Motorcycle Night Riding – Top 6 Safety Tips
Motorcycle Night Riding – Top 6 Safety Tips
Adapted from an article by Michael Padway
Riding a motorcycle at night is similar to to driving a car at night, except you have less than half as much rubber keeping you on the road. Even if you are riding a Honda Goldwing, you’re still less visible than a Honda City on the road. Where a car has fenders and bumpers separating its driver from traffic, you have little more than your wits and your limbs doing the same job when you’re on your motorcycle. You need to be a lot more careful. You need to know what you’re up against and take steps to protect yourself in order to stay safe when you ride at night.
- Slow down.
Your “contact patch,” the little patch of tire touching the pavement or asphalt, is what keeps you from flying off the road when you ride your motorcycle around a corner. Your car’s suspension is designed to keep your tires straight up and down when you drive around a corner. Your bike’s suspension does no such thing – the motorbike’s tires are designed to rest on their “fat spot” when you lean your way through a corner. That doesn’t mean you have to put all of your bike’s grip to good use, especially at night, when you might not be able to see the road and its hazards as well as you can during the day. It pays to slow down when you ride at night.
- Use safety equipment
All the gear means all the gear. It means wearing a helmet, leather gloves, an abrasion-resistant jacket and pants, and a good pair of riding boots every single time you leave the house on your motorcycle. For some reason, many motorcyclists think it’s OK to head out on the street – with all of its hazards, including cars and debris on the road – wearing significantly less gear than they should. It’s not OK. It’s not safe.
- Make yourself more visible
You need to be able to see if you’re going to ride your motorcycle at night. By the same logic, everyone else on the road needs to be able to see too. But you have absolutely no control over other people’s eyes, windshields, and judgment. How can you protect yourself against people who are too lazy to keep their windshields clean or too distracted to see you? You can’t.
All you can do is assume nobody on the road can see you and ride accordingly. The stakes are too high when riding a motorcycle. There are also steps you can take to make yourself more visible to other people on the road. Your nighttime gear should be covered in reflective tape. You can buy gear with reflective tape or add it later. Depending on the motorcycle laws where you live, you may want to consider modifying your headlights and brake lights, making them flash when activated by installing a modulator.
- Maintain your bike
Compared to a car, your motorcycle is a finely tuned machine. The torque-specs on its fasteners are lighter. Depending on your choice of bike, the engine itself may be a load-bearing part of the frame. Compared to a car, your motorcycle makes a ridiculous amount of power for its weight. Motorcycles aren’t as good at staying shiny-side-up when they break as cars are, so make sure your bike is in tip-top shape before you ride it. You should have a pre-ride checklist, on paper or in your head, and you should treat riding your bike more like flying a plane than driving a car by using the checklist to make sure everything is safe before you ride.
- Seriously – SLOW DOWN!
You can’t see as much at night, including road debris that will bring you down faster than you can shout for help. You see even less when you’re going faster than you should be going. You need to be even more careful if you ride a custom bike because there’s a good chance your bike can go fast enough to outrun your headlamp if you bought it from an aftermarket retailer!
How could you possibly outrun your headlamp, given the speed of light is really, really fast?
- Adjust your attitude
Motorcyclists aren’t known for being cautious. Popular depictions of motorcyclists paint them as revolutionaries, renegades, and criminals who care as much about other people’s safety as they do their own. Very little, at best.
There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots. If you ever get a chance to hang around a group of motorcycle racers, you’ll find they often refer to themselves as “pilots” instead of “riders” or even “racers.” That’s because they recognize the dangers inherent to what they do, and they take steps to mitigate those dangers. As a responsible motorcyclist, it’s your job to take a cue from pilots and racers who make it a point to stay safe when they push the limits of their bodies and machines.