When you're riding your bike, it's like nothing else. No matter whether you're going fast or slow, or even stopped in traffic, you're having a different experience than other road users. It's exciting and exhilarating, for sure, but it's also inherently more dangerous.
Even if you're the best rider in the world, you can't control what other road users do. Unfortunately, none of us can control how someone else drives, or even whether they're paying full attention to what they're doing. All it takes is one bad moment where a driver doesn't see a rider in front of them for something terrible to happen.
What Can You Do?
While we may not be able to control how other people drive, we can take certain measures to mitigate our risk. Wearing helmets and highly rated motorcycle PPE (including CE-rated armor) is a good start if the worst happens. But since we want to avoid the worst happening as much as possible, it's also a good idea to make it as hard as possible for drivers to not see you, or even to forget you (as one 2019 study found occurs in some cases).
With that in mind, here are several ways to help you get seen by other road users. None of these things guarantees that other road users will see you, but they should give you a better chance than completely blacking out your bike and wearing only dark, nonreflective motorcycle gear at night.
Wear Bright And/Or Reflective Motorcycle Gear
All those brightly-colored race replica motorcycle helmets you see do more than merely represent sponsorship deals between your favorite professional riders and helmet giants like Arai, Shoei, and AGV. They also get your attention, whether you personally like a design or not.
Keep that in mind next time you're helmet shopping. A stealth look can be cool, but if your goal is to get seen out on the road, you may want to go for a more attention-getting graphics scheme. Some motorcycle helmet graphics have reflectivity baked in, so keep a lookout for those designs, as well.
The same holds true for your jacket, pants, boots, and gloves. Since most people prefer a subtler design scheme on things that aren't their helmet, the thing you want to look for here is reflective piping, logos, and other details that gear makers have worked into their designs.
Think about layering pieces with reflectivity together, too. Just because you have a reflective stripe down the arms of your jacket, and a big reflective logo on the back of the jacket doesn't mean that you can't also have a reflective stripe down your pant legs or on your boots.
Remember, drivers are going to see you from all different angles on the road. The more reflectivity you have, the more opportunities there are for the light to hit just right so a driver sees you.
Throw A Bright Reflective Vest Over Your Super-Stealth Moto Gear
If you love your super-stealth, all-black jacket and pants most of the time, consider a night-riding compromise. Get yourself a neon reflective vest (like utilities and construction workers often wear), and keep it where it's easy to grab for night riding. Throw it on over your usual dark bike gear, and voilà. You'll instantly be visible to almost everyone else on the road.
It may not project the super-cool look you had in your head, but better reflective than seriously injured, right?
Try A Helmet Light
Slowing down on your bike often involves using the front, rear, or both brakes to varying degrees. This has the added benefit of illuminating your brake lights, so that (theoretically, at least) other traffic can see that you're slowing down and take appropriate action.
Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, not everyone always sees your bike's brake light. By using either an aftermarket helmet light or something like the lids in the Shark Skwal line (the new Shark Skwal I3 has an integrated brake light, but previous Skwals have long used LEDs for added visibility), you increase the chances that drivers will see you when you stop.
Aftermarket helmet brake lights usually make use of strong double-sided tape to mount in place, much like Bluetooth communicator base plates and action camera mounts. Things to consider here include weight, balance, and also whether you're comfortable sticking double-sided tape on your favorite helmet.
If you're feeling especially precious about not wanting to ruin a particular graphic (honestly, relatable content), you may want to consider getting a plainer helmet that you don't mind putting tape on for your night rides, then installing an aftermarket brake light.
Brighten Up Your Bike
Now, we're not telling you to go out and buy a whole new bike just so you can choose one with super-bright paint. (If you want to do that, it's up to you. We won't stop you.)
You can get reflective and/or retroreflective tape (they reflect light differently; retroreflective tape is commonly seen on safety vests) and stick it wherever you choose. Carefully cut a strip and use it as rim tape, cut some shapes out and tuck them up under the tail of your sportbike, or find other creative ways to make your bike stand out in the dark.
Auxiliary lights can be helpful for both seeing and being seen at night, but their visibility is usually limited to road users that can see the front of your bike. If they're seeing you from the side or the rear, they probably won't notice your extra (and extra bright) lights.
Don't have extra money to spend? There's another way to potentially draw attention from other road users when you're riding at night, and it requires zero extra dollars spent on your part.
Instead of simply activating your brakes and coming to a stop, try flashing your brake lights by grabbing and then releasing the front brake lever quickly. You don't even have to pull it all the way in; just tap it enough to engage the light. The flashing lights should draw more attention from other road users than a solidly illuminated light, just because it keeps changing.
You could also consider accent lighting to increase visibility, but be sure to check your local laws and regulations before making lighting modifications to your bike. Some jurisdictions may frown upon (or even completely outlaw) these types of modifications.
Make An Effort To Stay Out Of Driver Blind Spots
If you can see yourself in a driver's rearview mirror, they should be able to see you. As a general rule, stay out of blind spots around other road traffic as much as possible. That way, if they have to make any sudden maneuvers (such as avoiding potholes or road objects), your risk is minimized.
That's not always possible when you're passing, lane splitting, or lane filtering. However, as much as possible, you should give other vehicles space and avoid crowding them. The more space a vehicle has, the easier it is to avoid a collision if something happens and they suddenly have to change course. If you're too close, they could already be moving around in the lane and accidentally taking you out in the process. Easing up off their bumper makes that much less likely.
You might think that your bike has a pretty loud and distinctive sound, but especially on a busy road, it might not stand out from all the other road noise around you. Plus, anyone hearing your exhaust will hear it best when you're in front of them, not behind them. Staying out of driver blind spots is your safest bet, no matter what kind of bike you ride.