Come October, those of us who don't live in a warm climate start to face the facts: It's getting time to winterize the bikes. It's a sad time when we dump Stabil into our tanks and give our machines a hug goodbye for a few months—at least, this is how it is for most people. I'm not one of them.
When the bitter cold takes hold of the Midwest in January, I'm jumping for joy. Cold weather means that the lakes are freezing over, and frozen lakes have one glorious implication: ice riding.
It probably seems crazy, but hear me out. Ice riding is the most enjoyable form of motorcycle riding. Yes it's cold, but we're motorcyclists! We know how to survive all the elements, right? The benefits of riding on the ice outweigh the cold weather you have to endure. Let me tell you why:
It Doesn't Take Much to Get Started
You don't need a fancy bike to ice ride. In fact, you don't even want one. Resilient dirt bikes and vintage bikes put together from boxes of spare parts are usually the stars on the ice.
After that you need studded tires. You have the option of spikes or screws, but I haven't seen anyone in the US using spikes. Some people make their own, while others purchase from companies like Fredette.
After that, boom! You're good to go. One word of advice though: Watch out for those studs. Those can be pretty brutal.
It's Like Track Riding
On a frozen lake, there isn't much to worry about. There's no pedestrians walking in front of you, cars running into you, or debris getting in your way. There's no speed limit and no rules against wheelies. You have a free space to practice taking lines, work on body positioning, and go fast.
It's Not That Popular
Most people turn their noses up when I tell them I go ice riding. "It's too cold," they whine. This ultimately ends up as a great time for me because I'm not competing with too many other people on the track. I actually have space to do whatever I want.
The Community is Awesome
It takes a certain kind of motorcycle freak to want to spend every Sunday freezing their butt off while they ride their motorcycle. I think this makes the community one of the most welcoming I've encountered. Everyone is friendly, happy to give advice, willing to lend a tool, and always sharing laughs. I look forward to seeing my fellow ice riders every winter now.
Snow Banks are Soft
I've flown off an ice bike or two, and I actually prefer crashing in the snow to any other environment I might crash on. The snow is soft, so it usually helps keep the bike intact and allows for me to laugh at myself while I'm trying to get up. One time I low-sided and flew backwards down the ice (I looked like a turtle sliding on it's back), and there really wasn't much I could do except laugh as I slid back and flailed my arms.
So while everyone else is complaining about the winter and wanting to ride, I'll be in Wisconsin finding frozen lakes to practice my slide at.
How do you get through cold winters without riding?