Common Tread

For Polar Bear riders, the riding season has just begun

Nov 19, 2015

It’s Polar Bear season!

And I do not mean jumping into some crazy frozen lake for charity. (However, if you do that, bravo to you and the charities you support.)

I’m talking about a motorcycle riding season that starts in October and ends in April. Yes, while the rest of the world gets their bikes ready in the spring for the summer, the riders in the Polar Bear Grand Tour get their bikes ready in the fall for winter riding.

Polar Bear Grand Tour
Another Polar Bear ride sets off. Photo by Sherry Loughin.

What’s a Polar Bear Grand Tour and who are the guys and gals who ride it? Well, the club consists of 550 riders from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Connecticut. From October to April, they meet every Sunday at destinations spread out among these states. Most folks come to these meet-up points in small riding groups with other club members from their area.

Polar Bear Grand Tour
Riding in the Northeast from October to April, anything is possible. Photo by Sherry Loughin.
This AMA-sanctioned event has been running for 38 years. Riders earn points for each ride they attend and can get bonus points for participating in the Crotona Midnight Run or for riding to Daytona Beach, Fla., for Bike Week. Everyone who earns at least 30 points gets a patch and other awards are available for higher point totals. Of course it’s really about the camaraderie and having a reason to ride in what most people think is the “off season” in this part of the world.

I found out about this organization a couple years ago when I relocated back to the greater Philadelphia area. My friend, Sherry, and her husband, Abe, invited me along. I will never forget it, as it was the day that made me realize I had the wrong gear for winter riding. It was a December ride and I remember getting home late, like 7 p.m. or so. I sat in front of the fireplace for two hours trying to thaw out.

My dad came over and gave me that speech again: “Rania, when are you going to grow up and stop riding?”

I just looked at him and didn’t say anything. The next day, I ordered heated gear and every Polar Bear ride thereafter has been much more comfortable.

I still have yet to fully commit and become a member. I have always ridden along as a guest. I like to think I am leaving the rewards for those who are truly committed and never miss a Sunday. Nonetheless, it is always great to ride with friends and in groups so organized it makes the military look weak.

Polar Bear Grand Tour
Polar Bear rides always end at a warm spot with food. You'll need it. Photo by Sherry Loughin.

If you ever find yourself in the Northeast and looking for a reason to ride when others have stored their bikes for the winter, and people to ride with who share your feelings, just check the Polar Bear Grand Tour ride schedule, follow the rules and of course, ride safe and have fun!

Oh, and don’t forget your heated gear!