Opinion: Getting Through Winter

This time last year, I was preparing to drive to California and then take off for a few days with Jeff Wilson on a pair of Indians into the desert. What a difference a year makes.

“It’s trips like this that keep a Canadian motorcyclist sane through the winter,” I wrote back then. “You don’t have to escape for the whole season like Jeremy Kroeker. The warm weather really isn’t so far away, and it’s neither difficult nor costly to ship your bike south or to rent a bike. You don’t have to take a long time – a week is plenty to blow out the cobwebs.”

That was then and this is now. Covid changed everything, including Jeremy Kroeker’s South American road trip. He and Elle are back in Alberta now, preparing to shiver through the winter with the rest of us.

Of course, at the moment it’s only common sense and decency that prevents any of us from flying south, renting a motorcycle and having a lovely vacation in the sunshine. The land border is locked, but flights are still operating and there’s no need to quarantine when you get to the United States, or to many other warm places. What would be the point? Covid is everywhere and they’ve all but given up on contact tracing.

Canadian snowbirds are heading back to their winter homes in Florida and Arizona and justifying it to themselves by staying in gated communities and having medical insurance. Never mind that their insurance may be hopelessly inadequate, or that if they do catch the virus, there may not even be a hospital bed available. They’re doing it and they’ll worry about quarantine when the winter’s over.

(Leave them down there, I say. If they don’t like all that Canada offers, including winter, then cut ’em off and make them bake through the sun-belt summer. But that’s a lot easier said than done, and it’s also quite fascist and un-Canadian. Sorry. Went away for a moment there.)

Right now, with the coronavirus running amok south of the border, the only responsible thing to do is stay home, for the sake of all our loved ones. This, however, does not help us as motorcyclists. And after all, we can’t even go to a motorcycle show this winter. The regional shows in January and February are all cancelled, the big Toronto Supershow by the airport is cancelled, and Toronto’s Spring Motorcycle Show in April will probably be cancelled.

“Power Sports Services continues to explore alternatives for the 2021 season, and we don’t expect any decisions until the new year,” says Ray Sriubiskis, General Manager of Shows for Power Sports Services, which produces the MMIC regional shows. “We can confirm that we are not looking at virtual show options.”

The cruel irony is, it’s been motorcycling that helped many of us stay sane this year, carrying us safely through lockdowns and restrictions as we got out of the house to enjoy some physically-distanced fresh air and discovery. Back in the spring, just a month or two into the unfamiliar national lockdown, we took to our motorcycles and headed off on clear roads just to break the monotony of staying inside. Riding our motorcycles made us feel like inmates given wings to escape our rooms, if only for a short time.

But now there’s snow and salt and sand on the roads and most of our bikes are tucked safely away for the winter. Spring is four months distant. What to do? Rediscover and make the most of our wonderful country, that’s what.

Yes, we’ll sit inside on cold days and feel sorry for ourselves that we’re not riding. Get over it. Spend all the time you want watching bike movies and GoPro videos of your summer rides, but instead of planning toward winter vacations, plan for spring and summer trips instead. The rest of the world may still be on their motorcycles, but most of them are plagued far worse by Covid’s toll. Just try not to think about bloody New Zealand. They’re all in-bred anyway.

Once we recognize that we’re blessed to live in Canada, for so many reasons, then we can stop moaning and make the most of it. Some of us will be lucky to enjoy the winter sports that can replace road bikes – snow bikes, ice-racing and snowmobiles. Downhill skiing offers all the rush and relaxation (provided the lifts are open and lineups for limited spaces aren’t too brutal), while cross-country skiing provides the invigoration of healthy exercise on a sunny, snowy day.

For the rest of us, who may not be quite so athletically inclined, we just have to accept that winter will pass and we’ll be back on the road in a few months. In the meantime, we can work on our motorcycles if we have a heated space to do so, and work on ourselves with no shortage of reading and viewing options.

Winter’s not a bad thing for a motorcyclist. It forces us to take a break, regather, and plan for the spring. It makes us appreciate how lucky we are to be able to ride in a safe and beautiful country. And if all that’s still not enough, at least we now have legal weed.


  1. How will we survive winter without the arguments in the soapbox about the fact that the bike shows are “too expensive” vs “shut up and don’t go then”?

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