Thursday, August 20, 2020

Motorcycle Extra Lights - a good idea?

A pleathora of motorcycle headlamps
Being seen, and seeing others and hazards, is a good idea when riding a motorcycle. Recently the question came up about adding flashing lights on their motorcycle for improved visibility. 

Begin at the beginning.

First, be sure you have your main lights as clean and efficient as possible. Upgrade older halogen bulbs with LED bulbs, motorcycle specific.

Second, add driving lights down low - brake caliper or fork mounted.  They provide a 'triangle' of light which adds visibility and depth to your bike.  A single headlight is very hard to identify as a vehicle, how far away it is, and how fast it's going.  

Third, add driving - spot lights -  under-mirror or just under the main light.  These should be on a switched fused circuit, and be used only with your high beams in rural night locations.  They aren't for visibility, they are to see what's on the road ahead of you. 

What about flashing lights on my motorcycle?

On the back is where the rider asked about adding a flashing light.  My advice to him:

Check your location for regulations on flashing lights. Yellow is usually OK; the HAM Radio volunteers often have a yellow lamp used when they are stopped spotting weather or assisting with other emergency situations. Red and Blue are usually verboten.

However, it’s also a target fixation problem — seeing a flashing light makes you a visible target sleepy or distracted drivers can focus on, and hit.

You may look at some of the Back-Off type brake light modulators; additional or brighter rear marker and turn signal lights; SOLAS retroreflective tape or bike specific black reflective decals. The retro reflective decals or tape help your bike show up under the following vehicle headlights very well, without the blinking bits to create a target fixation issue.

The brake light modulators will cause your brake light to rapidly cycle, then go steady as you apply the brakes, giving more notice to people following you that yes, you are stopping now.

Yellow LED marker lights are generally OK by local code, but check your local code first.

Under body glow lights and interior frame glow lights are cool, look great in the parking lot, but can cause issues with the local constabulary, especially if they are red or blue.  Go green, yellow, or skip the bling; they won't add to your safety.

Being Safe riding the motorcycle at night

And overall? Ride like that can’t see you. And if they can see you they are aiming to hit you. That’s combat touring. Your front lights are simply so you can see where you are going, not so others can see you. Remember, these are the folks who cannot see or hear a freight train coming and pull around the crossguards and get hit. 

Hope this is helpful for current and future riders looking at adding lighting for visibility and conspicuity to their motorcycles!  Feel free to subscribe by email to get new posts in your inbox about all sorts of interesting things!

- Will England

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