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Why ice is the perfect surface for motorcycling

Photos provided by Husqvarna

Now there’s another thing that makes me curse spontaneously – in ecstasy.

I didn’t have inflated expectations when Swedish motorcycle manufacturer Husqvarna invited me to ride its motorcycles around a frozen Quebec pond.

From the first time on race tracks and forest trails, I knew that my learning curve for a new type of riding is a long, slow build to mediocrity. My best hope was that after a day of frustration and falling, I’d be able to credibly make it around the pond.

Philippe Devos in early laps of ice riding at Husqvarna's Ice Rip 2017

So I couldn’t help it. When, on just my third lap, I was riding faster on ice than I’d ever imagined and spinning the spiked rear tire in a controlled slide around the corners, the most random collection of curse words escaped involuntarily, loudly and joyously into my helmet.

In my life on two wheels, I’ve had a lot of thrilling experiences. I’ve ridden sport-bikes so fast around racetrack corners that my knees scraped the ground. I’ve blasted to the tops of sand dunes in the Sahara Desert, shot through forest trails and launched off motocross jumps. But nothing I’ve done was as unexpectedly exhilarating as my first laps on ice.

And when my toes uncurled, my heart rate dropped back down and my head cleared, only one thought persisted: Why haven’t I done this before?

I’ve been obsessed with motorcycling since childhood. I’ve owned several motorcycles and spent thousands of dollars to modify them. I live in a land that’s frozen much of the year and has thousands of lakes.

So why have I let myself die a little inside each autumn, as I put those bikes away for the winter – when the best riding season was just beginning? I just didn’t know – and I don’t think I’m alone.

I’d seen videos of ice riding and it looks so improbable to ride a two-wheeled vehicle that begs to lean on a surface so slick. But ice, it turns out, is the perfect surface for motorcycling. Unlike dirt, it’s consistent for as deep as the ice is thick. And unlike pavement, all it needs to regenerate after being shredded by tires covered in sharpened spikes is a flooding and a frigid night.

Perch yourself hovering over the front of the seat, put all your weight on the outside foot-peg, lean the bike over as far as you dare, keep on the throttle so the spikes bite and it’s all easier than it looks.

And it’s not just me. Also on the pond that day were new riders, people getting on motorcycles for the first time who, after a few laps, were also sliding around impressively.

And so there’s no good reason that anyone with a motorcycle in the garage, a passion for riding, access to a lake at the cottage or elsewhere and the disposable income or do-it-yourself savvy to buy or build a set of spiked tires shouldn’t be out on the ice before the best riding season comes to an end and we’re stuck with just streets, tracks and dirt trails again.

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