More from Motoring

As children, I’m sure most of us were afraid of the dark. The blackness represented the unknown, an unwelcoming place for fragile minds. You had to be brave or foolhardy to venture into the shadows. Then, we grew up. Well, at least our bodies did. As Bryan White once said, ‘We never really grow up. We only learn how to act in public.’ In my experience at least, no other group of humans is greater proof of this quote than motorcyclists. No wonder most of us are still afraid of the dark. Well, at least I am.

In daylight, I’m usually at peace when riding, thoughts disappearing into the wind, left swirling harmlessly in the motorcycle’s wake. The passing scenery and a motor’s varying hum inside my helmet provokes a bit of motion hypnosis, a kind of conscious trance. At night, however, it all goes to hell. ‘Is that a dog?’ ‘Is that a person?’ ‘Is that an Excalibur-wielding T-rex battling a winged dragon that’s wearing bunny slippers?’ Every movement in the darkened distance, actual or imagined, immediately acquires DEFCON 1 status. Most of the time, my reaction is that oft-repeated two-word phrase (rhymes with ‘duck it’) that escapes the lips of those who are cornered but refuse to give up. It is part prayer, part helpless determination.

And then I go for it anyway. It’s only when I’m off the bike that shivers run down my spine, as I realise how easily things could’ve gone wrong. Our roads are taxing enough in broad daylight. At night, they’re downright dangerous. Night-time oncoming traffic makes me lose faith in humanity. It’s a high-beam assault whose sole purpose is to turn you into Ray Charles minus the musical genius. And whatever bike I’m on at the moment, electricity never actually seems to reach the headlight, especially with these new-age LEDs. It is a physical law waiting to be discovered: the light is always brighter on the other side. And once the idiot with the eternal high-beam has barrelled past, you have no option but to plunge into the terrifying unknown, an event that causes more anxiety than the first manned space mission. Parallel to the jitters, you also realise that evolution has not made the process of dilation of pupils fast enough to cope with modern-day night-time motorcycling. It’ll be a pretty wasteful way to end up at the pearly gates (or the other much warmer place in the deep south), blinking like a fool, regaining focus only in the afterlife. Of course, you could go slow, your speed governed by your headlight’s glow. However, being rammed from behind does not seem like a viable alternative to me. The solution?

Well, I’d ask for better-lit streets and highways, but that’s depending on people who cannot be depended upon — civic bodies and government agencies. More realistically, I’d opt for aftermarket auxiliary lights to be switched on only on the darkest of roads. They’d put extra demands on the electricals, but a blown fuse every once in a while or a reduced battery life is much better than you and your bike cartwheeling over a rock that a trucker neglected to move after fixing
his stricken vehicle.