Safety Tips for Riding a Motorcycle at Night
Whether you love or loathe riding your motorcycle at night, you know it's a bit more dangerous than riding during the day.
Riding at night presents more challenges for the motorcycle driver. However, being properly equipped and following sensible guidelines can make night riding a much safer experience. Here are some tips to make riding your bike at night a little less hazardous.
Increase Your Visibility
The brighter you and your motorcycle are, the safer it is to ride. While a matte black paint job on a bike and jet-black leathers might make the rider look more badass in the movies and on TV, in the real world you want others sharing the road to be able to see you.
Choose riding gear with highly visible fluorescent colors and reflective panels. If you don't want to buy brighter gear, get a high-vis safety vest. Many of these vests are inexpensive and can be folded into a jacket pocket. You can also make your motorcycle more visible by adding reflective decals or tape to the forks, frame, fairing, swingarm and tail section.
Enhance Your Motorcycle's Lights
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the brighter the lighting on your motorcycle, the better you'll see and be seen at night.
However, there are several ways to go about enhancing your motorcycle's lighting, including:
Upgrading to an HID Headlight Kit
Halogen light bulbs aren't so bright, and they dim with age. Swapping out a halogen headlight for a much brighter HID light is a quick and cheap method of brightening your motorcycle's lighting system.
Upgrading to an LED Headlight Kit
LED light kits are more expensive than HID kits, but are also brighter and last longer. Therefore, they may actually cost you less than an HID headlight conversion kit and its replacement bulbs in the long run.
Adding Auxiliary Lights
Auxiliary lights are now more commonly seen on touring bikes, as well as some cruisers and street bikes. Not only do they provide extra visibility at night, but they also make a motorcycle look good!
Switching to a Brake Light Flasher
A flashing brake light captures the attention of trailing drivers far better than a constant on/off brake light. Flasher kits for brake lights are inexpensive and easy to install.
Adjust Your Headlight(s) Correctly
A simple headlight adjustment can make a huge difference in visibility, and costs you absolutely nothing! For the old style round headlights found on cruiser bikes, the adjustment is typically as simple as pushing the headlight up or down slightly. For headlights on street bikes, there's usually an adjustment screw to correct the angle of the headlight beam.
Maximize Your Vision
Besides optimizing the lights on your motorcycle, there are ways to maximize your field of vision to help you identify potential hazards sooner and react to them quicker.
Keep Your Headlight(s) Clean
Even a small coating of dirt, dead bugs or other film can dramatically reduce the intensity of your headlight beam, so give your headlight(s) a quick wipe-down before riding at night.
Wear a Clear Visor
Dark-tinted visors are great for filtering out bright light during the day, but at night they can impair your vision. Wearing a dark-tinted visor at night may not be illegal, but it's not recommended. If you wear a dark-tinted visor by day and you know you'll be riding in the dark, carry a spare clear visor for the night portion of your ride.
Clean Your Visor
A dirty visor naturally decreases your field of vision. Carry a pack of visor wipes or some visor cleaner, and a microfiber cloth to keep your visor clean and clear. Avoid using paper or cloth towels on a visor, as they're slightly abrasive and will scratch the visor over time.
Replace a Damaged Visor
Scratches and scuffs on a visor have the same detrimental effect on your vision as a dirty visor, especially if they're deep. Expect to replace your visor at least once every couple of years.
Ride Within Your Headlights
Motorcycle headlights illuminate the road ahead about 200 feet at most in low beam, and about 300 feet in high beam. These distances are much lower if the bulbs are old or the headlights are dirty.
Even if your headlight is illuminating the road for the maximum possible distance, it doesn't allow you much reaction time once it spotlights a hazard. Make sure your speed allows you to stop within the distance of your headlight's illumination capabilities.
What to Look Out For
Besides the usual potholes and road debris, motorcycle riders face additional hazards they should keep a sharper eye out for when riding at night.
The potential for encountering drunk drivers dramatically increases at night, especially on weekends and after closing time at the bars. Watch out for vehicles being driven erratically, drifting across lane lines, speeding, or driving unusually slow.
Darkness and decreased traffic on the roads brings out the creatures of the night. In urban areas, it's not uncommon for rodents and other nocturnal critters to dash across your path from out of nowhere. And we've all heard about "deer in the headlights," so keep an eye out for them and other denizens in rural areas. Big or small, watch out for any critters that might get in your way while you're riding your motorcycle at night.
Nighttime temperatures can drop dramatically at night, especially in desert or mountainous regions. When your body gets cold, it can increase your fatigue and impair your riding ability. Wear suitable gear — sturdy riding jacket, warm mid-or-base layers — when riding at night to stay warm and alert.
Motorcycle tires have less traction when they're cold, and also when the road surface is cold at night. Take it easy when riding the first couple of miles in cold nighttime conditions, at least until your tires generate a bit of heat.
Mist and Fog
Cooler conditions at night can create fog and early morning mist. Both reduce visibility by a considerable amount, making it extremely hard to see hazards until it's too late. Mist and fog also dampen the road surface, so remember that even if it's not raining, the road will be especially slick during and right after periods of mist and fog.
Additional Night Riding Tips
When riding at night, employ all the safe riding skills and techniques you use during the day, but with a heightened sense of awareness. Position yourself to ride where you'll have long sightlines, enough space to make emergency maneuvers, and where you are visible to others sharing the road.
Ride with a couple of fingers on the front brake lever and your foot over the rear brake pedal to react immediately if something unexpected happens. Reduce speeds and increase your distance from other drivers to give yourself more time to react to situations.
Riding while fatigued is also a recipe for a motorcycle accident, so if you're on a sizable road trip, schedule regular stops to refresh your senses and break up the monotony of a long trek. Pull over, stretch your arms and legs, and rest before getting back to it.