Upstate New York is home to some of the most stunning motorcycle routes in North America. Those routes are made all the more beautiful with splashes of red, orange, and yellow blanketing the roadsides. The fall foliage in New York is hard to contend with. Cutting through the crisp evening air, surrounded by innumerable shades of autumn, you can begin to feel as though you’ve ridden straight in to a painting.
It’s easy to see why so many Harley-Davidson owners in New York continue the riding season well in to the fall. From the stunning St. Lawrence Seaway, to Watkins Glen and the Finger Lakes Region, to the Adirondack Mountains. We’ll go over some great rides to look out for and discuss fall riding safety, and when to have your Harley-Davidson serviced.
But First We Ride
The St. Lawrence Seaway
The St. Lawrence Seaway is one of New York’s most popular motorcycling routes in the Upstate area. Running from Cape Vincent to Massena, N.Y, the route is flat and fairly straight, and the views along the way are absolutely unforgettable. The route hugs the St. Lawrence Seaway and you will see a whole pageant of water activity on your way, as 100 miles of roadway unfold in front of you. You will see large freighters chugging their way to and from the Great Lakes, and small pleasure crafts darting about. You will see vintage tour boats taking visitors out to historic Boldt Castle as you pass through Alexandria Bay, and you will see many quaint shops, cafes and restaurants in small towns like Chippewa Bay and Clayton. Whichever direction you choose, you can not miss one of Upstate New York’s most famous and beautiful lighthouses in Cape Vincent, “where lake and river meet.” All along your ride, Canada will be just over your shoulder, sometimes so close that you can see the houses and people on the other side.
The Finger Lakes
The route from Hammondsport to Watkins Glen is a short one, only 17 miles long, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up in beauty and history. In fact, there is enough in the 17-mile route to fill an entire day. Starting off in Hammondsport, you’ll be treated to a charming historic downtown area with shops, pubs, wine stores, restaurants and plenty of cafes where you can fill up with a delicious breakfast before heading off on your adventure. Be sure not to miss the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport. This Museum pays tribute to American aviation pioneer Glenn Hammond Curtiss, who was born in Hammondsport. This large museum has many artifacts from his storied career (he held Pilot’s License #1 and was a contemporary and often a rival of the Wright Brothers). There are also many amazing vintage motorcycles on display. Curtiss was a motorcycle inventor and held many land speed records. After this museum, saddle up and head east through thick forests and past lakes and streams to your destination, Watkins Glen. Another of Upstate’s great “racing landmarks” is here, Watkins Glen International. Known as “The Home of Formula One USA Grand Prix Racing,” this is a popular racing track for locals all the way up to NASCAR.
Certainly, one of the most remote motorcycle routes in Upstate New York, and one of the most beautiful. This half-day route takes you from one end of the High Peaks region to the other. Starting in Boonville, the “Snowmobiling Capital of New York,” the route meanders east-northeast 125 miles to the Olympic Village of Lake Placid. You will pass through sun-blocked forests, and tall mountain passes offering stunning views. You’ll go by several of the region’s pristine lakes and the road will take you right through the heart of little Adirondack communities such as Old Forge, Inlet, Long Lake, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. One of the most popular bike routes in the state you won’t want to miss this one.
Gear Up for Fall
Extending the riding season in to the fall means contending with cooler temperatures. While the weather may feel perfect for a sweatshirt or light jacket, hopping on your Harley-Davidson on those crisp autumn days requires just a few more layers. To combat the cooler temps you’ll want to combine warmer layers like sweaters or long sleeved shirts with something to block the wind and moisture. Consider leather for a top layer as it’s a great choice for blocking the wind. Fall is a great time to trade those light duty riding gloves for something a little more weather appropriate, like insulated gloves, which are designed to keep the warmth in and the wind out. Consider some heated riding gear. A heated under layer can extend your fall rides by hours. A neck gaiter can help to keep the wind off of your neck and out of your jacket and helmet and a sturdy pair of boots will have your toes saying “thank you”. Be ready for fall; stop by and see us at F.X. Caprara Harley-Davidson and gear up before the seasons change.
Let’s Talk Safety
While autumn brings some of the best riding of the year it also brings hazards that you may not experience during the summer months. You’ll need to be extra cautious this time of year as deer and other wildlife are much more active. Most animal collisions happen between September and November. Reduce your speed and keep an eye out for animals crossing your path in less populated areas.
As beautiful as the fall foliage is to look at, it doesn’t come without its dangers. With the menagerie of colors comes falling leaves. When leaves settle on to the roadway they can pose many hazards to riders. Rolling over fallen leaves can result in a loss of traction and hitting a patch of wet leaves can be akin to hitting a patch of ice. Be sure to keep an eye out for low areas in the roadway where leaves may be prone to collecting and holding moisture.
When the weather warms up in the spring and summer months, drivers expect to see more motorcycles on the road. As the weather cools down in the fall many motorcyclists decide to pack their bikes away for the year. If you choose to extend your riding season in to the fall this year you’ll probably notice far fewer motorcyclists on the road. This means that drivers are also seeing far fewer motorcycles and may not be devoting the same level of attention to you that they had in the summer.
Think You’re Ready?
So you’ve got your route picked out, you’ve rallied your riding buddies, geared up for cooler temps, and you know the hazards to look out for as the weather simmers down. But there’s one more piece to this equation; your Harley-Davidson. It’s always important to keep your motorcycle well maintained and fall is no exception. If you’ve been riding all summer it’s a good idea to schedule a full service to ensure that your motorcycle is ready to ride through the autumn months. Your service technician will ensure that all your fluids are at the appropriate level, your tires have appropriate tread, and your breaks are in good working order. The last thing you want while enjoying a ride through scenic Upstate New York is to lose traction in the twisties or have a deer wander in to your path and not have any breaks. Stop by the service department here at FXCHD and let our experts ensure your extended riding season is worry free.
Now that you’re fully prepared to fly in to fall, where will you ride? What kind of adventures await around the next corner, or over the next hill? And most importantly, who will you share these experiences with?