Round about this time many motorcyclists are preparing for their longest journeys of the year, either travelling to a seaside resort or a long tour abroad. Without the benefit of practice this journey could prove difficult or dangerous due to rider fatigue.
Preparation could well start months before the trip by practising covering the kind of miles and roads you will be using. This also gives the opportunity of getting your machine and clothing into the right condition so that you are comfortable and do not develop cramps, aches and stiffness. Club runs in the early season are a good time to get used to long distance riding.
On these practice runs develop a cruising speed at which you are comfortable and not doing too much overtaking. Overtaking is a dangerous manoeuvre which will soon tire your nerves and lead to fatigue. Most overtaking on a motorcycle can be done at under 30mph when the rest of the traffic is stuck in a jam. When riding adjust your speed according to road conditions and every so often change your general pace by about five to ten miles per hour.
Find how long you can ride before needing to stop then always take a break before you feel tired. In these breaks take on petrol, oil etc and walk round the bike to check everything. Eat a little during each break rather than one big feast. A very full stomach can lead to sleepiness during the following hour. Take something to drink to avoid dehydration, the effects of which are very akin to fatigue. However, do not drink alcohol, particularly in hot conditions. Breaks should last between twenty minutes and forty minutes to allow you to feel the benefit on the one hand and so that you do not regret restarting on the other.
Always time your travel with a watch, not the mileometer. Seeing how slowly the miles drag by can be very demoralising if traffic is dense or the weather bad. Time flies and providing you keep on cruising without too many long stops the miles will take care of themselves.
An early start is always preferable. If you start before dawn finish for the day before dusk. The worst times for tiredness are dusk after a long day or dawn after a long night. If necessary stop until it is fully dark or fully light.
The most important effect of fatigue is to reduce concentration to a dangerous level. When you realise this is happening you may be tempted to say to yourself "Concentrate, concentrate!" The result is self hypnosis. Do not concentrate on concentration but on observation. Especially observe provision 111 of the highway code.
Another effect of fatigue is to produce irritability. Besides causing incondideration for other road users it has a self generating effect as arguments and anxiety can themselves lead to fatigue which is why it is important to start early and not worry about the miles.
Mind and Body
Most of the above tiredness is mental fatigue but physical fatigue is equally important. Lack of sleep or some physical impairment such as sunstroke, hangover or Montezuma's revenge will be detrimental to your efficiency. If you are taking any type of drug, even aspirin, read the instructions and do not mix drugs and alcohol.
Eyes need every chance they can get so protect them from wind, rain and grit. Keep your visor or goggles clean and remove shades or dark visor well before sunset.
It may seem like a hard job with very little results. If you only use your bike for transport it is a hard job and you could well be better off going by train. But if you get your enjoyment out of miles of new road unwinding before you, it is worth pushing out your frontiers to where there is something different or where the weather is more suitable for motorcycling. Our general touring radius is limited to how far we can ride in four or five days. Doubling that radius by determined riding gives you four times as much area to choose from.
- Ben Crossley
Club Safety Officer