Riding in the dark is more hazardous than riding during the day. There’s no argument about it, as this principle is driven by the single most important factor affecting riding safety – visibility. Now, while we can never have riding conditions in the night as safe as during the day, we sure can follow these simple tips to make riding in the dark as safe as possible.
Ensure that your two-wheeler’s headlights are at their best. Ensure that the bulbs are not too old, as over time they tend to lose their luminosity. Adjust your headlight beam. Sit on your motorcycle with all your gear and baggage to load the suspension up and have a realistic understanding of the headlight’s direction. Now adjust the headlamp’s orientation to ensure the low and high beams are properly illuminating the area ahead to your satisfaction. Also, if your two-wheeler’s stock headlight illumination is not good enough, you can opt to go for an aftermarket HID or LED lighting setup, which would enhance visibility substantially. It is, however, wise to choose a motorcycle with good stock illumination. Even basic motorcycles these days can offer adequate light – the TVS Victor, for example, despite being an economy oriented motorcycle, offers a high illumination bulb to ensure safe riding in the dark.
Wipe it clean
Now, since you have a strong and well-tuned light source on your side, you need to ensure that there is no obstruction in its way. If you are riding in damp or wet conditions, stop from time to time to wipe the headlight and remove any muck that may have deposited on it. Even small amounts of dirt can significantly reduce the illumination provided by the headlight. Also, make sure that you are using a scratch-less, good quality, clear visor (tinted ones are a no-no during night time) and that you rinse it and wipe it with a soft cloth whenever necessary to ensure maximum visibility. Here are some other tips on the right way to clean your motorcycle.
Ride with extra caution
No matter how skilled a rider you are, you have to admit that your field of vision is significantly reduced during night time. You cannot see things as clearly, as far and as wide as you could during the day. Your speed, thus, should be governed strictly by how far and how clearly you could see. Practice caution and ride carefully; well within your limits. Leave enough buffer for any surprises that may spring up, as they are less evident during night as compared to daytime.
Dodge the dazzle
Oncoming traffic on both single and dual carriageways is a big nuisance. Their headlights not only blind you momentarily, the constant contraction and dilation of pupils that ensues also tires your eyes out much faster. Avoid staring straight into the opposing headlights as much as possible – while still having the road ahead in view. To avoid getting dazzled, turn your focus slightly towards the left. Follow the white line on the road’s flanks to track the course ahead. Road signs, cat’s eyes and median lines are all very useful guides which can help you ride safely without getting your eyes dazzled.
Wear reflective gear
Always wear reflective gear while venturing out in the night. There should be strong reflective surfaces on your gear, both front and back, to make you visible in dark from a good distance.
Overtake with caution
During night, you cannot judge the size and speed of the oncoming vehicles as well as you can during the day. Practice caution while overtaking; be doubly sure about being safe while making the manoeuvre. It’s not too uncommon to witness morons who don’t care even if the headlight of their steering side has gone bust. Such vehicles often appear as a two-wheeler from a distance and reduce careless mortals coming from opposing direction into pulp in no time.
Humans are not natural nocturnal creatures – so it’s obvious for you to feel fatigued and sleepy while riding through late hours. Make sure you are well rested before venturing out in the night. If you get the slightest hint that you’re sleepy or tired, don’t try to fight it. It can turn fatal very quickly, and very deceptively. Pull over as soon as possible to a safe place, preferably with some refreshments, and replenish yourself with some rest, a hot drink and a light snack before carrying on.
Take note of temperature
Cold weather can tire you out very quickly. If you’d be traversing regions where temperatures are known to be below comfortable levels, ensure you are geared to tackle it. Cover your full body with wind protection and warm/waterproof inner liners, as the situation demands.
Watch out for animals
Wild, nocturnal creatures are more capable of springing a surprise than your everyday cows, dogs and pigs. Keep an active eye for any surprises, and ride cautiously and at limited speed, so you could steer away, or bring the bike to a halt if need arises.
Look out for drunk drivers
The chances of encountering inebriated riders or drivers during the night are way higher than during daytime. Make sure you keep a keen eye on over-speeding or swerving machines both ahead of you and in the rearview mirrors. The moment you sense trouble, take remedial measures to steer out of trouble. Also, in urban areas where there’s sparse traffic, be cautious of the vehicles coming from behind you while waiting on a traffic signal. There have been instances of riders waiting at signals having been run over by drunk drivers.
In addition to the tips provided above, some basic things like using your rear view mirror properly, carrying a small toolkit with a torch, avoiding remote or treacherous terrains and planning will also help in tackling the tribulations thrown in by dark.
If you have some tips of your own to add to ours, do share those with us right here for the good of the entire community. Ride safe!