Photo by Harshad Sharma

You want to push through, and are desperate to make a few more miles before calling it quits. But it’s nearly dark, and all you can think about is a hot meal, a cold beer, and a warm bed.

How can you tell when it’s time to man up, and call it a day? Here are a few telltale signs.

Your Mind Wanders

This list came to me while riding home from Thanksgiving dinner last week. Cruising along with a belly full of turkey and a body full of tryptophan, I started thinking about Aunt Frieda’s stuffing, and what spice she used to create that particularly excellent flavor. Was it thyme? Marjoram? Coriander?

Next thing I know, I was coming up too fast on the pickup truck ahead of me. It was loaded with stuff and plodding along in the slow lane, but I should’ve seen its taillights sooner. A quick check of the rearview and a swerve to the middle lane got me by the turtle, but it was an unnecessary close call. I had also picked up speed without realizing it.

When you lose focus, it’s a cinch to become negligent to the task at hand. Ever daydreamed so intensely you missed your exit? It’s happened to all of us, and while most of the time the fix is to simply get off at the next exit and spin around, the consequences on a bike can be far more perilous than while driving. If your mind starts to wander, it’s time to give it a rest.

Photo by gskx

Your Body Hurts

Dry, bleary eyes, cramping and achy muscles, and the classic numb butt are prime examples of your body telling you it can’t take much more time in the saddle. When your body begins to protest, it can be difficult to stay laser focused on the bike and the road.

Getting lazy with the hand controls. Popping the clutch or making a crunchy gear change. Forgetting to signal. All of these are signs you might be too physically drained to continue.

I’ve noticed after a long day’s ride while touring, I can get lazy with the sidestand, failing to kick it all the way out at stops. I sometimes neglect to flick the turn signal on lane changes.

Making fewer and larger steering and/or braking corrections is also a classic symptom of rider fatigue.

Being excessively hungry or cold are also telltale signs that it’s time to stop for the night. You can’t ride when you’re body is crying for warmth and/or nourishment.

Photo by Jeff Kraus

You’re Already Late

Rushing is always a very bad idea on a bike, but if you’re rushing while fatigued, that’s a surefire recipe for disaster.

Look, if you know you’re not going to arrive on time, and you’re going to have to stop and make a phone call anyway, why push it? Better to make the apologetic call and actually get there eventually than to suffer the alternative due to a haphazard or rushed maneuver.

Fatigued riding is one of the most common causes of motorcycle crashes. The consequences are not worth it, so why chance it?

These are some of the common symptoms of rider fatigue - most are sourced from my own experience over many road miles. You can probably relate.

So, how do know when you’re too tired to continue? How do you decide when to call it a day? What close calls have you had by pushing it?

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