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Night Riding

I went on a midnight to dawn poker run a while back. With a long nap that afternoon, I was refreshed and looking forward to this rather unique outing. The route was mostly freeway so the traffic was light with limited access and everyone going in the same direction. The stops along the way were all at brightly lit 24 hour gas stations with convenience stores providing restrooms and refreshments.

The run was held on a night with a full moon in a cloudless sky that kept some of the darkness at bay. The cool of the night was invigorating as the brightest stars sparkled like diamonds high overhead. At times I seemed to be all alone on the highway in peaceful solitude as I rode the longer than normal distance from one stop to the next.

I'm in a Hurry But as calm and quiet as this ride seemed to be, there are some real challenges associated with riding at night. At dusk and dawn with the sun low in the sky, visibility can be greatly compromised. It’s hard to see if we’re looking directly into the sun and hard to be seen by other drivers facing it when we’re running away from it. Similarly drivers staring at the sun while approaching from our side may only see “sun spots” when they turn their head to look for traffic, totally missing our presence before pulling out in front of us.

As we add candles to our birthday cake, it takes twenty times more light for us to see things at age forty than it did when we were twenty. This simply means it is harder for us to see under reduced lighting conditions than it was when we were younger. Seeing debris like gravel and road lizards lurking on the road is made more difficult at night. It is also tougher to see animals along the side of the road that are waiting to run out and bite us.

The headlights of oncoming traffic can make it harder to see what’s lurking ahead to get us. Even the sudden glare of the lights around a shopping center can hide possible problems for us. It also takes more time for our eyes to adjust to the difference in lighting when looking down at the instrument cluster and then back to the road.

Recognizing these challenges of night riding allows us to be prepared for them and to choose strategies that reduce their effect. Ensuring that our headlight is properly adjusted is a great starting point. We want it to illuminate as much of the road surface as possible so we can see any hazards awaiting us. Yet we don’t want to be blinding oncoming drivers and their ability to see where we are and what we’re doing.

Adjusting our speed to compensate for the reduced visibility provides more time to deal with whatever we come across as we tool down the road. Choosing where we position ourselves within our lane and how we approach the various situations we encounter can also improve our visibility and expand our options for dealing with them. Night riding poses its own challenges, but by adapting to this darker environment, we can still enjoy the serenity of it.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!