In addition to riding in the blistering winter, riding at night is a significant fear for some motorcyclists. A nocturnal ride is one of the most tranquil, yet exhilarating experiences you can have as a motorcyclist - but the lack of visibility remains a major concern. Fortunately, there are several safety precautions you can take to ensure your night rides are rejuvenating rather than dangerous.
1 - Make yourself more visible
Riding a colorful motorcycle will help to improve your visibility, but if your ride is jet black, it’s not a problem. Ensure you have a high visibility jacket and a proper face helmet (such as the LS2 Metro Firefly, which features graphics that illuminate in the darkness) for night rides. Applying reflective tape to your motorcycle won’t have much of an impact during the day, but at night it will make your motorcycle look larger than it is and act as an independent light source. While some riders don’t enjoy the aesthetic of high visibility clothing - it’s better to be alive than fashionable!
Ensuring that your headlamp is free from dirt and debris is also essential in order to make yourself more visible, but also to see further and avoid hazards.
2 - Improve your field of vision
For night rides, you should only ever ride as fast as you can see. One way to improve your field of vision is to get a high quality LED headlamp, such as the Kuryakyn 2246 Phase 7 LED Headlamp, suitable for Harley, Indian and Yamaha motorcycles. LED headlamps are very intense and can be an excellent precaution if you’re concerned about the safety aspects of riding at night. They’re also less energy intensive and last longer.
Remember to thoroughly clean your visor before embarking on a night ride, as you’ll need your sight to be functioning excellently, given the circumstances. Tinted visors are not recommended for night rides - always ensure you have a clear visor available and bring some wet wipes with you for the journey. Getting insect splatterings and debris on your visor can be dangerous at night, so always stop the motorcycle immediately if your vision is impaired.
If you’re concerned that your vision may not be optimal, get your eyes checked out before riding at night.
3 - Don’t ride when you’re tired
There are better ways to relax when you’re tired than riding a motorcycle - particularly at night. Don’t be tempted to compensate with coffee or energy drinks. If you’re tired, you will not be functioning optimally and your reaction time will be diminished - regardless of what stimulants you put in your body. It’s simply not worth risking your health by riding while tired. Get some rest and hit the road in the morning when you’re fresh!
Studies suggest that in 40 to 45% of motorcycle crashes, the rider has been consuming alcohol. If you’re thinking about riding, particularly at night when visibility is diminished, don’t even consider having a drink. Alcohol consumption can lead to an increase in confidence, which can lead to an increased proclivity to risk taking, which is a recipe for disaster when riding a motorcycle!
4 - Be aware of situational hazards
The anticipation of hazards is necessary for motorcyclists in any situation, but at night there are specific dangers to be aware of. Because most people consume alcohol at night, be aware of erratic driving. Keep your distance from anyone obviously speeding, as they might be under the influence. This is particularly crucial at intersections and red lights, where speeding drivers might not slow down - you may wish to install LED rear lights to deter drivers from coming too close behind you.
Depending on where you live, a number of creatures might find their way onto the road during the nighttime, and if you’re going too fast then you won’t be able to stop in time. While a collision with a rodent can result in an injury, if you live in a country like Canada where moose and deer collisions are common, this can be fatal. Always have your wits about you and remember, night is not the time to throw caution to the wind.
Ride slower than usual and be prepared to stop if you encounter an unexpected hazard on the road. You should always be able to react if a hazard appears in your field of vision, whether riding during the day or at night.
5 - Account for a drop in temperature
Remember that at night, the temperature drops, which also affects the road conditions. This drop can be significant in desert regions, and when you also account for the wind chill when riding at a moderate speed, your ride can be very different to what you anticipated. Check the weather forecast before you embark, and ensure you have adequate equipment, such as windproof, high visibility motorcycle gloves (bare knuckle gloves are not ideal for night conditions).
6 - Be a pilot
In a survey by Back Country Pilot, 85% of pilots responded that they also ride motorcycles. This is because the both disciplines appeal to a certain personality type - those that lust for freedom and enjoy mastering a technically complex discipline. While pilots are known to maintain a level of calmness while flying airplanes, motorcyclists are typified as aggressive and reckless.
When riding at night, calmness is crucial. This isn’t the time to put your pedal to the metal and explore the power of your ride. Instead, it’s the perfect time for revisiting your riding fundamentals and appreciating the dark tranquility of the present moment. With the increased safety risk of riding at night, there’s no need to be a daredevil.
There are few things as rewarding in life as a solitary ride under the dark veil of night. Take the proper precautions and then submerge into the black! Good luck, nyctophiliacs.