Riding Through Special Situations : Night Rider !

Reduced visibility is your primary challenge when riding at night. And at night, there are even more dangers you need to see than during the day, since many animals roam around at night. Plus, a higher percentage of other drivers are drunk at night than during the day. This is especially true on the weekends.

One of my closest calls involved a suicidal raccoon in the middle of the night. I was giving a girl a ride and showing off a bit, when a raccoon trundled out in front of my bike. I was going much too fast to stop or even swerve around the animal, so relying on my dirtbike experience, I gave the bike extra throttle, aimed the bike straight at the raccoon, and pulled back on my handlebars.

I wheelied over the poor critter, became airborne, then landed perfectly, without upsetting the chassis. Even though I handled the situation effectively, my riding partner was not too impressed. She never rode with me again.

After I reached the point of no return, I did some things right in that situation, but if I’d been practicing proper night-riding techniques, I wouldn’t have gotten into the situation in the first place. Here’s what I did wrong :

1. I rode too fast. When riding at night, always slow down !

2. I rode out of my headlights. The lights on a motorcycle only illuminate a small part of the road, making obstacles and debris invisible. If you can’t see a hazard, you can’t avoid it. When you do see an obstacle, you have much less time to avoid it than you do during daylight hours. Adjust your speed so that you are able to stop or swerve as soon as you spot any potentially dangerous situation.

Sometimes an animal’s eyes will shine in your headlights like a glass reflector. Seeing such “reflectors” alongside the road should serve as a warning to you that an animal is present. Slow down upon seeing the slightest twinkle, and monitor the edges of the road with added diligence. Remember that many animals, like deer, travel in groups, so if you see one, there are probably more in the immediate area.

Motorcycle headlights are improving, but they still don’t illuminate the road like the headlights on a car. Adding additional driving lights can help increase your field of vision.

To get the maximum visibility from your headlight, you need to make certain that it’s properly adjusted. The high beam should touch the road at its maximum range, yet the low beam should be below the eye level of approaching motorists. The procedure for adjusting the headlight varies from bike to bike. Consult your owner’s manual to find the procedure for your particular bike.

When riding at night, learn to read the headlights of the car in front of you. You may be able to follow another vehicle (remembering to allow even more space between you and that vehicle than you do during daylight hours) and use its headlights to help increase your field of vision. If the headlights of the vehicle ahead bounce, you can expect a bump in the road. If the vehicle swerves, the driver may be trying to avoid something, like an animal.