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I've ridden done a lot of motorbike kilometres and miles in Eastern Canada and the US, and there's still many places I'd like to visit.Â I often get asked where I like to ride most? For me, the answer is an easy one. Give me US roads any day of the week.
In the past, I've not really understood why. It was just a gut reaction and maybe a "grass is greener" thing. However, after my last trip to Vermont, I think I now understand. Here, in no particular order, are my reasons:
Most roads are well surfaced
This is perhaps my single biggest reason and it's most noticeable around the border. Head North in the US and you'll usually have lovely smooth pavement until you hit the Canadian border. Once you do, the road becomes a mixture of ruts and bumps that could potentially shake your filling loose. The weather is often blamed.
In the US, a rough road ahead sign means you'll be in for a some tar snakes or maybe some ruts. In Canada, there'll be no sign and potholes. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen a pot hole in the US.
For me, the real culprit is probably the trucks. Sure they're on the highway but for some reason, you rarely see them on US back roads. In Canada, trucks are everywhere; I call them rolling roadblocks.
Canadian roads are covered with signs - US roads, much less so
This is one that really struck me yesterday: there's very few road signs in the US. You'll get the speed limit signs as you enter and leave a small town and maybe some sharp turn advisories and animal warnings. In Canada, you're subjected to a myriad of signage that I've realized drains the eyes. Speed limits and advisories I can understand, but each of them is frequently repeated. You'll also see copious mile markers, turn signs and more advisories than you need. They're like a cancer on the landscape.
On Canadian highways sings fly past advising you that the next exit has a gas station, a Tim's and at least one of McDonalds/Burger King/Shitty Foods Ltd. EVERY exit has those, so why both telling us? I see copious signs about road works and lane closures most of which aren't even there any more, not to mention the lines of pylons marking imaginary activity. It's got to the point where you can drive through an area of natural beauty and not even see it because your eyes are constantly drawn to the hi-viz pictures of school children and donut shops.Â Canada needs a program to remove road signs.
The roads are much more fun
This is a no brainer and it's not entirely Canada's fault. The Eastern US has something called the Appalachians. Sure, call them something different depending on which state or county you are in, but it's the same mountain range. The one thing every motorcycle rider should know is that elevation equals fun. When roads go up and down, and generally trace a path that is not straight, you smile more. It's not rocket science.
In Ontario, especially, where most of the land is given over to farming, there are no turns to speak of. Maybe the roads were created after some Roman ideal of straightness, but I think it just made the maps easier to draw. Sure, you can (and should) head into Quebec for some more interesting roads but this leads me neatly into my next, related point.
US roads don't (really) go through towns
This isn't entirely true, but for the most part, US roads skirt around small towns and especially the larger ones. The net effect is to not slow you down as much. In Canada, the road usually goes directly through the middle of town which looks like yet another strip mall. In each one, you'll drive past the same fast food and retail road chains.
And this IS Canada's fault. In the UK, we have a word for the kind of roads we need: by-pass. They by-pass the town, to raise the average road speed and make journeys more direct. Canada needs more of them.
The US offers Intertate highways. These roads are built alongside older roads to take the load of commuter and commerce traffic, this leaves the smaller, curvier roads for the likes of me to enjoy.
There's too many cars on the road in Canada
This one is hard to fathom. It doesn't seem to matter where you're going, if you're on a Canadian road there's simply more cars around. I mentioned getting into the hills in Quebec earlier. Good luck with that. Chances are, if you do, there'll be a line of cars ahead of you and probably a good few trucks in the mix.
In the US, chances are you might run into the odd car here and there but pass them and the road is (generally) clear again for a while.
They drive better in the US
OK, this one's probably going to piss people off, but in my experience, people in the US drive better than their Canadian counterparts. It's little things like knowing where the turn signals are (except in New Hampshire where no-one seems to signal) and using them! On clear, open roads, when some US drivers see a motorcycle coming up behind them, they will pull slightly to one side to let the rider pass. In Canada, you'll be lucky if drivers don't start speeding up and veering towards you as you overtake.
And don't get me started on lane placement. On four lane roads in the US people pull out to pass than pull back into the right. In Canada, you're more likely to see the right lane completely empty. It's not a universal truth, but on more than one occasion, when I saw left lane hogging on US roads, it was by an Ontario or Quebec driver.Â I could go on, but suffice to say, Canada is not going to win any driving awards.
Speed limits are (marginally) higher
Marginally higher speed limits shouldn't make a big difference but they do. US highway speed limits are 65mph (105km/h) and 55mph is the norm on local roads (88km/h) - that's almost 10km/h faster than Canadian roads! The amount of traffic aside, there's no reason Canadian roads should not match speed limits in the US.Â
And this is where I see a huge difference: Enforcement. In the US, drivers tend to drive more closely to the natural road speed. This is calculated at the speed at which 85% of traffic moves and often 20km/h faster than posted speed limits. When I drove past a US cop at natural road speed, he didn't care - he didn't move. It may have helped I was following a car doing the same, but I don't think so. Cops spend their time going after the outliers, the motorbike riders doing something stupid like overtaking blind or raising the front wheel.
In Canada, I think you'd get pulled if you pass a cop whilst exceeding the limit. There's often a cop behind a tree trying to make his quota. On Canadian roads there seems to be more cop cars on the roads. Riding back to Canada the other day, I must have seen at least ten cop cars on the road. In the US, where I did four times the mileage, I saw two.
Basically, as long as you're not stupid, the general rule of thumb is enjoy yourself and don't be a danger to others. In Canada, speed enforcement seems to be a cash grab and does nothing to make Canadian roads safer. In fact, research shows it can do the opposite - restrict the speed below the natural speed limit and drivers take more risks, which makes the road less safe - htt p://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/speedmgt/ref_mats/fhwasa09028/resources/TRR1779-Synthe sisofStudies.pdf
There's a number of other reasons I could have included, such as the scenery, the cheap gas, accomodation and food but for my money, if you want a good road trip, head South my Canadian friends.