The autumn leaves have been absolutely gorgeous this year. But once they make their way from tree to ground, they can become insidious little beasts that at best, add a little adventure to a bicyclist’s ride, and at worst, can cause a serious wreck.

Slick Leaves

Once those little buggers get wet, you’ve basically got a slip-and-slide going on on the street. Until the street sweepers make it through town, watch out for damp leaves, especially in the morning when there might be a little dew, but it hasn’t rained so you don’t expect the moisture.


In arid Colorado, the more common leaf-related problem is that they hide things. And with the windy days that we had a week or so ago, there are a lot of branches, twigs, and debris on the road. These objects are fairly easy to see during the day, but at night, you’ll need a strong light to be able to see, and avoid, them.

If the lights on your bike are more about letting people know you’re there rather than lighting the way before you, it might be time for an upgrade. Bicycle lights have been coming down in price and now-a-days they’re pretty easy to install. With longer nights approaching, now is a good time to make sure you’ve got the light you need.

Sewer Grates

You should never ride in the gutter. Gutters are not bike lanes, no matter what the paint on the street seems to imply.

Although I usually see riders avoiding the gutters, I’ve noticed that when folks are riding two abreast, one person ends up much further to the right than they might otherwise ride. … which means they might end up in the gutter. And when the leaves are on the ground, those gutters aren’t always so easy to see.

Nearly hidden sewer grate at night.

Nearly hidden sewer grate at night.

The tire grabber in the photo above is located at a northern entrance to the CSU campus. It’s half hidden in leaves and at night it isn’t so easy to see.

Colorado’s autumn leaves are beautiful to behold, but once on the ground they pose a risk to bicyclists. Be on the alert in fall, and if you feel that you’re too much at risk while riding over leaves in the bike lane, then remember that bicyclists always have a legal right to take the lane.