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Any bona fide road safety professional will tell you that fatigue is a big contributor to crashes. It’s bad enough in a car, but what about motorcycles?
Ever been standing around telling motorcycle travel stories with friends who don’t ride and have them ask you “Does riding a motorcycle make you tired?”
If you’re an experienced rider, of course the answer is yes. The older you are the more tired you can be at the end of the day!
Many motorcycle riders or people looking to get into riding forget (or don’t take into consideration) whether motorcycle riding can make you tired. We all get a bit caught up in the ‘romance of the road’.
Of course, riding a motorcycle isn’t like riding a car (if it was why do it?), your body is definitely going to feel a change when you get off a motorcycle at the end of a day’s ride of at least an hour or more. Not the least of which is your back and your butt.
- Does Riding A Motorcycle Make you Tired?
- What Causes Fatigue On a Motorcycle
- What Are The Hazards Of Riding Tired?
- How To Prevent Rider Fatigue
- Summing it up
Does Riding A Motorcycle Make you Tired?
Yes. Physical riding demands, Length of trip and weather contribute to fatigue or drowsiness. A rider is at least three times more likely to crash while operating a motorcycle while drowsy.
Although there aren’t a lot of studies out there specific to motorcycle fatigue, keep this in mind;
According the the National Safety Council, when you’re driving a car, you’re at least three times more likely to crash when you’re tired or drowsy behind the wheel (or the handlebars in this case). Half of all adult drivers admit to being drowsy while driving.
That’s really two wake up calls for motorcyclists:
- Don’t ride your bike fatigued
- A lot of motorists are rolling around tired and are a danger to you
What Causes Fatigue On a Motorcycle
There are several different factors that go into making a motorcycle rider tired. All of these factors will be present when you ride and they all combine together to wear you down while you’re riding.
There are two big categories of fatigue that contribute to wearing down riders and getting them tired while riding a motorcycle.
- Physical Fatigue – Riding position, motorcycle ergonomics
- Mental Fatigue – Lack of sleep, physical limitations, street
Let’s take a closer look at a few specific things that will combine to make a motorcycle rider tired. Each one of these can be placed into the physical or mental category.
Length of trip
How long do you plan to ride for? Are you going out for the day or just across town? Is this a cross country ride?
Even if you’re day trippin’ you’re probably going to be in the saddle for at least 1 – 2 hours one way to get to your destination. Don’t forget that’s just one way or making the trip out.
You’ve still got saddle time to make the trip home, which means more opportunity for all these factors to start working on you .
There’s a lot that goes on physically with a motorcycle that you have to manage while riding. The weight of your motorcycle plays a big part as well what riding techniques you’re using at any given time.
If you’re riding Pacific Coast Highway with a passenger, you’ll be doing a lot of low speed turns and counter balancing for both miles and hours.
It’s obvious that weather can affect you when it’s raining. Severe crosswinds and heat will start to place physical demands on your body.
A beautiful sunny day can sneak up on you; Your day can start out nice and cool and then it can wind up making you feel like it’s too hot to ride a motorcycle at all. By the time you stop you begin to realize how much the has taken it out of you.
We ride to leave the world and stresses behind, but motorcycle riding itself creates its own kind of stresses. Dealing with traffic, watching for cars backing out while you’re going through a park lot, negotiating a tight low speed turn while your passenger gets squirrely…
All of these things place some degree of stress on the rider at one time to contribute to how tired a motorcycle rider can become.
What Are The Hazards Of Riding Tired?
Whether you’re riding on the interstate or trying to stay on the back roads, our nation’s highways are an ever changing landscape that motorcycle riders must navigate through. From drivers in cars to animals on or near the highway, motorcyclists need to stay sharp.
Here’s how mental fatigue can affect your riding:
- Reduced awareness or vigilance when riding – tailgating, not seeing road hazards
- Impaired decision making – Not stopping for rest, taking the wrong route
- Slow reaction time – Braking hard to avoid a hazard
- Loss of situational awareness – Fail to recognize traffic control, forget to put your kickstand down.
- Overall bad performance – Don’t communicate with riding buddies, task fixation.
- Feeling restless, irritable or aggressive
How To Prevent Rider Fatigue
The thing is that a fatigued rider can not only be a danger to themselves, but to their riding buddies and other people that they share the road with. When you’re planning your ride, you need to manage your time and ride to your experience level.
As I’ve heard experienced motorcyclists say, “Ride your ride”.
If you’ve taken a long distance trip and have gained some experience, you’ve got a good idea what you can tolerate. Beginners tend to bite off a little more than they can chew and plan rides poorly.
Whether your an experienced road dawg or trying to get started here’s a few things you can do to prevent your from riding your motorcycle tired:
Build up your stamina
Take some short days trips or ‘shakedown cruises’ to get an idea of what you should take with on a trip and how much saddle time you can tolerate.
If you exercise regularly, focus on back, arms/shoulders and legs.
Pro tip: Biker shorts with the butt pads built into them work really well to ease discomfort.
Plan your ride
Even if it’s just a simple day ride, plan your route. Know where you can stop and fuel and grab some food. Planning ahead helps you to be ready for challenges that may pop up during the ride. Consider mapping it out on your phone.
Pre-check before the ride
Make sure everything that is supposed to work (lights for example) is working. Always check your motorcycle tire pressure and fuel the bike before the ride. That way you’re ready and you can just go.
Take breaks and Stretch
My rule of thumb is to get off my motorcycle every hour to hour and a half (at the most). Getting off the bike and taking a break gives you the opportunity to stretch your muscles.
Stretching can promote relaxation which helps make the ride more comfortable. You’ll want to focus on muscles that you use when you ride and of course any problem areas.
Staying hydrated does not mean drinking beer or soda. You should drink water, that’s what your body needs. You should pack water to take with you which in addition to staying hydrated becomes a good excuse to stop and take a break.
Don’t run the risk of becoming dehydrated so that your a hazard to everyone else around you.
Pack essentials to take with you
Bring the gear you’re going to need with you. Depending on the type of weather you’ll be dealing with, bring the appropriate gear. Make sure that you check the weather so that you have some idea what you’ll be facing.
Take food and water with you in a small ice chest if you have the room.
I pack mine with snacks and drinks and then use ice packs. I can fit the whole thing in my trunk and I’m good to go. You’ll want to do all of this the night before.
Consider Riding Accessories
You may want to get yourself additional riding accessories like a motorcycle seat pad if you’re riding a really long distance. Another alternative is cycling shorts with butt pads.
Other riding accessories I use when riding in the heat (which I do a lot of) are cooling vests and a cool neck wrap.
If you’re riding in the cooler weather, get accessories to help you dress in layers.
Don’t Push it – Be Realistic
Pace yourself during your ride and manage your time. If you’ve planned your trip and know the distance you’re traveling for the day take your breaks accordingly.
If you’re a beginner, maybe you need to stop more frequently and don’t do too much all at one time. Tired and fatigued motorcycle riders can be a danger to everyone around them and themselves.
Summing it up
Does riding a motorcycle make you tired? You better believe it. Remember that physical and mental fatigue will be there to wear you down every mile of your trip. Don’t sweat it, just be smart about it.
At the end of the day’s ride I know I’m beat and I sleep like a baby. But with some proper trip planning, the right gear and some self awareness you’ll be all set to hit the road.
Ride your ride.