Dealing with Fatigue – the Hard Way

It was a sad looking sight that limped into my friends’ driveway a few years ago. I had underestimated the power of fatigue. My mission was to complete the 3,200 km round trip in six late fall days: two days of riding each way and a two day visit.

Persistence and determination can be positive attributes; they can also work against you when you are bound to keep going against reason. It’s a recipe for trouble and sure enough, it found me. While not without it’s humorous moments, I did put myself at unnecessary risk.

Factors that contributed to fatigue:

  1. Shorter daylight.
  2. Cold. Most of the time the temperatures were only a few degrees above freezing.
  3. Glare. The sun is low in the sky at that time of year and when heading south, it’s shining right in your eyes.
  4. Strobe effect. The trees are leafless and there’s a strobe effect when riding through them.
  5. Distance. 800 km (500 miles)/day, not all of which were interstate.
  6. Tires. My FZ1 was sporty and the rubber compound was soft. It’s great for hot weather but in the cold it gets hard and looses it’s stickiness. It meant slowing down which extended my days.
  7. Improper gear. Although I had a heated vest, it wasn’t enough. I was heavily layered which created bulk and made it difficult to move.
  8. Weight. My bike was loaded, and not necessarily in the most efficient way.


Although I was quite fatigued nearing the end of Day two and began missing turns and getting lost, I made it to within a mile of their home without incident. By this time dark and lost again, I stopped at a gas station to ask for directions. The people in the convenience store couldn’t help, but my eye caught a sheriff gassing up his squad car. Sure enough he steered me in the right direction.

If only I’d have listened. Muddled, I headed to what I thought was an exit but was only an entrance. The parking lot was cambered and when I put my foot down as I stopped, the bike leaned over further than I could hold up and over we went.

FatigueI handled it brilliantly. While my first thought was to get up and hit the kill switch, I did this instead:

  1. Lay still on the ground. The sheriff was still there and banked on him coming to my rescue. I must admit I was chuckling in my helmet but I was too tired to pick the bike up by myself.
  2. Wait for sheriff. He ran over, gas nozzle still in his car.
  3. Sit up and hit kill switch on bike. Notice that my windscreen is in two diagonal pieces; one still attached.
  4. Assist sheriff to pick up my bike. Clearly concerned, he made me wait five minutes to “regain’ my composure and make sure I was OK.
  5. Pick up pieces and stash on bike.
  6. Start bike and head out in the right direction.
  7. Arrive at my destination within a few minutes.

I still had to get home and knew I couldn’t do so without a windscreen. There was no way to get a replacement so the next day we headed off to the hardware store for materials that would hold it together for the trek home against weather and speed. The photo shows the result. It’s not pretty but it worked famously.

Even with all my riding experience, riding that late in the season for those distances was new to me and I wasn’t prepared. Since then, I’ve invested in more heated gear and am much wiser about preventing fatigue.

What stories do you have about lessons learned from riding?  I’d love to hear them!

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Author, writer, student and motorcycle aficionado Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery. No helmet or jacket required.

2 Comments on “Dealing with Fatigue – the Hard Way

  1. This coming weekend, I’m riding The Void Rally. During this 30 hour ride, there will likely be a 4-6 hr mandatory rest period. I will have two GPS units on the bike and carry duct tape for broken wind screens. I have new tires made for sport touring. Seriously, regardless of rest periods, I will stop when I start to miss turns, have trouble doing some simple math or, the big tell, have to start consciously remembering to put my feet down at stop signs.

    From the IBA web site – Other symptoms to watch for:
    Inability to maintain a desired speed. If you find yourself slowing down and constantly having to speed back up, you are ready to fall asleep!
    Forgetting to turn high beams down for oncoming traffic.
    Indecision. Can’t decide to stop for gas or continue? Can’t decide what turn to take? These are all a result of fatigue.

    Ride safe.

    • If any organization knows about the signs of fatigue, it’s IBA! Thanks for mentioning it BJ. Thanks also for the additional symptoms. You’re approaching it wisely. Much appreciate your wisdom.

      Ride safe.