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Change of Season

Change of Season
Driving Directorate
U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center
Fort Rucker, Ala.

One of the most beautiful times of the year to ride is during the fall as nature’s colors reach their full brilliance. However, despite the season’s beauty, fall can be an especially dangerous time for riders. With days getting shorter and temperatures falling, motorcyclists need to adjust their riding techniques accordingly.

See and be seen
As the days shorten, you’ll be spending more time riding in the dark. While you’ll be able to enjoy some beautiful sunrises and sunsets as you ride to and from work, you’ll also have to deal with the sun’s glare. That glare, especially when the sun is low on the horizon, can make it hard for drivers to see you or you to see the road. You have probably experienced this many times in a car. Despite leaning your head back, pulling down the sun visor and wearing your sunglasses, you’re still partially blinded by the glare.

This problem can be worse for motorcyclists. Even if your helmet has a visor or tinted shield to reduce the glare, you’ll still have problems seeing oncoming traffic. If you can’t reduce the glare, you’ll have to hold your head so you can see the road while trying to keep the sun out of your eyes. This usually means riding with your head in an awkward, tucked position.

To be seen, you need to position yourself in your lane where you’ll be as visible as possible to oncoming traffic. This is particularly important when approaching intersections, where the bottom-line rule is to always assume someone will pull out in front of you. You need to prepare yourself for that by adjusting your speed accordingly, being ready to maneuver quickly and always leaving yourself a way out. While these tips apply year round, they’re especially important in the fall, when the sun’s glare makes it harder for others to see you during sunrise and sunset.

Slip-sliding away
Falling leaves present their own hazards. Wet leaves reduce traction and can make riding to work or taking weekend trips on twisty, two-lane roads more dangerous. Smart riders adjust their speed going into curves and look well ahead to choose the best line to avoid any wet, slick leaves. As temperatures drop, smart riders will be on the lookout for shaded curves, where the lack of sunlight has kept the ice from melting. Whether you ride in the Great Smokies, Cascades, Adirondacks or foothills of the Alps, it’s up to you to be aware of the road conditions before you ride. Every morning, I check the weather, dress accordingly and mentally prepare myself before starting my motorcycle.

Speaking of dressing for the ride, there’s nothing worse than having cold hands and feet. Not only is being cold uncomfortable, it can impair your ability to control your motorcycle. Whenever my hands begin to feel a slight chill, I start adding layers of clothing. I put my summer gloves away and wear my winter set without the liner. When my hands start feeling cold again, I add the liners and I’m good until the spring. I do the same thing with my jacket and pants. Because my boots provide excellent protection from the elements, I just wear thicker socks in the late fall and early winter.

The cold not only affects your body, it can also affect your ability to make good decisions. A friend with many years of riding experience crashed during an early winter morning when he failed to recognize slippery road conditions ahead of him on an exit ramp. Being cold, he was less alert to dangers and didn’t spot the spilled diesel fuel until it was too late to avoid it. Luckily for him, he was wearing the appropriate personal protective gear and only suffered a broken left arm and some ruffled pride. Regardless your level of riding experience, being cold and not having your head in the game can bite you.

Storing your motorcycle
When the riding season ends, you’ll definitely want to protect your motorcycle by properly winterizing and storing it. Some of you will put up your bikes in November, so now is the time to start thinking about the proper storage techniques. Your owner’s manual, coupled with the T-CLOCS (Tires, Controls, Lights, Oil, Chassis and Stand) inspection checklist, will guide you through the proper steps. For easy reference, here are some tips to help your bike survive its winter hibernation:

•Change the oil.

•Fill the fuel tank and add fuel stabilizer.

•Properly inflate the tires.

•Wash and wax the painted and chromed surfaces.

•Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual to disconnect and remove the battery.

•Plug the exhaust and air cleaner openings to keep out any critters.

•Make sure you conspicuously mark any plugs you install so you don’t embarrass yourself in the spring with a motorcycle that won’t start.

•Use a cover that will breathe, such as light canvas, to protect your motorcycle. A plastic cover can create condensation and cause rust.

•Attach a check sheet to the throttle or make a note in your owner’s manual to remind you of what you did when you stored your motorcycle.

Winter — and the snowplow that buried your driveway with two feet of snow to shovel — will soon be gone. By following the steps in your owner’s manual, T-CLOCS checklist and the check sheet you made, you’ll save money on maintenance costs and get on the road quicker in the spring. Live to ride and ride safe!

  • 1 October 2013
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 7284
  • Comments: 0