MOTOTOXEMIA: For Russian Riders, a 6-Month Disease with One Cure

Keep your space-heaters close, and your bikes even closer.

woman with baby sitting on a motorcycle

Winter is coming—and if you're a motorcyclist in Russia, that means six months of the kind of cold, darkness, ice, and snow that's legendary among military tacticians for repelling everyone from Charles XII to Napoleon. In St. Petersburg, home to photographer Valeriy Zaytsev, temperatures can drop to a horrific -4°F for months on end. For the legions of motorcyclists who can't ride 'til spring, it results in a kind of madness Zaytsev calls mototoxemia.

“Mototoxemia has various symptoms,” Zaytsev writes. “People sing songs and write poetry about it.” There’s no easy cure for mototoxemia, but two things are often tried: “Motorcyclists can wear motor outfit and go for a city walk,” or they can settle for keeping their motorcycle as close as possible, despite a serious lack of garages. Zaytsev explains:

“Not to part with their motorcycle, motorcyclists put them inside of their apartments. This can be very difficult, because many of them live in apartment buildings without freight elevators, and stairwells in these buildings are not adjusted for lifting motorcycles to the apartments.”

man sitting in chair next to his motorcycle

Zaytsev’s “Mototoxemia” photo-series is a humbling, intensely personal look at the extraordinary lengths we’ll go to for our wheels. In image after image, couches, chairs, rugs, paintings, and baby furniture are shoved to the side to make room for a wide range of motorcycles, each clearly considered family. Though often hilariously surreal, the collection is enough to inspire teary-eyed pride and respect in the heart any real rider, no matter what climes they may roam.

See the full series on Zaytsev's website. Peeling plaster, it turns out, is never so beautiful as when it's sheltering the one you love.