Upton Wyoming

Riding at Night

December 2005

If you want to ride 1,000 miles in a day, our 1 MINUTE = 1 MILE rule says you can expect the run to take about 16 hours and 40 minutes. Safety and scenery considerations suggest you’ll want to make as much of the run in daylight as you can, but most of us can pretty well count on some night riding being required. Here is why:

The longest day of sunlight for places in the Northern Hemisphere is the summer solstice, which occurs in late June and marks the start of summer. On that day, Anchorage gets 17 hours 22 minutes of daylight, New York 15 hours 6 minutes, and Miami 13 hours 44 minutes. So even then, unless you are touring Alaska or Canada, “sun to sun” won’t get a thousand miles done.

LDR is a challenge, and night riding is often the most dangerous part. Accidents are more likely after dark, and statistics show that 60% of all motorcycle fatalities occur at night. Road hazards are less visible to you … you are less visible to other motorists … and the likelihood that you’ll have to dodge a drunk driver increases substantially. Plus, starting your run from home in the daylight means you’ll be finishing at night in the dark … on unfamiliar roads … with your alertness levels lowered by the fatigue of the day’s ride.

For a long distance rider, there’s no getting around night riding. There are some things we can do, however, to reduce the risks:

Leave Early. Consider starting your runs around 4:00am. That will allow you to get a couple of hours of risky riding out of the way early, when you are (hopefully) refreshed and alert, and while you are (probably) on familiar roads.

Dress Bright. Black is the most popular color among motorcyclists, and the worst possible choice for night riding. Instead, wear light colors and reflective materials, so other motorists can see you. If the sun ain’t shining, brother, you should!

Clean Shields. Dirt, grime or scratches on windshields and face shields can cause dangerous glare and distortions at night. Keep your windshield clean, and your face shield scratch-free.

Make Space. You and all other motorists have less visibility and reduced reaction times at night. Compensate by keeping as much space as you can around, in front of and behind you.

Follow Lights. At night it can be very difficult to spot road gators (truck tire shreds) and other hazards, especially on dark pavement. Use the lights of other vehicles to get a better view of the road. And watch for bouncing taillights on the vehicle in front of you, as this can indicate bumps in the road or rough pavement ahead.

Stay Alert. If you are tired, pull over and rest. Otherwise avoid distractions and stay alert, especially at intersections, where about 70% of all motorcycle-vehicle collisions occur. Think of yourself as being invisible, and watch for vehicles that may swerve into your lane or turn in front of you.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!