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Riding in the dark ... where do you look?

Discussion in 'New Riders and Riding Tips' started by Opal, Feb 15, 2007.

  1. Recently I’ve been trying to do some practice in the local car park before work a couple of times a week. Normally I wait till it is light, around 6:30am, but this morning I went out at about 6am, when it was still quite dark. The first thing I noticed was that I was concentrating on looking at the small area of road lit up by my light rather than looking further ahead like I usually try to do when riding during the day. I tried to start consciously looking ahead but my eyes kept darting back to the area I could see, after all, what if there was a pothole or other obstacle on the road that I couldn’t see further in the distance and could only see when I was practically on top of it?

    Is this what you are meant to do when riding when it is dark? Look ahead but then keep glancing to just in front of the bike? Or do you just have faith that the road surface is likely to be good and keep looking further ahead?

    I tried searching for tips regarding riding at night but all I could find were discussions on coping with glare and lights coming towards you. This is more an issue of there not being enough light to begin with.

    Oh, I will try hi-beam next time, didn’t think of it this morning, but even with this on I suspect I would still not look as far ahead as I would during the day.

    Thanks for any advice.
  2. The cones in the centre of your eyes (which allow you to see colours) aren't as effective in low light as the rods at the sides of your eyes, so when it's dark, you need to use your peripheral vision more. Basically, don't stare straight at the thing you're trying to look at unless it's lit up.

    I've decided to upgrade the headlight on my bike as soon as I get a chance because I'm just not happy with it.
  3. Try adjusting your light to give a wider beam and aim for directly in front (so a longer beam of light)...Probs a bit harder when its dawn as well, some light but not enough to use the full potential of the head light
  4. you shouldnt be looking ahead constantly you should be looking roughly 5 seconds ahead and scanning back towards the bike, the bike goes where you look if your looking dead ahead 5 seconds ahead of you that pothole you ran looked at will end up under your wheels, always scan the road not just the section ahead of you
  5. Thanks for the advice.
  6. that 5 seconds range is probably quite good, considering you should be able to react and start slowing in 2... your eyes might not be able to see colours, but dark shapes should be visible.. half my riding is at night on highways with no lighting apart from the moon and stars, so I look to the end of my lights and try and see the dark shapes... tell you what,, cows on the side of the road can scare the crap outa you right smartly,..,. :shock:
  7. At night, Im usually looking straight up at the sky.

    I use High beam as often as i can because when something comes into the path of my low beam i've already run it over. :wink:
  8. Something I can add, mind you I do a lot of all night riding.

    On single lane roads stay within 30cm of the center line, when a vehicle gets close (specially a truck) drift to the outter left hand side but drift right back to the center as soon as posible. With practice you find yourself doing it automatically, no sharp turn just let the bike drift across.

    This is your most dangerous point in time, you can not either see or clearly see the road in front of you for that time. You must have scanned ahead as far as you can see to make sure there is no road kill you will run over during this blind period.

    Minor imperfections in the road surface will not matter, basic rule of dirt riding which applies is with enough momentum you must go forward. So do not grip the bars tight, relax and let the bike do its thing.

    I assume this is what you are talking about as with dual or multiple lanes you don't really need to see that well.

    If doing much night riding look at upgrading your lighting as most stock bike lights suck big time.

    Last, riding at night is my preference.
  9. From what i have been taught and my own experiences, night riding is fundamentally the same as day riding, in that you look where you want to go and let your peripheral vision do its job. What the other guys have said is also vaild.

    My first ride after getting my bike was at night. I would suggest getting a little practice in the night as well as your light routines and you'll find the right mix soon enough.
  10. Lets define what you are really asking.

    Are you talking:

    a) riding dual lane highways
    b) riding single lane main highways
    c) riding back country highways
    d) riding back country roads

    There is a difference.
  11. e) a quick fang up macquarie pass :twisted:
  12. Then you hardly need to think about what to look at now do you :cool:

    Could run that blindfolded once upon a time.
  13. Sorry, may have confused a bit.

    Davo - in regards to your (a) - (d) options, and including (e) from Matchstick01, I need an:

    (f) - None of the above option

    I'm still very new to riding. By riding in the dark I was actually referring to simply riding around local suburban streets. The smaller streets, although lit, have numerous trees that block the light so they are quite dark. Admittedly, I don't have to worry about cows, more cats and perhaps a rogue possum.

    I just noticed that not being able to see very far in front of me I started to focus my vision differently than I would during the day. This is what made me interested to know if there are different techniques used when riding in the dark compared to riding during the day.

    I figured there would be obvious differences eg. for an inexperienced rider like myself it would make sense to slow down (not that I go fast) but it didn't occur to me that where I would normally look would be so different.

    I think Mithel summed it up when he said I need practice. Quite sensible advice although at this stage I'm still working on getting my skills up to scratch during daylight. Real night riding is still something I have yet to try. However, I'm getting a taste for it given it is still dark at 6am.

    Thanks again for the responses.
  14. i do a moderate amount of riding at night and late evening (especially in winter)

    i try and keep to the same vision pattern as day riding.. can be tricky due to pi$$weak headlight though :LOL:

    I try to look ahead as far as i can see while also scanning up closer and side to side as normal. Just make sure you allow a longer gap between traffic etc.

    and if in the country...keep a look out for roos......and wombats of course.
  15. I work in vision and driving research - the low beam thing is quite accurate. Not sure about bikes but I know for cars the illuminated distance ahead with low beams is considerably shorter than the average braking distance at 60km/h.

    If you want to look for people who know what they are talking about on this topic have a hunt around for papers by Tyrrell, Owens, or Leibowitz.

    Quick summary of the research is use your high beams whenever you can get away with it - low beams suck.

    And remember to clean your headlight from time to time even if you're lazy about the rest of the bike - sounds stupid I know but all that dust will have an effect.
  16. RE: Lighting.

    One thing I've noticed is that when it's raining hard my lights do jack all. low beam OR high beam. The only reason I keep it on is so others can see me, otherwise I may as well have them off!
  17. For divine intervention? :wink:
  18. I went riding yesterday morning when it was still dark and this time remembered to use high beam. You are right, it makes a huge difference.

    Will also remember to regularly clean my light.

  19. [Edit: Oops, just realised that Davo said much of what I wrote below, and said it better-er, too. Amusing that he mentions dirt riding - I learned about it through mountainbiking.]

    The only meaningful thing I can really add is to not fixate at what's a metre or two in front of the bike's front wheel.

    The bike can handle itself as far as minor bumps and potholes are concerned; just let it do its thing. Better to be concentrating on the things further ahead of you (just like day riding) for visual cues and telltales.

    I tend to look for lighting cues - particularly shadows disappearing when another vehicle is approaching from behind a hill crest or from around a corner, an intersection, etc.

    In fact, this is probably my favourite bit about night riding/driving - you can see vehicles approaching much sooner than you normally would during the day!