It has now been established that riding motorcycles offers some kind of therapy. A study conducted by UCLA's Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behaviour concluded that riding a motorcycle can have a significant role in mitigating everyday stress. Ask a seasoned motorcycle rider, and they will quickly attest to the findings of this study. Indeed, the joy of riding a motorcycle cannot be expressed but only be experienced.
While riding a two-wheeler is an indescribable joy, there are risks and hazards associated with the activity. It is, therefore, essential to keep yourself safe while riding, especially when you are riding solo. One has some sort of a safety net while riding in a group, where help is available almost immediately in case of any unfortunate incident. However, while riding solo, the responsibility of your safety and well-being is entirely on your own two shoulders.
Even with that disadvantage, riding solo allows a rider a sense of freedom and flexibility that group rides sometimes don’t. You can choose your own route, change it if you stumble across a beautiful road leading nowhere, make progress at your own pace and can even put a halt to your journey if you find a beautiful place to soak in the sights and sounds at leisure. For this reason, seasoned riders often embark on solo rides, as it allows them to experience their machine and the surroundings without any distractions or a sense of obligation toward other riders. This article discusses things you should keep in mind before you embark on your solo adventures to keep yourself safe and prepared for any adversity.
Make sure your ride is in top shape before you embark on a solo ride. If you are planning a long ride, ensure that your motorcycle is adequately serviced with all the consumables having been checked, replaced if needed, and vital fluids having been topped up. Before the big day, make sure you ride your fully serviced motorcycle for at least 50-60 km. This will help you understand if the vehicle has any issues beforehand and get them fixed. Ensure that you have checked your ride’s tyres for their fitness and optimal pressure. While modern motorcycle chains don’t need to be lubed on the inside, it helps to have them cleaned and occasionally lubed to keep the O-ring seals in good shape. Also, have your motorcycle’s chain checked and adjusted for slack. Have the electric componentry and ensure that all the lights are working correctly. If you are going to ride in the wee morning or night hours, proper illumination is critical. If your two-wheeler is in tip-top condition, it will make your ride comfortable, hassle-free and safe.
Your own fitness
While shorter rides are easy on your body, long-distance rides can really test your physical fitness. It is essential to ensure you are fit to ride long distances alone. Regular exercise, a good diet and a disciplined lifestyle can go a long way in keeping you in good shape. Once you have started your journey, make sure you stay hydrated along the ride. Keep sipping on water or electrolytes - use a hydration pack if you want to be able to replenish your bodily fluids without having to take a halt. Riding a long distance brings a toll on your body, and you need to take breaks whenever you start feeling tired. Do not push yourself too much, as fatigue might lead to distraction and, ultimately, an untoward incident. Also, you need to stretch your legs and relieve the stress every 100-150 km. A quick 10-15 min break will work wonders for you and your motorcycle as well. If you face any problems with your body that might turn into a potential health and safety hazard, it is best to avoid riding solo.
As we always say, safety is of paramount importance while riding two-wheelers. Always wear suitable protective riding gear and carry add-on items like winter and rain liners to mitigate the challenges of sudden weather changes effectively. Your gear should include a jacket with at least CE level 1 protection (preferably CE level 2), riding pants (or knee guards at the very least), riding boots, gloves and of course, a good quality, internationally-certified helmet with anti-fog features. If you are a regular rider, you would probably already have a set of protective gear. If you don’t, invest in a quality set. We say invest because you are not spending or wasting money; you are ‘investing’ in your own safety and well-being.
You need to be well-prepared for any surprises while on the road, especially when you’re riding solo, as you won’t have your rider buddies to help you out. Here’s a small checklist of the items you should carry to be prepared for everyday emergencies.
● A puncture repair kit is essential for those unfortunate flats. It’s great if you can find a puncture repair shop, but if you cannot, you should be equipped to get that flat repaired and get moving
● These days some compact tyre inflation units are available. Carrying one can be a real lifesaver. You’ll need to inflate that flat tyre after repairing it, after all
● Carry a small toolkit for quick repairs
● A torch can also come in handy if you get stuck somewhere during the night. Though most cell phones these days have a small LED torch built-in, a purpose-built, compact LED torch can light up the surroundings a lot better
● If your motorcycle doesn’t have an O or X ring chain, carry a chain lubricant to lubricate the chain at every fuel stop when you are riding long distance
● Carry a power bank to charge your phone. You will need the phone to use GPS and make calls in case of an emergency, so don’t let the phone’s battery become a limiting factor
● Carry some protein or energy bars. They will give you an instant energy boost when you are hungry and exhausted when there is no good food joint in sight
● Carry enough water for the journey. You might also want to invest in a hydration pack so that you can sip on the go. This way, you will need to make fewer stops if you are thirsty
● Carry a first aid kit to take care of yourself in case of an unfortunate fall. Though your protective gear can keep you safe to an extent, carrying a first aid kit is always recommended for those unfortunate incidents
● Carry your rain or winter gear, depending on the weather you will be travelling in
● Carrying some spares such as bulbs, fuses and cables are recommended. They don’t take much space but come in handy if one of them breaks down in the middle of nowhere
Important things to remember
● Always plan your route and try to take known routes as much as possible
● Make a note of main fuel stations, service centres and restaurants on your route. Google Maps can come in handy while listing these down. Mark all the valuable points of interest and save them on locally downloaded maps before you set out so that you are not dependent on cellular networks to make progress in your journey
● Keep your close friends and family informed of where you are going and what route you will be taking
● Eat light. Do not have heavy meals on your journey. Choose the food wisely. Drink purified or packaged water only, and drink often, as staying hydrated will keep you away from fatigue for longer
● Take ample breaks based on your fitness and endurance levels. If you start feeling tired, do not overexert in a bid to extend the distance covered. Take a halt immediately, rest for some time, splash some water on your face and have a light snack and a beverage before you resume the journey
● It is best to avoid night travel when riding solo, but if you must ride at night, ensure that you are fully rested during the day. Your gear should by default have reflective material on it, but if it doesn’t, make sure you stick some reflective strips on it to be appropriately visible to other road users
● Be mentally prepared for any challenges, and if you feel you can’t go on, don’t think twice before taking a halt. Stay the night at some hotel and start your journey afresh the next day
While all those precautions and preparations might seem a little overwhelming to you, it is always better to be safe than sorry. An unforeseen incident can make your riding experience a bitter one. Although, if you are prepared, it will be a smooth, memorable experience. On that note, remember to have fun and enjoy your machine during your journeys, as there’s nothing that moves the body, mind and soul like a motorcycle. Ride safe!