Putting in big miles? Here's how to stay alert on long motorcycle rides.

So you know how to stay comfortable on long motorcycle rides, now, how about keeping your eyes open? Here’s how to stay alert on long motorcycle rides.

Photo: Nicholas D.

1. Play “Chase”

One of the best ways to stay focused is to turn riding into a mental game. It’s a fun way to pass the time and keep your mind from wandering away from the task at hand.

Riding on long or lonesome stretches of highway, I often find myself interacting with other vehicles. Sometimes I’ll turn it into a game of leapfrog. Whether it’s a car, truck or motorcycle, I’ll pass them, then after a few miles, let them pass me back. Repeat.

See a tractor-trailer or other slow moving vehicle ahead? A vehicle merging onto the highway? “Attack” that hole before your nemesis can get there. Then let them win the next time around. Do that all without exceeding your chosen speed range or taking any chances and it’s enough to keep your mind occupied for hours at a time.

We should emphasize that this is a mental game, getting into a real altercation with other traffic is a terrible idea. Other variations might include lifting your feet off the pegs every time you cross a shadow or playing a game of arithmetic using the miles, speed, fuel economy and other numerical variables of your trip. The trick is to give yourself a fun reason to focus on the task of riding without turning it into a chore.

2. Use Your Mouth

It seems obvious, but chewing gum keeps your taste buds and salivary glands stimulated, which helps you stay alert. You can also suck on a piece of hard candy or, for an even bigger boost, an all-natural ginger candy. The latter trades the temporary and ultimately unhealthy effects of sugar for the homeopathic benefits — and eye-opening, nasal passage-clearing aroma — of ginger. It’s a kick in the head, which is exactly what you need on a long ride.

3. Use Your Mouth, More

If you don’t already do it, a long ride on an empty highway is the perfect place to start. For god’s sake, sing! Do it to your heart’s content, loud and proud. Run through every track on your favorite album, belt out your favorite cuts from the grunge years, rap every line from “The Chronic,” whatever it takes.

If you really can’t carry a tune in a bucket, talk to yourself. Have that argument with your boss or your wife you know you’ll never have to the stones to have in real life. Unless, of course, your boss or wife is on the back seat.

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4. Use Your Ears

Thank heaven for Bluetooth. Listening to music or audio books is a fine way to pass the time and keep awake and alert. Best of all, you can do more than just listen to the same forty classic rock tunes on FM radio. Audiobooks are great fun on the open road; so are podcasts and any of the many talk/sports stations on satellite radio.

A caveat on audiobooks: the droning intonation of a soothing voice reading a slow-paced book might have the opposite of the intended effect. You’re better off sticking to crime stories, spy novels or anything else fast-paced and entertaining. A long night ride through the desert is probably not the ideal opportunity to catch up on your Dostoevsky.

5. Get Physical

As RideApart staffer Wes Siler stated in his comfort story, keeping your body awake and alert is as important as keeping your mind sharp. Stand up on your pegs, change your position on the seat, shake out your wrists and hands, shake your head from side to side — do whatever it takes to keep the blood flowing through your body and brain.

A cheap, but effective way to do this is simply to expose yourself to the elements. Zip down your jacket or flip up your visor for a little bit. Not only will the fresh air clear out your mind, but the physical sensation of the wind on your person will likely make a huge difference, even if only for a few minutes.

6. Avoid Road Food

Look, I know you guys love your food. I’ve witnessed the gluttony at the food court at a rally. And, the debate over the best road food is endless and pervasive; at any biker meetup, it’s impossible not to overhear a debate on the best ribs or burgers in an area.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some barbecue. Burgers and hot wings in particular. But, not while riding. I’ve learned the hard way that big lunches, especially those involving fried foods, are just a bad idea on a ride. Big meals require energy for digestion, removing focus from riding and unhealthy food can lead to…impromptu bathroom breaks. And bathrooms can be hard to find in the middle of nowhere.

Instead, keep food light and keep it lean. Opt for a sandwich instead of a burger or, even better, those big salads that can be topped with grilled chicken.

These are some of my tried and true methods for staying awake on a long ride. What are yours?

Related Links:

Save Your Butt: How To Stay Comfortable On Long Motorcycle Rides

Wear This: Best Winter Mid And Base Layers

Under This: Best Leather Motorcycle Jackets Under $700