In Illinois our weather can run the spectrum. Riding a motorcycle is a physical and a learned skill. As such, your skill set can diminish if you don’t ride regularly. So if you have been off the bike for an extended period of time, take some time to re-acclimate yourself to your bike. If you are new rider, be sure you have the proper classification to ride your motorcycle. Find an open area or a parking lot and do some slow speed maneuvering and some braking drills, if the surface is conducive.
Your nice, relaxing ride through the country should be fun, but don’t relax too much. When riding, you have to maintain a constant state of awareness. If you ride with the concept of trying to identify every hazard you see, there won’t be any surprises. When identifying or calling out hazards, there are no wrong answers. Call out everything: driveway, intersection, children, dogs, parked cars, oncoming line of cars behind a slow moving vehicle, blind curve, hillcrest, deer, gravel, construction, potholes, railroad crossing, etc. This exercise will help you prepare for something, but more importantly, it will force you to scan beyond your normal boundaries.
If you ride your motorcycle as much as I do, you are going to get wet. I’m a big fan of the weather channel, but weather is what it is. Riding in the rain can be done safely if you follow a few simple rules. Keep rain gear with you if you have room. Riding while dry will keep you more comfortable and is less distracting. Keep a pair of clear glasses or wear a helmet shield of some type. Keeping the rain out of your eyes is imperative. Adjust your riding speed for the conditions. Keep in mind, when it rains for the first time after an extended dry period, there will be excessive amounts of oil on the road, making conditions extremely slick. Watch for standing water. Motorcycle tires by design are efficient at displacing water but are not exempt from hydroplaning. Remember water will pool in the normal vehicle tracks on the road and most roadways are crowned and, as such, water will be deeper on the right side of the road. Gear up, slow down, create distance, and stay focused.
When fall begins to set in, the falling leaves can present an unassuming hazard. Many people venture out to see the fall colors, presenting a couple of hazards. Drivers may be a little distracted and not paying attention to the road and further may not see you. Be sure to keep your distance from other vehicles. Also, as the leaves begin to accumulate on the roadway they can be very slick. Whether wet or dry, driving through stacks of leaves can reduce traction, making it difficult to stop. A simple reduction of speed and awareness can make all the difference.
Fall riding can present some particular hazards, none more problematic than deer season. As crops are harvested, the area deer can forage is reduced. Additionally, as farm equipment run through the fields, deer are being pushed into other areas and, in many cases, closer to the road. Hunters are also in the timber, pushing deer into other areas. We also have to consider this is the breeding season for deer and the fact they will be running more actively than normal. The best defense is to stay aware, particularly while in rural areas. Scan the roadway and just off of the shoulders and watch for deer crossings. Typically deer movement will peak at dusk and dawn. Areas where crops or timber are relatively close to the road will present the greatest challenge. These are ideal places for deer to cross and, unfortunately, will provide you the shortest reaction time.
Fall in Illinois brings variable weather conditions. Often midday temperatures may be warm and comfortable for motorcycle riding, while overnight temperatures may be near freezing. It becomes necessary to be cognizant of frost on the roadway in the early morning hours during the fall. Be sure to pay particular attention for frost on bridge decks or other elevated surfaces, railroad crossings, and in shady areas where the morning sun might not have melted the frost yet.
It’s a clear, sunny winter day. The temperature is below freezing outside, but you have new warm riding gear and the roadways are clear, so you decide to take a ride on your motorcycle. Be sure to watch for ice on the roadways, even if there hasn’t been any rain or snow. Ice can form on the roads very quickly from a number of sources, such as fog, frost, a driver who pours an old cup of coffee or other beverage out the car window, or from leaking vehicle fluids and car exhaust to name a few. Pay attention for ice on the roadways in the center of the lane of traffic and on bridge decks over bodies of water. Also, pay particular attention near intersections. They are the most likely spot for people to pour out liquids and for other fluids to accumulate.
Don’t get left in the cold. In the fall, temperatures can run the spectrum from warm to below freezing. In most cases, regardless of midday temperatures, the temperature will significantly drop once the sun starts to set. It’s always a good idea to keep cold weather gear with you just in case you get detained or ride longer than you anticipated. Riding while extremely cold can cause a number of distractions. The rider will begin to shiver, get stiff, or ride in an unorthodox position trying to pick up some engine heat. All of these distractions can reduce your ability to control the motorcycle safely, not to mention just being uncomfortable. It’s also a good idea to keep a pair of clear of glasses or a clear helmet shield for riding in low light conditions. You will want to treat them with some form of anti-fogging agent before riding in cold temperatures.