Joint Annual Conference:
Waldorf, Maryland
by Larry Gillen, P.E.
September 30, 1998

Motorcycle Rider Fatigue Survey Results


In July of 1998, a nine question survey was broadcast to three separate, motorcycle rider related, internet email list servers. The questions all pertained directly to motorcycle rider fatigue. The questions were designed to flow from the riders' concept of fatigue, to rider preparation, to detection of fatigue, countermeasures and when to stop riding. The respondents also answered questions regarding personal experience with fatigue related accidents and near-misses. A request for additional comments was included.

Over the following two or three weeks, twelve individuals provided responses to the survey. The responses came from riders who do normal touring/riding and others who engage in long distance, endurance riding.

The three listservs solicited are:

BMW /5 list: for owner/riders of early '70s model BMWs

Iron Butt Assoc. list: an endurance riders group

Long Distance Rider's list: an endurance riders group

The endurance riders were sought out for their unique perspective on fatigue, certainly an obstacle deserving due consideration, given the nature of our hobby.

Although this author has not previously been involved in any sanctioned long distance riding, except the 1000 mile plus ride to this conference, there has been a history of long distance driving and riding.

As a boy and young man, I engaged in small grain farming on a large scale. Beginning at the age of eight, long hours of tractor driving were quite normal for my peers and me. By the age of 12, consecutive 14 to 18 hour days behind the wheel where not uncommon during peak seasons.

Some of these learned behaviors were transferred to motorcycles at the age of 21, when I prepared for and successfully executed an 8,000 mile plus odyssey of the western United States during the month of August, 1970. My average riding day covered 375 miles. My ride was no Honda Goldwing either, rather a 350cc 2-stroke 2-cylinder Kawasaki - a little around town putter, no fairing, no easy rider pegs, and a fuel range of 120 miles.

More recently, on June 10th, 1998, I rode 875 miles on a Sunday, from southern Indiana to Dallas, Texas. I picked up my nephew and rode with passenger for two days returning. And on September 28, 1998, I rode more than 1100 miles in a 24 hour period. The appropriate dated and time stamped fuel receipts were acquired to validate this ride as a 1000 miles in one day (1000/1) and qualify me for inclusion on the Saddle Sore 1000 list. Enough about my personal, hands on, orientation to driver/rider fatigue.

Responses to Questions 1 - 9

This section condenses the 12 responses to each question in the survey. It is intended to provide a brief consensus, where possible, of the information received. For the full text of the responses, with only typographical editing, see Appendix A of this document.

Question No. 1

How do you define "rider fatigue?"

Rather than tell the respondents what rider fatigue is and then ask questions about it, this survey adopted the more open approach of soliciting the definition from each respondent. Hopefully, it provides insights regarding fatigue from the perspective of motorcyclists.

The following are the key phrases common to several of the responses:

inability to concentrate

feel like falling asleep

requires conscious effort to remain alert

physical and mental impairment

diminished awareness

delayed reaction time

adversely affect my riding abilities

lack of focus

being tired

The spectrum of the responses seems to have the following two ends. One is associated with the onset of fatigue and described generally as reduced awareness. The other end of the spectrum goes to the catastrophic results of fatigue, such as, feeling like falling asleep. This spectrum would seem to correlate well with two of the commonly used test criterial for fatigue: steering patterns tests indicate reduced awareness of the driving task and head nodding tests indicate the onset of sleep at the wheel.

Question No. 2

What techniques/actions do you use, prior to getting on the bike, to ward off fatigue?

Key phrases found in the responses:

sufficient sleep and adequate rest

proper hydration

reduce noise-induced fatigue with earplugs

take multivitamins

light meals


comfortable, weather-sensitive clothing

Several individuals offered unique responses. One respondent avoids caffeine and another says not to fool yourself with stimulants. Another insists on clean face shields due to information from a state trooper that a dirty windshield is the biggest cause of eye fatigue in drivers.

One very interesting response worthy of quoting, "Be happy. Seriously. A positive frame of mind seems to work wonders for my ability to ride without mental fatigue." For motorcyclists, mental fatigue may be a much bigger factor than physical fatigue, with the exceptions of endurance riding and competition or high-end sport riding.

Based on the responses, preparation for alert riding targets a good health regime - proper rest, food, drink, exercise, vitamins, clothing and attitude.

Question No. 3

What clues do you use to identify fatigue while riding?

Key phrases found in the responses:

inability to focus


loss of concentration

impaired judgement

poor memory of recent events

slowing reaction times

droopy eyelids

tight muscles


Physical symptoms are prevalent here. Reduced visual function along with tight muscles and yawning are very recurrent signals of fatigue. One response targets "reduced depth perception." These physical symptoms may correspond to the extreme end of the spectrum in the responses to the definition of fatigue, that is, falling asleep. On the milder, onset end of the fatigue spectrum, we might be seeing some association with the loss of concentration, erratic memory and daydreaming.

Our vision systems play a huge role in motorcycle riding. If our only functioning sensory system was vision, we could manage to ride a motorcycle reasonably well. The perception of loss of visual function is extremely threatening.

One respondent coins a term "headshake," which "occurs when you need to shake your head to gather focus. My rule is, 'One headshake and I'm off the bike for at least an hour.'"

Another response identifies a progression of symptoms, from "stiffening neck muscles, slowing reaction times, yawning, droopy eyelids, seeing alligators carrying Norman Mailer dolls." The final comment should be considered in jest only.

Question No. 4

What techniques/actions do you use to overcome fatigue, once identified?

Key phrases found in the responses:

sing songs and talk to myself

stand up or do knee bends while riding

more air by breathing or opening helmet visor

stop, stretch and jump around

nap, power nap, sleep

light food, drink


mental exercise, like calculate fuel mileage

An obvious progression is evident here. Some respondents choose on-bike activities like singing, isometrics, some limited body movement, increased air supply or getting more comfortable. The next step is a brief stop for some food, drink and exercise/stretching. Then some of the riders use a short power nap to change their state of consciousness. This may overcome some aspects of mental fatigue and release body tension. Beyond these techniques, most respondents rely on sleep for one to two hours or longer. This latter action is an attempt to overcome fatigue created by "sleep loss" or "sleep debt."

Remember, the ultimate demand for sleep cannot be satisfied or overcome by any amount of fear, reward or desire.

One individual commented on the use of Altoids peppermint lozenges. Some research has shown peppermint to be effective at maintaining alertness. As described in Altoids's packaging, "Altoids...are many times stronger than ordinary mints. Their curious strength comes from the generous use of real peppermint oil..."

Another respondent speculates riding inside a full face helmet with the shield closed may decrease oxygen intake because the rider is partially breathing their exhaled air. This decreased oxygen level may contribute to fatigue, over time. This is a variable easy to test with a portable physiological monitor.

Yet another respondent is refreshed by removing their boots and socks and doing barefoot exercises when they stop. Staying alert appears to have an individual side.

Question No. 5

What factors would lead to a decision to pull off the road?

Key phrases found in the responses:

eyes closing and droopy eyes

nodding off and scaring myself

loss of concentration and mental focus

when efforts to recover alertness have failed

inability to drive smoothly and steadily

There is not as much variability among these responses. The range includes loss of focus, but most riders pull off the road when clear signs of impending sleepiness appear.

Due to awareness of their own circadian rhythm, some respondents do not ride between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.

Question No. 6

How far do you ride before fatigue is normally identified?

Key phrases found in the responses:

monitor time rather than distance

depends greatly on rest and activity prior to riding

late afternoon brings fatigue

Most respondents are more sensitive to time rather than distance. Early fatigue was identified at 10 to 17 hours. More severe signs were showing up at 16 to 21 hours. One respondent stated, "...36 hours without sleep borders the edge for me." Another indicates "After a full night's sleep, 24 hours is not a problem."

Again, there is wide variability here. Keep in mind this group of respondents includes several endurance riders, thus does not reflect the motorcycle riding community as a whole, particularly on this question.

Question No. 7

How effective are the techniques you use to overcome early fatigue (i.e., how far do you ride utilizing those techniques)?

This question was poorly worded. Some respondents read it as intended, that is, how far do you ride after first noticing fatigue. Three responded similarly to question number 6, how far do you ride from the beginning of the trip to the place where you must stop due to fatigue.

Five respondents indicated a range of 15 minutes to one and one-half hours of additional riding before stopping. Most considered one-half hour to one hour additional riding time was expected using their personal techniques for maintaining alertness.

Question No. 8

Do you find fatigue to be more of a problem when riding behind a fairing, or nekkid?

Nekkid (read naked) is motorcyclist slang for a motorcycle without any mounted windscreen of any type.

This question begs a common motorcyclists' bias. Endurance riders generally prefer a fairing. Although, there are techniques which can be used with naked bikes which arguably result in less fatigue than using some fairings.

Four respondents never use a fairing and one has never ridden without one.

Of the remaining seven, one clearly is less fatigued on a naked bike and two are less fatigued on a bike with a fairing.

Of the remaining four, there are more varied comments. For instance, physical fatigue is more a problem on a naked bike while mental fatigue is more of a problem on a bike with a fairing. Or, when exposed (naked) fatigue occurs quickly in the cold. In the heat, fatigue occurs more quickly behind a fairing. One respondent notes, "On many fairings the increased turbulence can add more to fatigue than sitting in "clean" wind."

One conclusion we can draw from these responses is that there is not an obvious or unanimous choice. There are those who find merit in both configurations.

Question No. 9

Have you ever had training re: motorcycle rider fatigue?

Of ten riders responding to this question, seven give a definite "no" as their response. One, apparently an endurance rider, references information received from the Long Distance Riders' email list serve and the Iron Butt Association's "Archive of Wisdom." (The URL for the Iron Butt Association's web site is included in Appendix B) Another references discussion with other riders. Another feels fatigue to be such an individual phenomenon he is capable of learning about it all on his own.

What is clear, none of the respondents have experienced anything approximating formal training.

Additional Comments

Four respondents provided additional comments. Two consider fatigue to be a bigger problem when driving a car than riding a motorcycle. One of these respondents is aware of only one motorcycle crash due to nodding off, yet he knows of several people who have crashed cars due to drowsiness. He also suggests this tabulation may be quite biased due to the limited number of motorcyclists he knows compared to the number of car drivers he knows. Yet it is his perception.

A high degree of individual differences regarding fatigue cause another respondent to think this is a difficult subject to define. The available literature on the web tends to confirm this view.

Concern about short term attention deficits is also commented on. This rider proposes fatigue can occur without traveling very far. The basic nature of sleep loss, sleep debt and circadian rhythm disruption provide mechanisms conducive to short term attention deficits.

Fatigue Related Crashes and Near Misses

None of the respondents have experienced a fatigue related crash on a motorcycle. One has experienced such a crash in a car. The details of this passenger car experience can be found in Appendix A.

Three of the twelve respondents report at least one instance of "nodding off" while riding. Other personal accounts of "nodding off" have been related to this author verbally. The following are summaries of their accounts .

Rider 1.

While solo on interstate on a clear day during mid afternoon, this rider "Got distracted at speed, almost ran into next lane and into/under semi in next lane." He had traveled about 100 miles during the last hour and a half and had a turkey sub sandwich for lunch about two hours before the incident occurred. He had taken "Ibuprofen. And lots it." He is now reasonably convinced Ibuprofen contributes to his fatigue symptoms.

Several of these conditions are problematic for alert riding. Mid afternoon begins the circadian rhythm for lowered alertness in most humans. Turkey is one of three foods known to induce drowsiness. The other two are milk and bananas. Ibuprofen has many possible side effects, and although drowsiness per se is not one of them, lightheadedness and dizziness are possibilities.

This example shows the sensitivity of the body to combined fatigue generating mechanisms.

Rider 2

"I've nearly given myself a heart attack by waking up while riding on one occasion. That's all it took for me to lay down the 'one headshake' rule." A "headshake" is an action this rider takes when feeling loss of focus while riding. He uses it to reorient his vision and briefly regain alertness.

Rider 3

While riding solo at highway speed in the middle of a cool, dry night following 18 to 20 hours riding "excessive distances," this rider "started to nod and looked up to see that I was a significant ways down the road and about to run into the ditch (not a very friendly looking ditch)." He had eaten something recently and is reasonably sure he had been on the road for 30 to 60 minutes since the last stop. Just prior to the near miss incident, he had been nodding and very tired - "unable to concentrate on riding." There were no medications involved during the prior 24 hour period.

The danger signs for "nodding off" are present in this incident - middle of the night time frame, long hours doing a potentially monotonous task with obvious signs of fatigue present. This is a very predictable situation.


This informal survey indicates fatigue and its most dangerous results, drowsiness and nodding off, are both frequent and serious problems for motorcyclists. Riders have varying degrees of awareness of the problem and many take some precautions both before beginning a ride and while riding. There are several techniques riders use to extend their riding time once signs of fatigue are detected. There is no consensus regarding the effectiveness of these fatigue countermeasures. Some require almost immediate rest while others can extend their ride for long periods. Generally, motorcycle riders recognize sleep, in varying forms, as the primary countermeasure for fatigue.

The responses indicate, as suggested by one rider, fatigue and its countermeasures vary considerably from individual to individual.

Knowledge of fatigue and its countermeasures is relatively unavailable within the motorcycling community. Organizations associated with endurance riding offer the only helpful information on this topic. This survey indicates people rely primarily on their own experiences and some limited discussion with other riders for their orientation to remaining alert while riding.

Final Comments from the Author

There may be fatigue related concerns unique to motorcyclists. For instance, does a full face helmet significantly limit a rider's oxygen supply over long durations? Are motorcyclists more or less affected by fatigue than passenger car or truck drivers? Do the previously verified indicators of fatigue and drowsiness for other motorists apply to motorcycle riding? Do engine and wind noise play a role in rider fatigue, and if so, to what extent? Does machine vibration play a role in rider fatigue, and if so, to what extent?

These possible unique concerns deserve consideration, especially, in light of the growing popularity of motorcycles for sport and leisure among an aging society. But of more urgent need, is the dissemination of existing information related to fatigue and its countermeasures to the motorcycling community.

Appendix A

The survey provided to the three email list servers contained the following questions. After each question are the verbatim responses received. To improve clarity and consistency, typographical editing, including spelling, punctuation and capitalization, has been applied to the responses.

1 How do you define "rider fatigue?"

Physical or mental impairment, plain and simple (i.e., physical or mental fatigue).

When I can no longer concentrate on the road conditions without a conscious effort to remain alert.

Rider fatigue occurs when the lapse between an actual hazard, the perception of the hazard, and required time-to-correction by the rider results in a growing incapacity of the rider to react appropriately.

When I start losing my concentration and feel like I could fall asleep almost immediately if I were to stop and lie down.

First shot answer would be: Fighting against sleep. But thinking about it I would say fatigue does start earlier, maybe with reduced awareness.

Impairment, reduced ability to concentrate, comprehend, react, and multi-task. Fatigue impairment would be caused by insufficient nutrition, rest or recovery time.

The condition of being tired enough to adversely affect my driving abilities.

Rider fatigue happens when the riders reaction time is too slow to effectively/safely operate a motorcycle.

Inability to adequately preserve my safety on the road. Lack of focus. You can feel it at 300 miles or in 530 p.m. rush hour traffic...

When I feel drowsy.

Any condition which results in diminished awareness and delayed reaction time.

I ask myself "am I impaired to a degree that I'd be uncomfortable being a pillion passenger or having passengers on the bike?". The more complex answer is the inability to provide: 1) Full mental concentration on the ride 1a) - If I'm daydreaming, I'm not fully concentrating on the ride. 1b) - If I'm oblivious or numb to potential dangers, I'm not fully concentrating on the ride. An example would be going 55 or 65 in a 55 or 65 zone when foliage is near the road that could hide deer. Choosing to ignore this or realizing that I haven't thought of this shows poor judgement... 1c) - If I'm thinking of ways to stay awake, I'm not fully concentrating on the ride. 1d) - If I'm unable to maintain my line or an even speed I'm in advanced fatigue and in the danger zone. 2) Full physical concentration 2a) - If my leg is too sore to keep over the rear brake, I'm not physically concentrated on the ride. 2b) - If I'm too sore to cover my front brake or horn in multilane traffic I'm not physically concentrated on the ride. 2c) - If my reaction times are noticeably poor, I'm not physically concentrated on the ride.

2 What techniques/actions do you use, prior to getting on the bike, to ward off fatigue?

I try to get sufficient sleep, be properly hydrated, dress for comfort and safety (sometimes at odds) and take multivitamins. Regarding Multivitamins, I find I require less sleep and experience less fatigue when nutrition is supplemented.

Don't ride on a full stomach. Don't plan a ride further than can be accomplished within my body's normal daily schedule. Insert earplugs to reduce noise-induced fatigue. Be happy. Seriously. A positive frame of mind seems to work wonders for my ability to ride without mental fatigue.

My technique prior to getting on the bike is cleaning my visor. I was told by a state trooper many years ago that a dirty windshield was the biggest cause of eye fatigue in drivers. Why? Because it has two surfaces to look thru. You need to clean both surfaces so your eyes don't have to compensate for the dirt.

I think it's important to get as much oxygen into the bloodstream as possible when fatigue begins to set in. I breathe deeply and vigorously until I'm just to the point of dizziness. Exercises are also important: neck & shoulder rolls, windmills, stretches. Finally, because fatigue can set in as a result of weather discomfort I think it's important to dress for the ride. I stay cool when it's warm with a "cool-tie" and use an electric vest when it's chilly. Electric vests are the best possible fatigue prevention when the temperature starts to drop because they keep warm blood pumping to the extremities. This prevents the reaction delay associated with numbing hands or fingers.

I use no special techniques other than adequate rest. I avoid caffeine.

To be honest, not very much. At least, before starting the ride I usually do a little 'self-test'. Am I a little ill/tired/'emotionally irritated' ? So I try to adapt the riding style to my condition. But I wouldn't consider this as very effective.

I try to make sure that I'm well rested, have eaten, am well hydrated ( especially here in the desert) and that I'm not trying to concentrate on other things as well as ride.

Try to get adequate sleep before a major ride stretching exercises breathing exercises

As much sleep as possible/reasonable prior to starting light meals.

Long distance travel requires frequent stretching, hydration and good noise-reduction (I wear good construction-site earplugs). It's also a good idea to avoid fooling yourself into thinking too many stimulants will help.


Breathing techniques, exercise mental & physical.

3 What clues do you use to identify fatigue while riding?

Heavy eyes, loss of mental focus, inability to maintain a line, poor reaction time, or impaired judgement. Note: impaired judgement can cause itself to not be detected.

Loss of fine control manipulation, slowness in response reaction, inability to focus on problem-solving tasks, inability to recall immediate details about my surroundings, yawning.

Boredom and tiredness.

I call them "headshakes". A headshake occurs when you need to shake you head to gather focus. My rule is, "One headshake and I'm off the bike for at least an hour".

When I start losing my concentration and feel like I could fall asleep almost immediately if I were to stop and lie down.

Non-smooth riding, thoughts wandering around, unconcentrated. Not being able to remember if the last traffic light was REALLY green... the wish to close my eyes.

Riding skill mistakes poor cornering, etc. Losing awareness of where I've been " I don't remember the last 30 miles! Maybe I'm tired."

Inconsistent speed inability to maintain lane position wandering thoughts mild depression - negative thoughts.

In this order: stiffening neck muscles, slowing reaction times, yawning, droopy eyelids, seeing alligators carrying Norman Mailer dolls.

If I know I'm tired, I try to remember my last few lane-changes or the positions of cars--if I can't get a clear picture of the last few minutes, I know I have been on "auto-pilot", which is really dangerous for a space-cadet like me...!

My eyes see too much light and I want to squint.

Reduced depth perception is my fatigue zone. Diminished visual awareness, daydreaming (wandering thoughts), overly tight muscles.

4 What techniques/actions do you use to overcome fatigue, once identified?

Depends on the degree, I first try to improve comfort: If hot I try to cool. If cold, I try to warm. If sore, I stretch. Next is food and Hydration. If these don't help, or fatigue is advanced, I stop and rest.

1) Sensory stimuli - eat Altoid mints, perform isometric movements while riding, ride with the face shield open, etc. 2) Mental stimuli - calculate fuel mileage, plan route, sing songs, etc.

I stop every 3 hours for at least 15 minutes of walking about and stretching. Fifteen minutes of non-riding distractions seems to be good for about an hour and a half of decent riding focus, presuming that the ride itself is not keeping me entertained. Eating constantly but lightly also seems to help. Riding with the face shield closed seems to increase fatigue (via carbon dioxide buildup?), so ensuring good oxygen intake is a priority whenever I start to feel tired...

Stand up, stretch, shake a leg, swerve, pit stop. Aside from the techniques mentioned above, I sing to myself or deliver political speeches to the wind.

Temporary measures include standing up into the wind and talking to myself. The only technique effective for more than a few minutes is a "power nap". One hour of sleep is enough for several more hours of riding.

Open helmet visor, to get fresh air. Concentrating on driving smoothness.

Rest stop!! Preferably at a restaurant. Or, just stop for the night.

Stage 1: eat a power bar or such, drink more fluids (gator ade), stretch, breath deeply, more air in the face. Stage 2: get off bike, walk, wash face with cold water. Stage 3: depending on urgency of arriving on time: caffeine or stop and sleep.

As soon as my neck muscles start to stiffen I generally stand up on the pegs for a while. I try doing deep knee bends while on the bike (no matter how silly this looks), as well as rotating my arms at the shoulder socket in an attempt to work out the stiffness. I like to try to identify car makes and look for interesting roadside attractions in order to keep mentally sharp. Often also I will stop the bike along side the road, get off and stand for a few moments. In more severe situations I will lay forward on my tank bag for a 10 or 15 minute nap. Also when I eventually "hit the wall" I often pull over for a 30 minute to 2 hour nap. you can really take these naps where ever a convenient and safe place is found. Alongside a busy gas station, in highway rest stops (near other people for safety). People think that they need 8 hours of sleep every time they sleep: not true. Thirty minutes of sleep will greatly reinforce you ability to operate a bike.

Stop, stretch, jump around and generally change pattern for a few minutes. Look at weird crap in truck stops. Helps to take your boots off too, though that sounds silly. Barefoot roadside calisthenics???

I stop and sleep

Mental (mind) exercises (controlled thinking) & physical exercises, on or off the bike depending on need and situation.

5 What factors would lead to a decision to pull off the road?

Heavy eyes, loss of mental focus, inability to maintain a line, poor reaction time, or impaired judgement. Also LEO's with lights ablaze waving me over!

1) The clock. I rarely ride past 2:00 AM, since I KNOW my body and mind are generally mush between 2:00 AM and 6:00 AM. 2) Inability to "resolve" the fatigue clues stated above, e.g. when I cannot seem to find any trick which will allow me to calculate the amount of fuel required to ride to the next town on the billboards, or when I cannot seem to recall the name of last town I passed. On the freeway, it's easier to spot the mental warning signs than it is to spot the physical warning signs of fatigue. On secondary/back roads, the opposite is true. Therefore, the "games" that one uses to identify fatigue in the first place, deal with it, and ultimately determine riding fitness, must be predicated upon the riding environment.

If I thought I might nod off.

Road hazards such as poor traction, visibility, or increasing physical discomfort which proved too distracting for safe operation. Beyond that, the "headshake" mentioned above.

When I start losing my concentration and feel like I could fall asleep almost immediately if I were to stop and lie down.

If the wish to close my eyes is getting too strong, If I notice that my eyes closed for some milliseconds.

Showing signs of fatigue as mentioned above, making a stupid mistake and scaring myself.

Continued inability to drive steady and straight, with a reasonable degree of alertness, after the steps above have been taken.

Inability to concentrate, nodding, droopy eyes.

Never have, though I have tried to get others to do so. I'm pretty central on the NC-MA strip we usually ride, so I always get picked up by folks who've been on the road for hours.

Only noticing droopy lids.

After an attempt at an on bike exercise ( either mental or physical ) if fatigue resurfaces or continues in the next 5-10 minutes.

6 How far do you ride before fatigue is normally identified?

The answer depends on too many variables, how many hours awake, stress level, type of riding environment etc. I've gone on short rides in the morning after a full night's sleep without sufficient concentration/alertness and returned home. Conversely I've been on the road 16 hours an felt ready for anything - and probably was.

2-3 hours between "waves", all day long, with the clock starting from the minute I wake up... :-) 16-20 hours before I cannot effectively deal with the fatigue.

By myself, a long time. Riding with others, never.

Distance is not as important a factor as one might think, but time in the saddle is. On the whole, 36 hours without sleep borders the edge for me. The hallucinations associated with riding two days and nights in a row would put me off the bike in a hurry.

Depends on how much rest I have had. After a full night's sleep, 24 hours is not a problem. After a one hour power nap, I may go another 6-8 hours.

That totally depends on the history of that specific day. Exhausting office day or relaxed weekend day.

I usually have two periods of fatigue on a long ride. The first usually occurs within the first 100 miles, I don't know what causes it, but it usually passes within 15 minutes. The second fatigue sets in much later and depends on a myriad of factors. I don't always know how far I'll be able to ride on a given day so I usually have intermediary stops planned in case I don't think that I should ride all the way to my planned stop. I've comfortably done several 800 mile days and I was glad to be off of the bike when I was done. I can usually count on being able to ride 500 to 600 miles on any given day.

About 17 hours before first fatigue signs about 21 hours for more severe symptoms.

It varies, however I normally "hit the wall" around 3am and until 6am. For garden variety fatigue, it normally takes 10 to 12 hours before I start to feel the effects.

I have never ridden more than 600 miles in a day, but fatigue often sets in the late afternoon, whatever the distance. And after 3-400 miles, a long stretch and some light food is a great idea.

It's not distance, but any time in the afternoon.

Not sure.

7 How effective are the techniques you use to overcome early fatigue (i.e., how far do you ride utilizing those techniques?)?

Again it depends on the degree of fatigue and the riding circumstances. Heavy eyes or inability to hold a line will only be maintained to the nearest exit. If none exists within 20 minutes, other places to rest will be considered. I believe at this point the risk of getting mugged is less than that of remaining on the road.

I can usually ride for 18 hours, so long as I follow the above regimen.

Fifteen miles to 100 miles, depending on the technique.

I would describe my techniques as marginally effective. They're temporary fixes to a problem which requires a more lasting solution, namely a few hours of sleep.

Half hour max without a power nap.

I usually can't fight it longer than 1/2 to 1 hour.

Once I'm clearly tiring I try to stop every 1-1/2 to 2 hours. I can usually count on a minimum of 1-1/2 hours after a 15 to 20 minute stop and a quick snack and drink.

Pretty effective can generally go about 30+ hours before I HAVE to sleep for a few hours

Very effective. I am usually able to "ride through" early fatigue and only have to stop when full blown fatigue hits.

I have never ridden more than 600 miles in a day, but fatigue often sets in the late afternoon, whatever the distance. And after 3-400 miles, a long stretch and some light food is a great idea.

Sleep works great.

Additional 45 min to 1 hour after that a rest stop is in order.

8 Do you find fatigue to be more of a problem when riding behind a fairing, or nekkid?

I do not use a fairing in order to wear adequate safety gear while still avoiding hyperthermia. In the winter I dress sufficiently warm that I'd roast behind a fairing.

Physical fatigue, nekkid. Mental fatigue, behind a fairing.

It's been a long time riding with a fairing, but probably nekkid.

A fairing does wonders in preventing fatigue.

I get less fatigued behind a good fairing because the wind noise is tiring on a bike with less protection.

Never ridden tired with a fairing. But since the fresh and cool stream of air in my face is a mayor technique to fight the fatigue I would guess it's a difference.

In most weather no. When it's cold I tire much more quickly when I'm exposed. In very hot weather it's the other way around.

N/A - all my riding is on a Gold Wing (fairing)

Inclement weather, when inappropriately dressed can certainly add to fatigue, however this is not a function of a fairing. On many fairings the increased turbulence can add more to fatigue than sitting in "clean" wind.

I have never noticed the difference, but I have only used a bikini fairing (R100S) or no fairing (R75/5). Big fairing scare me. Like sails.

I never use a fairing, but if I ride slowly it's worse, fast is better.

Don't know I only ride nekkid.

9 Have you ever had training re: motorcycle rider fatigue?

Only via information gleaned from the LDrider list and the Iron Butt "Archive of Wisdom"



Training? No. Conditioning? Yes. Everything I need to learn about fatigue I'm capable of learning on my own.



Nothing specific. Just the general discussion with other riders.




Additional Comments:

I generally would say that fatigue is a bigger problem in cars. I know of several cases where some friends fell asleep while driving their car, and only one guy who crashed because he fell asleep on his moto guzzi. But then, I know more cage driver than motorcyclists :)


I'm very interested in the results of this survey. I find fatigue to be a difficult subject to pin down as it seems to have a high degree of individual differences.


It may be worth saying that a lot of folks get fatigue without traveling very far--I think it can be brought on even in the short term by folks who consume too much caffeine, who don't maintain proper awareness (we all know

guys who just assume the world watches out for them) and who try to push farther-faster without breaks. I have had friends get road-dazed driving from DC to Blacksburg, VA, which is only a 3-hour trip on 81 why? They stoked on no-doz and we left at 11:30 at night after getting sunburned all afternoon--stoopid. Hope your study addresses short-term attention- deficits!


I can ride a bike farther than a car without getting tired, but it's automatic on most afternoons.

The following information is taken from personal accounts of fatigue related crashes and near misses.

Fatigue Related Crashes


Only in a car, but it might help to lay it out below. 2 a.m., Capital Beltway D.C., 65 mph southbound.

What do you recall prior to the crash?

Being in the middle of three lanes.

Prior food/drink, and when.

no--maybe a Jolt cola

How far had you gone since the last stop?

75 miles or so.

What are the details of the crash sequence?

I woke up with two righthand wheels climing the slanted guard-barrier, jerked the wheel gently down, lost the front tire completely and skidded to a stop.

Medicines and/or behavioral traits?

Just too many miles, and possibly too much of my asthma medication due to Rugby game.

Were you on any medications (prescription or otherwise) at the time or 24 hours prior to

the time of the accident?

Asthma medication.

Fatigue Related Near Misses


Rider 1.


Solo, interstate road, clear day, mid afternoon.

Prior food/drink, and when.

Lunch about 2 hours earlier (turkey sub). CamelBak used regularly during ride.

How far had you gone since the last stop?

100 miles - 1 1/2 hours

What are the details of the near-miss sequence?

Got distracted at speed, almost ran into next lane and into/under semi in next lane. :-(

Medicines and/or behavioral traits?


Were you on any medications (prescription or otherwise) at the time or 24 hours prior to

the time of the accident?

Ibuprofen. Lots of it. I now regulate my intake more regularly, as I am reasonably convinced that it heightens my fatigue symptoms. I may be wrong, but ya never know... :-)

Rider 2.

No. I've been lucky. I've nearly given myself a heart attack by waking up while riding on one occasion. That's all it took for me to lay down the "one headshake" rule.

Rider 3.


Middle of the night, having ridden excessive distances during the preceding 18 to 20 hours. Riding by myself, cool, no rain.

Prior food/drink, and when.

I'm sure that I had eaten something fairly recently.

How far had you gone since the last stop?

I can't remember for sure but I think I'd been on the road for 30 minute to 1 hour since the last stop.

What are the details of the near-miss sequence?

Just prior to the near miss I was nodding and very tired. I was unable to concentrate on riding. I was at highway speed, starting to nod and looked up to see that I was a significant ways down the road and about to run into the ditch (not a very friendly looking ditch)

Medicines and/or behavioral traits?


Were you on any medications (prescription or otherwise) at the time or 24 hours prior to

the time of the accident?


End Of Survey Questions and

Appendix B

The following web sites offer information related to fatigue, its countermeasures and sleep. There is abundant fatigue related information found in many of the sleep web sites.


This is probably the premier web site for fatigue. It features the Fatigue Countermeasures Program. It also provides access to the Fatigue Resources Directory, which can be entered directly at This is a Resource for Managing Fatigue in Transportation. It has links to the following six chapters:

1. Fatigue in Transportation

2. Countermeasures

3. Government Activities

4. Industry Activities

5. Public Interest Groups

6. Scientific Information

Here you will find 28 tips for endurance riding, several of which deal with aspects of fatigue.

This is a page on the California Department of Motor Vehicles web site. It is titled, "If You Are Tired or Sleepy, Driving is NOT Recommended." It discusses Common Situations, Myths, Signs of Sleepiness and other fatigue related issues, like sleep disorders.

Federal Office of Road Safety - Contract Report 72 This report addresses the topic of driver fatigue, an issue which is receiving increasing attention in the road safety field. A range of subject areas is reviewed in detail, including concepts and theories directly related to fatigue, the measurement of fatigue, factors contributing to the onset and development of fatigue, the degree to which fatigue is associated with road crashes, countermeasures having potential for offsetting the degrading effects of fatigue on safety, and an identification of research issues having promise for reducing the role of fatigue in crashes.

REPORT 1 OF THE COUNCIL ON SCIENTIFIC AFFAIRS (A-96) titled Fatigue, Sleep Disorders, and Motor Vehicle Crashes This report discusses the nature of sleep and fatigue, possible health implications, available data on US highway crashes due to sleep disorders and driver fatigue, current research initiatives on motor vehicle safety and fatigue, federal regulations for truck drivers, and the utilization of E-codes to improve surveillance of crash injuries.


This is the Sleep Home Page. It has great links to sleep related sites.

This is the Sleep Medicine Home Page. This home page lists resources regarding all aspects of sleep including, the physiology of sleep, clinical sleep medicine, sleep

research, federal and state information, patient information, and business-related groups.

The American Sleep Disorders Association is a clearing house and accreditation bureau for professional work in the field. Their web site includes many links, both professional and public oriented. There is a page Here you will find a list of Accredited Sleep Disorders Centers, listed by state. A sleep disorders center is a medical facility providing clinical diagnostic services and treatment to patients who present with symptoms or features that suggest the presence of a sleep disorder. A laboratory for sleep-related breathing disorders provides diagnostic and treatment services limited to sleep-related breathing disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

This site asks the question, how sleepy are you? How likely are you to doze off or fall asleep in the following situations, in contrast to feeling just tired? This refers to your usual way of life in recent times. Even if you have not done some of these things recently try to work out how they would have affected you. Use the following scale to choose the most appropriate number for each situation:

William Dement, MD, PhD, heads up the Stanford University sleep study program, apparently a premier center for such efforts. This document describes some of the key facts about sleep, biological rhythms, and sleep deprivation that should be well known to every Stanford student as well as everyone everywhere.

It is a business site with Self-guided Tutorials on Circadian Rhythms, the Biological Clock, Alertness, and Sleep. There are several interesting pages at this site? For instance, at you can take a test to determine if you are an early morning person (lark) or a late night person (owl). There are also pages about fatigue and microsleeps, among others.

This site has a test you can take online to evaluate your propensity for sleep disorders.

One of SleepNet's goals is to link all the sleep information located on the internet. As new sites become available they will be linked here.

Copyright: 1998 Larry Gillen/GILLENgineering Marengo, IN USA

Last modified: November 19, 2002