The tradition of riding on January 1

snowy alley

Odds are not looking good.

Unlike the last two years, conditions aren’t likely to allow me to keep my tradition of starting the new year with a January 1 motorcycle ride. Temperatures have been below freezing for days and are forecast to stay there for another week, and fresh snow fell overnight.

So much for a so-called Polar Bear ride on the first day of the year.

The January 1 “Polar Bear rides” organized in some northern locations are not to be confused with the winter-long riding series of the same name that takes place in the Northeast. New York is also the site of the oldest such tradition that I’ve ever heard of, the Crotona Midnight Run, which is organized by the Ramapo Motorcycle Club and is now more than a century old. When the event began in the early 20th century, it started as the clock struck midnight and the new year began. For a long time, the event has been held later in January or in February, but it may just be the original tradition of starting the new year with a motorcycle ride.

The Crotona Midnight Run is a competition, a timed ride in which participants have to complete a two-leg, 120-mile ride in the cold and dark winter night while maintaining a 30 mph average speed. Amazingly, some riders complete the entire route within a minute of perfection. The run is one of those events I’ve always thought about doing, but the time when I lived close by in the Hudson Valley was the one time in my adult life I didn’t have a motorcycle, and since then, well… mostly I just tell myself it’s a long way from home and I wimp out.

Not that I’ve lacked for winter riding fiascoes and challenges, anyway, whether planned or (mostly) unplanned. As we’ve seen, by the time February comes around, I’ll go almost anywhere for almost any flimsy reason just to get a ride in.

In 2018, it looks like I’ll get a late start.


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