On September 23, 2019, at 3:50 a.m. east coast time, 12:50 a.m. west coast, the fall season officially arrived. At this precise moment, no matter where on earth you live, the relative position of our sun crossed the earth's equatorial plane, thus making day and night the same length in time - everywhere. For us in the northern hemisphere, the days will start getting shorter and the nights longer. Whether you live in Alaska, Alabama, Hawaii, or Manchester, England, the march towards winter commenced at the very same moment. This is because the earth is tilted about 23.5 degrees relative to the sun. It's known as the Autumnal Equinox (aequus, Latin for equal, and nox, Latin for night). So, what does the Autumnal Equinox mean for motorcyclists in the northern hemisphere? It means winter is coming. It also means altering our senses to high alert when riding our motorcycles. Here is a short list of safety tips to remember as the leaves start to fall and the sun's warmth starts to ebb.
Beware of leaves. Colorful leaves are beautiful to look at, but they can be your worst enemy after they fall to the ground. They are slippery, especially when wet, and in an instant they can spit a front wheel while turning. They can also hide hazards when they pile up on the shoulder of the roadway. They are especially dangerous when navigating around curves or when turning at intersections. The best way to reduce the risks is to avoid them, and when turning, go slow and keep the arc of your turn at a minimum. Where the leaves are most beautiful on those scenic, curvy highways, be the most vigilant.
Watch out for wildlife, especially deer. There are more collisions with deer in the fall than at any other time of year. The deer come out at night, and since night comes earlier each day, you are more likely to encounter them in the fall than in the summer. Deer stray from their normal range when food is less plentiful and present the greatest danger to us at dawn and dusk. Therefore, be especially alert during these hours.
Dress appropriately. Remember the rule about dressing for an accident: leathers are best. They not only keep you warm, but if you spit the front wheel while turning at an intersection or negotiating a curve, they also are protective. Needless to say, always wear a helmet.
Be prepared for the cold. When the sun gets low, it doesn't take long for the earth to give up what little heat it has accumulated during the day. Shorter days mean colder sunsets. Be sure to carry additional layers of clothing so that you stay warm.
Ice and Frost. Depending on where you live, freezing temperatures and frost are common in the early morning. Riding early in the morning increases the chance you'll encounter icy road surfaces. Be prepared and expect hazards. Although it isn't winter yet, frost is always around, especially on damp mornings.
In summary, you can extend your riding season by keeping a watchful eye for the various hazards of fall riding. Leaves are the enemy when on the ground. Frost and icy patches are common when overnight temperatures are at or near the freezing mark. Wear the proper clothing. Ride safe and enjoy the ride.
Attribution: South Dakota Department of Tourism and Motorcycle-Central.com.