The 2019 IBW was concluded on a high note. First of all, we hope that our tips to ride to IBW and back made your ride better, faster, and yet safer. Faithfully you serviced your motorcycle post the event and now your motorcycle and you are all ready to blast towards 2020. But, are you sure your motorcycle was given everything it needed for yet another long ride? Are you sure the mechanic (with all due respect) has ticked everything off the list which will not make you strand or just stand roadside? Are you sure if you are all ready to ride at night even when the motorcycle is fit and fine?
Remember when we used to blast around on 50cc scooters in our teens? We were so unwittingly equipped with knowledge of how tos to cure a vast, the then never-ending range of mechanical motorcycle problems or faults and then coaxing the motorcycle back to life. Thankfully, not only did we mature, but so did the motorcycles, making them modern and far more reliable nowadays.
Of course, no motorcycle is faultless, and as the motorcycles have become modern, so have the problems. Hence, there are faults or problems in a motorcycle that you can check for yourself but getting them done from your mechanic friend beforehand is neither a bad thing nor is it going to put you down. The main work like the engine, gearbox transmission, shock absorbers, forks, clutch or even subframe is something which needs a decent amount of infrastructure so let that be your mechanic friend’s headache, besides the fact that these things are unlikely to be remedied at the roadside. But, there are these tiny but crucial things you have to not only know but also get them in place before the ride starts.
Hence, here’s how to make sure that you and your local, trusted mechanic can tick off all the boxes to make an epic entry in 2020 even if it is a ride through the midnight, as we will not be talking about ticking the boxes for your motorcycle but about you making it safely through the night as well.
First, let's start with the mechanical parts that have to be taken care of. Before we proceed, remember, these are the parts that may seem okay while inspecting. But repairing or replacing them before the ride is the best way to go.
Now, imagine a situation. You are into fast-flowing corners and the motorcycle goes off. Well, believe it or not, I have come across a few riders who’ve complained about a motorcycle going off in the middle of the journey and after towing it to a nearby garage, the kill switch was an overlooked culprit that caused the pause. Checking the switch, its correct position and its connectors that lead from it are firm and tight is crucial. It is a mechanical part that might seem fine from the outside, but do check it thoroughly, inside and out, for the aforementioned points and corrosion as well.
Nowadays, most of the motorcycles come with a safety switch that turns off the motorcycle when the kickstand is left down. Due to its position behind the pivot point where the stand is mounted on the frame, this switch can attract corrosion and sometimes stick, causing failure. If the actuating plunger is stuck, pull it out manually and also check any connectors and wires leading from this switch are properly connected and not damaged.
This is applicable to almost every motorcycle nowadays that has a self starter. If the motorcycle is engaged in one of the gears, it will not start unless the clutch is pulled in. And considering the usage, it could malfunction without giving a warning, so check any connectors that lead to it and the switch is secured correctly. Generally, these don’t give problems but if you’ve fitted aftermarket levers it could be something to be aware of.
Ever noticed a tiny ticking noise when you thumb the starter? Well, this noise fades out when the starter motor won’t have enough surface area to conduct the current needed to crank up the engine. Look for intermittent failure of the lights, too. If you discover a loose connection, tighten up either with a spanner or screwdriver.
The starter solenoid fuse is often overlooked as it’s separate from the main fuse box. Connected directly to the battery, a blown solenoid fuse gives the same engine starting symptoms as a loose battery connector. Ensure the connectors are tight. Often there is a single fuse on the solenoid, make sure it’s not blown.
Fuses look little but if it goes faulty then it could even blow up entire components like, say, the headlights. No doubt they are the weakest part of a circuit but they hold few of those strongest parts intact. In case it malfunctions, imagine what it would be like to find a blown fuse in the dark! So, familiarise yourself with the fuses’ location and remember, don’t be tempted to fit a higher amp fuse to just ‘fix’ a recurring blown fuse.
Do carry a small LED or a normal filament torch. A small torch will run for hours and will let you see what you’re doing in the dark. Stash one under the seat for emergencies.
Now as far as riding at night is concerned, I fall in the category of someone who not only prefers but loves to ride at night. Especially till the cold, drawn-out foggy mornings which I think maximises my time on the motorcycle (topic for another day by the way). However, I’ve got a bunch of reasons why I ride in the night. One of the basic ones is the roads are less crowded and the distractions are swallowed up in the dark. But, you carry the risk with you once you are on the saddle, be it in the dark or not. Especially when it comes to riding at night with a machine that might refuse to go further for God knows what reason. Well, we ain’t God, but we could definitely try and cut those reasons down to zero and make that new year’s ride safe and satisfying when the sun goes down.
Ask yourself ‘can you see clearly?’ once in every 50km perhaps, of course you can decide this distance in accordance to your comfort level. Reason is pretty obvious, it's important to keep your helmet visor clear when riding at night so make sure it’s free from scratches and is clean. Scratches distorts your vision at night, especially with oncoming headlights and streetlights.
Don’t be under a wrong notion that using fluorescent or reflective clothing while riding is fashion, well it isn’t. Unfortunately it is still perceived as being ‘de rigueur’ among bikers, but that’s missing the point! It’s important to be seen. High visibility detailing on your leathers or textile gear could make the difference when riding in darkness. Some of them have built-in reflective strips - even gloves and boots, but I’d still advise a reflective vest or waistcoat.
You will be surprised to see the difference the headlights, tail lights and indicators make, when they are clean. I am sure you must’ve experienced it on the road when suddenly you see a motorcycle rising out of nowhere! But, he was already there, and you couldn't see him as that motorcycle’s headlight wasn’t turned on. Keep your headlight, tail light and indicators clean for obvious reasons. Carry a small, clean cloth and use clean water to keep the glasses / reflectors clean.
It’s more difficult to spot potential danger at night, so use all your senses to look out for clues. You can usually smell diesel or oil or petrol before you can see it. If you do, first of all slow down and get your focus on the road to look out for any spills and avoid going over it as much as you can, considering the traffic flow.
When you are riding in the dark and there are no clear references around to mark your lines of ride, do not assume that the road is straight and follow the car that seems to be at a distance from you. There might be bumps, dip or even a turn. Hence, don’t guess and stress yourself; err on the side of caution, and focus on the road.
The point of the ride, besides having fun and exploring new vistas, is to keep rolling until you either reach your destination or at least somewhere safe to stay put. But if you find yourself at the roadside with a motorcycle that refuses to move even an inch, try getting yourself back rolling rather than facing the long wait for samaritans.