Autumn is upon us

It’s here. Autumn. The ‘main’ riding season for most is nearly over. For me and my trusty Smoggy the adventures continue throughout the winter season. Autumn though, creates a lot of challenges for those on motorbikes. Damp roads and falling leaves are certainly some of the main hazards.

My buddy, Yvonne, (or Evie, for those on Faceache) announced last Sunday when I was enjoying a rare gluten free waffle, with maple syrup, that Autumn was on Tuesday. I was at Harley’s Coffee Shop, Camelon, Falkirk. If you have dietary ‘needs’ or a passion for cupcakes, their products are AMAZING!

Anyway, I asked how Yvonne knew. She said, without rolling her eyes (thankfully), or missing a beat, “It’s on the calendar”. Yes, of course. On Tuesday morning, the leaves on the trees went, ‘flump’! Right on time. Right in front of me as I walked my long commute to work… All of 400m! You were spot on, Yvonne.

There’s one of my favourite roads, the A85 to Crieff and beyond that has a couple of areas where pine needles land on the road. The tarmac becomes dominated with orange from the needles and if you aren’t aware of the potential danger, there’s a very inviting beech hedge to land in.

I was out last year with a fellow Observer and I was leading. He must have thought ‘Where’s she off to? What an odd line.’ When he came around the corner, he saw why I had adopted a strange line into what is a series of sharp bends. There’s very little room for error. Having to cross any part of the orange sludge can be butt-clenchingly scary. So, take great care out there when the leaves begin to fall and take into account that it’s easy to lose control going over slimy, dead vegetation.

The other danger is the low sun. Last year, late afternoon, I was heading south and was approaching the series of bends before Lix Toll garage. An oncoming car was turning left and the car behind was driving too close. Instead of braking, she (yes, it was a ‘she’) swerved to avoid the car. What she hadn’t seen was the red motorcycle. Luckily, I had realised what was happening and had adopted a safe position. I did blast my horn and was aware of her wide eyes and horror seeing me pass her by. It all happened in slow motion, I could see her blethering to her pal in the passenger seat and could see the words ‘oh $hit’ being mouthed when she realised that she just hadn’t seen me. I saw the whites of her eyes. I was pretty much riding the white line on the nearside of the road with self-preservation in mind!

The problem? The low sun. The other problem? Not concentrating. Too busy chatting to realise that the car in front was slowing (and indicating). That’s one of the many, many reasons I did my Advanced Riding (and Driving). We become safer riders and drivers, with enhanced observation skills, better anticipation and hopefully the skills to be able to move safely out of trouble. The mantra of being able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear on your side of the road is so, so relevant.

In the Autumn and Winter, I tend to be very wary. Ride to the conditions, be careful in the low sun, keep your visor clear if you can, a Visorcat is a worthy investment – quality for midgies in the Summer, essential for visor grime in the Autumn and Winter. I never ride without one… (unless it’s over 25 degrees and it’s the conditions for vented Summer gloves). Don’t forget to fill the reservoir regularly though. If you forget, it can be messy.

It’s nearly time to dig out the Gerbing heated gear too. Mind you, I was shocked that I had to put my liner in my jacket in August. What was that all about?? I’ve just invested in new Goretex gear (much needed, jacket and trousers since deceased). New jacket and trousers in the most impractical colour imaginable to any motorcyclist. Made by Klim, it’s a light grey colour, beautifully made with lots of reflective parts for riding at night or in low light. Honest to goodness, I’ve worn it for two weeks now and it’s clarty. For those who may not know what clarty means; also translates to mingin’. My newly acquired ‘naked’ bike means I have had mass bug suicide committed on my chest. However, it means I will be dry (at last) and cosy during the winter season. I may even buy the heated trousers as a wee treat. I guess one advantage is, I should be noticeable. Actually, ‘space-woman’ might be more appropriate.

That’s one of the other hazards during the latter part of the riding season. Try to avoid being cold. Once you’re cold, it’s difficult to get warm again. Even hugging a massive mug of hot chocolate just won’t do it. If I go out in the cold, I force (gag) porridge down my throat. I hate the stuff, but it does work. So, wrap up warm and cosy and you’ll help your concentration. I guess the bonus is, where I live it tends to throw the worst weather at you. I’m used to leaving home in the cold and rain. Love Tyndrum. The weather’s always better everywhere else.

Take care, my motorcycling friends. Ride to the conditions.

3 comments on “Autumn is upon us”

  1. Richard says:

    Great post, Fiona. The A85 is one of my favourites, too – and it is those verdammt larch needles (there and in the Sma’ Glen particularly) that form a sludge that’s as bad as ice and considerably worse than ‘normal’ leaf mould. When there’s a visible heavy deposit, I usually find it best to follow the tracks of cars where they’ve cleared it, but it still doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s much grip on the apparently clear bits. On the ‘tired and cold’ bit, there have been studies that show that being cold and tired has even more impact on your abilities than being drunk – in fact I think Fifth Gear(?) did a test on-air a few years ago. My own experience there? http://ducati.info/2006/11/22/scott-of-the-west-midlands/

  2. Fiona says:

    ‘Tired and cold’ is probably going to be my next blog. 😉

  3. Fiona says:

    Loved the blog. I wish I could write like that!

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