Words By Bernie Hatton
What I love about night riding and how can training help?
I love night riding. Being a Queenslander there is nothing better than a motorcycle ride at night. The warm evenings, cool breeze and aromas combined with the social aspect, catching up with my mates for a meal, coffee or an ice cream, OUTSTANDING.
I have done plenty of long-distance motorcycle tours as well, and regardless of good planning they always seem to require some night riding! I have had the pleasure to compete in a few endurance events, I understand all too well that riding a motorcycle at night requires a whole range of skills.
Lately local Gold Coast motorcyclists seem to be out every Friday and Saturday night, I know this because I live in a popular motorcycle riding area where I am lucky enough to hear the guys and gals enjoying their evening rides.
It’s interesting to note that the riders seem to ride much more conservative at night, adjusting to the conditions that night riding brings. So many riders these days attend organised night rides and I hope it continues.
Off course there is a dangerous element to riding a motorcycle at night, just as there is during the day and in wet conditions. Riding a motorcycle requires greater skills than a driver in a tin top, that is a fact! A motorcyclist accepts all of that.
The motorcyclists that ride at night, including the youth are never affected by drugs or alcohol; they are out doing what they love, riding a motorcycle. It is so inspiring to see motorcycling play such a brilliant role in our community. These kids that are out riding their motorcycles at night, could be at a nightclub, they could be indulging in heavy alcohol consumption or dropping pills, generally becoming a nuisance to the local community.
Which brings me to the QUESTION… What is the great danger to our youths?
- Riding a motorcycle at night
- Hanging out at night clubs
Every successful motorcycle rider will establish a matrix, a set of skills to deal with the dangers they face as motorcyclists. Riding skills, protective clothing, maintenance of their pride and joy, mental mindset, attitude and choices are all part of the matrix.
Road craft for the city, country, wet, dirt roads and night riding are essential skills for all motorcyclist. How the motorcyclist adjust to all these variables will determine their success as a motorcyclist.
Unfortunately, there are riders whom miss out on vital tips for night riding, for those whom have, here are a few basic tips below.
If you struggle with night riding check out the Top Rider night training options and come for a ride with me.
Your vision is obviously restricted at night however, you can improve it by being aware of the following:
- Clear lens visors are perfect for night, dry or wet.
- Yellow visors are great for dark rural areas however, they can be difficult in well-lit areas.
- Clean visors – carry some visor cleaner and a rag. Dirty visors at night is just dangerous.
- If you have a dark visor that protects you from the sun it will become dangerous at night. You will need to carry a clear visor or a set of clear lens glasses. I prefer a visor, when you travel at night with your daytime visor up you manage to get inside your visor dirty and it’s a bugger when you have to clean it!
- Tail lights and reflectors are generally quite small and ineffective on a motorcycle. Check out PPE options with reflective strips around the whole body, these are brilliant at creating a presence at night especially from the side.
- Understand your vision will be affected by the other drivers’ headlights, the retinas of your eyes need time to adjust.
- Your eyes read depth which is vital in speed control, as well as giving you direction. Protect your eyes from the cars lights by looking away from the oncoming cars lights.
- Run a thin strip of tape along the top of your visor which works brilliantly to shield your eyes from the car’s headlight beams.
- If you are going to do some night riding in rural areas look at some bulb upgrades.
- Go and seek professional advice on the fitment of a LED lighting bar.
- Good lights let everyone know where you are, including the wild life.
- Lights are only going to point in the direction the motorcycle is heading so lights that offer side lighting are a great option.
- Ensure your lights are not going to antagonise other motorist, motorcycle headlights directly into their mirrors will create road rage.
- If you load your bike with luggage/panniers and or a pillion, ensure you have the correct suspension settings that keeps the light on the road and not in the eyes of oncoming motorist.
- Understanding some basic bike set up and suspension tips is vital, riding at night is not about star gazing.
- I quite often find that you must look outside your beam to negotiate a corner, this is where some training helps.
- Headlights on motorcycles are focused straight ahead, so when you follow the light beam you can and will suffer target fixation; which means you could find yourself running wide in turns.
- Don’t forget that quite often bumps create shadows that can hide holes and poor surfaces, so adjusting your speed is paramount.
- Don’t look at a car’s lights, which is hard at first.
- Ensure you are well trained on looking through a turn at night, it’s much harder to do than it is riding in the day.
- Cambers are much harder to recognize at night, changing cambers can affect your grip and push you wide.
- Riding an unfamiliar area becomes harder when cornering so determining whether the approaching turn is: a flat turn, increasing radius turn or a decrease radius turn is hard.
- Obviously not getting a great picture of surface and cambers makes cornering a hell of a lot harder at night.
I apply the Top Rider SEE (Scan Evaluate Execute) method.
Therefore, I ride in a manner that allows you to scan ahead for the seen and unseen potential dangers. I ride at a speed that enables you to recognize the hazard, evaluate before you arrive at the hazard, create a suitable plan and execute the plan with plenty of time.
Pretty easy plan if its feeling rushed and fast! Guess what it is… slow it down and start again.
Remember if you are leading the pack others may not be as comfortable as you ride with some reserve for them as well.
SYSTEM OF CONTROL
- Treat the road as if it is wet.
- Get all your braking done in a straight line after all that’s where your light is pointing.
- Ensure speed is corrected first.
- Finish all braking and gearing before turning into the turn.
- Ensure you have eyes into the turn and throttle, creating mechanical grip on the turn in.
- Riding in a buddy system enables more time to spot hazards.
- Buddy systems will help each other’s vision with light ahead and to the side.
- When riding in buddy system, riders making slight moves independently to others will give indication to another motorist that you are a motorcyclist on the road and not another car.
- Understand that you need a bigger space at night.
- In Australia our wildlife gets out and parties at night. Be aware of kangaroos, koalas, snakes, possums’, dogs’, cats etc. Regardless of riding in the city or rural areas you will find them so slow down.
- Then there are the city wildlife pedestrians. Some can and will be affected by alcohol, drugs and probably not paying attention. High vigilance and low speed are essential.
- Obviously, night time is when the public parties, some even illegally use cars. Therefore, never ASSUME, always ensure.