Before the daylight saving time change, I was commuting home through the mountain roads in the dark. I quickly learned I needed to be more vigilant out on the road, as well as better prepared with my gear.
The lessons I’ve learned from riding at night are still applicable now that the weather is warming up into the night in California and I extend my day trips. Here are some tips to consider when riding your motorcycle at night.
See And Be Seen!
If you’re riding at night, it’s important to see everything around you. Whether you’re on well-lit highways or dark and ominous back roads, don’t neglect your line of sight. I ride with a tinted face shield and prescription glasses during the day, so I’ll switch to a clear face shield at night.
Your headlight should also provide you with clear visibility of the road. I don’t have an LED headlight yet, but no matter the bulb, cleaning your headlight from dirt or bugs drastically increases visibility at night.
Check with your local laws about keeping your high/low beams on at night. My factory light works fine on well-lit roads and highways, but I can’t see more than 50 feet in front of me without my high beams on if I ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Be courteous to other drivers though and try not to blind them.
Speaking of other drivers, make sure you are visible when riding at night. Be extra careful when riding around dusk where it’s harder for others to see you, especially when the sun is behind you. I don’t have any reflective gear or a high visibility jacket, so I wear a hi-vis safety vest on long rides at night. Another option is to use reflective tape on your helmet, gear, or backpack.
One of the main reasons I prefer not to ride at night is because I live so close to the mountains. I encounter deer, squirrels, raccoons, and skunks crossing the roads during the day, so I’m afraid of running into these at night. I don’t necessarily agree that “Loud Pipes Save Lives,” but I do think a louder exhaust serves its purpose to ward off critters from the road.
Pot holes, gravel, or sand on the road might also be harder to see at night. Again, make sure you don’t outrun your headlights and watch your speed. Ideally, you’ll be on a familiar road in order to minimize any surprises that may come your way.
The weather can be another factor to consider, depending on your location, when riding at night. When the sun goes down, the temperature drops. Dress appropriately for the weather. I usually have a sweater and thick leather gloves packed for days I know I’ll be riding home at night.
Since its dark out, you’re even more susceptible to theft. Park under a street light or close to an entrance where your bike can be visible. When I ride to the gym at night, I either park my motorcycle in direct line of site from a gym window, or in close proximity to the entrance. Don’t park your motorcycle in a dark corner of the parking lot hidden from plain sight.
Another thing to consider is other drivers on the road on certain days of the week. I’m extra cautious when riding on Friday and Saturday nights, especially during holiday weekends. The greatest number of people is on the road on weekends and predictably, alcohol involvement is high in fatal nighttime crashes. Check out the statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on alcohol-impaired driving.
Remember to increase your safety margin when you ride, be extra cautious of your surroundings, and don’t drink and ride!