In the dark, our biggest advantage is greatly restricted and in some cases (being blinded by cars cresting a hill or coming around a corner with their full beams on) temporarily removed. This lack of visibility, coupled with often damp and greasy roads in the morning, results in a completely different riding style and approach to each journey.
I don't know about you, but when its damp, there always seems to be much more oil laid down on the tarmac. In reality I know that there is no reason why, when it's wet, other vehicles will leak more, because they don't. Its just that, in these damp conditions, the oil spreads itself on top of the surface, rather than staying in a concentrated droplets. Its this spread that makes oil the number one danger when your visibility is taken away in my opinion.
Now when the police and riding instructors talk about using our observation skills, there is a tendency for us to only think about the one sense; sight. That's totally understandable as we get approx 83% of our information through our eyes. But there are more senses as our disposal that could save us from a fall.
The first of these we all use without actually realising it. This is our sense of touch. When it's cold, we can feel it all over, so we know that there will, more than likely, be less mechanical grip. We therefore slow down and don't try to lean the bike over so far. To a lesser extent we use our hearing as well. Although often muted by earplugs, we can still hear the vehicles around us, be they a car travelling too close, or an emergency vehicle approaching from the distance. This is all good and one of the many reasons why I don't listen to music on the bike. The sense that many people ignore though (and the actual reason for this blog post) is our sense of smell.
When we are riding, we are exposed to so much more than the average car driver. We can smell the countryside, we can smell that 150,000 mile Vauxhall Zafira pumping our toxic diesel fumes a few cars ahead, but we can also smell spilt fuel and large quantities of oil, well before we actually see it.
As part of my riding gear, I always wear a Buff neckscarf. Its a simple fabric barrier that I wear over my nose and mouth to help toxic fumes out of my lungs, but it still allows me to pick up that all too familiar smell, roll off the throttle and take a far more conservative approach to my speed an line.