Occasionally cooler temperatures, shorter days and pumpkin-flavored everything means only one thing: Autumn is upon us. For this scooter fan, autumn is my absolute favorite time of year to ride. The air is brisk and clear. It’s easy to layer up in riding gear to stay safe and comfortable. Best of all, the shorter days bathe all those fall colors in golden sunsets. Autumn is also when I started riding scooters in the first place, so for me it’s always a season of nostalgia.
With the change in weather comes some changes in things scooter fans need to keep in mind as we’re out and about on our bikes.
Autumn’s shorter days can present some hazards to scooter riders that need to be accounted for in order to make it to our destinations in one piece. This is especially important for us scooter commuters. As sunset comes earlier and earlier, it eventually coincides with the evening rush home. This is a particularly perilous combination for anyone on two wheels. If the setting sun is behind us, we’re harder to see than usual. If the sun is in front of us, it’s much harder for us to see oncoming cars and be on the lookout for that rogue left-turner.
Tip: If possible, switch up your late afternoon routes to minimize situations where the sunset is right behind you or right in front of you. Take a zig-zag route for a few weeks until the sunset gets closer to quitting time. Or, shift your schedule so you’re not riding home during low-angle afternoon sun.
As days get shorter still, we may find ourselves riding more in the dark. Night riding can be a blast. With less road detail to take in, a spirited ride through the middle of town on a brisk autumn night is tough to beat. Regardless of season, being visible at night is key.
Tip: Maximize your visibility with reflective clothing and graphics. Sure, there’s the good old fashioned crossing guard vest, but we really like the Spectrum Ultrasports vests. They mix hi-viz practicality and safety with high fashion and extremely high quality materials. Look for our full review of the Spectrum vests coming soon. In addition to reflective clothing, think about some reflective graphics on your scooter, such as wheel rim stripes. Anything that makes it easier for cars to see you at night is a plus.
Tip: Upgrade the bulbs in your headlight and running lights so you’re easier to see.
Personally, I am not a fan of hot weather. I like being able to have full riding gear on and be comfortable. Give me 65º year round. For most of the US, autumn means cooler temperatures whether we like it or not. While out on our scooters, it’s important to be prepared for these drops in temperature. As our core body temperatures drop, our ability make good decisions and manipulate our scooter’s controls starts to erode. Obviously, warmer riding gear is a must, but here are a couple key things to focus on that might not be common knowledge.
Tip: Keep your neck warm, and you’ll keep your core warm. Those big blood vessels in your neck that feed your brain will shed heat like crazy in the driving wind of a scooter ride. Stick to solid, high tech fabrics as opposed to knit woolens. That scarf your cousin knit you for your birthday is great walking in the pumpkin patch, but in the wind, it’s going to struggle to keep your neck warm. Instead, raid your local sporting goods store and find a neck wrap or balaclava meant for snowboarding. Or better yet, check out the Prima Moustache Face Mask. On your scooter, it can be the difference between being cool but comfortable, and being downright cold.
Tip: Don’t forget about your legs. While most smart scooter fans have on a helmet and armored jacket, many of us don’t wear proper riding pants. The inconvenience is pretty obvious, even with over-pants. While I can’t condone this approach (even though I’m guilty of it much of the time), there is an alternative to help keep your lower half toasty warm on a cold scooter ride: the riding apron. While Piaggio/Vespa have offered versions that hook into the engine’s heat, a simpler, more affordable version is currently available from ScooterWorks: The Prima Scooter Kilt. We’ve been hands on with the Scooter Kilt and have to say, it makes a big difference in both the cold and the rain. Look for our in-depth review coming up soon.
Tip: For the die-hard winter rider, electric heated gear such as vests and gloves are also available. There’s no substitute for actively putting heat back into your body. For heat on a budget, look into the Oxford Heaterz heated grips. They’ll fit any standard 7/8″ handlebars. I’ve got a pair on my touring bike and in anything but the bitter cold, they’re almost too warm on their highest setting, even through leather gloves!
Tires and road grip
One aspect of cooler temperatures that people don’t often think about is what it does to tires and the road surface. Colder tires have less grip. Cold roads have less friction as well.
Tip: Take it easy. Think about colder weather riding like wet riding. Slow down and give yourself more room to stop and maneuver. Give yourself more room between you and that car in front of you. Get into your brakes smoothly to maximize grip when stopping.
Tip: Pay attention to the road surface. Beware of wet, fallen autumn leaves on the road. They’re pretty, but they’re also slick like ice if you ride through them. Many a lovely autumn scooter has been banged up after going slip-sliding in wet leaves. Also keep in mind that while the leaves on top might be dry, the leaves underneath are likely wet and slippery. As romantic as a ride through those leaves on the edge of your street might seem, beware.
Get out and enjoy the scenery
We highly recommend that if you aren’t already part of a riding group or scooter club, find one in your local area.
Tip: Dig around on Facebook or search Meetup.com for scooter crews in your area. Go on a group colors run. Not only will you enjoy the scenery with new friends, but riding in a group of experienced riders can help make you a better scooterists.
What are your autumn riding tips? Let us hear from you in the comments.
Top Photo Credit: Flickr