6 Common Late Fall Riding Hazards

Many riders would agree, fall is prime motorcycle season. Near perfect temperatures, clear blue skies, changing leaves and less traffic on favorite backroads make for great end-of-season rides.

On the other hand, fall has a few downsides. With winter right around the corner, riders have to be mindful of freezing overnight temperatures and black ice. These hazards, combined with falling leaves, roadwork and drivers who aren’t expecting to see motorcycles this time of year, remind us to ride carefully and defensively through the end of fall.

As you enjoy the few mild autumn days we have left here in New England, keep these points in mind.

1. Beware of Fallen Leaves

fallen leaves on the road Our region of the country is a must-see spot for leaf peepers – however, changing leaves have to come down eventually. When they do, they can form a slick, muddy blanket that greatly reduces tire traction. An unsuspecting motorcyclist may start to slip and slide, especially if their tire treads are worn out.

Large leaf piles can obscure potholes and uneven pavement, also catching riders by surprise. Added to this, high winds may bring small branches down with the leaves, creating another level of obstruction.

With these risks in mind, here’s how to approach a leaf-covered road this season:

  • Ride around the piles, as you never know what lies underneath.
  • Go slow, until you’re past the areas with fallen leaves and acorns.
  • Make sure your tires have sufficient traction.
  • Slow down and take care around corners.
  • Never ride over broken branches, as they have potential to rip and puncture your tires.

2. Adjust to Shorter Days

When daylight saving time comes to an end, you’re more likely to end a late afternoon ride in the dark. For this reason, make sure your bike’s headlights, brake lights and turn signals are all in working order. So other motorists can see you, further make yourself visible with reflective clothing.

This time of year, the sun now sits lower in the sky. Unless you’re traveling north, this positioning often creates glare and, with fewer leaves on the trees, there is nothing to block the light. To reduce the blinding glow and any potential accidents, make sure you’re equipped with appropriate eyewear and take it slow when the sun prevents you from seeing far ahead.

3. Think About Animals

Plenty of creatures are migrating south, searching for food or seeking hibernation this time of year. Due to these factors, you’re more likely to come across deer and other medium-to-large mammals, especially at dawn and dusk. To anticipate this risk, ride with appropriate protective gear and keep your eyes peeled for animals approaching from the side of the road.
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Fall Safety Tips & Best Spots to Ride

Many people say fall is the perfect time to explore New England on two wheels. You have the chance to see leaves changing color from vibrant green to warm oranges, yellows and reds, while the temperatures are comfortably cool.

The crowds have thinned, beaches and their surrounding communities are still open and the frigid coastal winds have yet to arrive. What could be better? Check out some of the region’s most road trip-worthy destinations.

Fall Riding Safety

colorful fall foliageBefore an autumn motorcycle ride, it’s important to think about safety. The changing leaves are beautiful to see, but once they fall from the trees and gather on the road, leaves becomes dangerous.

Riders should be on the lookout for piles of dry leaves that could be covering hazardous road conditions like potholes. Always be looking at the road ahead and make sure to steer around any piles.

Wet leaves are another danger. Your motorcycle could lose traction with the road if your tires make contact with a slick surface. Also be sure to slow down and maneuver around wet piles of leaves.

In addition, watch for other motorists who may be taking in the scenery and not see your bike. Always make eye contact before proceeding at an intersection and dress to make yourself visible to others.

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Commonly called “The Kanc”, this highway cutting through the White Mountains leads outdoor enthusiasts right to hiking and ski trails. It covers roughly 34 miles of canopy-like foliage that lines the winding road and passes through many small towns. September through October is peak foliage season here, so schedule your itinerary before frost sets in.

Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts

This scenic route officially starts on the New York border, then takes you 60 miles through the Berkshires. It’s a day’s journey that wanders by some of the region’s best sights to enjoy the panoramic scenery. Along the way, you’ll ride by 18th and 19th century homes and bridges to stop and admire.
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Tips to Share the Road with Motorcycles

This time of year, it’s more common to see motorcycles on the road. In the event of a crash, a motorcycle rider is more vulnerable to injury. Whether you’re running late or distracted behind the wheel, think about everyone’s safety before cutting in front of a motorcycle.

Riders can keep themselves safe by obeying the speed limit, never lane splitting and proceeding with caution – even with a green light or the right-of-way. When it comes to sharing the road with cars and trucks, what can a motorcyclist do to stay safe on the roads?

1. Be Aware of Risks

motorcycle driving through trafficMotorcycles are fun to ride and make traveling in warm weather more enjoyable but are much harder to spot, due to their small size:

  • To cars and trucks, your motorcycle appears farther away than it actually is. A car may pull out in front of a bike and cause an unavoidable collision.
  • A motorcycle may get lost in a driver’s blind spot, making it harder to see when another vehicle tries to change lanes.
  • Motorcycles do not offer the same degree of protection as cars and trucks, particularly due to the lack of seat belts and air bags.

2. Know How to React

In addition to keeping the above points in mind, make sure you:

  • Never tailgate a car or truck, staying several vehicle lengths back.
  • Always make eye contact and signal before any maneuver.
  • Never drive next to a car in the same lane. It is unsafe and illegal in many areas, including CT.
  • Allow enough room to counter steer or swerve to avoid obstacles in the road.

3. Keep Posted on the Weather

Motorcyclists know the risks of riding in bad weather, including snow, ice, rain, wind and fog. Cars and trucks can travel below the speed limit and generally stay safe, but riders have to keep in mind there is no enclosure separating them from the elements.

At night, it’s important to stay visible in any weather conditions. Use your high beams on dark streets, wear bright clothing that other motorists can see from a distance and make sure your eye protection is not tinted for better visibility.
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Tips to Stay Hydrated While Riding

The conditions we ride through during spring, summer and early fall increase the chances of dehydration. Especially when you’re wearing a heavy leather riding jacket, the direct sun beats down on you and the whipping winds can leave you feeling dried out.

You may initially feel thirsty, but symptoms can develop into headache, nausea and muscle cramps. To avoid these first signs of heat stroke, have an effective hydration plan for your upcoming rides.

Before You Go Out

Preventing dehydration starts with preparation. The night before a big ride, lower your alcohol and caffeine intake – too much has a diuretic effect on the body, causing you to release more water than you take in.

The day of your ride, start drinking water in the morning and continue gradually throughout the day. Drinking too much at once may lead to stomach cramps. Also realize that while water and other fluids quench your thirst immediately, they take roughly an hour to reach your muscles.

Use a Hydration Pack

Hikers and cyclists swear by hydration packs. For longer rides, they are growing in popularity among motorcycle riders. The convenient two-in-one design combines a 1.5L to 3L bladder with a tube and bite valve that let you drink hands-free, and an actual bag for storing a few small items. All you have to do is strap it on, sip and refill at the next rest stop.

Beyond the convenience factor, it’s far safer than using a mug or water bottle to stay hydrated and usually holds more fluid. To keep your water cold, consider filling and freezing the bladder the night before your trip.
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4 Tips for Riding Over Rough Pavement

You’re enjoying a smooth ride when suddenly, your motorcycle hits a bump. You maneuver your way around the potholes and loose gravel in the road, hoping for smooth asphalt around the bend.

For cars, these disturbances are a minor annoyance but for motorcycles, they can lead to a fall or bike damage. Unfortunately, you’re likely to encounter uneven, ridged roads at some point while out on your motorcycle. What can you do to get through these rough patches?

1. Plan Ahead for Rough Pavement

road construction signWhen you see signs for construction or enter a highly trafficked road, you may ride over:

  • A grooved surface
  • Gravel or an unpaved surface
  • Rumble strips, usually around diverted routes and construction zones
  • Fresh pavement, which brings oil to the surface when wet
  • Slick pavement, worn-out blackout tape and pavement markings
  • Steel plates, which may be smooth or rough in texture
  • Manhole covers

In particular, pavement milling can be very noticeable on bikes with narrow front tires. When driving over these uneven surfaces, don’t panic. Stay relaxed and ride through it slowly.

In many of these instances, the change is sudden. Coupled with the uneven or traction-free surface, your bike may become harder to control. Take it slow and allow yourself enough time to see the obstructions before passing over them.

2. Look for Smoother Ground

Maneuver around ridged, cracked areas and seek out smoother ground. Similarly for slick surfaces, move around what appears to be wet, oily or shiny. Keep in mind that on highways, this smooth area may toward the center of the lane. Be careful of debris that ordinary motor vehicles can drive over.
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Brushing Up on Your Riding Skills

Warm days and clear roads are finally here! Before you hop on your motorcycle this spring, think about how you will refresh your skills to stay safe.

Refresh Yourself

Like many skills, riding a motorcycle is all about muscle memory. When winter arrives and you take a hiatus for several months, you may need to refresh your skills with a quick ride around the neighborhood.

If you feel like you need a more thorough refresher, motorcycle safety classes cover basic skills, maneuvers and strategies.

Stay in Shape

two men riding their motorcycles in the sunshineIt’s a good idea to keep your muscles in shape. Particularly during the holiday season, you may relax and put on a few pounds. Once spring arrives, your body suddenly has to get back into the groove of riding.
Maintaining your physical fitness has many benefits, including:

  • Improved stamina, so you’ll be able to ride farther.
  • Better physical flexibility.
  • Greater concentration, so you can stay focused on longer routes and road trips.

Work on Bike Maintenance

It’s never a good idea to throw your bike into storage and leave it unchecked until spring. Pests, rust and corrosion, mold and viscous fluids may negatively affect its condition. Even after sufficient pre-storage prep, check your bike and make repairs before the new season.
The end of winter into early spring is the prime time to start making these updates. To begin, put together a checklist that covers the following:

  • Suspension adjustments
  • Engine tune-up
  • Valve adjustments
  • Fluid changes
  • Battery check

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Risks Distracted Drivers Pose to Motorcycle Riders

Based on figures from the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), distracted driving played a factor in 80 percent of all accidents involving a motorcycle rider. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving injures 20,000 motorcycle riders and kills another 400 to 500 annually. Distracted driving encompasses a wide range of behaviors:

  • Texting
  • Talking on the phone
  • Eating or reading
  • Applying makeup
  • Brushing hair
  • Talking to other passengers
  • Tuning the radio
  • Wearing headphones
  • Using a GPS
 

All of these actions can cause drivers to take their eyes off the road, increasing the chance they will miss a stop sign, go through an intersection or hit a passing vehicle. Motorcycles are particularly vulnerable, due to their smaller size and lack of enclosure. Motorists may misjudge how far away a bike is or miss a motorcycle in their blind spot.

Especially in early spring, drivers may not be expecting to see motorcycles and could react too late. As a rider, keep your head on a swivel and always proceed into intersections with caution. For your safety, what else should you think about?

Dangers of Phone Use Behind the Wheel

motor vehicle accidentAt any given moment, an estimated 800,000 US drivers are texting behind the wheel. This behavior is responsible for:

  • 1.6 million accidents annually
  • 25 percent of all car accidents
  • Elevated crash risks
  • Decreased brake reaction
  • 11 teen deaths every day

As of 2018, 16 states and the District of Columbia ban talking on a cell phone or other hand-held device while driving. Forty-seven states and D.C. forbid texting and driving.

Identifying Distracted Driving

As a motorcycle rider, how can you tell someone is distracted behind the wheel?

  • They weave in and out of traffic
  • They drive over the center line
  • You spot them wearing headphones
  • They brake suddenly
  • Their vehicle stays stopped at a green light

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4 Tips for Spring Motorcycle Rides

When spring arrives, we want to get out, hit and road and feel the wind as we travel. While adventure is likely on your mind this time of year, it’s important to be practical. We need to check our bikes for things like pests and old fluids, as well as brush up on our riding skills.

After you perform a motorcycle tune-up, what’s next? As you get ready for the first few rides of the season, think about the following points.

1. Have the Right Gear

riding on a sunny dayYou can never be too careful, even when circling the block to get back in the swing of things. Prepare for uneven pavement, potholes, accidents and unpredictable weather with the right riding gear:

  • Have your motorcycle jacket, pants and boots ready to wear, rather than jeans and a T-shirt.
  • Spring brings rain showers, so have your waterproof gear on-hand in case you’re caught in a storm.
  • Don’t forget your cold weather gear for chilly spring evenings. Extra insulation is essential when you’re riding through cool temperatures and windy conditions.
  • Will you be riding at dusk or past sundown? Have a clear visor, balaclava and glove liners to combat the chill.

2. Take Things Slow

We’re all looking forward to lengthy trips through back roads and down the coast, but these rides shouldn’t be on your radar yet. Now is the time to remember how it feels to ride and get your skills back up to speed. What can you do?

  • Circle the block a few times and be sure to stay local.
  • Understand your reaction time could be a bit slower in the beginning.
  • Go around corners slowly, as you remember how to shift the weight of the bike into the curve.
  • Stick to familiar roads and routes but understand there could be winter damage, like potholes.
  • Travel the speed limit or slower, as other motorists may not be expecting to see motorcycles and could pull out in front of you.
  • Always follow the rules of the road and drive defensively.

3. Think About Mechanical Issues

After the tires have been inspected and the fluids changed, your bike could still experience mechanical issues. Aside from staying on familiar routes close to home, anticipate any potential breakdowns and have a cell phone on-hand. Plan who to call for help in the event of a breakdown.
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4 Summer Road Safety Tips for Motorcyclists

Our favorite time of year is here: Summer! As motorcyclists, we especially love the longer days, open roads and bountiful sunshine. While this season often has the perfect weather for riding, it’s important to keep safety in mind. The following tips can help everyone to be safer on the roads this summer.

1. Watch Out For Traffic

motorcycle driving through trafficSummertime brings a tremendous amount of traffic to roadways statewide. Be sure to watch out for all vehicles, including cars, trucks and bicycles, as well as pedestrians.

Never ride in another motorist’s blind spot, as a sudden lane switch or door opening could spill you off your bike. Ride safely and defensively to protect yourself and other drivers on the road.

2. Get Your Practice In

While charity motorcycle events can be the highlight of the summer, it’s important to be prepared for a large organized ride. If you have never participated in a group ride, be sure to get some riding time in beforehand.

During the journey to your shared destination, keep a two-second stagger between yourself and other riders and never lane switch. If one rider goes down, it could lead to a dangerous domino effect.

3. Be Prepared for Construction

All motorists should approach construction sites with caution, but motorcyclists have particular risks to keep in mind. When the road is being milled, slow down and ride at a comfortable pace, relaxing your grip on the controls. Do not make any sudden maneuvers for your own and the workers’ safety. If you have a narrow front tire, know this can magnify the effects of road milling.

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5 Spring Riding Safety Tips

When spring weather arrives in New England, motorcycle riders can barely contain their excitement. After months of snow and ice keeping us off the roads, the temperature is rising and the pavement is drying – it’s time to ride!

Before you head out, be sure to keep the following safety tips in mind for spring.

Perform Routine Maintenance

riding a motorcycle in the rainFor your own safety and the safety of others sharing the road, never assume your motorcycle is ready to ride. If your bike has been in storage all winter, it likely needs some work. Be sure to check the following components before rolling out:

  • Test the brakes in your driveway or take a quick spin around the neighborhood.
  • Refill the gas tank and change the oil. Also have the fluids flushed and replenished.
  • Check the tires for proper inflation. Months in storage can lead to air loss.

Review Insurance & Registration

Before planning your first motorcycle trip, make sure your license and registration are up-to-date. You should also contact your insurance carrier to make sure you’re sufficiently covered in the event of an accident. Motorcyclists who are caught on the road with an expired registration or no insurance policy can be fined and have their bikes towed.

Update Your Gear

Although the weather is getting warmer, it’s important to keep your body protected in the event of a spill. Durable riding boots, gloves, a helmet and leather jacket are recommended to prevent damage to your body. Riders should never hit the road wearing sneakers, a t-shirt or shorts – even on the hottest of days – or they risk road rash. This occurs when skin makes contact with the pavement after a spill off a moving motorcycle.

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