Wet Leaves, Mud, Low Sun And Darkness (Just For Cyclists)

A while back I wrote some tips for novices, for riding in the wet. These proved popular so herewith a few more Autumn-inspired thoughts in a similar vein:

  • The sun can be very low – and blinding. If you’re riding in to the sun and having trouble seeing, bear in mind that drivers might be coming up behind you and struggling to see too – and that includes spotting that small-profile bike and rider combo in front of them. If it’s really bad, get off and walk on the path.
  • Darkness sneaks up – quickly. On a dull Autumn day, you can need full night lights by mid afternoon. Don’t get caught out with thoughts of “dusk isn’t until 5” or whatever.
  • Leaves look lovely. They are also quite lethal if you come across them in the wrong place – the classic being a leaf-strewn corner. Sliding on leaves isn’t fun. All you can do is think about where you’re riding – if it’s tree-lined be a bit more careful about what might be around the corner.
  • Mud is evil. A coating of mud on a road is as slippery as anything – snow or ice included. There’s plenty of mud around this time of year. Around here at least, there currently seems to be plenty of farm activity that involves mud-bespattered tractors driving down lanes with all the obvious consequences, but it’s by no means solely caused by tractors.
A sheen of wet mud on a road

Mud: slippery for the unwary

If you’re riding an off-road bike off-road, with the right, deep-treaded tyres, then mud and leaves aren’t so much of an issue – though a thick build-up of leaves on hard pack, particularly, can still catch you out.

If you’re riding on-road with hard narrow tyres, caution is advised. I have read that tread on road bike tyres is nonsense and that seemed to make sense: the logic goes that road tyre tread is all about dispersing water to prevent aqua-planing and bikes will never go fast enough to aqua-plane. Thus, you’re better off with no tread to maximize the amount of ‘rubber’ that’s in contact with the road, as that’s what will give you grip. Knobbly bits on road tyres won’t help with muds, leaves or anything else – so don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll be OK.