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The dangers of falling asleep whilst riding; from Gary July 07

From Gary Vincent

I was looking at your website and viewing your rider tips, I was reading the one titled “staying awake”, and I can picture those who question tiredness on a bike. When I saw your admission about falling asleep on a bike, I was surprised, but I wholly believe it, because I have done the exact same thing myself, 24 years ago, and it was probably the most frightening thing that has ever happened to me on two wheels.

I was 17 at the time on a Suzuki B120 with L plates, I had completed a long and tiring day at work, I was fed up and wanted to relax, so I jumped on the bike early one hot summer evening, and headed to the coast about 40 miles away down the A120, got there ok and had a drink and something to eat, decided I was getting tired and headed home about 9.30pm.

About halfway home, I was on a long boring bypass (national speed limit) and all I remember was riding normally, next thing I knew I hit a bump or a manhole or something, and I woke with the bike travelling about 50mph near the centre line of the road, headed into the opposite side of the road at maybe a 20 – 30 degree angle and straight towards a bloody great articulated lorry maybe 300 yards away.

If that bump hadn’t woken me, I am almost certain I would not be here today to tell about this “moment”.

Anyways, this fright woke me enough to get to the next layby a quarter to a half of a mile away, where I parked up and had an hour’s power nap by the roadside. Then proceeded home VERY aware of the dangers of riding whilst tired.

I don’t know how often people don’t believe you when you tell them it can happen, fairly often I would guess judging by the fact I often get disbelieving looks when I mention this, but I know for a fact it can, and will happen if the initial signs of tiredness are ignored. Please feel free to use my experience to back up your own should it be necessary to get through to someone about the dangers of tiredness. Great tips on your website by the way, keep up the good work. Gary Vincent Thanks for the nice words Gary. Research clearly shows that the problem is massively underestimated by car drivers – and though many don’t seem to believe it, it is possible to fall asleep on a bike – after all, the bike is balanced and steers itself when upright. It’s perfectly possible to fall asleep standing up, so sitting down on a bike shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone – yet it is!

I can remember catching the overnight 1am/5am ferry to Zeebrugge (to save money) and riding to see my girlfriend on Heidelberg, about an 8 hour motorway zzzzz ride from the coast and having to do just the powernap on a couple of occasions. Plus on numerous other long trips including the Welsh National Rally a couple of years back – by 6am I’d hit the wall good and proper and needed 30 mins sleep to get me to the finish! The weird thing about my own experience on the website was the “waking dream” I had of reaching the junction and the fact I’d actually put the indicator on!

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