By Chris Frazier, U.S. Army Combat Readiness CenterSeptember 20, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Sept. 20, 2016) - With its spectacular colors and cooler temperatures, autumn is a favorite riding season for many motorcyclists. Unfortunately, it can also be a particularly dangerous time to ride for the uninitiated.
As the daylight hours shorten, riders will spend more time on their bikes during periods of dusk and dark. To stay safe on the road, they must adjust their riding techniques accordingly, said Steve Kurtiak, a motorcycle and recreational vehicle safety specialist with the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center.
"Riders will be able to enjoy some beautiful sunrises and sunsets as they travel to and from work, but they'll also have to deal with the sun's glare," Kurtiak said. "That glare can also make it difficult for drivers to see them on the road, especially when the sun is low on the horizon."
When riding in hours of reduced visibility, Kurtiak recommends riders position themselves in their lane where they'll be as noticeable as possible to oncoming traffic. This is especially important when riders approach intersections, where they must always assume someone will pull out in front of them.
"Riders need to prepare for that by adjusting their speed and being ready to maneuver quickly," Kurtiak said. "They must always leave themselves a way out. While these tips apply year-round, they're of utmost importance in the autumn and winter, when the sun's glare makes visibility difficult for just about everyone on the road."
Automobiles aren't the only threat to motorcyclists during the cooler-weather seasons. While the changing leaves in autumn provide a riding backdrop unrivaled by the other three seasons, they can create a hazard on the road once they fall from the trees.
Wet leaves -- like snow and ice -- reduce a tire's traction, which can lead to a crash. When approaching a curve, Kurtiak said riders should adjust their speed and look well ahead to choose the best line to avoid wet, slick leaves and other road hazards.
Autumn's cooler temperatures also offer a welcome relief from the summer heat, but motorcyclists will have to modify how they dress for the ride -- especially those who will continue to do so through the winter months. Most can attest to the fact that riding cold isn't much fun, but it's also dangerous.
"Being cold can impair a rider's ability to control their motorcycle," Kurtiak said. "The cold can also affect their decision-making and ability to recognize road hazards."
Riders who plan to ride in the autumn and winter months should learn to layer their clothing properly as well as invest in quality cold-weather personal protective equipment. For instance, a pair of winter riding gloves without the liners may be all that's needed to keep a motorcyclist's hands warm on autumn rides. As winter approaches, the liners can then be reinserted to protect against more frigid temperatures. And when it comes to preparing their bikes for cold-weather riding, Kurtiak recommends riders follow the instructions in their motorcycle owner's manuals.
Each motorcyclist has his or her favorite riding season and reasons for it. In the end, though, it all comes down to being in tune with your bike, the weather conditions and your surroundings.
"Whether you're a hardcore, all-four-seasons rider or fair-weather rider, machine, mind and body have to be firing on all cylinders to ensure a safe and enjoyable riding experience," Kurtiak said.