Ah, the first breath of spring is finally upon us, and just as surely as the trees and flowers are starting to bloom, the bikes are revving up and rolling North into the epic motorcycle riding country that is Northern Ontario.
1. Stay Warm
It’s no secret that the North stays cooler longer than the South—but this is no reason to avoid riding. The best defence is a good offence, so we recommend heated grips and a heated vest, along with a full fairing bike for long distance touring. This will not only extend your riding season at home, but will make sure you’re nice and comfortable on the days when you have to ride late into the evening.
2. Watch for Grit in the Corners
This isn’t exclusive to Northern Ontario, but it’s worth mentioning. Many places in North America use sand instead of salt to keep winter roads driveable. While spring rains will eventually clear the roads of this grit, it’s worth keeping your eyes open and speed down in corners. Unless you’re riding with knobbies. In which case, carry on. Expect most grit to be clear by the time June arrives.
3. Book in Advance
Although spring is quiet for riders, there are plenty of visitors throughout the North filling up hotels, so taking the time to plan out your trip (we highly recommend the GoTourOntario.ca website) and booking ahead can make the difference between getting the hotel you want and having to make do with second best.
4. Count on Medium Length Days
While the days are longer than before, we haven’t reached peak length yet, and the cool mornings and evenings can make riding for long distances a bit more tiring than usual. So, don’t plan on doing 1,000 km (600 miles) a day—as they say in the music videos, “check yourself before you wreck yourself.”
5. Bring Bug Spray and Bug Cleaner
The trade-off for freshly paved winding roads and stunning landscapes is the early season bugs. While the heat of summer usually bakes most of the nuisances away, spring can be an annoying time with all the bugs. Both annoying you when you stop, and making a mess of your windshield. But they’re not bad enough to warrant cancelling your trip. Just bring a small can of bug spray for the early evenings, and a bit of Windex or bug wash to clean your bike when you’re done riding for the day.
6. Stay at Approved Accommodations
Throughout Ontario there are dozens of places to stay that have been vetted by third parties as “motorcycle friendly” and now make up the main places to stay on approved provincial routes. These places often provide added touches to make your ride twice as nice. Motorcycle-specific parking, indoor storage for bikes, racks for helmets and gear in your room, cleaning and repair supplies at the front desk—some of them have even gone through a short training program so they understand what riders need at the end of a long ride. You can find these accommodations listed on the GoTourOntario.ca trip planner, or on any of the sites listed below:
7. Choose a Route Close to Home
Probably the most successful way to enjoy your ride into Northern Ontario is to not spend the entire ride getting there. Choosing a route close to you is easily the best way to quickly get to the best part. For those coming from Wisconsin and Minnesota, check out RideLakeSuperior.com—either the full RLS route or the Nor’Wester. (We highly recommend the Haven Hostel in Thunder Bay for riders). If you’re coming from Michigan or Illinois, check out the Grand Algoma loop. Riders from Ohio, New York, and Vermont should check out the routes of Northeastern Ontario. If you’re from southern Ontario, Northeastern Ontario is a safe bet for spring riding, but both the Grand Algoma and Ride Lake Superior should be on your bucket lists!
Finally, if you’re planning far in advance, check out the big list of motorcycle events in Ontario. Attending a rally, poker run, or show and shine is a great way to combine riding with some socializing—and you can probably pick up a tip or two from other riders. Happy spring!