Overcoming Fatigue on Long Motorcycle Rides
As a motorcyclist it goes without saying that a motorcycle is more physically demanding to that of driving an automobile. The abundance of fresh air and the rolling road can be so relaxing it may induce sleepiness and a dangerously passive approach to operating your motorcycle. You might think it impossible to fall asleep on a motorcycle, on short or long motorcycle rides – but many have!
Numerous factors can lead to drowsiness only to be awoken as your motorcycle encounters the shoulder of the road, a close call, or a fatal result. And many riders who’ve experienced falling asleep at the handlebars and lived to tell the tale – weren’t aware they were tired.
Research shows that fatigue contributes highly to automobile accidents; fatigue is certainly a greater danger for a rider, for obvious reasons. And if you’re riding with other people it’s definitely a topic which needs to be discussed and accommodated as you plan your trip. Riders will have various requirements for rest depending on personal stamina.
To avoid falling asleep or becoming tired on long motorcycle ride, follow a few of these basic guidelines.
Unless you ride your motorcycle every day or take rides of three hours or most weekends – you may not be completely adapted to your bike. After a full day or two of riding, you will become acutely aware of muscles you’re using full-time to ride. You may be able to overcome some of this discomfort by properly setting up your bike and fitting components, such as a good after market seat which will aid to your comfort. Outside of adjustments, you need to give your body the chance to adapt. Taking breaks every hour or two, especially during the first few days of a long ride, will assist you during this adjustment phase.
Caffeine and Alcohol
Alcohol is always avoided when riding. Caffeine, coffee or cola, though briefly boosts alertness, are but temporary solutions and no substitute for adequate rest.
Adequate sleep can be a bit hard to come by before and during a multi-day ride. Best practise is to ramp up your sleep hours the week prior to departure. Adding on a few extra hours of quality sleep will start you off stronger and more prepared for the ride. The first few nights on your journey may not provide quality nights’ sleep- different surroundings, sore muscles and if you’re camping, weather and conditions can interfere greatly. And avoid using alcohol as sleep aid; it actually reduces both the quantity and quality of sleep.
Experts say that you’ll have “tired times” during every 12-hour cycle, most often between 3:00 and 5:00 pm (15.00-17.00). You may want to plan to arrive by that point or stop for an early dinner.
Naturally if overtired, make the choice to take a day off just to rest, relax and catch up on your sleep.
Diet and Physical Fitness
Being fit through diet and exercise also applies to fighting fatigue. Proper management here will increase your energy level providing you with more strength and alertness. Of course, drinking adequate water is important too, especially considering that you’ll dehydrate more rapidly because of your exposure to the wind.
Proper Motorcycle Gear
Extended exposure to wind and sun dehydrates and fatigues you much more than your routine weekend jaunt. Riding without proper gear in a tank-top and open-face helmet may seem like the best way to deal with the heat, but will actually wear you out and heat you up quicker than if a vented or mesh jacket is used. A full face helmet or an open face with face-shield / visor protects your face from the wind. Perspiration has the chance this way, to remain on and cool your skin if the wind flow is reduced but not eliminated. You will sharply reduce sunburn and windburn and their fatiguing effects by covering yourself fully. A windscreen on your motorcycle will also reduce and change the wind flow against you.
Wind noise (and exhaust noise if you have loud pipes) along with the drone of your motorcycle’s engine will not only permanently damage your hearing but will quickly fatigue you. Noise will be amplified further the smaller the form of head protection you wear i.e. a small skull cap helmet versus a full or open face helmet. The best solution will always be – earplugs. These should be part of your daily riding practice and an even greater asset for full day/long distance rides. You’ll fatigue less quickly, hear longer and appreciate these benefits when ready for sleep at night; the roaring drone in your ears isn’t as loud.
A windscreen can also deflect and reduce wind noise.
Vision clarity can be an issue on extended rides too. Significant distortion in your windscreen, visor, or even sunglasses can cause you to feel disoriented or tired or even induce headaches. If your windscreen creates this problem, or if you have a face shield or sunglasses that are optically imperfect, find a replacement or eliminate the problem. If your vision has changed so that your prescription is no longer adequate, get an exam and a solution prior to your departure.
Preventing fatigue provides benefits which go far beyond safety. Being alert and refreshed will ensure your motorcycle journey is more enjoyable. You’ll get more out of the surroundings, sights and experiences you ventured to explore!
Remember no matter how much you’re prepared, the moment you feel fatigued, get off the road, take a break and regain your strength. Worst case is to pitch your tent or book a room and sleep it off.
MOTORESS director, Vicki Gray is a basic, advanced road and race motorcycle instructor – certified for over 25 years. She is a motorcycle licensing examiner and has instructed, examined and licensed riders for European and North American road riding and racing schools.