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The changing seasons can bring a new dimension to mountain biking and for many of us, fall is one of the best times of the year to hit the trail. If this is your first fall riding season (or even your tenth), here are a few things to keep in mind to stay safe and have fun!

Be Aware of Hunting Season

Many mountain bike trails share access with hunters so beware of gun-toting outdoor enthusiasts this fall. Wear bright colors (orange works best) and do whatever you can to look less animal-like on the trail (making noise helps too). Always obey trail closures due to hunting season for your own safety.

Slow Down for Leaf Litter

In many parts of the country fall is the driest season which can mean fast trails. But don’t go screaming downhill just yet – look out for leaf litter! Leaf litter is basically fallen leaves that cover the trail and it can make cornering and climbing very tricky. Pine needle cover is just as treacherous – if not more so – and it’s not uncommon for us to wipe out on easy trails more than once each fall.

Leaf litter can also obscure technical obstacles like rocks and roots so unless you know what’s underneath, it’s a good idea to slow down your first time through. Some trail maintainers get out the leaf blowers at this time of year so check with your local club to see if you can help out.

Getting Lost is Easier in the Fall

A couple weeks ago I went out to Mistletoe State Park for the first time and I found myself having a hard time following the trail. After getting off track for the third time in just a few miles I realized I should be looking for blazes on the trees rather than down at the leaf-covered ground. If you do find yourself off trail, retrace your steps and look for signs, blazes, bike tracks (not your own!) or bridges – anything that indicates you’re back on track. Familiar trails may also seem confusing in the fall since trees are bare and much of the undergrowth dies back, revealing new “options” for riding.

Fall Weather Can Be Unpredictable

I always laugh when people remark about the “crazy” weather where they live, especially in the fall. Yep, weather is unpredictable, especially as temperatures shift from warm to cool, so it’s important to be prepared for anything when you head out. Mornings can be cold while afternoon temperatures can get uncomfortably hot (at least here in GA). Dress in layers and bring basic rain gear for maximum protection. Also be sure to scan the weather forecast before you head out for an idea about what you *might* encounter.

Mountain biking in the fall is always fun (night rides!) – just remember these tips to say safe and comfortable on the trail.

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# Comments

  • dgaddis

    I recently swapped out my fast rolling WTB Weirwolf LT front tire for a more aggresive and knobby Continental Mountain King. The MK has big, widely spaced triangular knobs that do a great job of punching through the leaves. It’s not as fast as the WTB, but it doesn’t wash out because of leaves either!

  • Gronckle

    Finding trails in fresh leaf fall is like riding a whole new new trail. But yes definitely have to watch those hard turns and berms. I have yet to get straight up lost by wandering off the trail, but im sure that day will come…

  • Goo

    Great post: right on on all points! Was just out riding this afternoon and got off track once or twice due to the thick leaves, but all in all it was an awesome ride!

    Fall is excellent for mountain biking here in the south because the temperatures are so perfect. I think that the month of October that we just had here in N GA was one of the best months of riding weather I’ve ever experienced!

    I actually wrote on the topic of blaze orange a couple of weeks ago, if anyone’s looking for more info. on that point: http://www.gregridestrails.com/2010/10/break-out-blaze-orange.html

  • PHRANQUY

    Fall is great to ride. Although a bit cold, a 40 degree day is perfect for mountain biking. Dress appropriately (I wear a sleveless under a jacket with zip off sleves usually), and be prepared. I learned my lesson up at Rock Lake in the CAMBA trails of North Central WI a few weeks ago when riding through some leaves. I rode over a rock that popped up and smacked my derailleur snapping the hanger. Unfortunately I did not have a spare… now I always carry one, zip tied to the rail of my saddle.

  • maddslacker

    What are these leaves of which you speak? 😀
    All that changes here is the grass turns from green to brown…

  • Paul Adams

    Strapping a headlamp on my helmet saved me from a long night on unfamiliar leaf covered trails with sparse markings because it gets dark so darn early now.

    • Jeff Barber

      Great tip! Bringing an emergency light in your pack is a great idea this time of year.

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