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We all know that riding a motorcycle carries with it a certain amount of risk. As cyclists, we deal with exposure to the elements, inattentive drivers, lower stability than other vehicles, and a higher risk of serious injury if we are involved in an accident. These are all hazards that we choose to endure as the price for the freedom of the road. That is one of the things that sets us apart from most and that the general public will never understand. As brave a group as we are, there is still one type of riding that the majority of us shy away from and that is riding at night.

As many dangers as there are to riding a bike in daylight, once the sun goes down, those dangers are doubled. As much difficulty as other motorists have in seeing us and judging our positions in daylight, it is that much more challenging, once it gets dark. As riders, we have to account for our limited visibility and be more aware of pedestrian traffic, drunk drivers, unexpected obstacles and the overall road conditions.

There are times, however, when it may become necessary for us to ride at night, whether we enjoy it or not. So, in the interest of safety and in the hope of you never needing my services as a personal injury attorney, I would like to offer these few “Night Time Riding Tips for Motorcyclists”. I will start with what I consider the most important: properly adjusted headlights.

Why and When to Adjust Your Headlights

Vision is safety, and when you are on the road at night, your vision depends on your headlights being properly adjusted. Most motorcycles come from the factory with the headlights preset, but every rider is built a little different, sits a little different and the natural vibrations of riding can cause these settings to shift. Therefore, it is best to adjust them to your body and riding position and recheck them every ten thousand miles, or more often if you ride on rough terrain.

How to Get Them Right

If you have exposed headlights, adjusting them may be as easy as loosening a bolt or three and tweaking their position if you have a fairing on your bike, or if you are riding a custom, you may have to break out the owner’s manual and read a little.

The method that I use and find easiest is to find an empty parking lot with little to no ambient light and a good size wall next to it or a field with a dense stand of trees as a border. I park about a hundred yards from these barriers with my headlights shining toward them.

Then, I sit on my bike in my normal riding position and see where my lights fall. On low beam, your lights should hit the ground about fifty yards out and your high beam should cast a wide circle on the wall or trees with just the bottom edge striking at ground level.

Properly adjusted headlights allow you to see what is ahead of you and prepare for or avoid it if you need to. The simple truth is you can’t dodge what you can’t see and few things are more shocking than hitting a pothole or section of broken pavement in the dark, running highway speed.

Take a few minutes, adjust your headlights and ride safe. Hopefully we’ll meet at the next rally and not in my office.