RoadRUNNER Zen Motorcyclist


Oct 10, 2012 View Comments by

Last Saturday afternoon I was driving in my car and found myself behind a couple riding two-up on a Harley out for a weekend ride. The weather was gorgeous, bright and clear and I found myself envying them being able to get out and ride while I was stuck in my car.

As a motorcyclist I’m always mindful to be careful when following a bike, I think we all feel protective of each other. Anyway, after a few blocks the couple started to make, what seemed to me, like a sudden left turn and I was caught by surprise since I hadn’t seen a turn signal or hand signal. I found myself imagining that, had I been distracted, I could easily have struck them from behind. As I passed them I realized their turn signal was in fact on, but it was so small and dim as to be completely ineffective and nearly invisible.

It’s easy to decelerate on a motorcycle without braking, I do it all the time; but doing so often gives a driver behind us no indication that we are slowing down and they have no warning signs to react to. As riders we never actually see our own bikes from behind so we really have no idea how visible we are. Many bikes have really weak, small, and dim brake lights and turn signals, but we don’t know it. It wasn’t until someone following me told me how hard my V-Strom was to see at night that I decided to take some steps to make myself more conspicuous.

It doesn’t take much, there are cheap fixes including reflective tape and gear, brightly colored helmets, silver foil tape inside the turn signal housing to make them a tad brighter, and the easiest of all is to always use hand signals or a few quick taps on the brakes. I’m not sure why more of us don’t use hand signals but I see almost no one do it. In the era of cell phones and distracted driving, anything you can do that sets you apart from your background and is conspicuous to a driver in front of, or behind you, is a good idea. The movement of you left arm stuck straight out for a left turn, or angled up for a right turn, is hard to miss.

The incident served as a reminder that we are invisible out there and have to be proactive in order to be seen, so I thought it was worth mentioning. Be safe.

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About the author

I have been motorcycle commuting since 1998. I created Zen Motorcyclist (formerly Commuting Motorcyclist) in 2011 and work as a motojournalist, software developer, CAD designer and IT/CAD manager in the Surveying and Civil Engineering field.