Most motorcycle riders are three-season riders—out riding a motorcycle on the first pretty day in the spring and parking the bike in storage when the first winter snow falls. In between, there’s the fall riding season. We’ve gathered five tips to help make it safer and more enjoyable.
1. Check tire pressure
Sometimes summer gradually fades into fall and the change of temperature is a slow, gentle decline. Other years, it feels like someone threw a light switch and it’s immediately colder outside. Either way, colder temperatures lead to low tire pressure. Proper tire inflation is critical to maintaining optimum traction and increasing the life of your tires. Always check tire pressure when the tires are cold and adjust them to the manufacturer’s cold pressure inflation recommendation. Do this before each ride, since even a short ride to the gas station warms your tires, causing them to lose tire pressure.
2. Choose the right riding gear
Fall daytime temperatures can vary widely, making it easy to be caught off-guard. A warm, sunny morning ride to work could easily be a bone-chilling ride home—if you’re not prepared. Riding a motorcycle with a selection of riding gear layers allows you to adjust to the changing temperatures. After all, being cold while riding isn’t only uncomfortable, it can lead to health risks like hypothermia.
3. Be ready for temperature changes in the mountains
As elevations increase, temperatures decrease. While that makes for comfortable summer riding, it’s not necessarily the case in the fall. Shorter daylight hours reduce the amount of sunshine heating the ground, and what heat is gathered escapes quickly at higher elevations—especially in clear or windy conditions. When temperatures really start to drop, wet roads at high elevations can ice over quickly, creating another safety hazard.
4. Look out for leaves
The most spectacular part of riding a motorcycle in the fall is enjoying the fall foliage with an unobstructed view. All those leaves are beautiful to behold—as long as they stay on the trees. Once they fall to the ground, leaves can easily change from being beautiful to being a danger. A heavy—or even modest—rainfall can bring leaves down fast and make for a wet, slippery roadway.
That’s why it’s important to remember when riding a motorcycle that wet or dry leaves can hide road surface hazards like potholes, loose gravel, or edge traps. Adjust your cornering speed, use caution, and be vigilant scanning for surface hazards. Also, consider some of these other fall foliage riding tips.
5. Watch for wildlife and more on the road
As the fall season progresses, deer enter their mating season. The increased activity makes it more likely they’ll dart across the road. Of course, deer are just one kind of animal you may encounter. Other ruminant animals actively forage for food and sometimes cross into the road as they prepare for winter. Also, remember that lots of people head into the woods to hunt or enjoy the last hikes of the season. Remain on the lookout for parked vehicles and cars pulling out along country roads.
Fall is a wonderful time of the year to ride a motorcycle and store up riding memories for the coming winter. And you’re more likely to enjoy them safely if you prepare your motorcycle, riding gear, and mindset for the change of seasons.
Till next time, ride safe!
Road surface hazards are lurking out there throughout the year. Here are more articles on how to deal with some of them: