Suzuki DR650 Conspicuity Page
Poor vs Better Bike/Rider Conspicuity
For motorcycles, conspicuity is more or less the act of being noticed. Although military bikes may do everything to avoid this with headlight kill switches, matte camouflage paints and lack of chrome, for all others, being noticed can mean the difference between a headon collision with semi truck and a very uneventful but pleasant ride.
Bikes tend to get hit from the front by cars turning directly into them. This is generally because the driver of the murder vehicle "didn't see" the rider. Likewise, many other collisions are blamed on drivers not seeing a motorcycle. So beyond defensive driving skills, there are a few things you can to to help you get noticed and possibly eliminate the occurrence of a potential fatal collision.
Green in wooded areas, tan in the desert, black at night and gray on paved roads are some of the worst colors for conspicuity. Bright colors, especially bright fluorescent ones, are the best colors to get you seen during the day and are helpful at night. The one exception to the rule of bright florescent colors for conspicuity is fluorescent green which can sometime cause you blend in to highly vegetated green backgrounds.
Safety Hi-Vis Vest
Bright colors should be used on both the bike as well as the rider if possible. The subject of safety clothing is touched on in our Rider Clothing page.
The Motorcycle rider conspicuity and crash related injury case-control study published in the British Medical Journal in 2004 concluded that "Low conspicuity may increase the risk of motorcycle crash related injury. Increasing the use of reflective or fluorescent clothing, white or light coloured helmets, and daytime headlights are simple, cheap interventions that could considerably reduce motorcycle crash related injury and death." Their results suggest that wearing any reflective or fluorescent clothing reduced your risks of a crash related injury by 37% and wearing a white versus a black helmet reduced your injury rate by 24%.
Reflective tape is typically far better than the brightest of colors when riding at night as they take the bright headlights that are shined at them and throw them back at their source. These can be sewn onto clothing or taped unto helmets, luggage, gas tanks and/or pretty much anywhere on your bike. Reflective tape and paints come in many colors (even black) and can be added to a bike so that it doesn't distract from the bike's color scheme during the day. Other tapes are made in fluorescent colors and can be used to make eye catching patterns to help with conspicuity during the day.
More information on reflective tape can be found on the DR650 Reflective Tape Page.
It's not all about Bright Colors
Driver's view of bike
Being seen isn't all about bright colors or reflective tape. Some objects, patterns and shapes grab your attention better than others. Alternating red and white strips show up much better than a straight white line at night, despite the white reflecting back more light. This is why vehicle conspicuity tape standards for many countries requires the use of alternating red and white tape instead of just bright white tape.
Hard to miss Police Bike
Emergency vehicles in many parts of the world use bright colors and patterns to help their vehicles stand out so that they are easier see. Look at the police bike above; it would be hard to miss it day or night. Not only is the yellow bight, but the blue contrasts with it and causes it to stand out even more.
Besides your neighbors hating you, you may become the target of law enforcement types that are bored. In most places, its kind of fun to ride around with loud pipe - a juvenile hearing damaging fun, but fun none the less. It also does get you noticed. And a quick twist of the throttle may get you more attention than the sound of a horn.
Stebel Air Horn
Like reving the engine, this is another active safety device, in that you must activate it manually for it to do any good. Stock horns are generally inadequate and often ignored. On the other hand, a loud and obnoxious horn will get all drivers around you to look around and possibly abort any lane change or turn they may be in the middle of. They probably still won't see you, but you might create enough of a delay in their actions that you can safely get the hell away from them.
Cell Phone Jammers
Handheld Cell Phone Jammer
We all hate the ladies in their big SUVs who are talking on their cell phones and completely oblivious to everything around them. A cell phone jammer can be easily wired to a bike, but is probably more detrimental to rider safety than just letting the self-absorbed around you carry on with their conversations. If drivers were distracted with their conversations and trying to hold a phone up to their ear while drinking their Starbucks coffee, then they will be even more distracted when they try to redial, check their signal strength or attempt move the phone around the car to get a better signal.
If safety takes a backseat to you being a jerk, then a cell phone jammer may be the missing component to your unmuffled exhaust, headlight modulators hooked to dual high beams, Wig Wag, rude stickers, dead cat setup.
Cell Phone Instructions Sticker
Magnetic Yellow Cards - Cage Warning
These are cute, may help educate idiot cagers while allowing for a safer alternative to throwing ball bearings, rocks or eggs, which are difficult to transport. You simply keep one or two readily accessible and fling it at cars driven by folks that need a little education.
Must likely it won't help in educating those that need it in the first place and it may put the rider in danger. The hazard comes from not focusing on getting as far away from the driver as possible, fumbling for the magnet or after the driver in question decides to run the rider off the road after something was thrown at him. Although the road rage danger is a possibility, it generally isn't a concern as the potential yellow card targets are generally oblivious to everything around them, which is what made them a target in the first place.
Oblivious driver with cell phone yellow card and seat pushed way back
A better idea would be to make magnets out of the cell phone instructions show above.
Increased lighting from headlights, signal lights, marker lights and possibly accent lights can help greatly with nighttime and sometimes daytime conspicuity. It can be hard to miss a bike that looks like a Christmas tree covered in LED lights and pulsating brake lights.
The Motorcycle rider conspicuity and crash related injury case-control study published in the British Medical Journal in 2004 concluded that "Low conspicuity may increase the risk of motorcycle crash related injury. Increasing the use of reflective or fluorescent clothing, white or light coloured helmets, and daytime headlights are simple, cheap interventions that could considerably reduce motorcycle crash related injury and death." Their results suggest that using headlights during the day reduced your risks of a crash related injury by 27%.
Headlights are vital for front conspicuity day and night. In fact, the DR650 is wired to have the headlights on at all time on US and Canadian models. The question isn't whether you should ride with your lights on or not, it is whether to use low or high beams during the day or at night. One school of thought is that you should have your high beams on during the day to help the bike stand out. Another school of though suggests that high beams mask turn signals, which can create misidentification of a rider's intent to turn. And another school of thought is to ride with extra lights and with high beams day and night. This final concept more or less blinds and annoys all oncoming traffic, which will ensure that they notice you.
To complicated your selection of headlight use techniques, there are aftermarket options that allow you to run at a 30, 50 and 75% reduced level to allow for a compromised highbeam that increases conspicuity without blinding oncoming traffic.
These modulate the headlights bright-dim-bright-dim making the front of the bike much more noticeable. These are also very annoying to anyone you choose to tailgate.
Wig Wag Mode 1 and 2
There are a couple of light boxes that display a special alternating on/off light patterns when the brakes are applied or when the turn signals come one. These are useful when you are using your bike as an emergency vehicle, escort vehicle or ice-cream bike and need to have a constant strobing eye catching effect. For everyone else, these special strobing effect can be good or bad.
A quick triple blink then steady light is good brake lights. It grabs the attention of those behind you and then has the expected steady light that means you have your brakes on. Having mini LED auxiliary break lights that do this probably aren't a bad idea.
Break lights that constantly blink can be distracting and confusing. Even worse is the popular Wig Wag system that alternates blinking of left and right turn signals when the breaks are applied. This does get the attention of those behind you, but may confuse people to that point that they may try to pass you on the left or right. If you were also intending on turning in the same direction, this can of course be become a potentially fatal situation for you.
Standing out is a good thing for bike, but confusing idiot motorists around your is not.
Upgrading your signal lights to emergency vehicle high output lights is one way to increase visitation of your bike when signaling. Much more information on signal lights can be found on the DR650 Signal Lights Page.
There are a lot of pattern options for your signal lights. Most are reserved for special use, such as law enforcement, motorcycle escort, emergence response, etc.
The following are taken from Double Headlights:
Running Lights Only (no signals)
Pace Light 1
|Pace Light 2||Race Patrol|
Traffic-Jam Signal (Fog Signal)
Besides converting your turn signals to work as running lights, you can add lights that face out to the sides. This will help bike conspicuity somewhat during the day and to a greater extent at night. There are many aftermarket lights, including LED lighting that will fit just about every budget, shape, color, brightness and look.
Again, more information on signal and running lights can be found on the DR650 Signal Lights Page.
Hyperlites - Overpriced for what you get
Accessory Front Lights
Since most collisions to bike occur from drivers turning into them from the front, this would seem to be a good place to add lights. Other than adding working headlights (see the DR650 Headlights Page), you can add auxiliary lights designed for bike conspicuity.
If you add more lights to the front, you need to make sure that you increase the visibility of your turn signals. This can be done by replacing your turn signals with higher light output LED lights (most LED lights are dimmer than stock turn signals), high intensity emergency vehicle signals or yellow fog lights.
In regards to extra conspicuity lights in the front of the vehicle, some local laws will only allow you to add yellow lights. If this is the case, you have less options but options none the less. Options include bright white LED lights, auxiliary light housings with LED bulbs, yellow fog lamps turned into turn signals, emergency vehicle signals, etc.
Triangle of Light - must be a bike, or a train, but not a car
For safety reasons, its important to have additional bright lights up front It's even better to create a frontal pattern that distinguishes the bike from the cars behind it. One popular technique is to mount a pair of fog or other accessory lights higher or lower than the lever of the bike's headlight to create a distinctive "triangle" or "pyramid" of light.
Related Links (Front Lights for Conspicuity and Bling only):
Hyperwhites - Overpriced for what you get
Whelen EMS Lights - Superbright high quality lightheads (cop lights)
V-LEDs - LED bulbs (H4, H1, etc) and Fog Lamp
MR16 Light (Popular for DIY LED mods) Links:
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