A motorcycle headache can completely wreck a perfect riding day.
Like any kind of pain, it makes the ride way less fun.
And if it’s really bad, it can even be dangerous – especially if you’re the rider rather than the passenger.
It’s pretty hard to focus on keeping the bike upright if your head is pounding, right?
A motorcycle headache can quickly ruin a great ride.
Whether you’re in control of the motorcycle, or sitting on the passenger seat, a throbbing head is no fun.
But there are some quick ways to reduce the pain safely, and get back to enjoying every minute on a motorcycle.
So what can you do if you get a headache when you’re about to ride your motorcycle?
Or if your head starts to throb in the middle of the ride?
How to Deal with a Motorcycle Headache:
10 Things That Can Help
The worst thing you can do when a motorcycle headache develops is just hope it will pass.
What if it doesn’t?
It’s a nightmare trying to navigate tight corners or heavy traffic when your head is pounding away like the neighbour’s kid who got a drum kit for Christmas.
So take action right away.
1. Drink some water
A motorcycle headache can easily be brought on by dehydration.
This is more obvious in warmer weather, when you sweat more (especially in all those layers of motorcycle gear).
But it can happen when it’s cold, too.
You can still be dehydrated, but you forget to drink because you’re not as actively thirsty.
Have a glass of water before you head out, and make sure you carry some with you.
And every time you stop, top up your fluid levels.
This alone can make a difference.
There’s even some science behind it.
But if water doesn’t help…
2. Take a non-drowsy painkiller
Sometimes all you need is a couple of aspirin, paracetemol, or ibuprofen to stop the pain.
Take one or two as soon as you feel it coming on and with any luck, you’ll be back to normal by the time you head out on the motorcycle.
Naturally you’ll want to avoid any strong painkillers that could make you sleepy.
You want to be pain-free, but alert every single time you climb aboard the motorcycle.
And slip a couple of extra tablets in your jacket pocket before you leave.
You might need them out on the road, when there’s no pharmacy in sight.
3. Caffeine can help
A strong cup of coffee or tea can fix a motorcycle headache almost instantly.
If the sun is beating down and you can’t face a hot coffee, try an iced coffee or tea.
Cold coffee-based drinks tend to contain more fluid than a standard tea or coffee, too – so you’re rehydrating at the same time.
Ask for a double shot while you’re there – may as well get the maximum benefit of the caffeine.
Again, there’s some real science behind this.
4. Protect your eyes
The glare of the sun is sometimes enough to bring on a headache all on its own.
Depending on where you live and ride, sometimes the quality of the light is really harsh.
The glare can make you wince as it bites into your brain.
Squinting or closing your eyes entirely is a reaction, but not a fix.
And it’s not exactly an option if you’re the rider!
So make sure you have some good, dark protection for your eyes.
If you’re riding in an open faced motorcycle helmet, a pair of wrap-around sunglasses will help.
Even better, the drop-down tinted visors that many helmets have now will provide instant relief.
And while we’re talking helmets…
5. Wear a comfortable helmet
The wrong motorcycle helmet can definitely cause a headache.
If it doesn’t protect you from the noise of the wind rush, or even worse – it doesn’t fit right, that can be enough to bring on a headache all on it’s own.
A motorcycle helmet that’s too tight is a nightmare.
It’ll squish your face up, and make you feel like your head is stuck in a vice.
Yep, it might loosen up over time.
Then again, it might not.
Do you want to try and break it in by having a motorcycle headache every time you ride for the next 5 years?
Just get one that doesn’t make you feel like your brain is about to squelch out of your ears.
But a motorcycle helmet that’s too loose is also a problem.
If it’s too big, it’ll flop around, and bang against your head every time you go over a bump.
And it’s not like it’s going to magically shrink one day to fit your head.
It’s not like your favorite pair of jeans you accidentally put in the dryer (and now they’re too small).
Again, it could be time to splash out, and buy a helmet that supports your head, and is actually comfortable.
So, to help with a motorcycle headache, your helmet needs to:
- Fit comfortably – not too loose, and not too tight
- Ideally be full face – so you can close the visor
- Include some kind of eye protection – to cut down on glare, and
- Protect your ears – the noise of the motor and the wind will make you feel worse when you have a motorcycle headache.
6. Muffle the noise as much as you can
A motorcycle headache – like any kind of headache – seems to get worse in a noisy environment.
That’s a bit of a problem on a motorcycle!
Riding on a motrocycle is not like reading quietly in perfect silence in a corner of the public library, is it?
No-one is saying SHHH! when you’re out on the open road.
There’s noise coming from EVERYWHERE:
- The traffic all around you
- The motorcycle’s engine and exhaust note
- The screaming of the wind in your ears
- Rider to passenger intercom, and of course
- Any music you may have pumping into your ears.
This might not be the time to have AC/DC’s greatest hits thumping through your earbuds.
Something a little more soothing may help, or even better…
They cut down on ALL the sounds being funnelled into your ears, making for a quieter, less jarring ride.
7. Increase air flow
Just like sitting in a stuffy room, a helmet that doesn’t let in air is not going to help your motorcycle headache.
Open up the vents on the top of your helmet, and in the front.
If you’re wearing earplugs, you can even crack open the visor a little to increase the airflow further without being battered by the shrieking of the rushing wind.
Breathe deeply and calmly, and let that sweet oxygen flow into your pounding head.
And once again, the science backs this up, too.
8. Choose your route
If you have a motorcycle headache, riding in rush hour or heavy four lane traffic will be torture.
Now you’re not just dealing with a thumping head.
You’re also having to ride in a noisy environment and deal with the stress of impatient, homicidal car drivers.
This riding environment will make your headache worse, absolutely.
So get out of the city and into the country (or at least some quieter back roads) as quickly as you can.
Choose a two-lane back road with low traffic.
You can relax and let the ride heal you, rather than having to ride on high, adrenaline-fuelled alert like you’re in a video game.
9. Pick a calming destination
And while you’re choosing a quieter road, that goes double for deciding where you’ll end up.
There’s not much point finishing the ride at a noisy bar or crowded coffee shop.
Find somewhere out of the way, where you don’t have to shout to have a conversation.
Stop somewhere beautiful, ideally in the middle of nature.
Find a park or a lake, and sit under a tree with some water and takeout coffee.
And ideally, a passing kitten.
10. Avoid extra aggravation
A motorcycle headache is also made worse by stress in general.
So see what you can do to eliminate all those things you know make you crazy.
If you’re irritated and about to start shouting, you can bet your head will start pounding even worse.
Protect yourself from the obvious factors you know will annoy you, and make the veins on your forehead start popping.
- Rush hour and heavy traffic
- Coffee shops where you have to shout to get any service
- Places where parking is impossible, and another guaranteed source of stress, and
- People who need a personality transplant.
Yep, this is not the time to go riding with Malcolm, that socially awkward guy with no friends who likes to invite himself on rides with you, so that he can tell you why his bike is better than yours.
Most of the time, you might try to tolerate him, and be kind.
But not today, Malcom, not today.
What if you have a motorcycle migraine?
If you have an absolute woolly mammoth of a motorcycle headache, all bets are off.
You need to be alert and focused on a motorcycle – especially if you’re the rider, but also if you’re the motorcycle passenger.
If your headache is really severe, you’re just endangering yourself by getting on a motorcycle.
Time to postpone the ride until you feel better.
If your head’s pounding that loudly, you won’t enjoy being out on a motorcycle anyway.
And you’ll appreciate the rescheduled ride even more when you can climb aboard pain free.
Motorcycle headaches are just the worst!
It’s so depressing to wake up with the beginnings of a headache when you have an all-day motorcycle ride planned.
And it’s also really stressful when your head starts to hurt when you’re halfway through the ride.
But a lot of the time, a motorcycle headache can be managed.
Just try some of the tips above (and never leave home without a couple of paracetemol tablets).
And remember to take action fast.
Hoping the headache will go away is not really a management strategy.
A couple of aspirin, a good slug of water and a strong coffee could fix you instantly.
That means you can ride safely – and enjoy every moment on the motorcycle.