How To Stay Alert On Long Motorcycle Rides

How To -


How To Stay Alert On Long Motorcycle Rides

4. Use Your Ears
Thank heaven for Bluetooth. Listening to music or audio books is a fine way to pass the time and keep awake and alert. Best of all, you can do more than just listen to the same forty classic rock tunes on FM radio. Audiobooks are great fun on the open road; so are podcasts and any of the many talk/sports stations on satellite radio.

A caveat on audiobooks: the droning intonation of a soothing voice reading a slow-paced book might have the opposite of the intended effect. You’re better off sticking to crime stories, spy novels or anything else fast-paced and entertaining. A long night ride through the desert is probably not the ideal opportunity to catch up on your Dostoevsky.

5. Get Physical
As RideApart staffer Wes Siler stated in his comfort story, keeping your body awake and alert is as important as keeping your mind sharp. Stand up on your pegs, change your position on the seat, shake out your wrists and hands, shake your head from side to side — do whatever it takes to keep the blood flowing through your body and brain.

A cheap, but effective way to do this is simply to expose yourself to the elements. Zip down your jacket or flip up your visor for a little bit. Not only will the fresh air clear out your mind, but the physical sensation of the wind on your person will likely make a huge difference, even if only for a few minutes.

6. Avoid Road Food
Look, I know you guys love your food. I’ve witnessed the gluttony at the food court at a rally. And, the debate over the best road food is endless and pervasive; at any biker meetup, it’s impossible not to overhear a debate on the best ribs or burgers in an area.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some barbecue. Burgers and hot wings in particular. But, not while riding. I’ve learned the hard way that big lunches, especially those involving fried foods, are just a bad idea on a ride. Big meals require energy for digestion, removing focus from riding and unhealthy food can lead to…impromptu bathroom breaks. And bathrooms can be hard to find in the middle of nowhere.

Instead, keep food light and keep it lean. Opt for a sandwich instead of a burger or, even better, those big salads that can be topped with grilled chicken.

These are some of my tried and true methods for staying awake on a long ride. What are yours?

Related Links:
Save Your Butt: How To Stay Comfortable On Long Motorcycle Rides
Wear This: Best Winter Mid And Base Layers
Under This: Best Leather Motorcycle Jackets Under $700

  • Curtis

    A banana in a banana guard can be a handy snack, too. Better quality energy than energy drinks, actual food value, and far less medicine taste.

    • Aakash

      Fruits, nuts and water are my go-to energy on a long ride.

      But the occasional stop at a special local joint never hurt the ol’ stomach neither (a la Jamie Robinson in #motogeo).

    • Justin McClintock

      Okay, what is a banana guard? There is absolutely no way I’m googling that at work.

      • Michael Howard
        • metric_G

          Is this real? I though I’m caught up with mototech, but I guess I need to check the news more often. Are you taking this to the grocery shop and buy bananas for the exact shape and size, or these are flexible enough? Is this an April’s fools joke from Aerostich?

        • appliance5000

          Oh – they’re for BANANAS! That explains my constant road pain.

  • EchoZero

    If Motorhead and Ministry can’t keep me awake on the road, then it’s time to find a place to nap.

    • Reid

      You are the greatest human being on this website.
      “I was born with the hammer down! I was built for speed!”

  • Eric Shay

    I have a CBR600F3 which has an incredibly small tank, 3.2 gallons, following road signs and calculating whether I should stop or not keeps me doing constant math between cities. Also staying off the freeways in areas where there isn’t much traffic really helps me stay alert.

  • michaelse

    Why is there a squid stigma for standing on the pegs (when not on a dual sport)? I do it on my sportbike simply because it helps relieve some of the pressure, gets some wind to the parts of my body that don’t typically get it, and takes from the monotony of sitting crouched for hundreds of miles. Not because I’m trying to stunt or show off.

    • Kevin

      That’s the first I’ve heard of such a stigma. I do it all the time to avoid fatigue.

    • Piglet2010

      I stand on my Honda Deauville over bridge/overpass expansion joints (even if I do not really need to for comfort), and for longer periods on occasion if there is no traffic near me and I can see that no dogs or deer are about to run out in front of me.

    • runnermatt

      I’ll stand on the pegs on my CBR250R anytime I am crossing an obstacle such as railroad tracks, bumps, speed bumps, some bridge sections, etc. I have stood up to try and get the boys into a better position before. However, I do worry that car drivers will get freaked out when they see me standing and then do something that puts me at risk.

    • Thomas Whitener

      We have some gnarly cobblestones in my little town here in Italy, and standing on the pegs is about the only way to A). see the contours of the road properly and B). take the vibration out of my spine.

      But you are right, people look at me weird sometimes.

    • 200 Fathoms

      I feel like I’ve read a few too many stories on about footpegs snapping off.

  • Lee Scuppers

    I guess you’re all a bunch of p*****s about meth, but you should give it a try. Livens things up when you hit a truck stop too, if you know what I mean.

    • runnermatt

      I like my teeth and other features of my appearance. If anyone isn’t sure what I mean check out this link:

    • Justin McClintock

      That joke would have been better had it been…you know….funny.

      • Michael Howard

        You totally miss the point. The funny part is when people take it seriously.

        • Justin McClintock

          Eh, I guess. It had potential. But the delivery suffered. This is why I don’t tell jokes.

  • Aakash

    I hum the entire Outkast “Atliens” (1996) album to myself. Things get really cracking when “Decatur Psalm” comes up.

  • Daniel Keith

    I like to create “targets” on the road when changing lanes or whatnot, and try to either hit or miss them. For example I always try and straddle the little reflective markers in between the lanes on most interstates. Also on interstates, I like to try and guess a car’s make and model when its really far away. Maybe not as easy as you think. I find chewing gum messes with my earplugs and makes me bite tounge/lip too often.

    • HoldenL

      You mean, when you change lanes, avoid hitting the road buttons? Because yeah, that’s a solid requirement.

  • NOCHnoch

    Homeopathic benefits? Really? I thought we believe in science and data on this blog.

  • eddi

    Music is my favorite way. Keep it fairly loud and set a heavy beat. That’ll keep me going. It’s also a safe place for me to sing. I prefer a mono ear bud, but that’s a personal choice.

  • Stig Sarangi

    Right said Jon. making it a chase is the best way to stay focussed.

    Food – In India, if you are riding solo, or on the boring national highways – stick to Roti and Daal, it might be the most boring food to have, but your stomach will thank you for it.

  • Archie

    Big advocate of talking to yourself here. Spent a couple of hours riding down a single straight outback road here in Western Australia swearing at and criticizing every single thing I saw along the way. Not only does it entertain you trying to come up with the most intensely offensive descriptions for things you see but it greatly increases your overall awareness as you try to keep an eye out for something to swear about.

    Funnily enough, I arrived in the town I was riding to and met another group of riders, one of them had a voice as hoarse as mine and told me he’d spent the entire trip swearing about how much he hates Golf.

  • Justin McClintock

    Shouldn’t somebody be recommending we take up smoking right about now?

  • Chris Cope

    I’m a big fan of having elaborate conversations with myself in my helmet. I create multiple characters: on a recent trip, there was a very heated discussion in my helmet between myself, an Irishman and an overly safety-conscious Indian guy (“Watch what you are doing in the roundabout, please, or you will be dead and someone will have to clean you up. That is a tremendous waste of resources.”)

    Slightly contrary to no. 6, I like to drink a fair amount of water to ensure the need for regular stops.

    And having once had a starlight mint block my throat, I’ll steer clear of hard candy when I’ve got a (full-face) helmet on.

  • Michael Howard

    Roll down the window and stick your head out in the wind.

    • Lee Scuppers

      The windows on my Goldwing won’t open.

      • Michael Howard

        Hmm… the ones on my Yamaha won’t close. And the heater is worthless.

        • Kamenashi

          My Honda’s A/C is constantly on… When I don’t need it. At the same exact time when my heater is on… When I do.

  • roma258

    The road food suggestion is spot on. One of the scariest experiences I’ve had on a motorcycle was during a 700 mile final leg to Austin GP where we stopped at a BBQ joint for lunch. After a big hearty meal, I started getting drowsy on the bike like never before….nothing I did could help. After a few trips to the rumble strips it was time to hit a gas station for some 5-hour energy to get me through (and I hate the stuff). Never again. Ofcourse it’s not easy most of the time, since most road stops serve exactly the kind of heavy food you want to avoid.

  • appliance5000

    In a helmet they can’t hear you scream – and you’re always in tune. Celine Dion never sounded so good.

  • Bret Prins

    My primary goal when out on my motorcycle is finding wicked coffee shops. So staying awake/alert is never an issue.

  • Kamenashi

    I usually find the nearest Rest Area – take a 30 minute break, walk around and listen to music.
    Stretch, relieve myself, etc.

  • HoldenL

    Ha. I thought I was a weirdo with my math calculations. Not only mileage and time estimates, but things like, “I moved to Florida 14 years and four months ago; where was I and what was I doing 14 years and four months before that?” It’s nice to know that other people do math to keep alert.

    Long monologues to an imaginary psychotherapist or 12-step group. A dark face shield helps, so people don’t see how animatedly and emotionally I talk to myself.

    And, yeah, rest breaks. Stopping, taking off the helmet, walking around. Swing the arms, high-step, yawn real big, compose a Yelp review of the restroom in my head.

  • LS650

    Ha ha at #3 – so true.