Welcome to Netrider ... Connecting Riders!

Interested in talking motorbikes with a terrific community of riders?
Signup (it's quick and free) to join the discussions and access the full suite of tools and information that Netrider has to offer.

Night time freeway riding - what lane position do you use?

Discussion in 'New Riders and Riding Tips' started by robsalvv, Sep 26, 2011.

  1. Last night, about 10pm while driving on the Westgate freeway, a dark red Across (250cc) with a dark geared motorcyclist ambled past me. Nothing unusual about this. The rider got ahead then changed into my lane. Nothing unusual about this either.

    I immediately noticed though, that the motorbike/rider silhouette wasn't all that clear in the head lights and then become indistinguishable just out of head light range (despite the freeway overhead lights). A single red tail light was all that pretty much defined the bike. It reminded me about a similar night time freeway incident I wrote about a while back: https://netrider.net.au/forums/showthread.php?t=116988

    A single red tail light is not a lot to define a motorcycle at night. Then it dawned on me, the rider was holding strictly to the right wheel track and if I didn't know that that red dot ahead of me was a motorbike, I would swear that it was a car with a tail light out. I can't decide whether it's a good or bad thing for a dopey half conscious driver to consider that the red dot ahead is a car. At least a dopey driver has the paralax and perspective change of a car's rear reflectors to warn them that they are bearing down on a vehicle... but this is not so with a motorbike.

    So I'm mulling this experience over - especially since my bike is a darkish colour so would have similar silhouette issues. I'm pondering what I could do as a rider to communicate to the vehicles behind me that I am there.

    Just thinking out aloud, this is what's come to mind:

    = Ride with a greater awareness of traffic and headlights behind me. Puts it firmly in my hands - this sits well with me, but if I'm off my game or tired I hand all responsibility to the drivers around me... and we know how good they can be. So perhaps not the most robust method.

    = Ride in the middle of the lane. A single red dot in the middle of the lane can't be a car. It's an unusual position for a tail light so hopefully that will elevate a driver's awareness.

    = Move around in the lane. Probably not slalom style, but a tail light that moves around in a lane is either a drunk driver with a tail light out so is to be avoided, or will be thought to be a motorcycle. Either way, it should elevate the driver's awareness.

    = Flash brake light randomly. Driver's instinctively respond to brake lights - it might wake up the following driver and cause them to back off.

    = Put a light reflective strip on the bike, ventura bag or jacket. I'll probably do this to my bag as it is almost always on the bike. The right kind of 3M strip strongly reflects light at night. It might be less cool to do this to my jacket or on the bike. Cyclists have a range of reflective sashs, arm bands, ankle bands and other reflective tags to fit to bikes & gear... some of that might be useful... or even the dreaded hi-viz vest - one of those with reflective strips.

    Something else?

    The risk of a rear ender in light flowing traffic at night on a freeway is probably fairly low - so weigh up the risks as you see them. Just thought it was worth posting up to start a discussion... especially if you've never once considered applying a different set of rider thinking at night time.

  2. Most of my riding is done at night, at times very late, 70% on the freeways / motorways. I've got a black (& chrome) bike, all my riding gear is black.

    Funny thing is, most of the near SMIDSY's have occured in the daytime. Maybe its cause there's more traffic?

    But at night and especially on the freeways, i never keep my bike in one track. I drift between the left and right tracks constantly, almost like a mini-smidsy maneuver. IMO, my single red light attracts the the eye as it isn't stationary. Same goes for my headlight for the car in front.

    I've also got a ventura rack, but never thought the silver would reflect via headlights.
  3. This problem can be worsened by a background full of lights etc, especially since many windscreens are'nt spotless, refracting light enough to dilute the clarity of view even more.

    What i do is put reflective tape in various stategic locations. These can be spotted long before a tail-light. I have a few on the front of the bike, at the sides to make me visible when i am waiting to come out of a sidestreet. And i have some on the rear of my helmet, and on the tailpiece facing backwards near my numberplate.

    I find hi quality reflective tape something that can be spotted alot earlier.

    If i'm just maitaining the speed limit, i don't use the outside, and if i did, at night, i prefer to ride mid lane. (not the safest, but on balance at night probably the smartest on the whole.

    That rider, riding rh wheel track in the outside lane is poorly positioned in daylight, let alone at night.
  4. Ive always wanted to install a few well placed LEDs, like how aircraft outline their boundaries with lights.

    Additional LED brake lights are quite cheap, you can make or buy 2 stage ones - regular warning lights then brake lights.

    Theres probably no evidence that this does anything, otherwise we would have more prominent lights? I do like the idea of more than 1 brake light though.

    Maybe a triangle. Then drivers will think a predator is about to put a plasma burst through their head.
  5. I probably tend to hang around the centre lanes. I don't ride in the left lane at any time if I can avoid it due to the merging traffic. During the day, I usually ride in the lane one over from the right (good set up to split - I ride on freeways mostly during peak).

    If I'm riding at night (like I will tonight), I'll hang around the centre lanes and try to move around my lane a bit. My jacket has a thin reflective strip on the back, but it would probably be a good idea to add some to my backpack and near the numberplate.

    Where's the best place to buy this tape? And should I add some rim tape?
  6. I don't ride on freeways, but on single lane highways at night. My bike and gear are predominantely black, but the jacket has reflective silver sections on it. I didn't even realise they were reflective until my wife followed me in the car one night, say's I was lit up like a christmas tree.

    As for lane position, I tend to move around a bit. Oncoming traffic can think a bike is a car in the far distance, and overtake into my lane when it is not safe. I once had a bike go past me in my lane in the other direction. I was on the left edge at the time, but brown trousers or what... Use of high beam where appropriate helps with this situation.

    Not much catches up or passes me at night.
  7. Couple of good points to widen out the discussion in terms of which actual lane you're in, but I was actually talking about once you're in a lane, where in the lane do you ride? Holding to the right wheel track at all times doesn't seem to be the smartest thing to do. Broaden that out to which lane you're in and there's another layer to consider.

    Raven, just spotted that supercheapauto have self adhesive 19mm wide reflective tape for $7 for a 600mm long roll. A strip on the back of the helmet is a good idea.

    Reflective rim tape can bring a tron like effect to a bike.
  8. Oh please build one of these!! LMAO!
  9. I've seen elsewhere with takamii where there are LEDs on the wheels... Some think its tacky and the legality is questionable, but it would solve visibility issues at night!
  10. High-vis vests help a lot - a rider I know on a CBR600RR has one and yeah, it really does make a lot of difference at night when looking at them from behind. Not because of the colour, but because of the reflective tape. I've kept this in mind when buying jackets:


    Has a huge icon in reflective tape in it which was a pretty big factor (along with the ****load of air it moves).

    I also have a topbox with another entire set of running and brake lights which I try to put on when I do night-rides for this reason
  11. I used to do a lot of overnight motorway runs back in the UK. Oddly enough, I didn't feel particularly vulnerable if there was a decent amount of traffic as it was a reasonable bet that (a) drivers would be awake and (b) I'd usually be illuminated by someone else's headlamps.

    Where I felt at risk was on empty, unlit stretches. Under such circumstances I was in the habit of keeping one eye on my mirrors at all times and, if a set of lights was gaining on me, I'd get active about moving about in my lane and, in particular, I'd flash the brake lights a bit. I'd only relax once the potential threat was past.

    Getting rear ended at night was always a consideration as there were frequent cases (generally, not specifically bikes) of folk getting cleaned up by following vehicles with snoozing drivers. For the same reason, being stationary on the hard shoulder (emergency lane) wasn't a healthy place to be at night. Or at any other time really.
  12. I usually ride home at night (probably not so much soon with daylight savings) and tend to move inside my lane...usually as I am approaching a car to the left/right lane. Moving from left wheel track to the right and so forth. If I feel like warming up tyres, I'd be doing slaloms, and most of the time, car behind me would back off and car in front notices me and for some reason changes lane to let me pass (left lane mind you).

    Either way, I ride a silver Across, wear camo black/grey/white draggins and black/white shift leather jacket with a black helmet...I'm like a ninja if it wasn't for the silver bike. I think, my some times erratic riding, actually keeps me alive because people notice a hoon faster than a everyday rider.
  13. I never stick to a fixed lane at night but if/when I do, it's usually either the left lane or the middle lane.

    I always keep a watch on the rear view mirrors as well. Plus the bag I carry has a huge reflector material flap.
  14. The big dainese symbol on the back of my jacket is reflective, as is a bit on the back of my tail bag.

    Otherwise you'd think moving around and possibly flashing your brakes would get a drives attention.
  15. Is there really a constant correct wheel track or lane?
    Probably not..
    I'd say the correct position would be constantly changing depending on traffic, road conditions, etc..

    I also believe that at night too often, a motorcyclists could easily be mistaking for a car with a broken head/tail light.
    Even worst, someone could mistaken your headlight as the right or left head light of a car behind you depending on the angle causing a night time SMIDSY!

    Maybe something to contemplate would be different lighting system for motorcyles.
    We identify flashing lights with cyclists so something different for a motorcycle could be of use..

    How about a blue tail light?
    That's something that would clearly identify moto ahead.
    Or would that upset the popo?

    Just a thought..
  16. i'm looking to add some of that reflective black tape to my saddlebags soon for this purpose.

    You know the stuff, black in daylight but reflects at night
    Like this

    A reflective triangle on each saddlebag should help. That shape seems to catch cagers eyes pretty well. Makes em' think COPS!

    I'd love to add LED running lights to make myself more visible from the side but I am not sure about the legality of that. Trucks light up like Christmas trees! Thats what I want :)

    That said, I tend to go between the right track and the middle of the lane when there is no one immediatly oncoming. MUCH further left when someone is (because cagers go to sleep at night)
  17. Should have some sort of reflective artistic sticker on your helmet? Maybe the Tron type helmets people have been talking about.

    However I do prefer a bright white halo under the belly pan, like a riced up motorcycle...pretty sure a bright halo will be noticeable...
  18. Good timing for this topic. I purchased some of that black tape for my various modes of bikes transport (motor and push bike) off flea bay. My plan is to put a stripe across the back of my helmet and onto my bag.

    Position wise, I'm not sure there is any one always right answer.
  19. You'll find me in the RHL and doing 5-10ks over the limit always (FTP)
    It means I only have to protect the left. And if anybody comes up behind me faster it means I have a cop or I have cop bait. That's the only time I pull into the next lane.
    If I'm in the RHL I'm in the LH wheel track so I'm as big as a car, even one with a tail light out.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. +1... I do exactly the same.