Now is the time of year to get out there and enjoy your scooting, wherever you are. Here in Detroit, the mornings are cool, leaves are everywhere and, depending on the day, one can get absolutely beautiful sunshine (or drizzle or pouring rain), and the riding is fantastic.
Like some other more-popular destinations, the metro Detroit region is blessed with a great variety of riding options. Remember that Michigan has the second-largest coastline of all states and a surprisingly strong maritime tradition around Detroit. This means that from anywhere in the metro, one can get to a water view, including Lake St. Claire, the Detroit River (the straits of Detroit) or the numerous lakes in and around the metro area. We also have a stunning downtown, replete with both beautifully classic buildings and some interesting newer ones. Yes, we also have some sad, derelict structures but those too are something to see. In and around Detroit one can easily scoot to our world class museums, incredible sporting venues and simply fabulous destination dining. And now is the time to do it.
On one of our classic fall weekend days, why not try your cooler weather endurance? Remember that layers are the key to comfort and plan your attire accordingly. I like to start off with a long sleeve t-shirt and another shirt on top of that. Riding pants if you have them, thick socks and your riding boots (you do have riding boots, don't you?) will compliment the rest of your gear. I add a wind shirt (they have surprisingly good, cheap ones at some hardware stores), and then start with my gear. If it's a short ride, I just ride with one of my medium armored jackets, if it's cooler or a bit wet, one of my heavier jackets goes on. Gloves are important as well, and I use a few depending on the temperature.
The ride comes next, and here are a few pointers:
- As always, watch out for inattentive drivers, stop-sign (and light) runners and those who "must" get by what they perceive as a slower vehicle. Give them lots of room at stop lights as well. One of my friends says that the correct amount of space to leave to the car in front of you is "a bike and a bit". It's a good recommendation.
- The road surface is worth keeping an eye on during your ride. If you are riding around Woodward, remember that the patches that they just added will be more slippery as they age to match the surrounding pavement. If it's wet out, watch out for the slick spots and the transitions.
- Debris is everywhere during the fall. Leaves, of course, but also pine needles and pine cones are scattered all around during the windy days of November. It's also leaf pick-up time in some communities, so watch for the piles of leaves that helpful home owners rake into the middle of the road, usually at stop signs. These leaves, wet or dry are like an oil slick. If you come up on a street that shows piles of leaves, slow down and favor your rear brake as you approach the piles. Maintain a straight line through small piles of leaves, ride around the larger piles. If you must ride through a larger pile of leaves get out of the throttle and shift your weight forward. Shade the rear brake in case you have to slow further. Stay away from the front brake, as it's prone to lock-up on loose surfaces like leaves.
On your ride, it's also a good time to begin your winter maintenance. Fill up your fuel tank with some quality gasoline and add a little (an ounce or two) fuel preservative like Sea Foam or Stabil and make sure that the treated fuel runs through the engine if you put it away for the winter. It's also a good time to make sure that your tires are up to pressure. Check your owner's manual for the proper pressure. Never use the pressure located on the side wall of tires. Before or after your ride, when the engine is cool, check your oil level. Unscrew your oil dip stick and wipe it clean, then either reinsert the dip stick without screwing it in, or screw it in, then remove it and check the level. Add the proper grade of oil if needed or consider changing the oil if many miles are on it or it's been in there for a while. It's a good idea to change your oil before storage, as the clean oil bathes the engine internals as you run the scoot before storage.
Put it all together and get out there and ride. In Detroit, some of us ride all year (not in the snow or when there could be ice on the road), but even if you don't, get out there while you can. Dress warmly, watch out for road debris and just ride. You'll thank me in the middle of February when the weather is oh so horrible. Have fun.
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