How to bike over wet leaves

Fall is a great time to ride a bike but with more rain and wind you need to watch out for the wet leaves, sometimes regarded as the enemies of the bike!

If you remember a few simple tips when you’re out on your bike, you can ride over wet leaves safely.

Here’s what we recommend when you’re out on the road this fall:

1. Avoid biking on leaves altogether if you can. Remember it is perfectly legal, not to mention fair and safe, for you to leave the margins of the road and get out there in the middle if you need to avoid a hazard. When merging out of the bike lane to avoid a hazard you should:
   a) look behind you first to make sure you’re not going to cut anyone off, and
   b) signal before you merge to tell people in cars and on other bikes where you’re going.

2. Adjust your speed and direction before you hit the leaves. If you have to execute a turn on wet leaves do it very slowly and don’t brake suddenly while you’re turning.

3. Avoid accelerating or braking suddenly on leaves, even if you’re traveling straight ahead. Abrupt changes in speed can cause your wheels to loose traction.

4. If you encounter dangerous leaves, let your local maintenance crew know. In Portland, the phone number of maintenance needs (like sweeping glass or leaves, fixing potholes, or repainting lanes) is (503) 823-1700.

Even with all that in mind, remember that your bike can behave strangely on wet leaves. Here are all the ways that wet leaves can surprise you:

1. They can cause you to slide out if you’re turning across them.

2. They can cause you to skid if you’re braking on them.

3. They can cause you to lose traction if you’re accelerating (or going uphill) on them.

4. They may be hiding a pavement hazard, like a big pothole.

Do you have other suggestions of how to stay safe on the road in the fall?
Share them here in the comments!


Comments (5)

  1. Joe Permalink  | Nov 05, 2012 01:29pm

    I would like to add watch for hidden rocks and large sticks, or grades un-seen under leaves. also cars sometime don’t understand ORS bike law about
    taking the lane, so becareful 🙂

    • Will Vanlue Permalink  | Nov 09, 2012 01:11pm

      That’s good advice, especially when the piles of leaves get really deep!

  2. George.w Permalink  | Nov 05, 2012 03:02pm

    Shorter days. Headlight and taillight even on cloudy days, early morning and dusk. Also if the road surface is obscured beneath leaves, monster tires and front shocks are a good idea.

  3. Paul W Permalink  | Nov 19, 2012 09:01pm

    Release your cleats before you make any course adjustments – makes putting your foot down when you slide a little easier.

  4. Glen Aldridge Permalink  | Nov 20, 2012 04:43pm

    Best way I can think of is buy a Recumbent Trike.