Riding in Foggy Conditions

Riding in Foggy Conditions

Riding in fog—especially when it’s combined with rain and darkness—heightens a number of risk factors that prudent motorcyclists usually seek to avoid:

  1. Rider visibility of potential hazards, both ahead and from behind (like being rear-ended by a faster moving vehicle) is severely restricted.
  2. Accumulation of moisture on face shield and/or glasses further inhibits your ability to see the road and spot hazards.
  3. The ability of other vehicle operators to see you is significantly diminished.
  4. Rider spatial disorientation with the road and its surroundings increases the chance of getting lost or having an accident.
  5. Riders are much more vulnerable if their bike breaks down or runs out of gas.
  6. Visual loss of the horizon can cause misjudgment of the motorcycle’s lean angle and a greater chance of low siding the motorcycle on slick pavement.
  7. Emerging from a heavily forested area into fog illuminated by daylight can suddenly cause a whiteout effect, overpowering a rider’s wide-open pupils.

And the list goes on. The best advice for riding in fog is simply to not do it; wait until weather conditions improve before heading out. But there are times when it’s not practical to do so. I recall a Shamrock Tour when our lodgings were on a mountain that became severely fogged in while we were out riding at lower elevations. That dense fog was accompanied by rain and it was starting to get dark, so we continued riding to our destination.

If you find yourself caught in heavy fog, with no good alternative for avoiding it, let’s consider several strategies for mitigating the increased risk.

Slow down and continually adjust your speed as visibility changes.

  1. Take the most familiar route to your destination.
  2. Make sure you have a full tank of gas before departing.
  3. Check any strapped on luggage to ensure that it is tightly secured.
  4. Use a defogging agent on your face shield and glasses.
  5. Keep your headlight on its low beam setting to avoid light flaring off of the water molecules and further reducing visibility.
  6. Monitor your rear view mirrors for fast approaching vehicles from behind and, if necessary, prepare to take evasive action.
  7. If another vehicle is following too close, tap your brakes lightly to flash your taillight or turn on the bike’s flashers, if it has them.
  8. Wear reflective material and bright colors.
  9. Avoid sudden inputs to the brakes or steering, and use engine braking as much as possible.
  10. Follow the taillights of another vehicle, at a safe distance and speed, to reduce any spatial disorientation.
  11. Use the white line on the right side of the road as a point of reference and keep it to your right, particularly when there are on-coming headlights that glare out the centerline in the fog.
  12. Call ahead to your destination and alert someone as to your route and expected time of arrival.
  13. If forced to stop, either by the fog becoming too dense or a mechanical problem, move yourself and your bike well off the road.

Remember it’s always safer to anticipate and avoid dangerous riding conditions than to try and mitigate their risk once you are in them.