3 Signs That It’s Time to Call It a Day

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3 Signs That It’s Time to Call It A Day

Photo by Harshad Sharma

You want to push through, and are desperate to make a few more miles before calling it quits. But it’s nearly dark, and all you can think about is a hot meal, a cold beer, and a warm bed.

How can you tell when it’s time to man up, and call it a day? Here are a few telltale signs.

Your Mind Wanders

This list came to me while riding home from Thanksgiving dinner last week. Cruising along with a belly full of turkey and a body full of tryptophan, I started thinking about Aunt Frieda’s stuffing, and what spice she used to create that particularly excellent flavor. Was it thyme? Marjoram? Coriander?

Next thing I know, I was coming up too fast on the pickup truck ahead of me. It was loaded with stuff and plodding along in the slow lane, but I should’ve seen its taillights sooner. A quick check of the rearview and a swerve to the middle lane got me by the turtle, but it was an unnecessary close call. I had also picked up speed without realizing it.

When you lose focus, it’s a cinch to become negligent to the task at hand. Ever daydreamed so intensely you missed your exit? It’s happened to all of us, and while most of the time the fix is to simply get off at the next exit and spin around, the consequences on a bike can be far more perilous than while driving. If your mind starts to wander, it’s time to give it a rest.

3 Signs That It’s Time to Call It A Day

Photo by gskx

Your Body Hurts

Dry, bleary eyes, cramping and achy muscles, and the classic numb butt are prime examples of your body telling you it can’t take much more time in the saddle. When your body begins to protest, it can be difficult to stay laser focused on the bike and the road.

Getting lazy with the hand controls. Popping the clutch or making a crunchy gear change. Forgetting to signal. All of these are signs you might be too physically drained to continue.

I’ve noticed after a long day’s ride while touring, I can get lazy with the sidestand, failing to kick it all the way out at stops. I sometimes neglect to flick the turn signal on lane changes.

Making fewer and larger steering and/or braking corrections is also a classic symptom of rider fatigue.

Being excessively hungry or cold are also telltale signs that it’s time to stop for the night. You can’t ride when you’re body is crying for warmth and/or nourishment.

3 Signs That It’s Time to Call It A Day-It-A-Day_fea

Photo by Jeff Kraus

You’re Already Late

Rushing is always a very bad idea on a bike, but if you’re rushing while fatigued, that’s a surefire recipe for disaster.

Look, if you know you’re not going to arrive on time, and you’re going to have to stop and make a phone call anyway, why push it? Better to make the apologetic call and actually get there eventually than to suffer the alternative due to a haphazard or rushed maneuver.

Fatigued riding is one of the most common causes of motorcycle crashes. The consequences are not worth it, so why chance it?

These are some of the common symptoms of rider fatigue – most are sourced from my own experience over many road miles. You can probably relate.

So, how do know when you’re too tired to continue? How do you decide when to call it a day? What close calls have you had by pushing it?

  • HoldenL

    Ugh. What sucks is when you’re in the middle of nowhere, riding to your campsite where your tent and bag are already set up, and you’re fatigued, hungry, impatient, frustrated, daydreaming and late — and you have no choice but to keep going, even though the sun is setting and you see deer and elk beside the road and you know you’re in a very perilous situation. How many of us have been in that situation? I’ll bet a bunch.

  • Jack Meoph


    If you know you’re going on a long ride, take 3 Advil Liqui-Gels before
    the ride begins. The gel caps get into the system faster and it’s
    always better to dose before the inevitable pain and soreness starts to
    develop. Dose every 6 hours after that. Yeah, it’s a lot but you’re
    only doing it for one day so there shouldn’t be any damage. Also, take an electronic cigarette with you. Take a couple a
    hits when you feel your energy drop, and enjoy the rush of the nicotine.
    If you don’t smoke (I don’t) the effect will keep you alert. I’m not
    shilling for this company, but I use blucigs classic tobacco, because
    they have one of the higher
    nicotine content cigs. That’s why they’re
    around $10 a piece, but they give 400 pulls. Costco sells them at $75
    for a 12 pack online if you plan on becoming an addict. Better living
    through chemistry.

    • John S

      Watch the dosage of Advil with great care. A little bit over the maximum dosage will damage your liver and the damage irreparable. Its not difficult to overdose.

      • Chris P

        You’re thinking Tylenol. Don’t misinform people. ;)))

        3 Advil Liquigels is 600mg – A dose you would routinely get in an ER or hospital. However, don’t exceed 2.4g a day.

        Make sure you take them on a full stomach and eat properly afterwards though as it could be hard on your digestive system. And don’t make it a regular thing. It’ll damage your stomach, kidneys and some recent evidence points to cardiovascular risk. Once in a while though, works wonders!!!

    • Joseph Brassard

      Unfortunately, taking pain killers of any stripe before hand, in the assumption that they will make you “immune to pain”, is medically incorrect. Any physician will tell you you’re just wasting meds…and when you do start hurting, now you have to worry about overdosing. Yes, even Advil can be overdosed. Using Advil before hand when you have no symptoms can, over time, cause gastrointestinal injury.

      In short, don’t take meds prophylactically unless directed by your doctor. Over the counter stuff can screw you up big time. Take it in response to muscle pain, headaches, sure, but taking it before hand has quite definitely been proven to not work.

  • MichaelEhrgott

    Ear-plugs are a must on long rides. They greatly reduce rider fatigue. Also cheap gas-station coffee. Nuff said.

  • Braden

    I’ve gone past my limits more than I’d care to admit. The weekend mountain trips can be the hardest, where you’re trying to balance safety versus squeezing in a few more miles towards home. One of my first signs is getting lazy with my last second safety checks while changing lanes. My situational awareness drops after awhile and I start to focus exclusively on what’s right in front of me.

  • Piglet2010

    Even bumpy ground under a park picnic table is comfortable for a nap when you have a ‘Stich with the Competition back protector. Made the rest of the trip home both safer and more enjoyable.

  • BillW

    This is key: when the little voice in your head says “I should probably stop”, STOP. It’s usually not that hard to talk yourself out of it, especially when get-there-itis hits. The last time a friend talked himself out of it, he ended up hitting a deer and totaling his bike. He was, rather miraculously, unscathed. He knew, KNEW, he should have stopped and gotten a room for the night. But it was only another 50 miles.

  • eddi

    When I’m riding at the end of a busy day, everything feels just a little off. Controls feel like they’re at odd angles, body position is all wrong and throttle and brake don’t act right. The only thing to do is take it as easy as possible. I stick to a familiar route, deliberately move my head, not just my eyes, to watch and go slow.
    If that starts to fail, I just pull over. Five minutes of just doing nothing can resharpen my wits just enough to make it.

  • Chris Cope

    I’m confused by this line: “I can get lazy with the sidestand, failing to kick it all the way out at stops.” Do you mean stopping at traffic lights? Do people do that? Put their stand down at lights?

    If you mean a proper turn-off-the-engine-and-get-off-the-bike stop aren’t you then, you know, stopped? At which point you no longer need to think about whether you should be riding, because you’re not riding. Am I overthinking this one?

    • Jonny Langston

      Yes. Yes you are.

    • William McGehee

      Point being that you are more likely to drop your bike for dumb reasons when fatigued. Makes sense.

  • Afonso Mata

    My first rule for riding is: stay hydrated. It sounds a bit “Elementary, my dear Watson” but a lot of people neglect this fact. If you’re really feeling tired, stop for a cup of coffee (and a cigarette, if you smoke).
    A little trick you can also use is to make a phone call to that friend who’s hilarious and always has a funny story that’ll make you laugh. Honest laughter helps your brain release endorphin or whatever those “feel good hormones” are called. It’ll help you get focused and alert for a little while.

    • michaelse

      Do coffee/energy drinks dehydrate you, or do you still make a net gain of water? I’ve heard conflicting opinions. Also.. I have never drank coffee before or during a ride.. does it make you twitchy and more prone to come into a turn too fast fast or too acutely?

      • Afonso Mata

        About the coffee/energy drinks dehydrating you, I’m not also sure.
        Now that I read it again I realize my post was not well phrased.
        I meant you should drink a lotta water (or some fruit juice juice) to keep hydrated, and THEN if you’re really feeling tired, stop for a cup of coffee.

        On the twitchyness I’m not really sure. I think it kinda varies from person to person, and maybe based on your level of “caffeine addiction” and/or based on the caffeine dose on the kind of coffee you’re drinking.

        For example, here in Portugal we drink a lot of coffee, in small expresso cups which contain a high dose of caffeine. I drink about 5 of those per day, and the only one that kinda makes me twitch is the first one, in the morning, after breakfast. All the others just stimulate my brain, I seldom feel the effect on my body.

        • michaelse

          Thanks for your response. I’ve noticed the same thing doing day-to-day tasks — the first buzz is the strongest, the following ones are smoother.

  • Motorcyclebuddy

    It’s always hard to stop from tiredness when I am on a tight time schedule or trying to get home before sundown but worth it compared to getting into an accident which will be much more expensive and time consuming then the time it takes to stop and get some coffee and rest for a few moments. Being really tired and “spacing out” on a bike can be deadly.