As motorcyclists we already get the rough end of the stick when it comes to being seen by other motorists during the day. But when the sun goes down things get even worse with reduced visibility, more tired and drunk drivers on the road and those suffering with night blindness having to be contended with. So how can ride your motorcycle at night and stay safe despite the fact you’ve got one less headlight and are a heck of a lot smaller than a car?
Black looks good, hence why the most popular colored motorcycle gear is black by a huge margin. Bikes with a black color scheme are also among the most popular. What’s also black? Nighttime is black, which means being head to toe in black leather when riding at night is the equivalent of wearing camouflage in the jungle.
If you’re determined to don black clothing, make sure that it has reflective patches on it – preferably on the chest, elbows and back that will illuminate when light is shone on it. For your bike, get some reflective rim tape on the wheels.
But also be creative. Shark Helmets recently released the SKWAL, a standard looking helmet that contains green LED lights both front and rear to improve visibility. Japanese motorcycle gear firm RS Taichi has a number of innovative products including backpacks and shoulder bags that contain lights which will provide a further light source to bring other drivers attentions too.
Assume You Are Invisible
While you should assume you haven’t been seen both day and night, it’s during the evening that it’s far more likely to be true, especially when at even moderate distances the only thing that someone will see at night are headlights. Because you have just one headlight, it’s not difficult to see how your bike’s visibility can just merge into the car behind you – causing a potential accident when someone pulls out too soon.
In most developed countries, accidents occur twice as often in the night as they do during the day. Additionally, night blindness becomes a factor as well as the fact that because visibility is reduced in the dark, reaction distances are far worse. It is also the time of day when both tired and drunk drivers are more likely to be on the road.
For these reasons, approach every intersection with caution. You should be covering your front brake lever religiously and your lane positioning also becomes critical.
One of the best strategies to be visible while riding at night is to be a little unorthodox. By that we mean do things that will hopefully get drivers attentions. When slowing down, ensure you’re doing so by braking rather than engine braking and coasting, otherwise your break light won’t come on. Feel free to ‘flash’ your brake lights too by pulsing the lever quickly and repeatedly just enough to activate them before you begin your breaking procedure.
Do so similarly with your turn signals. Ensure you indicate your turning intentions nice and early to give drivers behind plenty of warning that not only are you turning but you’ll probably need to slow down to do so.
Don’t be afraid to move around your bike either. Many riders will stand up when braking at night just so they can catch the attention of those behind them. Casually weaving your bike inside the lane is another way to attract an otherwise inattentive motorist.
See For Yourself
Like riding during daylight hours, your safest defense is seeing what dangers are around you. And to do that night you need your headlight to guide the way. It’s critical that your headlight is pointing where it should.
Just because you’ve bought a new bike doesn’t mean that your headlight won’t need adjusting. Given everyone weighs a different amount, plus the added mass of luggage you may be carrying, your headlight will need adjustment to suit you. Your low beam should be angled so that it lights up just in front of your bike and towards the horizon, while high beams should be illuminating the road from a distance of about 30 meters (100 feet) and beyond.
Consider also replacing your bulbs with brighter ones – although keep in mind that if you’re going to dazzle oncoming traffic you create a danger not only for them but for yourself. Keep within the law and follow common sense.