Sometimes there’s just somewhere you want to go on your bike, even it is a long way away. And with adventure bikes and sports tourers becoming more and more popular there’s never better time to ride in comfort and relative luxury. However, riding long distances isn’t without its risks and in fact, fatigue is one of the leading causes of road fatalities. Let’s take a look at how you can stay safe on long rides.
Stop, Revive Survive
The most fundamental piece of advice any rider can be given is to take rest breaks. The generally recommended interval between rest periods is two hours. Your fuel tank might be able to get you twice that distance and maybe your bladder can too, but studies have found that after two hours your mind begins to wander excessively.
Your rest breaks don’t need to be too long, 10 to 15 minutes is sufficient. Just enough time to stretch your muscles, take in fluid and give your mind a rest from what can sometimes be the monotony of highway travel. So even if you’re travelling 600 kilometres in a single day, taking three rest stops will only add 30 to 45 minutes to your overall journey – a small sacrifice for staying alive.
Be Well Rested Before Riding
Traveling all day is tiring, especially so for motorcycle riders who are exposed to the elements. Therefore it’s essential to be well rested the day before. It’s recommended that for the two nights before you start your journey that you get at least seven and a half hours of sleep to help improve your energy reserves.
Most adults need between seven and a half to nine hours of sleep per night to function optimally – and that’s just for normal everyday activities. A lack of enough sleep causes all sorts of issues, and the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year. So go to bed early and maybe stay off the booze the night before.
Take a Break After Lunch
Do you sometimes feel a bit drowsy after lunch? There’s two reasons for that. Firstly, certain types of food will make you drowsy – processed foods which are often a hallmark of what’s available at roadside stops are a prime culprit. But even unprocessed foods such as turkey and other high-protein foods, along with spinach, soy, eggs, cheese and fish can make you feel lethargic.
The second reason that you can feel tired after lunch is due to the time of day. Between 1 pm and 3 pm, your body’s temperature drops and you’ll naturally feel a little bit more sleepy than normal. So to stay safe, have lunch and then take an extended break – perhaps you can spend the time reading articles on our wonderful website.
Keep Your Mind Active
There is a term called ‘complacency driving’ which refers to how drivers and riders often go on auto-pilot and will travel not inconsequential distances without actually remembering that time period. It’s a huge cause of fatalities on the road and while it mostly occurs when travelling a familiar route (such as to and from work), it can also occur when riding to new destinations if the road itself is monotonous such as a long straight freeway.
To overcome this, you need to forcibly keep your mind active. Some ways to do this are:
- Read road signs out aloud in your head or better yet, verbalize them.
- Regularly check your mirrors, ‘check’ your brakes and always use your indicators when changing lanes.
- If there’s traffic around, constantly check your distance between the car or bike in front of you and ensure it is at least 3 seconds by counting.
- Let out your inner superstar and sing like you’re in the shower. Don’t worry, no one is likely to hear you.
Take the Harder Route
This might sound counterintuitive and we’d only recommend it for experienced and competent riders, but an option to keep yourself stimulated is to take the road that’s more technical – one with plenty of corners and bends – instead of the boring route that’s effectively straight, flat and repetitive.
Most motorcyclists tend to do this anyway as it’s a far more rewarding experience but it also keeps your mind far more active as you constantly have to interact with the bike by braking, shifting, accelerating and steering – even moving your body around. On long stretches of highway, you’ll often just be sitting on sixth gear for hours at a time and for even the most focused of individuals it’s hard to prevent the mind from wandering.
You want to make sure you look after yourself on a long ride. Being too cold will make you feel more drowsy. Being too hot will exhaust you and bring on fatigue much, much earlier. If you’re riding in summer, a mesh jacket and textile pants with plenty of airvents is highly recommended – as is a cool vest. In the colder months, heated gloves and jackets will be of great benefit.
Time your trip
Generally speaking, most accidents occur between 3 pm to 7 pm. The reason for this is generally fatigue but also impatience and the fact that this is when the most cars are on the road – both for picking up children from school and commuting home from work.
From midnight to 4 am is when the most deaths per vehicles on the road occur thanks to an influx of drunk drivers. And both sunrise and sunset are also dangerous – vision is greatly reduced and especially so depending on which direction you’re driving should the sun be on the horizon. For these reasons, plan your trip where possible to avoid being on the road at these times.
A study conducted at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom found that drivers who only drank 25ml of water an hour made more than double the number of mistakes on the road than those who were hydrated – the same amount as those who have been drink driving.
Hydration packs are a great way to regularly take in water while riding. The simple backpack and straw system allows you to continually take in regular sips of water without the need to stop. Just about anyone who participates in off-road riding will have one and there’s no shame in utilizing one for the road, either.
Ensure Your Bike is Road Worthy
It should go without saying that if you’re planning on a long road trip, make sure that both you and your bike are up to the task. Basic things like tire tread depths and tire pressures should be checked before heading out, but so should brake pad wear. In fact, before going on a massive trip you really should give your bike a full service. There’s nothing worse than being stranded halfway to your destination thanks to unreliability.