Fall is typically a beautiful time of year. In many areas of the United States including my home state of Tennessee, changing leaf colors leads to some very nice scenery along the highways and back roads where I often ride. This is all well and good while the leaves are still attached to their branches. When they start falling to the ground, however, they can pose a threat to the motorcycle rider.
Hazards from falling leaves come in two major flavors. For starters, leaves can obscure a damaged piece of pavement or debris in the roadway. This type of hazard isn’t that prevalent or as dangerous as the second scenario which is wet leaves.
A thin layer of wet leaves on a road surface can be very slick. Not only is the upward facing surface of those leaves slick when wet but the downward, road-facing side adds to the overall reduction in friction. All in all this is not the ideal surface for the small contact patch of a motorcycle tire to deal with.
What is really dangerous is that while one is typically already being cautious when riding in the rain, a patch of leaves may stay wet for some time after the precipitation has ended. It’s not unusual to have the sun shining down on a deceptively innocent patch of leaves on the road the morning after a rainy night. Those leaves can still be quite wet underneath and can easily ruin one’s day if ridden over at even modest lean angels.
It’s easy to get caught up in the scenery and colors that come with a crisp Autumn morning ride so be vigilant when you’re out riding during this time of year. Make sure you are staying aware of what is on the road surface up ahead and never assume those leaves on the road are completely dry. In fact, I would say just avoid riding over any leaves on the road if it can be done safely.