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(Inadvertent) Truth in Advertising


The province of Ontario’s tagline—Yours to Discover—is better suited to travel by canoe than motorcycle


The brilliance (or blandness) of the roads we ride is inextricably linked to the topography beneath them. If you’re blessed with mountains, engineers responsible for public thoroughfares are forced to divert from the compass’s arrow to skirt rock formations and sidestep lakes. In the absence of obstruction roads run long and hard to the horizon.


The province of Ontario’s motorcycle tourism ad campaign (full pages in Canadian and American motorcycle magazines) implores enthusiasts to “ride life to the fullest” while depicting, in photographs, scenes drearily familiar to those of us who live here. That looming left-hander in the reproduced ad is engaging only if you’re travelling at a speed that would keep you in the draft of John McGuinness on the boil at the Isle of Man.


Our roads are picturesque, and deliver apple farms and lavender fields and villages where you can buy ice cream and wall hangings where a flamboyant cursive commands you to live, life, love. (Of course Ontario cannot claim exclusivity on disheartening roads. If the Midwest is home you know what I’m on about. Minnesota, in particular, is Ontario’s doppelgänger.)

It’s tempting to admire the ad agency’s forthrightness for using a photograph of a quintessential Ontario roadway. Had I been in charge—and knowing the roads we crave—I’d have suggested one of a half-dozen corners that, in the right light, with a lens of significant focal length and with the camera in exactly the right position, could have made Ontario appear a motorcycling mecca. But since obfuscation—not illumination—is the currency of advertising, the campaign’s apparent honesty is simply ignorance. I suspect the minds behind the ad have never ridden a road that dipped in and out of low-lying fog along a descending river valley in an Adirondack or Appalachian Mountain range. Nor, I’d wager, have they flogged a dirt bike on a British Columbia fire road or ridden a circuitous route from Palm Springs to Borrego Springs.


The absence of great roads necessitates an imagination (any ride in the cool of morning is better than in midday’s heat) and alternatives—vibrant racing scenes must be influenced by the paucity of on-road thrills. But not all is lost. Experienced Ontario riders toss this old chestnut around—Question: Where’s the best place in Ontario to ride? Answer: Pennsylvania. And two hours riding from my home—give or take—will put you on the doorstep of the keystone state.

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