Studies show that people subconsciously don’t see things they aren’t in the habit of looking for. Or, maybe they’re distracted by texting, looking at GPS, or checking their hair.
In these situations, a motorcycle’s rider’s best defense is to take active measures to make themselves more visible. Here are a few ways to become more visible while riding your motorcycle.
Use your high beams – daytime riding
Riding experts are divided on whether riding with your high beam on during the day is a good idea. On one hand, a high beam can get you noticed more readily by oncoming drivers. On the other hand, if your high beam annoys drivers, you may be doing more harm than good.
Always remember to first check your local laws to determine if riding with your high beam on during the day is legal where you live. If so, ride with your high beam on during the day.
Tap your brakes
Another way to draw attention to your presence is to tap the brakes once or twice when stopping. The flashing of the brake light helps you stand out when you stop or slow down—even if you’re slowing down without using your brakes.
Of course, in an emergency situation, maximum stopping power is most important and a proper emergency stopping technique should override flashing your brake light.
So, what is an LED?
A light-emitting diode, or LED, is a type of solid-state lighting that uses semiconductors and electroluminescence to create light. The LED as we know it has been around for more than 50 years; in fact, its origins date to 1907, when H.J. Round discovered electroluminescence by experimenting with a combination of silicon carbide and a cat’s whisker.
The recent development of white LEDs has brought them into wider use as a replacement for other white light sources.
- Instant response LEDs require no warm-up time
- Greater durability LEDs have no breakable glass or fi laments
- Energy efficiency LEDs use at least 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs
- Longevity and low maintenance LEDs last 35 to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs
- Directional light LEDs can direct light where it is needed far more precisely than incandescent or fluorescent light sources
- Smaller size LEDs are compact
- Lower environmental impact LEDs contain no mercury, which means they have a much smaller environmental impact than incandescent bulbs
What are other advantages of Harley-Davidson® LED products?
- The fastest and easiest way to attain state-of-the-art visibility for a nighttime ride
- Brighter and whiter in color, and provide a superior light pattern over standard incandescent lamps, even under the harshest and most challenging conditions
- Daymaker® Headlamps cast a wide light from curb to curb, with the brightest point where riders need it most
- The natural daylight lamp color of Daymaker® Headlamps is easy on your eyes and is tuned to enhance and amplify the reflective character of highway signs and lane markers
- Extremely durable and designed for long life on the road.
When it comes to Harley-Davidson® lighting products, LEDs are also changing the way riders see and are seen beyond just headlamps:
- Illuminated Windshield Trim: smoked lenses hide bands of amber LEDs that glow as running lamps when the ignition is on, and the two outer clusters function as auxiliary directional indicators when the turn signals are activated. The wiring is concealed inside the fairing for a clean, custom appearance. The complete kit includes all necessary mounting hardware and fits ’14-later Electra Glide®, Street Glide®, Ultra Limited and Tri Glide® models.
- LED Bullet Turn Signal Kits: with amber or smoked lenses are available for a variety of Harley-Davidson® models. LED turn signals feature fast-acting, extra-bright LEDs that glow a bright amber color when functioning as running lights and directional indicators. Most lights install quickly using existing housings and connections; just plug and play.
- LED Bullet Rear Light Bar: for ’14-later Touring models features fast-acting, extra-bright LEDs set in compact, bullet-shaped, die-cast housings. Available with red or smoked lenses, these lamps glow a bright red color when functioning as brake lamps, running lights and directional indicators. The kit includes the Rear Light Bar with integrated downlighting for the license plate, bullet lamp housings and wiring.
Visit your local dealer or h-d.com to see some of the latest LED lighting products available for Harley-Davidson® models.
Wear highly visible and reflective gear
Black is considered fashionable for riders, but white is more visible.
If you aren’t willing to give up your dark helmet, you can add some reflective tape. You can even buy black reflective tape, so it’s barely noticeable in daylight, but reflects brightly at night when caught by the light of another vehicle. You don’t have to go crazy.
Even a little bit of carefully placed tape can make a big difference.
You might even consider having two helmets in your collection: one that’s dark and mysterious for daytime and another that’s bright, reflective, and conspicuous for riding at night.
The same goes for your riding gear. Bright is better. But again, you don’t have to sacrifice style for visibility. An easier way to draw attention to yourself is to throw on a brightly colored reflective vest.
You can also look for a riding jacket with built-in reflectivity. Harley Davidson offers many options, such as the new FXRG® riding and rain gear, that include 3M Scotchlite Reflective Material in stripes and graphics that lights up brightly when headlights catch it.
While you’re at it, you might even consider a little bit of strategically placed reflective tape on your motorcycle itself. Yes, this sounds like blasphemy to some, but when done carefully, tastefully, and subtly, it can add conspicuity to your nighttime rides.
Consider the driving conditions
Before riding, also consider the ambient lighting conditions. What’s it like outside? Riding at night presents certain obvious challenges, but so does riding in the fog or riding at early morning or dusk.
For instance, riding in the fog can be even more challenging than riding at night because you can’t count on other vehicle headlights to light up your reflective apparel. Visibility can be reduced to almost nothing, not to mention that the road surface is probably damp, which should be factored in when stopping and turning. In some cases, it might even be best to pull over and wait it out or stop for the night. And, remember, don’t use your high beam in fog.
Dawn and dusk present the challenge of potentially blinding glare. When the sun is low in the sky, it can blind other drivers, particularly when the sun is behind you.
This can also be true when riding in the winter. The further north you are, the lower the sun gets in the sky, which can cause visibility issues in the middle of the day.
Anytime you can see your shadow in front of your tire, use extra caution. Assume that oncoming drivers are going to lose you in the glare and be prepared to stop or take evasive action as needed.
Lane positioning and blind spots
In general, the best place to be is the left third of your lane, or position 1.
This makes you the most visible to oncoming traffic and also puts you in the view of the driver’s side mirror of the vehicle in front of you.
Once you’ve established position 1 as your home base, you can maneuver within the lane to make yourself more visible. For instance, imagine riding on a two-lane highway when you see a large truck coming from the other direction. It’s a passing zone, so there’s a chance a car might pull out to try to get around the truck. This would be a good time to move to the right side of the lane, position 3, making yourself more visible to any vehicles behind the truck. It also gives you the best opportunity to SEE (search, evaluate, and execute).
Navigating through intersections
When making your way through a crowded intersection, try to make eye contact with drivers who might inadvertently cross your path. This helps confirm that they know you’re there. A little nod or quick hand signal can help seal the deal.
Don’t assume they’ve seen you. They might be looking right past you. Don’t dwell on any other thing. Take everything in. Watch the driver’s eyes, watch for tire movement, and keep an eye out for other potential conflicts or threats. Roll off the throttle to create more time to see and be seen. Cover the controls to reduce reaction time. Change lane positions to create movement that attracts the eye and helps drivers notice you. And, don’t flash your headlight, as this can sometimes be perceived as a go-ahead signal.
Use a turn signal
Always use your turn signal, even when it feels unnecessary—like when leaving your driveway or pulling out of a parking lot onto an empty road. Make it a habit, an automatic action. It’s the best way to make sure you’ll remember to signal when it matters most.
Use the horn
A well-timed beep of your horn is another effective way to get noticed. Don’t overdo it, of course. Using your horn gratuitously is obnoxious and does more harm than good to rider-driver relationships.
Be visible. Think Invisibly.
Assume that other drivers can’t see you and act accordingly. This will help keep you in a defensive state of mind. After all, you can’t do anything to make the drivers around you drive better, but you can do a lot to help make yourself more visible and to ride defensively.
A version of this post appeared in HOG® magazine.