We tend to associate drowsiness with heavy vehicle drivers, but truth is, we motorcyclists are not immune to nodding off at the handlebar, especially in hot weather.
While falling asleep at the wheel is bad, it is even more dangerous on a motorcycle because there is almost no room for mistakes. Additionally, the chances of getting hurt is much higher when riding.
So here are 10 tips for staying awake while riding.
1. Stop and rest
This is the best solution if you are aware of losing concentration and/or feeling sleepy. Best to stop at an RnR area or petrol station where your motorcycle and belongings are safe from thieves and also traffic. A 10 to 15 minute cat nap will do wonders.
The subject of hydration cannot be ignored because it is the biggest contributor to drowsiness and loss of concentration. It is because our bodies start to secrete the sleep hormone - melatonin - whenever we lose electrolytes. We recently published an article about what you should or should not drink, so do spend some time reading through it.
3. Light exercises and stretching
Light exercises and stretching gets blood flowing through your muscles and wakes the brain up. It should be done before you begin the ride. Likewise, you can also do some light exercises such as jumping jacks or stretch your arms and legs when you feel drowsy. Limbering up also keeps your muscles relaxed while riding. Do stop and get off the bike to perform the exercises instead of doing so while on the move!
4. Light foods only
We Malaysians are so lucky to have so many tasty dishes around the country. As such, there are always "breakfast rides," "nasi beriyani rides," "lemang rides" over the weekend. News is, heavy, spicy and oily foods take time to digest thereby contributing to sleepiness. On the other hand, it does not mean you should not enjoy these at all. Instead, eat moderately.
5. Wear earplugs
We also wrote an article about wearing earplugs when you ride. Earplugs filter out loud noises that cause fatigue. You can wear "smart earplugs" that are specifically designed for motorcyclists. These filter out wind and loud noises but allow environmental sounds through.
6. Use a Bluetooth communicator
A Bluetooth communicator such as a Cardo provides the means to enjoy music and radio, keeping you entertained. We usually sing along to our favourite songs to keep us awake. A communicator also allows you to listen to your GPS's commands, make/receive phone calls, and chit-chat with other riders. However, we recommend that you operate the unit at safe volumes that do not impeded on your focus when you ride.
7. Start your trip earlier/later
You can also choose to start your trip earlier in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hot sun. The air is cooler and there is usually less traffic.
8. Crack the visor open
If you wear a full-face helmet, crack the visor open slightly to allow cool air in. Or better yet, if you wear a full-face balaclava, wet it and wear over your head and face. The cooling effect will keep you feeling fresh.
9. Vary your speed/Change route
Riding on and on along a straight highway is boring even if you done at high speeds. Drowsiness or loss of concentration will start to creep in once it becomes routine. So, vary your speed from time to time or get off the highway and ride on the trunk road. It give the brain different scenarios to process rather than falling into a routine.
10. Think positive
You will tire yourself out unnecessarily if you keep repeating, "I'm so sleepy," "I'm so tired," to yourself! Thinking positive thoughts actually helps when you tour. For example, you can celebrate everytime you knock off 20km en route to your destination. Or look forward to what you want to do when you get there.