White is the best motorcycle color for safety and visibility under normal circumstances. Because it easily contrasts with its surroundings, other drivers can see the motorcycle easily.
However, there are a few factors to consider. Let’s go over them to make sure you’re maximizing your safety on the road.
The Safest Colors
White is generally considered to be the safest color and is therefore used as a control for studies on the subject.
The most extensive study, one that’s often used by insurance companies for risk assessment, was done by Monash University’s Accident Research Centre in Australia.
This study was done on cars specifically, but we can use the data as a basis for motorcycles as well. The researchers found that the following colors had negligible statistical deviation from white, so they would also be safe color choices:
On the other hand, the scientists found the following colors to be up to 10% more likely to have a crash than white:
Some of these colors might surprise you. After all, aren’t red and green highly visible colors?
The problem with red is simple. Red is a low wavelength color and therefore one of the first our eyes stop detecting when lighting gets dim.
As a result, at nighttime or even dawn and dusk, your red motorcycle basically looks like a black one. In other words, invisible.
Green is a bit more complicated. While green is actually a highly visible color, the problem is one of contrast. Let’s look more into that as it’s the biggest factor you should consider when choosing a motorcycle color based on safety.
Contrast With Your Surroundings
Another study published in Human Factors looked specifically at how motorcycle color affects the safety of riders.
What it found was that the biggest consideration isn’t the color itself but rather how well a given color contrasts with everything around it.
This is one of the reasons white is so safe. Roads are black, so white stands out against it. However, if you live in an environment with a lot of white like an area with regular snowfall or cloudy days, white might blend in and not be all that visible.
In fact, a different study on cars actually found yellow to be slightly safer than white for this very reason.
While white might stand out in most situations, it occasionally blends in. Yellow contrasts with just about everything because there is very little yellow in the outside environment.
This is also the reason green isn’t as safe as you might think. There’s a lot of green in our environment, especially if you’re riding your motorcycle on long tours. A green motorcycle blends in with all the trees and bushes on the side of the road.
If visibility and safety is your top concern when picking out your motorcycle color, think about where you’ll be riding: the natural colors, the buildings, even what time of day. Then try to get a color that contrasts with that environment.
What About Helmets?
Unfortunately, the most visible colors can actually be hard to find. How many yellow and orange motorcycles do you see on the lot? Plus, you might not feel that these colors match your personal style.
Luckily, helmets come in a wider variety of colors that are easy to find. Getting a white or yellow helmet is a good way to add some visibility to your ride, especially if you have a dark-colored motorcycle.
In fact, it’s not just your helmets. If you have a black or blue motorcycle and are worried about safety, try getting your other gear in more contrasting colors like orange or yellow. This could be your jacket or hoodie, your gloves or boots, or even your luggage.