, will be required to have winter tires fitted to drive on the province’s roads, until March 15. We’ve railed against this law before because we want the opportunity to go for a ride if the roads are clear, and especially when there is a thaw and the weather warms for a day or two. Most of the time though, our motorcycles are tucked away, safe from the winter. If there’s snow on the ground, or ice, then I hope yours is too.


  1. I have ridden in snow a few times and most notably from Seattle to Vancouver a few years ago in one of the big storms we had. On a KLR with good dual sport tires I actually made it without falling once! That being said Anlas do make actual snow rated tires (mountain and snowflake logo included) for motorcycles and scooters. They don’t appear to be for deep snow of course and look like a heavily siped rain tire and have a softer compound. Full Bore Marketing distributes them here in Canada.

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