Let Me Ride Standing: The Challenge of Quebec’s Motorcycle Laws

Max Sheehy sur sa Husqvarna Norden 901

Did you know that in Quebec, it’s illegal to ride a motorcycle while standing up? Yes, indeed, it’s against the law to rise from your seat, whether it’s to stretch your legs or simply to get a better view of the road.

According to Article 477 of the Highway Safety Code:

Highway Safety Code, Section III, Article 477: ‘The operator of a motorcycle or moped must travel seated on their seat and continuously hold the handlebars. The cyclist must ride astride and continuously hold the handlebars.’

But why was this law put in place in the first place?

The law was implemented to prevent dangerous behaviors on our roads. It emphasizes the importance of keeping both hands on the handlebars, a fundamental rule. Additionally, it mandates staying seated on the motorcycle to minimize the risk of errors while riding. When you stand up, you need to relearn how to shift gears because the wind affects you differently, and the motorcycle responds differently in that position.

In essence, this law is quite reasonable for many motorcyclists. In fact, most of the motorcycles you encounter on the roads are specifically designed to be ridden in a seated position.

How On-Road Bikes Easily Adapt to This Requirement

Les motos routièresCrédit Photo: Unsplash
Road bikes Photo Credit: Unsplash

That’s why, for the vast majority of motorcyclists, this law has little or no impact. Zealous police officers who would issue you a citation for standing up briefly while riding are rare.

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It’s important to keep in mind that most motorcycles you encounter on our roads are touring bikes. They are incredibly comfortable, allowing riders to easily cover 800 kilometers in a day without discomfort.

These motorcycles have a low center of gravity, well-adjusted suspensions, and specially designed footrests to ensure comfortable long-distance riding. For those who ride these bikes, this new law doesn’t really change how they do things.

But, What About Adventure Bikes?

Les motos aventures sont plus adaptées à une conduite deboutCréddit Photo HDM Vidéo
Adventure bikes are better suited to stand-up riding Photo Credit HDM Video

For someone not familiar with adventure motorcycles, they may appear similar from the outside. It’s true; our adventure bikes share the same basic features as a typical road bike—two wheels, a seat, handlebars, and luggage.

However, adventure riding is a whole different world. These bikes distinguish themselves from regular road motorcycles by their larger size. They have a higher center of gravity and greater ground clearance. The handlebars are positioned higher, and they are engineered to be comfortable on both asphalt and off-road trails.

In essence, adventure bikes are purpose-built for riding while standing up, whether it’s on rocky trails, sandy terrain, or other challenging scenarios—the idea is to stay upright.

By the way, if you’re considering taking an adventure motorcycle training course, this will likely be one of the first things they teach you.

So, what changes when you ride standing up?

There are many benefits to riding your motorcycle while standing up. Firstly, your entire body acts as a shock absorber. Additionally, it gives you more freedom to shift your weight from side to side on the bike.

As a result, you gain more control. Being in an upright position provides more options for positioning yourself. It also helps relieve joints that have been inactive for too long.

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Expanded Field of Vision: My Key Argument in Favor of This Riding Approach

Standing up provides an expanded field of vision. This increases your visual impact on the surrounding motorists. By adopting this posture, your field of vision significantly widens, allowing you to anticipate the reactions of other drivers more effectively.

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Furthermore, it becomes easier to avoid obstacles like potholes and debris that may be on the road.

In the world of adventure motorcycling, riding while standing is the norm to maintain optimal control over your two-wheeler. This practice exposes us less to other vehicles than on traditional roads.

What Does the President of the Fédération Motorcyclist du Québec Think?

I asked Sylvain Bergeron (President of the FMQ) for his opinion on the matter. Here’s his response.

Sylvain Bergeron - Président de la Fédération Motocyclistes du Québec
Sylvain Bergeron – President of the Fédération Motocyclistes du Québec

‘’Article 477 of the Highway Safety Code: the operator of a motorcycle or moped must travel seated on their seat and continuously hold the handlebars.’ It’s important to know that riding in this manner is illegal in Quebec, Ontario, and many other provinces and American states when on the road. The consequences are both costly and legal.

That said, depending on the circumstances, it’s clear that for off-road riding or on unpaved roads, riding while standing allows:

  • Seeing further ahead.
  • Allowing the legs to absorb the suspension’s impact.
  • Managing the combined center of gravity of the motorcycle and the rider.
  • Being more effective in controlling the motorcycle, depending on positioning techniques.

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Adventure and off-road riding schools are the first to demonstrate the benefits of riding while standing on trails.

On the road, we increasingly see motorcyclists standing up to give their rear end a break or for some fresh air! They do it at their own risk. A police officer friend once told me that taking a break achieves the same effect, and that’s legal. 😉

A Law Difficult to Change

Considering that this practice is seen as “dangerous” under the law, stemming from the risky behavior of a minority, it seems challenging to modify this law, especially to introduce exceptions. Yes, it’s the majority that often pays for the actions of a minority.

In practical terms, depending on the regions and situations, police officers “must have” the discretion to determine whether the maneuver is risky or not. There’s a difference between riding standing up on a forest road versus on Highway 20. As motorcyclists, we also need to exercise good judgment to make these kinds of decisions.”

I Want to Hear Your Opinion

As an adventure motorcycle rider, I’d like to have the right to ride standing up but in a safe framework. I envision a law that would allow motorcyclists to ride while standing under these conditions:

  1. A maximum speed of 70 km/h, for example.
  2. Both hands on the handlebars.
  3. The ability to do so on any type of road, paved or unpaved.
  4. Naturally, the passenger would be prohibited from standing up.
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What are your suggestions for modifying the law?

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