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Important Note: Information on this site is compiled based on our knowledge and belief. We make no claims as to its accuracy or being up to date.

Night Riding
For those of us who tend to ride just for pleasure during the summer months, the thought of taking the bike out at night is probably less appealing.  However, plenty of people use their bikes all year round, which means at some point they are going to be faced with riding in the dark.  The most obvious issue to contend with is the lack of visibility, although it's not always clear as to the best way to deal with it.  The following tips hopefully highlight the key things to remember when riding at night.
Improving Your Chances of Being Seen
Using High Vis stripsThis is really where hi-visibility clothing will add most benefit.  A bike has a relatively small profile particularly from the rear.  Wearing hi-visibility clothing will help create a visible outline of the rider and reduce the likelihood of other drivers confusing the lights as part of the vehicle in front.  This can be particularly common when there is other traffic.

If you are two up it is most important for the passenger to wear hi-visibility clothing, as it provides most benefit from behind.  You should also consider how luggage such as top boxes and rucksacks might reduce the effectiveness.  Hi-visibility sticky strips can help and are typically better than the reflective panels found on most hard luggage systems.

When following other vehicles it may be preferable to ride clear of the vehicle in front's tail lights (e.g. by taking a central position) or varying your position in your lane, as this helps to separate you visually from other traffic.

Improving Your Ability to See
Making sure that all your lights work properly and are clean enough to maximise their benefit is a must before setting off in the dark.  If you think the headlights on your bike are particularly weak you may want to experiment with brighter bulbs (such as Philips Blue vision – claimed to be 30% brighter).  Some bikes can also take higher wattage bulbs (although this is not technically legal), but you may have problems with the extra heat and load.  In general it is normally sufficient to ensure your headlights are clean, free from rust and have good quality standard bulbs.  Don't be tempted to ride with main beam on all the time.  Although you will be able to see better, any approaching vehicle better will find it difficult to see, judge your speed or identify how much of the road you are using  (this is also true for daytime riding).  It is also likely that they will flip back to main beam to return the courtesy and this wont help either of you get passed each other safely.

Unless your visor is new, it will have lots of tiny scratches which wont help you to see when faced with oncoming traffic, particularly if they don't dip their beam early.  Add that to the cooler damper night-time air and increased condensation and you are going to find it pretty difficult to see.  It can often be easier to flip your visor up momentarily, but if you are doing a lot of night riding you will need to replace your visors regularly.  It goes without saying of course that wearing a tinted visor at night is both pretty stupid and illegal.

Even if you have a new visor and bike fitted with particularly good headlights such as the new VFR800 or ZZR1200, you will have to accept that visibility is reduced and this ultimately means you will need to adapt the way you ride.

Adapting Your Riding
    At this point it's worth reiterating the riders mantra about being able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear.  Night riding reduces both the distance and the quality of what you see, which ultimately means you will have to ride slower.  It will be harder to identify surface problems as well as the general direction of the road, which is particularly important on unlit country roads.  Always be prepared to slow down or stop if you really can't figure out which way the road is going – don't guess what you can't see.  You will also need to be aware that since you are going slower there is greater chance of other vehicles catching you up.  They may be incorrectly relying on your general direction and braking points to plan their own driving.  If you simply roll off the throttle on the approach to a bend, a following vehicle may not notice you slow down.  Here it can be useful to ‘show some brake lights’ to highlight the drop in speed.

    When cornering your lights typically wont be pointing in the direction of travel, so it's important to have plenty of lean in reserve.  If for example the bend tightens or the road surface alters you may need to react quickly.  Although cat's eyes increase closer to hazards such as bends, elevation changes or even hedges may obscure them, so it's important to ride at a speed that allows for this.  The effort required to focus and plan appropriately when riding at night is significantly greater, particularly when riding on dark country roads. You may even choose to avoid them altogether.

Physical Issues
    It is generally not advised to ride when you are tired particularly at night.  Night riding over long distances can easily leave the rider in auto pilot mode, where they may not react to hazards as quickly as they would during the day.  This is particularly true for empty motorways that enable constant unhindered speed to be achieved.  It is also worth noting that it gets colder at night even in summer.  All this helps to reduce the riders ability to concentrate on the job.

    Varying your speed and taking regular breaks, is really the only way to combat this fatigue.  If you have a long night time journey ahead and are unprepared for the cold, make regular coffee stops as this not only gives you a break, but helps you warm up.

Additional Hazards
    Apart from watching out for other drivers who may also be suffering from tiredness, you need to keep a look out for wild animals, which are generally more active and a lot harder to see.  Even in built areas you have the risk of foxes and cats, but you are most likely to encounter wildlife on a country road, where you may have been the only vehicle to use the stretch for the last hour or so.