One morning about a week ago, while on the road and enjoying a “delicious” complimentary hotel breakfast (An aside – what are those “egg like” things really made from? Eggs? Plastic? I’m just askin’.) I picked up a local newspaper when my attention was drawn to a headline article about an unusually high number of motorcycle accidents. Somewhere in Tennessee I think. The story described much of the usual carnage with which we are familiar – unsignaled left turns and such. While it didn’t specifically zero in on the issue, I observed that an awfully high percentage of that story’s accidents happened under the cover of darkness. A high incidence of nighttime motorcycle incidents is, in fact, a fairly well documented phenomena. Lately, I’ve found myself riding more during the nighttime hours. My iPhone girlfriend Siri tells me that sunset today will come at 6:07 PM. Even worse, next weekend daylight saving time will take its winter leave and the sun will commence its disappearing act even earlier. I guess this means that if we are to continue riding for the next few months, ridng in the dark is just going to be part of the deal. That being said, there are some key strategies that we can employ to make night riding a safer and more enjoyable experience.
Night Riding Strategy #1 – make yourself more visible.
- We all know that the drivers of cars and trucks seem to have trouble seeing us. That problem is magnified considerably at night. Consider hi viz gear, including jackets, pants, and helmets with reflective stripes or inserts. Reflective stickers and such on your bike itself is not a bad idea either.
- Positioning yourself in the travel lanes, as you learned in your MSF course, is even more important at night. Stay out of drivers’ blind spots. Please!
Night Riding Strategy #2 – enhance your ability to see
- Gonna ride a lot at night? Consider installing some auxiliary lighting. OEM motorcycle headlamps generally do a poorer job of lighting the roadway ahead than do cars. The aftermarket happily offers lighting products that can fade your jeans at 100 yards or more!
- Make sure that whatever lights you do have are functional. Long distance riders might want to carry spare bulbs.
- Keep your visor clean and scratch free. Lots of small scratches will set off a kind of prism effect in your vision, effectively blurring your sight. Ditch the tinted visor.
- Lose the sunglasses
Night Riding Strategy #3 – modify your riding technique
- Wild animals are more active between dusk and dawn. Be aware of this, especially when passing through woodland areas.
- Reduced visibility makes it even harder to see road hazards – gravel, wet leaves, coolant spills in intersections, potholes. If you are a “spirited” rider consider taking it down a notch or two.
A portion of the riding population simply adopts the strategy of avoiding riding at night. There are others who either by necessity (commuters) or choice have elected to enjoy the unique sensations that come with riding at night. If you are one of those night riders, make sure you give some thought to these night riding tips.
Got any other tips you’d like to share? We’d love to hear ’em.