Dealing with Leaves

For much of the year, the experience of riding a traffic-free, tree-lined path is something to behold. However, for about three months of the year, it’s not for the timid.

A change of seasons…

As Autumn arrives, so does the rain, the wind and the next stage in the cycle of life where most trees shed their leaves and deposit them all over the pavements and cycle paths. To complicate matters, especially for us cyclists is that Cardiff Council appears to place our safety below that of all other living creatures.

This means that as I type this the Taff Trail and others like it, are a tree-lined death-trap. We’ve had word from the council that the clearing operation this year will take place week commencing 9th November. Until then –and for each year into the future, we’re going to have to learn to deal with this slippery issue.

So, following on from our Riding Through the Autumn article, let us go through a few tips to ensure safe passage to your destination.

  1. Watch Out! The leaves hide a multitude of potential issues –not least because they are also the same colour as dog mess, but they also hide glass, nails, drawing pins and other pointy things that can cause you to have to stop and fix a puncture.
  2. Take your time! It’s worth giving yourself an extra few minutes if you have to be somewhere. A high-speed bike on a slippery patch of leaves is a recipe for disaster. Back off the pace, look far ahead and focus on getting there in one piece.
  3. No sudden turns! A culmination of points 1 and 2 this, but take the time to anticipate where you are going to have to make a turn, either to avoid an object or to take a corner. In a perfectly straight line and when perfectly upright, you have physics on your side, but as soon as you start to turn our dear friend gravity will want you to get re-acquainted with the floor. This is especially so when there are slippery leaves waiting to take your front wheel out from under you. This also applies to braking –anticipate hazards and brake gently and early.
  4. Light up early! Not only does the sun go down quickly in the Autumn, it’s also a time when visibility, especially in the rain or fog is often poor. Yes, we know the highway code specifies “before sunrise” and “after sunset”, but it never hurts to have a bit of extra light to make you visible not just to motorists, but to other cyclists & walkers sharing the trail.
  5. Wash your bike! Dry leaves aren’t too much of an issue, but wet leaves create a filthy mulch that sprays up and covers your frame, wheels and drivetrain in muck. This is bad news for the reliability and longevity of your bike and may well have a negative impact on your mood too! Give your bike a wash down every few days and be wary of it if you don’t have mudguards –you’ll probably find most of it up your back, on your helmet and in your hair by the time you get where you are going.

Team spirit…

Finally, your fellow riders –even complete strangers, are a tremendous asset. Say hello, smile or nod to people you pass; offer assistance if you see someone stranded, even if that just means giving up a spare inner tube or the use of a multi-tool. It’s a short time out of your day; it’ll make both you and them feel better and you may even gain a new friend out of it. You never know, it may well be you one day who’ll need the help.

Cycling is awesome for striking up conversations; for meeting new people and for making you feel part of this world we live in. Embrace it.

OK, we’ll stop being preachy now…

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