Rural Rides: hazards that lurk in the lanes in autumn and winter.
On bright autumn and winter days there are few things better than blowing out the cobwebs by blasting out of town and onto the UK’s high roads and by roads. However, rural routes require handling with care by motorbikers – especially if you’re more used to smooth city surfaces and fast A roads.
Bumps, pot holes & puddles: the size, variety and sheer number of lumps, bumps and potholes on back roads are a huge danger to the motorbiker. Be especially careful of routes that take you down lanes that are little more than tracks, which are probably seldom used (and then only by country folk in 4x4s or tractors). But it’s not just the tracks: there are plenty of relatively busy rural roads with real pothole issues. Fill That Hole is a cycle-based site but it’s aimed at everyone and worth checking out: it features maps and a simple way to report potholes.
Mud: city bikers are unlikely to be used to mud. At least, not in the quantities you may find on rural roads near fields. Despite campaigns and laws to clear up the stuff, (the Farmer’s Guardian points out that leaving mud on the road is an offence under the Highways Act) farm vehicles tend to drop the brown muck all over the place, making roads highly slippy and dangerous – never more so than during the sugar beet harvest (September to Christmas). So take extra care and go slower, especially on the back lanes.
Sun…: that low winter sun is a blinder so even if it’s cloudy when you set out, be prepared with decent shades for just-in-case. RX Sport offers a selection of good quality eyewear, including prescription sunglasses. Remember the sun can blind drivers, too, so ride with your lights on to be more easily seen.
… and Rain: Be especially careful in the rain on a rural ride, when relatively innocent looking puddles could hide nasty holes. Mud on the road is going to contribute to its slipperiness, too. Winter weather is unpredictable, so always have rainwear to hand. GetGeared offers a good selection of biker rainwear for men and women.
High hedges: the high hedges and banks on narrow lanes are a common and significant hazard. Not just for bikers, but also for the pedestrians and animals that share the road with vehicles. So take care and try to anticipate potential dangers – for example, slow down and toot the horn at blind corners.
Map it: even if you plan your route, even if you have satnav, it’s worth taking a good old fashioned map of the area so that when you get lost, you can have a better idea of where you are. Dash4it sell a wide range, including the OS Explorer Active maps, which are large scale (4cm to 1km) and weatherproof.