The northern regions of Canada are home to some of the most breathtaking scenery and amazing riding experiences you will find anywhere. However, riding in the north provides unique challenges that few ever think about before they head out.
Here are my top 13 tips for motorcycle riding in the north:
- NEVER ride past an open gas station. Gas stations can be few and far between the further you get away from large centres. Most of these northern stations only carry regular grade fuel. Stations in larger cities generally have high-octane fuel, but the same doesn’t apply in most rural areas. And don’t be pushing your bike by always riding in your power band because that reduces how many kilometres you can ride on a tank of fuel. Know your bike’s fuel range before you head out. Remember, motorcycle boots suck to walk in.
- Use octane boost. It will help protect your engine and maintain your fuel mileage, as you’ll want to be able to get every kilometre out of your fuel that you can. This is not a place to ride a gas-guzzler, unless, of course, you have a chase truck following you or you’re carrying additional fuel.
- Good bug spray is a must! Insects are plentiful in the north, and nothing makes a ride more uncomfortable than being bugged by bugs when you stop for a break. Also carry a bite-soothing salve in your first aid kit. You do have a first aid kit on your bike at all times, right?
- Speaking of bugs, don’t dally anywhere near your motorcycle when you first stop for a break or fuel. The smell of hot fuel and dead bugs often causes wasps and hornets to swarm the area. Walking away from your bike immediately for a few minutes generally prevents you from getting stung.
- Always slowdown to check on another rider who has stopped on the side of the road to see if they’re okay. While they may just be taking a stretch break, it’s also possible that their motorcycle could have broken down or run out of fuel, or they could need some other form of help. In the north, you can go hours before seeing another soul, so if that were you in need of assistance, how would you feel if another rider failed to stop to assist you?
- Watch for wildlife and respect them. Buffalo, elk, white tail deer, mountain sheep, mountain goats, moose, and black, brown and grizzly bears can all be encountered as you ride. These are magnificent creatures that deserve your regard for them. Do not try to hurry them or get their attention by honking your horn or revving your engine. Buffalo may look sleepy, but they can reach speeds of 40 kilometres per hour in the blink of an eye!
- Remember, food stops are as far apart as fuel stops. Always carry extra water and snacks in your saddlebags. Staying nourished and hydrated is vital to enjoying your ride and riding safe.
- Add electrolytes to your water. Dehydration is a real and present danger even in the north. When your body does not have a sufficient amount of water to function properly you might experience muscle cramps, headache, dry mouth, dizziness or sleepiness. We motorcyclists can deplete our body’s water reserves quickly between riding gear that may not breathe well, to the wind whipping around and “stealing” the moisture right out of your skin. Motorcyclists are at risk of dehydration anytime they experience warm weather riding. Electrolytes are vital to the function and health of your body and get carried away during the dehydration process so it is vital to replace them. Electrolytes come in many convenient to pack forms like tablets and tubes of single serving powders and can be found at many health food and supplement stores.
- Carry a tarp and a few tie downs or bungee cords on your bike. You may not need them, but if you do, you will be grateful you brought them. In the north, storms can be particularly nasty to deal with simply due to the distances you will ride between towns and or shelters. It is not uncommon to ride for an hour or two and not encounter another human being. A tarp can act as a place of refuge in case of wind and rainstorms. It can also make a shelter to keep the sun and rain off of your camping area.
- Be smart if you camp. Keep food high up in a tree and your camp area clean of food items. Dispose of your garbage safely. Most camping areas provide bear safe receptacles to deposit your garbage in. Carrying bear spray with you not a bad idea. The sporting goods stores that sell it often offer instruction on how to use it wisely and safely.
- Make sure you have the “Never Ride Alone” program number stored in your phone. Be sure to pre-register with the Rider Friendly Support Network and have your digital membership card on your phone in case you need support.
- ICE – In Case of Emergency. Place a contact in your cell phone called “ICE” so that emergency personnel can find and access it quickly. In the “company” line of the contact details, put the single most important piece of medical information about you if you can keep it brief. As an alternative, create a note with your medical info and then in the company line of the ICE contact, write: “look in notes for medical info.”
- Ride with a good helmet camera. The sights are magnificent and you won’t want to miss capturing a fabulous memory.
Did I miss anything that you feel is vital? Do you have rules that you ride by? I’d love to hear your tips!