At night it is increasingly easy to override your headlights, which will result in decreased visibility. In poorly lit areas especially, reduce your speed so that your stopping distance doesn’t exceed your sight distance.
Wearing bright gear such as this fluorescent yellow AGV Sport jacket outfitted with reflective piping will make you significantly more visible to other drivers on the road.
When riding at night be flexible about lane position. Change lanes if you feel another lane is better lit, will increase your line of sight or allow others on the road to see you better.
Night riding adds a new element that is enticing and exhilarating; even your favorite roads will seem just a bit different as you roll through them and into the darkness.
Everything is more fun when the sun goes down, but if you’re on a motorcycle, it’s also more dangerous. Night riding is exciting — liberating even. There’s something about riding off into the darkness that gives you the exhilarating rush of riding into the unknown — even if you are riding the same roads you do daily.
According to numerous studies, the number one cause for motorcycle accidents — day or night — is drivers who failed to see the motorcyclist they turned in front of. At night however, the risks are even higher on a motorcycle because not only is the visibility of the other drivers hindered, but yours as the rider is as well. Fortunately, there are a number of tricks and techniques for riding at night that will increase your chances of arriving at your destination safely.
Let’s start with the gear. While your black jacket-and-pant combo may look stylish during the day, at night you will blend into the darkness like a chameleon in the wild. Wearing bright gear will not only guarantee that other drivers will see you, but will without question increase your presence on the road. Simply wearing a fluorescent yellow jacket won’t exactly cut it either; you will additionally want to make sure that the jacket has a sufficient amount of reflective piping and fabric. It is important to also consider wearing a helmet, pants or gloves that are also bright in color and feature reflective fabric. Making yourself even more visible on the road can be accomplished by applying reflective tape to visible areas of your motorcycle — such as the wheels or fairings.
While the major concern at night is making sure other drivers see you clearly, another concern is with making sure you see clearly. This means that the dark shield you were sporting on your last day-ride should be swapped out for a clear one — and one that is scratch free, as one with scuffs can distort the light. If you’d rather pass on the shield swaps, you can also look into the new transitional faceshields that many helmet manufacturers are now offering which transition from smoke to clear as the sun’s light fades away.
On the road, it’s fair to say that your motorcycle’s lights are your next saving grace. That said, prior to taking off on any night ride — or any ride for that matter — double check to make certain your headlights, taillights, brake light, and turn signals are all working properly. At night especially, your brake light and turn signals are your way of forewarning other drivers of your intentions; attempting to ride without either light functioning properly puts you at risk, both from other drivers and law enforcement. Aftermarket brake light and headlight bulbs are an option too if you are looking to increase your presence on the road at night. Be wary though of bulbs and set-ups (such as HIDs) that can be both detrimental to your electrical system and illegal (non DOT approved).
Adjusting your headlight beam angle is a quick and easy way of increasing your visibility on the road as well, and the increased field of view will allow you to better see any hazards that lay in the road ahead. The task will typically take just minutes and can usually be done at home; place your bike 25 feet from your garage wall, cast the headlight beam and measure from the ground to the center of the beam projected on the wall. Adjust your headlights as your state’s regulations allow.
Aside from increasing your presence on the road, it is extremely important that at night you adapt your riding and increase your awareness. On poorly lit sections of road especially, the best option is to ride slower than you would during the day, as that will give you more time to react to any hazards on the road. This is especially the case if you find yourself on a section of road that you have not ridden before, as you can’t be sure of what you’ll find around the next corner.
Another important thing to remember the next time you find yourself cruising down the road late at night is to increase your following distance. While just one or two seconds following distance is normally optimum, try giving the car or bike in front of you a three- to four-second gap.
In order to get a better view of the road ahead you can also use the light from the headlights of the car in front of you; just be careful to avoid tailgating and leave optimu m amount of room to make necessary avoidance maneuvers. Also, if you find yourself in a lane or section of road that is poorly lit, don’t be afraid to make a lane change or put yourself in an area where you will be better seen by others on the road. And although this is a hotly debated subject, we recommend running with your high beam on, so long as you are not following anyone and there is no oncoming traffic. Doing so will give you a much better field of view.
Although a distraction at times, the headlights, taillights and brake lights of the cars on the road can be a great aid to you at night as they give you an indication of what the driver up front is doing or what hazards you may be coming up on. If you see a car’s headlights bounce up and down for instance, that is usually a good indication that there is a bump in the road; slow down or change your position in the road accordingly. Additionally, be sure to pay attention to the brake lights and turn signals of the cars around you so that you are aware of the driver’s intentions to slow, stop or change lanes. Also, scan the road for headlights peeking out from side streets or driveways; a driver looking to pull out onto the road may not see you and could possibly pull in front of you. Slowing down to a speed that allows quick action is the best option until you can be certain the driver has spotted you.
The bottom line is that night riding can be dangerous, which is why most states do not allow riders with a learner’s permit to ride after sunset. But in time, you will find that riding at night can offer a totally different experience on a motorcycle. Prepare yourself by wearing the proper gear, making yourself more visible and increasing your awareness and you will better enjoy the experience, and in a safer fashion.