Seasoned motorcycle riders have long known that taking to the open roads at night is an exhilarating and rewarding experience. Unfortunately, riding a motorcycle at night can be extremely dangerous because some motorists often do not see the bike in time to respond safely. Even so, should motorcycle riders be afraid of the dark or are there effective tips for riding safer at night?
Not only is your vision decreased as the sun sets, but the vision of every driver around you. When vision is reduced, motorists often find it difficult to spot hazards and others on the roadway, especially motorcycles. Common causes for motorcycle accidents involving serious injury or death occur when another driver turns left in the path of a biker. Other times, accidents involving motorcycles happen when a motorist changes lanes or rear ends the bike without ever seeing it beforehand.
For the motorcycle rider, safety is achieved by an increased presence when on the road. This is important because a standard motorcycle is about 10 times less in size than a SUV. Because of that, it is essential to enhance your visual presence while on the road to ensure your bike appears much larger.
Increase Your Presence
There are specific steps any motorcyclist can take to increase their presence on the roadway at nighttime, to minimize the potential hazards of being hit by other vehicles or objects. Ways to increase your presence include:
- Wear Bright Clothing – While solid color dark leather jackets and pants provide significant protection in the event of an accident, it is best to equip your clothes with bright reflective decals or material to remain illuminated at night. Make sure the back and sides of the helmet are also equipped with reflective material.
- Use Reflective Tape – Adding reflective tape and decals to the motorcycle can significantly increase your presence when sharing the road with others. Reflective material can be added to the front, sides and rear of the motorcycle.
- Light up the Bike – A simple solution for increasing safety is to illuminate the bike with good lighting. Examine your existing rear and front lighting at nighttime, to determine the most effective steps for making the bike brighter. Install large halogen brake lamps and extremely bright dual LED headlights that pulse when lit. Adding brighter lights to the motorcycle, both front and back, can significantly increase your presence even on nights with heavy traffic.
- Do Not Outrun Your Lights – Maintaining a reasonable speed is a sure way to avoid outrunning your headlights. Based on the angle of your front lamps, you will only have a limited view ahead of you where the beam no longer illuminates what is ahead. Riding at the posted speed limit will help minimize the potential of hitting an unexpected object or vehicle on a dark night. Never ride the bike faster than you can see.
- Remain Aware – No amount of reflective lighting can help you see deer or other animals on the roadway at night. Because of that, is essential to remain aware and fully prepared for the unpredictable, in the event you will need to brake or swerve out of the way of an animal crossing or resting on the road. This is especially important in high animal traffic areas including forests, mountain or conservation areas, and roads with posted warning signage.
- Maintain Your Bike – One of the major hazards of any motorcyclist is being stuck along the side of the road with mechanical problems, with lights off and bike disabled. To avoid this, keep your bike properly maintained. Store a small LED light equipped to operate on a lithium battery in your toolkit or attached to a keychain. Install puncture-free tires.
Taking a proactive approach is a simple solution for riding at night in enjoying the experience. Consider always wearing unscratched and clear eye protection during a night ride, and keep it clean using a nonabrasive cloth. This will help maintain a better view of the surface of the road for any debris or object that might hide from a dirty face shield.
Finally, never underestimate the importance of being aware and alert. Riding a bike stressed or fatigued put you at a disadvantage against other motorists, especially those driving drunk.
Even though riding at nighttime is more challenging than in daylight, during the summer months, an evening ride can be significantly cooler and more comfortable with less traffic on the road. Taking practical steps to increase your visual presence and anticipating unpredictable conditions will provide you a safer experience no matter when you ride.