How To Ride in Low Sun

How To -

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The only thing more terrifying than realizing you’re on a motorcycle and can’t see where you’re going is realizing you’re on a motorcycle and no one can see you. Here are some tips help keep you safe when you ride in low sun.

Look toward the direction of your shadow, that’s the direction people can’t see you from.
If your shadow is in front of you, the sun is at your back which means it is directly in the eyes of oncoming traffic. Likewise, if your shadow is behind you, the sun is in front, making you almost invisible to the traffic that is following you.

Use a photochromatic lens or, better yet, a clear visor with a piece of tape across the top.
The tape will act like the brim of a hat, shading your eyes from the sun without impairing the vision from the rest of the visor. Either way, a clear lens is best because your eyes actually have a more difficult time adjusting to the light at dusk than they do at night.

Stay to the outside of the lane when stopping.
For those of you who live in those silly states where it’s illegal to lane split (ie most of you), we recommend at least pulling to the outside of the lane when stopping at red lights. This is especially true if the sun is directly in front of you, as this is when you are the most likely to be rear-ended since the car behind cannot see you.

Look for additional exits.
It’s always a good idea to have a buffer zone around you and to know where your outs are, should you need to make a quick exit from your lane position. This need is amplified when low-visibility conditions are thrown into the mix, so give yourself additional room and always be aware of multiple exits.

Slow down.
Slow down anytime riding conditions are not optimal, whether it be rain, fog, or low visibility. I can’t stress this enough. Yes, it’s the end of your day and that your significant other is at home waiting with dinner. Motorcyclists have a tendency to ride faster when conditions become poor because you just want to get through it. Even so, you’ll always need every second of allowable reaction time when that van driver that’s moving the sun shield to cover his own eyes doesn’t see you.

Avoid if at all possible.
Sunrise and sunset actually happen fairly quickly. If your commute is short and you can wait an extra 10 minutes, it’s a good idea to just not put yourself in this situation as light conditions are against you.

Share your best go-to advice for riding in low sun below.

Related Links:
Safety:
How To Ride A Motorcycle At Night
Safety: How To Ride a Motorcycle In The Rain
How To: Be an Expert at Commuting on a Motorcycle

  • Clint Keener

    I want to buy a vinyl plotter and make vinyl visor strips.

    • Davidabl2

      Hand cut will also “cut it”-I’ve put contrast stripes onto my helmets that way. btw, contrast stripes let alert folks behind you know when you’re turning your head…yet another reminder besides the blinkers that you’re about to make a lane change. Or in CA, that you’re about to leave the splitting lane for a cage lane ;-) Or vice-versa..

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Duct tape works just fine. Or painter’s if you really want to make sure you can get it off without residue (stick it your jeans before applying to visor).

      • KeithB

        I use an aftermarket visor that works great when riding into the setting sun.
        Keeps the sun off my face in the day time as well.
        Been using this for over 10 years and wouldn’t be without.

        http://www.super-visor.com/

      • Clint Keener

        Duct tape grey will clash with my Shoei paint scheme.

    • ben

      If you’re in LA (or have access to a complex network of computers that serve to provide instant access to marketplaces all over the world) there’s this stuff called Gaffer’s tape. It comes in 50 different colors, it’s a strong, water proof, fabric tape like duct tape and residue free like painter’s. It’s strong, stylish, comes in a dizzying array of widths and maybe just the best tape the world ever produced (it’s a little expensive).

      I love the stuff, I’v never thought to put it on my visor, but It’ll definitely do the trick.

  • Nils Holdrinet

    Or maybe instead of a photocromatic lens for your helmet get a decent pair of sunglasses (I can recommend Oakleys or Serengetis) that fit inside your helmet. I have a Arai Vector 2 and I have a pair of Oakley sunglasses that fit nicely. Optical quality of the sunglasses will undoubtedly be better and it will offer you better vision and clarity in low sun situations.

  • akvamme

    until the sun gets too low, my icon variant helmet is fantastic. just dip my head down a bit, and i’m set.

    • Piglet2010

      Yep, I do the same with my cheap Fly Trekker lid.

    • Khali

      Same for me, Icon Variant :)

  • Phil Mills

    This time of year I like a tinted shield with a pair of sunglasses – I’ll put the sunglasses on and then leave the shield mostly open and use it like a sun visor. YMMV if you’ve got a freeway commute and have to deal with wind, but in town it does pretty good.

    • Davidabl2

      In a lot of places if you have a freeway commute anytime near dawn or dusk you’re not moving any faster than in-town speeds…

  • Andrew Karmy

    There has been a glut of these, click-bait, style articles as of late. If this is what it takes to keep RideApart alive then so be it, but if its just an editorial choice, well its annoying. Hopefully this pays off.

    //unpopular opinion.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Click bait? I’m sorry if you’re such an expert that you have nothing to learn about riding, but there’s a number of people who do (including me), so we’ll just keep producing the kinda content that does so.

    • kentaro

      Dude, what are you talking about? Don’t you see the new and prospective riders commenting on this site? This information can save lives. I know stopping near the outside of my lane, keeping the bike in first gear and checking mirrors at a stop have saved me from significant damage to my body in the past. I actually learned about the tape trick on the visor here which is quite smart and I don’t consider myself a beginner. I don’t know how you could have that kind of attitude towards an article offering ssuggestions for riding safely.

    • Jai S.

      How is this clickbait?

      It’s a short article, but it’s a simple subject. This article’s value is because many riders don’t think deeply about (or even consider) this topic, but having this knowledge makes riders safer and more competent.

      Having this knowledge on the site is helpful for me, because I can send a bunch of these kinds of links to new riders.

    • Joe Bielski

      If “click-bait” is anything like “jail-bait”, then I’m ALL over it :P
      Also, I found this article pretty informative… I didn’t realize that if I’m riding into the sun, people behind me have a harder time seeing me….

      • Brett Lewis

        I should have thought of that too.

    • jgroszko

      Click-bait would be when they start doing buzzfeed lists every day… “10 Hello Kitty Motorcycles”

      • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

        scratch that one from my list…

    • Mr. White

      Considering that I only started riding this April, and the setting sun is now a major issue on my daily commute, I found this article helpful.

  • Honyock Undersquare

    Beware the top of the hill when riding in the canyons. It is all too easy for the eyes to become adapted to the shade, setting you up for a long period of total blindness when you crest the hill and take the sun full in the face. You needn’t ask how I know.

  • Kr Tong

    Nice article. Something i never thought about before.

  • Paolo

    Somehow the cliché of “Riding into the sunset” isn’t so appealing to me now…

  • El Isbani

    I’m a proud newb, live in Texas (no lane splitting) and use that advice of stopping on the line between cars or on the outside line everyday. Gives me some peace of mind knowing I’ve rear-ended someone way back when due to driving with sleeplessness, thankfully wasn’t someone on a bike or moto.

  • beefstuinit

    You forgot to add – “have a clean scratch free visor.” I made the mistake of scratching up my first clear visor and it became useless in low sunlight like this. I replaced it and look after the thing better and it makes a world of difference.

  • ThruTheDunes

    Up here in the forested Northeast, as the sun sets, you get flashes of blindness streaking through the shadows of the trees. I had a dark set of prescription lenses (I have to wear corrective lenses to drive) that helped, but it was still a tough go. So I went out on a limb and sprung for a set of polarized presciption lenses, and it really helped. No cure, but it really helped.
    Thank you for the tape idea – think I’ll give that a try.

  • Kevin

    “Stay to the outside of the lane when stopping.”

    Yeah, this. I would do this 100% of the time you’re on the road. Pattern recognition habits make motorcycles almost invisible when the brain expects to see a car. Move to the edge of the lane and you actually become *more* visible as you break the pattern recognition mold.

    Recall that famous video of the guy who got hit from behind at a stop light. He had a large car in front of him, so you can’t blame it on the sun. The driver just literally did not “see” a motorcycle there because she expected to “see” a car. The brain didn’t register a car-like pattern, henceforth nothing was there until BOOM.

  • AHA

    OR just wear an X-Lite X-551 dual sport with internal sun visor. Simples!

  • Justin McClintock

    Riding in low sun? Keep the sun at your back. Wait, you need to go into the sun? Ride the other way for a half hour. It’ll be up (or down) when you turn around. And you’ll get more riding time in! Double bonus!