How to ride a motorbike at night

Riding your motorbike at night
Riding your motorbike at night

Whether you’re maximising your riding time on warm, drawn-out summer evenings or just commuting through the winter, you’ll need to know how to tackle riding a motorbike at night.

Riding a motorcycle at night can be very satisfying, with the roads less crowded and distractions swallowed up in the dark, but you have got to take some extra precautions to make it safe as well as satisfying.

Obviously, when the sun has gone down you can’t see the road ahead as clearly and so you need to make sure you leave more time to react to obstructions, potholes or anything else you might need to avoid. Cars also have increasingly bright headlights that can dazzle you as they approach. The job of seeing where you’re going gets even harder if it happens to be raining, too.

None of this should necessarily put you off riding in the dark, and if you fancy giving it a try, here are our top tips for how to ride a motorbike safely at night.

Make sure you can you see clearly when riding at night

It's important to keep your helmet visor clear when riding at night

If you ride with a tinted visor in the day, you’ll need to swap it for a clear one at night. You also need to make sure it’s free from scratches and clean. Scratches will distort your vision at night, especially with oncoming headlights. This is also a problem if your visor is particularly dirty.

Use cat’s eyes to ride in the dark

Cat’s eyes are your friends: they help guide you at night and give you some indication of what is ahead.

They can not only indicate which way the road twists and turns but if it’s legal to overtake, as double white lines have a heavier concentration of cat’s eyes. Don’t forget that motorways have different coloured reflectors, red on the hard shoulder, amber on the outside lane and green on slip roads.

Wear reflective clothing

High-vis detailing on your leathers could make the difference when riding in darkness

It still might not be perceived as being fashionable, but it’s important to be seen; fluorescent or reflective clothing really makes a difference.

Some kit has built in reflective strips – even gloves and boots, but we’d still advise a reflective vest or waistcoat especially if you ride regularly in the dark. Motorcycle headlights can look like car headlights in the distance to an oncoming driver but they’re more likely to recognise a bike if the rider is visible too.

Keep your headlight clean

For obvious reasons, your headlight works better if it is clean. It might be a pain in winter but it’s worth doing before you set off on a night-time ride. Most garages have a simple sponge and bucket of water near the pumps – and don’t forget to clean your indicators and brake lights at the same time.

Even removing a seemingly minor layer of dried on road salt will make a big difference to your headlight’s ability to illuminate the road ahead so it’s well worth the few extra seconds it takes at a fuel stop.

Don’t look directly at car headlights

Ensure you're doing everything you can to avoid being dazzled

It’s difficult but try to avoid looking directly into oncoming headlights. Try to focus on your own side of the road and use your peripheral vision to keep an eye on the edge of the road to your left.

If you think oncoming headlights are on full beam, don’t flash back as you may dazzle them and cause momentary blindness; simply reduce your pace to a safe speed and avoid looking directly at the oncoming vehicle.

Look for extra clues when riding in the dark

It’s more difficult to spot potential danger at night so use all your senses to look out for clues. You can usually smell diesel before you can see it. If you can smell freshly cut grass or a recently fertilised field be aware of mud on the road or slow moving farm traffic.

If you’re riding on a smaller road you don’t know, you can use the rear lights of cars up ahead to get advanced warning of where the next bends are where they go.

That said, don’t be tempted tempted to ‘link the dots’. For example just because you can see a car in the distance it doesn’t mean the road is straight, there may be a hidden dip or turn. Always assume the worst, leave yourself plenty of time and ride to what you can see.

Be very careful when securing your motorcycle when riding at night. Theft is always a risk...


Is it a good idea to ride a motorcycle at night as a new or beginner rider?

There’s nothing stopping you from riding at night as a beginner motorcyclist and it’s a great skill to develop for the future but we’d recommend gaining confidence in the daylight before you start riding in the dark. If you have to, take extra care and give yourself enough time to take action if you get things wrong.

What do you wear on a motorcycle at night?

Your standard bike kit is fine to wear at night but it might be worth investing in some extra reflective gear if you ride at night a lot. Hi-viz vests or belts are readily available, but at the very least check your normal kit has reflective strips or panels built in. You’ll also need a clear visor for your helmet.

How can I be more visible on my motorcycle at night?

Hi-viz kit is readily available and plenty of normal kit has reflective strips or panels built into it. Make sure your lights are all clean and working, including rear lights and indicators. Take your time and give drivers plenty of opportunity to see you, too.