Motorcycle Tips & Techniques

Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics

Skip Repetitive Navigational Links
Safety TipsRiding Hazards   Tip124   Print article Print

Fewer Daylight Housrs
Don't go down with the sun

By: Cash Anthony

A number of area riders had the experience recently of having to ride for quite a few miles directly into a setting sun. The glare was not only a strain on tired eyes but also a very real safety issue, as it effectively blocked all visual detail in the landscape and made scanning for hazards almost impossible. Our lead bike saved several riders a bad spill by warning us of a large dog in the road: our thanks to him was heartfelt, because although the dog was roughly the size and shape of an adult Wolfhound (not a small critter!) and came completely into the lane, it was in shadow and couldn't be seen against the brilliant sun until we were all but on top of it.

Here's a thought about seasonal trip planning. During our long summer days, a group of motorcyclists can make good time and cover plenty of miles by getting an early start, when the temperatures are still cool. Even after taking a break in the hottest part of the day, many summer riders are already checked into their night's lodging and enjoying the pool by sunset. By the time the sun drops to the horizon and starts causing problems with visibility, their bikes are put to bed. As the daylight hours grow shorter, however, it becomes normal or even necessary to keep riding until twilight in order to make the day's destination.

Those who are planning rides can save themselves and their riding buddies headaches (literally) and worse by giving some thought to the sun's position relative to routing. If you're riding eastward, try to do so in the afternoon or evening so that the sun will be behind you. If westward bound, set off in the morning and keep the sun to your back. If neither of these scenarios is possible on your route, plan to take the north or south legs of a trip late in the afternoon, and do your east-west travel according to the sun's positioning earlier in the day.

While all of us who tour become familiar with riding toward the sun and that 'tipped head" position it can take (to permit a helmet edge, visor, or sunglasses frame to block the brightest light), this should be an occasional remedy and not one regularly used. It shouldn't be done for miles on top of miles, either, as this adds considerably to a rider's fatigue and stress. When it's become too painful or really impossible to see where you're going and what's on the road, the best choice is not to ride. Take a break, wait for the glare to diminish, and then go on. Otherwise you may be taking a chance that tearful admonitions to "Go to the Light!" will be the last thing you hear!

Copyright © 1992 - 2023 by The Master Strategy Group, all rights reserved.

(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

A plea for your help