We recently wrote an article about how to ride safely in extremely cold winter weather. If you haven’t read it yet, go check it out. In that article, Shawn of the XMARGH Youtube channel helped us come up with some safety tips for cold weather riding. He hails from northern Ontario and has seen more than a few cold winters.
One ride in particular stood out in his memory. It illustrates the surprising and unforgiving nature of weather and the change of the seasons.
Shawn’s been riding in northern Ontario his whole life and cold days aren’t enough to keep him from out of his side-by-side. When he rides, he makes sure that he and everyone with him is well prepared for anything that nature throws his way.
But on one spring ride, nature got the best of him. Even though the ride went sideways, he and his friends got out unscathed. They wore waterproof snow suits and boots. Their UTVs were equipped with tried and true winches. Most importantly, though, everybody knew the plan for the day, including their families that were staying home.
On this particular May ride, the temperature was holding below freezing and there was still snow on the ground when they unloaded their 4 side-by-sides onto an old abandoned logging road. The snow was deep, but it had an icy crust that allowed them to cruise on top without issue.
So they set out on the trail: a RZR Turbo S, an XP Turbo, a PRO XP, and a Maverick X3 X RC, all of which were running rubber tires instead of tracks. It was spring after all, even if it didn’t feel like it this year.
By lunch they had traveled over nine miles. The snow had gotten deeper and the temperature had risen from below freezing to around 5°C or 41°F. All of a sudden, the melting slushy snow was too much for their rubber tires to handle. It was time to turn back.
The hard crust they were riding on was warming up, and it could no longer support the weight of the machines. They were forced to constantly winch themselves up while gingerly applying throttle so they could stay on the crust a little longer.
Four hours later they had made it only a quarter of a mile back. And then it started to rain.
The task of pulling their vehicles through the frictionless snow foot-by-foot and inch-by-inch became completely unrealistic. At 10 PM, under an onslaught of rain, they made the decision to pack up their supplies and hike the eight long miles back to the road.
They had no cell service or connection to the outside world, but when they finally made it back to their trucks in the early hours of the morning, their families were waiting for them with hot drinks and warm blankets in hand.
They were sore, cold, and wet, but they were OK. They were OK because they were prepared and now they can add this ride to their list of experiences that they learned from. And next time, they’ll save their spring ride for a little later in the spring.
This ride could have gone very bad. They didn’t know the snow would be so deep on the trail they had ridden dozens of times before, and they didn’t expect the weather to change so drastically over the course of the day.
While their ride didn’t exactly turn out to be much fun—”it was hell” as Shawn so bluntly recalls it—they were never in serious danger, just serious discomfort. That’s because they were dressed for the worst. They had warm, waterproof jackets and boots designed for snow.
Whether you ride in the dead of winter, or the blistering heat of summer, prepare before your ride.
Are you ready for the worst case scenario? If you are, then the worst case scenario isn’t really that bad.