Calculating the minute is an interesting exercise. For example, it likely doesn’t pay off to put cold weather tires on your bike or break out the rain gear on the 4th of July. If you live in Washington state, you’ve got at least 12 weeks of the fairest, driest, and warmest riding weather ahead of you at that point.

On the other hand, changing out tires, duct taping your beat up “weatherproof” gear, looking for replacement headlights, or shopping for an emergency kit & supplies probably doesn’t pay off the night before your annual Halloween riding adventure.

Bottom line: waiting until the last minute can be risky and expensive, especially when there’s certainty—e.g., Washington gets cold, wet, and windy starting in October, which makes for fun, yet precarious, motorcycle riding—and a high cost later (your health, or your life) versus a lower cost now (time + “inconvenience.”)

It’s kind of like filing taxes: waiting until the last minute to do the work of preparing doesn’t really pay off. Which means the last minute isn’t a buffer zone, nor is it a moment to double check your work, particularly when the stakes are high. The truth is the last minute is meant to be 60 enjoyable seconds where you remind yourself you successfully planned ahead.

Besides, let’s face it: even the best plan rarely survives with the enemy, especially on a motorcycle. Situations arise that will force you to adapt on your ride, so the best way to stack the odds in your favor is to, well, stack the odds in your favor, as outlined below.

Use the right tires: soft rubber means no traction in cold weather and rain. Put on suitable cold weather tires well before that first fall motorcycle trip.

Check your lights:  big surprise, it’s about to be dark at 4:00, and earlier if it rains. Make sure those headlights, brake lights, and turn signals shine.

Be fashion forward: the wrong gear means you’ll be cold, wet, and distracted (as in, slow to react to that commuter swerving all over the place because they’re searching Google restaurant reviews or eyeballing their navigation). Think warm, dry, and breathable…and bring an extra pair of gloves or two, ok? Your hands are where most of the controls are!

They call it fall for a reason: the coefficient of friction states that even the best riders on the best bikes with the best tires don’t stand a chance against big, wet, sloppy piles of maple leaves strewn across the highway—especially when you must suddenly stop for a school bus dropping off the kiddos now that everything’s in session.

Here come the weather makers: the Pacific Ocean likes to kick all kinds of stuff our way beginning in October. Expect the invisible opponents of every well intended rider—looking at you, wind gusts, frost, and black ice—to show up when you’re least expecting them to make an appearance.

A drop in the ocean: that battery must work harder to combat the chilly temps. Make sure it’s trickle charged up to capacity the day before you head out, so you’re not left lost and lonely when the sun goes down.

Protect your peepers: the sun still shows up in these parts (at least until about December), and it’ll be low on the horizon. Make like Maverick from Top Gun and ensure you’ve got a smooth pair of shades to mitigate glare. This will also help with the crazy patterns of shade produced by the brilliant fall foliage.

Professionals do this the most:  practice. At least that’s what real musicians, athletes, actors, and various performers do the most to deliver a top-rated performance. If it’s been a minute, take some warm-up rides the week before you head out, or even enroll in a weekend class to brush up on those skills (it beats raking leaves and cleaning gutters…you have the rest of the season to do that).

It’s a great time of year to ride. The colors are spectacular, the tourists have beat feet, and the weather provides the perfect excuse to take a mid-ride break for a burger and hot cup of coffee before you head home. Just remember, making it home is the whole point. And waiting until the last minute to prepare is not preparing at all.

It’s A Fine Line hopes you to see you out there this fall and winter. As you can tell, we’re all about motorcycle safety and Target Zero. If you’d like to join our community, click here. We’re a pretty fun (and safe) bunch.

See you on the road.