Opinion: Riding in Canada


Note: Having finally succumbed to the stress of dealing with the rest of the CMG staff, Mark’s off on a well-deserved vacation. That means that this week, you get my opinion instead – Zac

It’s mid-summer now, the end of July. The next six weeks could be the best time to ride a motorcycle in Canada. So what are you going to do about it?

Why not go exploring, and see some of our country?

This summer, you’ve seen a variety of touring stories in CMG; I did the Cabot Trail in May, Mark and the rest of the Ontario crew did a short rip in the Haliburton Highlands, and I’ve just got back from a ride through Labrador.

The CMG crew lakeside on their Ontario mini-tour, making the most of Canada’s short riding season.

That’s a lot of riding packed into a short amount of time, but that’s the reality of motorcycling here in Canada. We have a short riding season, with only June-September really suitable for touring. And, we have a really big country. If you want to see it, you’ve got to put a lot of miles down in a short time.

The trouble with riding here is, sometimes there’s lots of boring stuff to get through, before you get to the good stuff. British round-the-world traveler Austin Vince once told me the reason most hardcore adventure riders don’t get excited about Canada is that you can go for days seeing the same thing: rocks and trees. It’s a far cry from the gorgeous sandstone formations of the Utah desert, or the canyons of California.

On the other hand, Josef Stalin once supposedly said that “Quantity has a quality of its own,” or something along those lines, and if you want a vast wilderness to ride through, Canada’s certainly got it.

If it’s wilderness you want, Canada’s got it. This stretch in Quebec is typical of most northern riding: not another person in sight.

As one of my Facebook friends said about his own Labrador travels: “It’s a beautiful land. Large expanses of ‘alone’ broken by some of the most welcoming people I’ve encountered in all my travels. Where else can you sit on a mountaintop and hear not one man-made noise, or see a single trace of man, not even a contrail in the sky, but for the road that brought you up?”

He has a point. Editor ‘Arris would have agreed with him. When he moved to Canada, part of the appeal was that it was immense, with a lot of wilderness to explore. It could swallow you up, if you weren’t careful.

But, I think the rest of Canada, the non-wilderness part, gets a bad rap anyway. Sure, we don’t have California’s lovely motorcycling climate, but there’s still great riding to be had here. You needn’t resort to long-distance expeditions into the fly-infested muskeg.
In the west, British Columbia has mountain roads that are just as good as anything in the Colorado Rockies. The prairie provinces might sound like a lot of boring, straight roads, until you realize that area has its own Wild West history in areas like the Cypress Hills, or Saskatchewan’s Badlands. Some of those areas have unusual geography, too, which is why outlaws gravitated there, and that makes for much more interesting motorcycling.
Think Canada doesn’t have good riding? The province of Quebec has some of the best around, as good as anywhere else in eastern North America.

In the east, Quebec has roads every bit as good as the legendary byways of New England. That’s also true in Ontario, once you get off the beaten track. And as for Atlantic Canada, a combination of great scenery and permissive traffic enforcement make the whole region a must-visit destination.

And if you do run out of pavement, there’s always unpaved roads. You don’t even have to go into the wilderness; most places in Canada have excellent dual sport riding very close to major cities, and you don’t have to worry about being chased off by gun-toting land-owners, like you do in much of the US.
So if you haven’t gotten your own motorcycle tour in this season, you’ve got at least six weeks left when the weather should be pretty decent. Even if you can only put together an overnight trip, you should do so. There’s a lot of Canada to see, and summer will be over soon. Get busy planning now!


  1. I’ve relocated from a large city in Onatario to a small city. This has allowed me to start using my bike as a daily commuter 120km round trip. I never would have ridden this much in the hot congested city. Although I haven’t gotten away for a weekend yet I have seen the sun rise every single day while riding through farmland and it does make you appreciate the small things.

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