Opinion: Pothole problems

Potholes can cause extensive and expensive damage to cars and SUVs but hitting one on a motorcycle could have much higher and more dire consequences. As the temperature rises and dips, groundwater freezes and thaws which causes asphalt to expand and disintegrate. Giant, gaping craters big enough to swallow a semi whole lie in wait, ready to rip your tires to pieces and smash your suspension to smithereens.

Most cities primarily deal with this phenomenon during springtime, but anyone who has visited big cities like Toronto or Montreal can attest that they suffer through the affliction all year long. Testing a large Volkswagen Atlas SUV last week, I encountered several holes deep enough to rattle the fillings in my teeth. The pervasiveness of low-profile tires means there’s precious little sidewall to absorb the impact. Driving a vehicle that took up the entire lane meant that I couldn’t swerve to avoid them and simply had to take the brunt of it along with the vehicle’s poor suspension.

According to a study conducted by CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) last year, potholes cost Canadians upwards of $3 billion annually. That’s not just from repairs, but the added fuel and operating costs that result from poorly maintained roads. And that’s after municipalities spend millions of dollars on road repair every year. Last year, the City of Toronto repaired 120,000 potholes. Not enough, obviously! They also publish infrastructure analysis that rates the country’s worst roads. According to the latest data from 2018, Nova Scotia and Quebec have the highest percentage of both highways and non-highways rated below “Good” condition.

One of the many benefits of motorcycles is the added agility they offer, but that only works if you see the pothole coming and have room to maneuver around it. Several years ago, I was riding my Harley-Davidson V-Rod around the city and came in contact with a deep pothole. It was the first ride of the season. I was ecstatic and overjoyed to finally be out riding again but the elation was short lived. Approaching a massive missing slab of concrete, I had nowhere to go but through it. Bottoming out the suspension, I felt the impact reverberate through my arms and up my spine. I pulled over to inspect the damage to find a bent rim and a flat tire. I had it towed to a local shop, but the headaches didn’t end there.

Being a 100th anniversary edition, finding a replacement for the one-piece 19-inch front wheel proved impossible. I spent nearly a week contacting Harley dealerships who said that not only would I not be able to find one in stock, but that they were no longer able to order one from the mothership in Milwaukee. Ditto for independent and aftermarket shops. I could have purchased a used one online, but the shipping costs would be exorbitant, and I’d be taking a gamble by purchasing a wheel that could possibly be in worse shape. Since I wanted to keep the bike stock, I decided to have the damaged wheel refurbished. Finding someone to complete the work was not easy and the repair did not come cheap.

If this happens to you, move over onto the shoulder away from traffic to safely inspect the damage. I wish I had known at the time that I could have been eligible for compensation from the city. Had I stopped to take pictures of the pothole, along with the damage to the motorcycle, and noted the location and time of day, I could have submitted it, along with quotes for repair, for reimbursement. Lesson learned. This is of course if the city in question deems said street to be ill-maintained.

Of course, the ideal situation would have been to not hit the pothole in the first place. Leaving more room between the vehicle ahead, paying closer attention to the road surface and ensuring tires are properly inflated may give you the best chances of preventing costly damages, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. If you’re not able to safely swerve within your lane or stop with sufficient distance between the vehicle behind you, the best strategy may be to maintain course and deal with the consequences.


  1. Hi Dustin: Nearest major intersection would be Kipling and Eglinton West. I took a photo of the construction contractors sign at the time with my other photographs. I didn’t want to lose the season if parts were back ordered during Covid. So had her repaired in the off season.

  2. On July 12th of last year coming home from work I was directed by a construction worker to ride over an unseen from my position in the saddle “small hole”. It wasn’t a small hole – it was a chasm. One the car in front of me cleared it and the car behind me started moving I had no choice but to try to make it across. I was shocked I didn’t blow my tires. It did result in front suspension damages. Do you have details on how to apply for reimbursement? Thanks.

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