The Pacific Northwest offers up a large variety of riding seasons and if you're prepared for it and have the right attitude it can make for some amazing days in the saddle.
At the end of summer the leafy trees begin to lose their chlorofil an along with it the return to the actual color before finally dropping their leaves. To me, this makes for some magical riding. The oranges, yellows, reds and browns explode all over the place along with the greens from the evergreen trees remaining unchanged.
If you're out before the rains begin in earnest the leaves swirl around as you roll effortlessly through the twists and turns of your favorite roads. You're not going as fast as you would if the road was completely clear but you just don't care because the experience grabs a hold of you bringing you into a different place.
Two Nice Days
My weather report showed two decent days with only a little rain due for the mornings or evening so I mapped out some roads I hadn't done down in the Olympia/Elma area and also decided to head up to Carbonado which ends at a hiking area next to a river. I didn't expect anything too epic as the roads would be in an around farms and homes so I wouldn't be going too crazy, but I was hoping for something scenic and casual and this time of year beggars can't be chosers.
I found a few nice curvy lines on the map and set off when it got around 50 degrees. My turtle fur neck gator and winter gloves quickly felt like overkill so good the wind management of the Versys windshield and hand guards.
I hopped off the large highway in exchange for two lane country roads as soon as I could and pulled over to swap some clothing. Summer gloves with heated grips work just fine on this bike.
Relax and Enjoy
I have found the key to fall riding is to just relax and enjoy yourself. The air is crisp, roads you've seen all summer are transformed into a candy store for your eyes and there are fewer other folks rolling around getting in your way. Put away your desire to scrub off the last 1/4" from your tire's chicken strips and braking at the last possible moment. That will come again when the roads dry or if you're able to travel somewhere nicer for a few days of fun.
Wet roads aren't nearly as scary as you might think, but you do need to keep an eye out for nettles or leaves packed up in your lane. Staying upright comes from being smooth, braking earlier (less forcefully) and concentrating on riding the line the road gives you. That is to say, your apex might be covered in wet leaves so you stay wide to avoid the hazard.
It doesn't hurt to have your suspension setup properly and the best tires for the job. All modern bikes and tires are really quite good but knowing you have the best wet tires on your bike can give you the confidence boost that translates into you being more relaxed which really is the most important thing because a huge percentage of all accidents are self inflicted (eyesballs go wide as your butt clenches and you look right at the thing you shouldn't be.....).
Dress for Success
For me, wearing the right clothing makes all the difference. I don't mind being a bit chilly but being cold or too hot for that matter, can cause all sorts of problem not the least of which is being less comfortable. I'm not out here to endure tough conditions just because, I'm out here to enjoy myself.
I won't bore you with a full list of platitudes like dress in layers or anything like that. I will say that a tail bag or tank bank with an alternate neck gator or gloves can make all the difference. I swapped my turtle fur for something thinner and because it let more air through it, it cooled me down the front of my jacket and not just my neck which was a surprise. Having both with me allows for quick adjustments.
Seek and you shall find
Another great thing about Fall riding is that since you're not stressing about carving every corner you can seek out new roads to ride. I, like a lot of riders, have limited time to be on the bike so "during the season" I hit roads I know are good. In the off season I allow myself the freedom to maybe stumble across a little gem I'd otherwise have not have found. I stop more often which, when it's colder, allows me to warm back up a bit if I'm cold and allows me to pull out my camera and record those little moments I'd might otherwise have blown passed.
Gear up and Get out There.
Now it's time to bust out my weather report website and see what it's going to be this week.