Staying Awake on Long-Distance Motorcycle Rides

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A motorcycle tour can be an exhilarating way to explore the world. But those long days in the saddle have the potential to make you drowsy!

You can use some tips and tricks to stay alert and safe throughout these journeys. This article will discuss those strategies for staying awake on long-distance motorcycle rides.

These could include planning your rest stops, getting enough sleep before setting off, managing distractions while riding, hydration, and more.

Following these guidelines lets you enjoy your journey, knowing you’ve taken all necessary precautions to ensure a safe ride.

staying awake motorcycle rides - biker on mountain road

Get Enough Sleep to Stay Awake on Long-Distance Motorcycle Rides

Ask any successful business owner or athlete, and they’ll tell you that success starts the night before.

And it’s a sentiment I carry through to touring, too. Getting enough sleep the night before sounds obvious. But when you’re sat on a balcony watching the sun go down, it’s easy to opt for another glass of wine when you could be getting your head down instead.

After dinner, pack the majority of your kit so the idea of having to do it in the morning doesn’t keep you up. Make it so there’s nothing left to think about when you put your head on the pillow – making it easier for you to drift off unencumbered by tomorrow’s tasks.

We’ll get to hydration in a minute. But as with the above tasks, start your day right by staying hydrated the night before.

Leave Early

Another thing you hear me bang on about a lot in these posts is the importance of setting off early. Anything (and everything) can (and will) happen on tour.

When you think you have everything accounted for, the world will throw you an unexpected curveball to deal with, seemingly for its own entertainment.

These little trials and tribulations can’t be avoided. But you can control how well you deal with them by managing your time.

Start your rides earlier than you need to. If something goes wrong, you have some wiggle room to deal with it.

But it goes further than that. Because if you slept poorly, you’d only grow increasingly tired as the day wore on. So the longer you ride into the day, the worse you’ll feel – and the more dangerous it becomes.

Starting early means you’ll get to your destination early. This means you can have another crack at getting your kit together for the following morning, eating a nutritious meal, staying hydrated, and trying for a good night’s sleep.

Related: 17 Tips for Long-Distance Motorcycling

Stay Awake on Long-Distance Motorcycle Rides: Plan Rest Stops

When embarking on a long-distance motorcycle ride, plan and ensure all your rest stops are organised along the way.

Breaks are important. They give you half an hour off the bike, a chance to use the toilet, and the opportunity to enjoy some lunch or a coffee.

But there’s a psychological element to be gained from pre-planned rest stops, too. A moral boost comes from glancing down at your sat nav when you’re getting tired and seeing that the next planned stop is in 80km.

Every km that ticks by is another km closer to stopping. It gives you something to aim for, something to watch, and something to work towards.

The same can’t be said when you’re winging it.

biker taking break side of road

Eat Light and Healthy Snacks

You need to eat when touring, but little and often seems to work best. Avoid eating heavy meals that can make you feel sluggish afterwards. And especially, avoid the temptation to wash it down with a cold beer.

Instead, opt for lighter snacks such as nuts, fruits and energy bars packed with nutrients but not too filling. Light sandwiches, street foods, or salads also work well. You can enjoy a rich and filling dinner when you reach the hotel!

Eating the above snacks throughout the journey will help keep you energised without making you feel overly full. Eat carbs for energy. And consume protein for a feeling of satiation.

Additionally, whilst we spoke about staying hydrated during the evening, carry this habit into the day by drinking plenty of water while riding.

Stay Awake on Long-Distance Motorcycle Rides: Stay Hydrated

For the third time in this post, we’re talking about hydration! I’m not repeating myself for the sake of here – I’m repeating it because it’s important!

I’m sure you know how important water is – and I bet you drink a lot of it most days. So make sure you carry this through to those days on tour.

Often, you feel sluggish without feeling thirsty. But that doesn’t mean you’re not dehydrated. The more water you lose, the more tired you will feel.

Drink a glass or two of water in the morning with your breakfast. Then, sip it throughout the day. Finally, glug some more in the evenings to replenish your body overnight.

If you want to take it a step further, drop an electrolyte tablet into your water in hot climates. Not only do they taste nice, but they replace the salt you’ll lose through sweating. You can also do this in the evening to add flavour to your water.

Finally, if getting off and stopping to buy water gets on your nerves, consider a hydration pack. I use the one I have for running, and it works a treat.

Open Your Visor

We’ve all been on long car journeys where we’ve wound the window down to give us that refreshing hit of cold, revitalising wind. And you can do the same on your bike. 

If you start flagging, open your visor to let the wind rush in and slap you around the face a few times to invigorate you.

Just be mindful of where you do it. If you’re on the motorway, dip your head behind your screen to avoid bugs or stones getting in your eye.

Failing that, open your visor a crack at the bottom. You can keep it open for a prolonged period this way whilst protecting your eyes.

staying awake motorcycle rides - rider on harley davidson with helmet open

MOVE! to Stay Awake on Long-Distance Motorcycle Rides

When you get tired, you get to a point where you’re aching and uncomfortable – but can’t be bothered moving. You sit there – feeling tired and sorry for yourself.


Stretch your legs out. Stand on the pegs. Stretch one arm out and twist your spine around – then change sides.

You can be as adventurous as you want with these stretches – provided you can do them safely. Shifting your butt back onto the pillion seat allows you to stretch out your arms and back. And hooking your feet onto the passenger pegs lets you get a nice quad stretch.

Not only does it feel good, but the challenge of it keeps you occupied and staves off fatigue.

Consider Music

I’m not saying you absolutely should listen to music when you ride. Some people dislike it. And if you’re one of these people, then don’t do it.

That said, I’m the kind of person who gets consumed by music, and it drives me on. Listening to music on my bike is a bit like listening to music on the treadmill. The repetitiveness is replaced by motivation as I fall into the music.

There’s a fine line, though. Keep it quiet, as this in itself can fatigue you. It can also prevent you from hearing the sounds of the environment around you.

Finally, don’t listen to music designed to make you feel sleepy! Soft rock works well, as does country music or songs you can sing along to if you know them.

Get Off The Motorway

One thing that makes me sleepy is the mesmeric effect of the motorway – because nothing ever changes.

I find semi-long stretches on the motorways useful for respite after a stressful morning of getting lost or dealing with general touring chaos.

But after a while, they become boring. You can’t move on the bike, there’s nothing to look at, and you’re just sat there – a passenger in somebody else’s world.

If you’re losing your mind on the motorway, stop at the next service station and see if you can re-route through a few towns before jumping back on the motorway.

It might add an extra half hour to your day. But it breaks up the monotony and gives you something to pique your interest for a while before getting back on the motorway refreshed.

group of riders on narrow road

Staying Awake on Long-Distance Motorcycle Rides: Conclusion

Staying awake on long-distance motorcycle rides is essential for staying safe and enjoying the journey. By planning ahead, getting enough sleep, eating light snacks, and staying hydrated, you can stave off tiredness as you explore new places on two wheels!

In summary:

  1. Get enough sleep the night before
  2. Leave early
  3. Plan your breaks
  4. Eat light
  5. Stay hydrated
  6. Open your visor
  7. Move about
  8. Consider music
  9. Change your route up

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