After a long winter, motorcyclists are coming out of hibernation and reclaiming their place on the streets. Unfortunately, spring is usually the most dangerous time of the year to ride as riders shake off the rust and other motorists learn to start sharing the road once again with motorcycles.

Of course, if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where you can comfortably ride year-round (is there even such a thing as “spring” in LA?) you may not have had any downtime. But for the rest of us, including me up here in Toronto, riding season is only just starting.

Motorcycle Beginner: Rider Training

That’s why the Humber College Motorcycle Rider Training Program in Toronto and representatives from several local and provincial police departments gathered together to demonstrate proper riding technique and promote motorcycle safety awareness.

On a makeshift intersection marked by pylons, a combination of riding school Honda CBR125Rs and Harley-Davidson police bikes demonstrated slow-speed control and proper riding technique.

Event organizers picked a good day for it. The skies were clear, the sun was brilliant, and the 50-degree temperatures erased all remnants of the snow we received just four days earlier.

“Taking a motorcycle out today is a great idea. But in doing so you must be aware that today is the kind of day, bright and sunny, when you need to be on top of your game,” says Toronto Police Services Superintendent Gord Jones. “Statistically, today is the type of day that you are more likely to be involved in a fatal collision regardless of if you are walking, cycling, driving, or operating a motorcycle.”

Superintendent Jones offered some sobering statistics for motorcycles. Since 2009, 63 motorcyclists have died on Toronto roads, with the fatality rate going up year after year.

The key message of the day is that motorcycle riding is a perishable skill and that it takes some practice to regain the proper technique, muscle memory and observational skills required to safely operate a motorcycle.

Basic Rider Training

“We have to be cognizant of over-enthusiasm and making sure that the skill matches the time of the year,” says Andy Hertel, manager of Humber’s motorcycle program. “We always encourage people to get some training, be that formal or informal. Simply taking your motorcycle to a parking lot and practicing slower-speed controls is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Officers demonstrated slow-speed maneuvers, riding their big, heavy police Harleys in tight circles. Not once did a boot touch the ground, though the same can’t be said of an occasional exhaust pipe.

Of course, it’s not just riders who are rusty. As more motorcyclists return, other motorists that had the streets to themselves over the winter have to learn to share the roads once again. Even the streets themselves will need time to return to prime riding condition.

Advanced Rider Training Buyers Guide

“After a winter where they’ve put salt, they’ve put sand – we had an ice storm this year – there’s still debris and branches on the road, there’s potholes due to the frost heaving. The roads are not in the best condition either,” Hertel notes.

When I went through Humber’s motorcycle training program, we used Yamaha V Star 250s. The school has since switched to Honda CBR125Rs.