Riding a Motorcycle at Night: All You Need to Know
Riding a motorcycle is a great way to get around. Very little can stop a passionate rider from climbing aboard their favourite bike, whether it’s traffic, weather, or even the time of day.
Commuting to and from work, heading out for a trip, or just riding for the fun of it are all good reasons to ride a motorcycle, and dealing with whatever inconveniences is just part of the experience.
The ideal time and place for riding are in the middle of a sunny afternoon on an open road, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only good time to ride.
Even after the sun goes down, it’s still a great time to ride, but there are several considerations to make when riding at night and a few things to always keep in mind.
Today we’ll look at everything to consider and help to make sure that the next time you ride after sunset, you will be properly prepared.
Table of Contents
How to Ride a Motorcycle at Night
Riding a motorcycle at night doesn’t actually require a complete, ground-up adjustment to your technique, just a few minor ones, and a few changes in your gear.
The biggest consideration for riding at night is the reduced visibility. In the daytime, you can look ahead for miles and make adjustments accordingly.
At night your range of visibility decreases. Other vehicles will also be driving, often with their high beams on, and adjusting where you look in relation to the oncoming traffic is also a factor to consider.
Looking into a car’s high beams will blind you for several seconds, and when you’re riding a motorcycle, a lot can happen in that time.
This being said, the riding techniques used at night will be largely the same as during the day, provided the road conditions also remain the same.
You will still want to ride a bit more slowly, however, as the reduced visibility means that you won’t see things as far in advance as you would when the sun is out.
Remember: the faster you are going, the less time you have to react to changes in the road or unexpected obstacles that may cross your path.
The temperature of the road will also be lower, meaning that some high-performance tires will not have as much traction as they do during the much warmer daytime hours, so you may wish to be slightly more conservative when cornering.
Safety Tips for Riding a Motorcycle at Night
As previously mentioned, riding a motorcycle at night comes with a few specific considerations that you will want to account for and a few adjustments to be made to your gear.
While your technique will simply be more conservative than during the day and won’t need to be altered in any major way, your equipment and attitude will need proper adjustment in order to maximize safety. Here are some things to remember and how to adjust for each one.
Visibility is Important
At night, visibility is the most important factor to consider, both for you and for the other drivers on the road.
You can only react to things that you can see, so it’s a good idea to maximize your ability to see and be seen.
It may seem like common sense, but if you use a tinted visor during the day, switch it out for a clear one when riding at night.
A tinted visor is meant to deal with harsh light that you will encounter during the day, and at night that light is no longer an issue. Always keep a clear visor on hand for riding at night.
The rest of your gear should have reflective elements of some kind as well.
While a jacket made entirely from the bright fluorescent material is the most extreme version of this, many jackets also include reflective elements in their design in order to maximize visibility.
Make sure that any reflective surfaces on your gear are uncovered so that they can do their job and keep you visible.
Lastly, most motorcycles feature lights that do not turn off while the bike is on.
Some bikes may feature lights that can be switched off, and some riders may set their lights up to be able to switch them off as well.
Regardless of whether you yourself can see or not, when the sun begins to set, you should make sure that your lights are on.
While they function to help you see the road ahead, they are also there for other drivers to be able to see you.
Riding with the lights off, especially on a darker-coloured bike, reduces your visibility to other drivers and increases the risk of disaster.
Night Time is Colder
This one may sound a little basic, but when the sun goes down the temperature takes a significant drop.
What this means for you is that you will want to make some changes to your gear. If your jacket has a lining, it’s a good idea to put it back in if you’ve removed it during the day.
A heavier pair of gloves is also a good idea, especially if your regular pair is perforated or includes vents for maximum airflow.
If you experience shivering from the cold, stop immediately and find a safe place to warm up before continuing.
Low temperatures can be distracting and make it harder to focus on riding safely.
In addition, stiffness and shivering can impair your physical ability to operate the bike safely, and in extreme cases, hypothermia can occur.
If this happens, the likelihood of serious injury or death increases significantly. Always be mindful of the way that your body reacts to the lowered temperatures when riding.
Colder temperatures also affect your tires. A colder road surface means that the rubber won’t warm up as quickly, reducing the traction you will have available.
When cornering, it’s a good idea to be less aggressive than you would be during the day.
This is especially important if your bike is equipped with high performance tires that rely on their softer compounds heating up in order to maximize grip.
Be Aware of Fatigue
Fatigue is the most underestimated condition on the road, and affects every aspect of your ability to ride, as well as the behaviour and temperament of other drivers.
Being tired while riding reduces your ability to focus and react to changing conditions, and that can lead to mistakes that you might not make otherwise.
If you feel drowsy or exhausted, find a safe place to stop and rest before continuing on.
Other drivers are also more likely to act erratically at night. Most drivers on the road after dark are commuting home from work and will likely be more fatigued as a result.
Their main focus will be getting home, and it is likely that they will not be paying attention to the road, so it is in your best interest to stay as clear of other drivers at night as possible.
It is also important to remember that other drivers experiencing fatigue will also have reduced reaction time, and will be slower to adjust to you.
When riding in traffic at night, it is a good idea to ride as predictably as possible.
This can be done by leaving more space both in front of and behind yourself, taking more time to change lanes and turn after switching on your turn signal, and staying in one lane unless absolutely necessary.
Weaving through traffic and refusing to signal is harder to predict or react to, and some more irritable drivers may see this as a challenge and drive more aggressively in response.
A few Other Things to Consider
While the previous points are the most significant ones to be made about riding at night, there are still a few more minor things to keep in mind.
For instance, on a motorcycle, your eye line is about even with most SUV and pickup truck headlights, which means that even if the driver does not have their high beams turned on, looking directly at oncoming headlights can still be blinding.
To avoid being affected by oncoming headlights, keep your focus on the road ahead and around you, and never look directly into oncoming traffic. Keep your bike and your gear clean.
A dirty light will not be able to illuminate as much of the road as a clean one, and reflective elements that are dirty do not keep you visible as effectively as they would if they were clean.
The goal is to be able to see where you are going and also to be seen clearly so that other drivers do not run into you by mistake on their way home.
It also goes without saying, but do not exceed the posted speed limits.
This is important when riding in general, but it becomes even more critical at night when your visibility and ability to see and react to changing road conditions is reduced.
Riding a motorcycle as quickly as possible is something to keep on the track where everything is under control and predictable, not on public roads where you may need to make split-second decisions that affect both yourself and everyone who is sharing the road with you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you ride a motorcycle in the dark?
That is entirely up to you and your experience level. Night riding, as stated above, requires more focus and a little more consideration than riding during the day. If you can keep up your awareness and can adequately adjust for the reduced visibility and other factors, then riding safely is definitely possible. If you are less experienced, however, it may be a good idea to stick to riding during the daytime. As with most things: ride within your limits.
Do Most Motorcycle Crashes Occur at Night?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the answer is no. In fact, the highest percentage of motorcyclist fatalities was between the times of 3 PM to 6 PM, followed by 6 PM to 9 PM on weekends specifically. The takeaway with these statistics is that many of the crashes happen at night, especially on the weekend, but not most.
Where do Most Motorcycle Deaths Happen?
The location of death will vary, but most crashes happen on urban roadways, with intersections specifically making up a majority of the occurrences. There is no such thing as a “typical” motorcycle crash, however a large number of motorcycle wrecks involve cars making turns at intersections or rear-ending motorcyclists.
In this article, we’ve gone over the details associated with riding a motorcycle after dark.
While night riding doesn’t involve the kind of serious adjustment that riding in the rain or on dirt does, there are still plenty of things to consider about riding in the dark.
Preparation and experience are always critical to staying safe, and knowing a little about what to expect goes a long way.
Now that you know what goes into riding at night, you will be able to plan accordingly and won’t be caught off guard if the sun goes down while you’re on a ride or if you need to make an evening commute.
As always, remember to ride within your comfort zone, as that is the most important factor in staying safe, no matter the conditions.