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Be Loud! Be Proud!

When I talk to driver education classes about sharing the road with motorcycles, I ask what words come to mind when they think of a biker. Normally their list of words includes "loud." Many bikers seem to relish being as loud as they can going down the road while other riders are concerned that being loud will just irritate non-riders and create problems for all motorcyclists.

Obviously these folks are talking about the volume level of the exhaust coming from a bike. There are new local laws popping up to address noise levels from cars and bikes and several groups are trying to develop sound level standards for motorcycles. I wonder if that noise has any chance of competing with the 200 watt sub-woofer in the back seat and why more riders don't install louder horns on their bikes if it does.

Being loud on the road is not bad. In fact I think we should be as loud as we can be to attract attention in traffic. But I'm not talking about increasing the volume of the exhaust notes emanating from our tailpipes. I'm referring to finding ways to be loud so we stand out in the crowd of vehicles on the road. Visibility is a major issue for us and anything we can do to make it easier for other drivers to see us on the road will only help our cause.

One way to get noticed is by our choice of apparel while we're riding. Riders often complain that drivers don't see them and then wear dark colors that make it even more difficult for others to see. We've all seen movie and rock stars wearing loud clothing so they get noticed. That same approach can help us be seen on the road. I'm talking about trading the traditional black clothing that doesn't show road dirt as easily for brighter colored riding gear the makes us stand out in the traffic mix.

Newer and more comfortable textile gear is readily available in a multitude of designs and colors. Even leather gear now includes better ventilation for comfort and comes in brighter colors for visibility. Retro reflective tape, patches and piping on our gear can also make us much more visible at night as well. It's even more important to be bright when it's raining because it's harder for everyone to see around them. Rain gear that is so bright it needs batteries might not be a bad choice.

In addition to loud clothing, auxiliary lighting added to our bikes can also improve our visibility. Fog lamps and passing lights, be properly aimed so as not to blind other drivers, can help us stand out in the traffic crowd. Now that other vehicles are operating with day time running lights, we can't just rely on our headlight any more. Installing a headlight modulator, legal in all fifty states, causes a steady oscillation between high and low beam that can attract attention to our bike. These systems use a photo sensor to automatically turn off in low light conditions.

So dress loudly while you're riding proudly. Outfitting ourselves and our bike visually loud allows us to be more readily seen by others on the road. Get noticed more easily in traffic by being conspicuous. It can make the difference in how much we enjoy our ride.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!