Opinion: First ride of the season

It’s difficult to establish an official start to the motorcycle season in Canada. Tulips could be blooming in Vancouver while Newfoundlanders are still shoveling snow in St. John’s. Some fair-weather riders won’t blow the dust off their boots until June, while others have been braving the elements for months. Mark got out for his first official ride a few weeks ago, but I opted to wait a beat.

Cold pavement and tires combined with all of the road salt, sand and debris that’s accumulated over the winter is a recipe for trouble. After a couple solid rainstorms and steady double-digit temperatures, I peeled off the covers of the Thruxton. Thanks to being hooked up to a battery tender, she fired right up.

Considering the motorcycle was sitting all winter and I was likely pretty rusty myself, I eased into it. There was still a fair bit of road salt in certain areas and my reaction time likely wouldn’t be as quick as when I was riding every day. I could definitely feel a distinct improvement over previous years due to spending time on a snowmobile this winter. Of course, the controls are different, and you can’t compare the traction of rubber tires to skis and studded tracks, but it kept my mind and reflexes sharper than sitting on the couch. Last year I stayed sharp by riding all year long, including a couple weeks spent corner carving and lane-splitting in LA.

Mark offered up some good advice on how to get back into the swing of things – going to an empty parking lot to practice a few drills. It’s a great way to get acclimatized to riding again after being away from it for so long. Muscle memory takes a little while to return.

Motorists can never be trusted with your safety, but in the spring, they aren’t expecting bikes to be on the road at all, so extra vigilance is required. My first ride of the season provided a shocking reminder of how little motorists pay attention to their surroundings. I had numerous close calls that could have each proven disastrous were I not being cautious and taking it slow. Drivers making abrupt illegal U-Turns, lane changes without looking, or even signaling, for that matter – it would be laughable if it wasn’t wildly dangerous and infuriating.

I was glad I didn’t stray too far away from home. Thankfully the days are getting longer, but when the sun sinks low in the sky, the temperature drops quickly this time of year. Weather can be unpredictable and it’s not unheard of to get snow in April.

I certainly wasn’t uncomfortable or lacking confidence at any point, but each additional ride over the course of the last week I could feel myself getting more dialled in. Actions smoother, and reactions instinctual. You’ve got to walk before you run.

Trust me, I totally understand and sympathize with the feeling of wanting to bust out of winter hibernation with all of the fervor of a rabid canine being let out of a cage, but practicing a little caution and restraint to start off the season may not be a bad thing. Afterall, it would be a damn shame for you or your bike to be put out of commission for the season before it even starts for some.

Join the conversation!