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why do motorcycle passengers fall asleep featured

Why Do Motorcycle Passengers Fall Asleep? (And How Not To!)

How can it be SO EASY for motorcycle passengers to fall asleep?

I mean, come on…
You’re zooming through the world on a wild, roaring metal beast!
How could you possibly sleep through that?
But I’ve nearly done it myself dozens of times.
This is a mystery that needs to be solved…

Motorcycle passengers can fall asleep very easily.
You may be already tired, or you might be a little too comfortable.
On a sunny day, the hum of the motor can quickly become a soothing lullaby.
But sleeping on a motorcycle is dangerous!
Luckily, there are ways of staying awake when sitting on the back of a motorcycle. 

Let’s start at the beginning.
When it comes to taking a nap, most people choose the couch.
The bed’s another option (if it’s not covered with cats like ours usually is).
But you probably wouldn’t choose a moving motorcycle for a quiet doze.

Of course not.
I wouldn’t either.
I’m not a crazy person.
And yet I’ve nearly fallen asleep on a motorcycle more times than I care to admit.

Let’s dig a little deeper into why it’s so easy to grab a few z’s on the back of a bike.

Why Do Motorcycle Passengers Fall Asleep?
10 Good Reasons

I spend a lot of time on the back of the hubby’s motorcycles.
To date, we’ve done over a quarter of a million kilometres together.
If the sun is out and we’re not working, there’s always a ride on.

So I’ve had a lot of time to think about this.
It turns out there are some perfectly logical reasons for napping on a motorcycle.

Here are 10 of them.

1. Riding is physically tiring!

To an outsider, it looks like sitting on a motorcycle is just like sitting on the couch.

But of course, it’s nothing like that.
Riding a motorcycle (on either seat) is much more physically demanding than it looks.

The rider’s using his arms, shoulders, hips, legs and feet in a complex combination of movements designed to finely control the speed and direction of the bike.

And sitting on the passenger seat involves a physical effort, too.
You’re using a whole range of muscles to adjust to the movements of the bike as it stops and starts, swoops around corners, and avoids road hazards.
You’re constantly using your body to balance, lean and brace.

You may be sitting down, but you’re actually right in the middle of a workout.

2. You’re battling the wind

On a motorcycle, you always have company…
The wind is with you wherever you go.


motorcycle wind rush


And sure, if your bike has a screen, that’ll offer some protection on a windy day.
But it’s still not like being in a car (or on the couch)!

The wind keeps changing direction.
It may attack from the sides.
It’s behind you one minute, and in front of you the next.

The struggle against the wind is more obvious on wilder, gusty days, for sure.
But the wind is right there with you on every single ride.

You hear the wind rush in and around your helmet.
You feel the wind chill factor.

And you know how your face can feel chapped and sore after a ride, even on a cloudy day?
If it’s not sunburn, what is it?
It’s windburn.

The wind really has an impact on how physically demanding the ride becomes.

3. Noise-related fatigue

When you’re sitting on a motorcycle, you’re moving through a changing, sometimes exhausting, world of sound.

Noises are everywhere.
On any one ride, you might hear any or all of these noises:

  • The roar of your own motorcycle’s motor
  • The hissing of truck brakes as a huge rig pulls up alongside you at the traffic lights
  • The howl of the wind in your helmet
  • The straining motor of an over-excited biker who insists on passing you, and of course,
  • The revving motors of passing car drivers who hate that you’re having so much fun.

All these noises are unavoidable on a motorcycle.

And they add up to an all-day onslaught of sound.
That can be tiring, too.

4. Motorcycles make you dangerously happy

I’m never happier than when I’m sitting on the back of the hubby’s motorcycle.
I’m spending time with my favorite person.
I’m not at work.
It might even be the weekend.

Oh yeah, this is my happy place, for sure.
And it’s not even a fantasy world – it’s real.


motorcycles make you happy


When you’re happy, you forget to be stressed.
You feel safe and secure instead.

Hang on a minute…
That’s the perfect state of mind for a snooze, right?

5. Riding conditions can soothe you to sleep

Down here in New Zealand, there are way more sheep than people.
Long, deserted country roads wind gently through rolling green hills.
It’s a calming, empty landscape painted in 20 different shades of green.

And if it’s a beautiful sunny day too, riding conditions are near perfect.
Bundled up in your motorcycle gear, you’re toasty warm and comfortable.
You sigh, and relax.

This is starting to feel like ideal time for a little nap…

6. Motorcycles create mental relaxation

Motorcycles are therapy on two wheels, no doubt about it.

A motorcycle ride helps put your worries in perspective.
It reminds you to take a breath.
Your everyday routine can wait.
Obligations, frustrations, and worries are all put on hold.

You feel calm and content.
Just imagine if we could bottle the Zen mindset that riding puts you in.
We could make a fortune selling it as an insomnia cure!


motorcycles create calm

7. The hum of the motor is like a lullaby

The familiar sound of your motor purring can be incredibly soothing.
It’s almost a lullaby without words.

That rhythmic rumbling sound, combined with the gentle throb of the bike’s vibrations, is comforting and familiar.

It can make you feel like you’re being rocked to sleep like a baby.

8. Being in nature increases your feelings of wellbeing

You don’t have to be a hippie like me to love spending time in the natural world.

I don’t know why, but being around plants and trees changes creates a gear shift in your mind and body.
You breathe more easily.
You feel peaceful instead of stressed.


motorcycles and nature


Riding through the crunchy orange leaves of autumn, or under the green leafy branches of overhanging trees is incredibly calming.

It soothes the soul – you can actually feel it happening.
With Mother Nature watching over you, surely it’s safe to have a little doze?

9. The motorcycle is set up for comfort – hopefully!

Because I spend so much time on a motorcycle passenger seat, you’d better believe it’s more comfortable than the Queen’s feather bed.

Our touring Triumph Thunderbird is especially well set up.
Without making it look embarrassingly like a Lazy Boy armchair, we’ve made some strategic mods.

I have a perfectly placed leather backrest.
The pillion seat has extra padding.
There’s a sheepskin on the seat for another layer of fluffy comfort.
I even have my own floorboards, so I can move my legs around on a long bike trip.
(What a princess!)

So yes, I’m very, very comfortable.
We can easily do 700 km in a day, and happily go out for dinner afterwards.

But being that comfortable does carry one little risk.
It means I can easily settle in for a little catnap…

10. You may already be lacking sleep

Because there’s always so much to do in your daily life, chances are you often get on the bike already tired.

Maybe you’ve been working really hard lately, and you’re exhausted.
You might be having trouble sleeping, and that makes you tired during the day.
Or you might be on your way back from a motorcycle rally, and you spent the night tossing and turning on the hard ground, pretending you like camping.

Let’s face it, we’re not always bursting out of our skin with energy by the time the weekend comes.

So riding through the sunshine on a purring motorcycle sends a clear message to your body:

Hey, this is relaxing! It must be nap time!


motorcycle nap time


Are you starting to see why it’s so easy for motorcycle passengers to fall asleep?
There are a whole heap of reasons that taking a snooze on the bike is just too easy.

But this leads us to the next logical question…

Does it even matter?

Is it really a problem if you have some sleepy time on the bike?
What’s the big deal anyway?

Let’s take a closer look at the safety aspects of sleeping on a motorcycle.

Is it Dangerous to Fall Asleep as a Motorcycle Passenger?

Surely the answer to this question has to be a very loud YES!
How could it possibly be safe to fall asleep on a moving motorcycle?

Obviously, if you’re in control of the bike, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes open.
I’d definitely recommend it.

But even on the back seat, you need to do more than sit there like a sack of potatoes.
A motorcycle passenger needs to be alert, too.


motorcycle passenger dangers

If you’re watching the road, you can be ready for whatever’s coming at you – a sweeping corner, a few miles of rough gravel – and here in New Zealand, maybe even an escaped sheep on the adventure of his life.

But if you’re asleep, you can’t respond to the road conditions as they unfold second by second.
What if you hit a bump while you’re in a light coma?

And there’s another problem to consider – quite a big one, in fact…

As you fall asleep, what’s to stop you slumping forward, or to one side of the bike?
At the very least, this will affect the motorcycle’s handling, and the rider’s balance.

You could even potentially fall off, especially if there’s a pot hole in the road or a tight corner.

When you sleep, you’re not using any part of your body to hold on.
You’re not gripping with your knees or hands anymore.
You’re relying solely on muscle memory to stay in place.

That doesn’t allow for rough roads, speed humps, corners, sudden braking or acceleration.

Personally, I’d rather not trust to luck when it comes to staying put on a motorcycle!
How about you?

So what’s the solution?
How can we possibly keep our eyes open when our bodies think we’re rolling gently down the road on a on a mobile bed?
Let’s look at that next.

5 Ways for Motorcycle Passengers to Stay Awake

OK, so the sun is out, and the motor is rumbling away happily.
All’s well with the world.
You’re warm, you’re relaxed.
And before you know it, your eyelids start getting very, very heavy…

WAKE UP! You might shout to yourself.
(I know I do.)

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work.
Try some of these tricks instead to help you stay awake.

1. Open your visor

A blast of fresh air can wake you up real fast.
Click your visor open, and breathe deeply.
Get some oxygen circulating around your sleepy brain.


open your helmet visor


Notice the smells around you.
Be a moving part of the world you’re roaring through, rather than a sleeping passenger.

2. Sing!

It may sound weird, but remembering the lyrics to songs can really help you to stay awake.

Try piecing together the different verses of a song you haven’t thought about in years.
What was your favorite song when you were, say, 25?
Can you remember the words?

By doing this, you’re challenging your brain with a fun, positive task.
This gives you something light to focus on.
It stops your brain zoning out, and shutting down for a nap instead.

And singing on a motorcycle is a victimless crime.
Mercifully, no-one can hear you (unless you have a Bluetooth headset in your helmet).

3. Stop the bike!

Sometimes persistent sleepiness simply means it’s time for a break.
If you feel like curling up with your favorite pillow, chances are the rider does too.
A break is probably overdue.

Let him know it’s time to stop, and you’re on the lookout for a good place to pull over.

And when you find a little café or a shady tree, have some water, a coffee or a light snack.
(This is not the time for a plate of nachos – you’ll be sleeping that off before you even get back on the bike.)

A break can make you feel refreshed and awake again, and ready for the next leg of the journey.


time for a motorcycle break

4. Watch the road

I always think of myself as a co-pilot rather than a passive motorcycle passenger.
A co-pilot wouldn’t take a nap while helping to fly a plane, right?

I challenge myself to watch out for road hazards, important road signs, or unmarked police cars on a mission to catch us in the act of speeding.

Getting involved in the riding experience can remind you that you have a part to play, too.
Sleeping on the job isn’t that helpful.

5. Do some life planning

Another great way to stay awake is to use the time on the motorcycle to organise your life.

If you spend most of your time rushing around trying to get everything done, this is a priceless opportunity to think calmly without all the usual daily noise.

You can use the ride think through your job options, plan a birthday party or night out, or brainstorm solutions to a problem that’s been bothering you for weeks.

By the time you get to the end of the ride, you’re stimulated and ready for action with a clear way forward.

Motorcycle passengers don’t have to sleep through the ride!

Strange as it sounds, it’s just too easy to fall asleep when you’re a motorcycle passenger.
But at least now you know why it happens.

And not surprisingly, it’s dangerous to take a nap at 70 miles an hour.
So try some of these practical tricks for staying awake, and don’t miss a second of your next motorcycle ride!

Like this article?

Then you might love this…

Why Keep a Motorcycle in the House? 21 Cool Reasons (With pics!)



    Hi Liz! Just have to say thanks for your very intuitive insight. I’m a newbie so your articles are priceless!
    I’m reading everything I can get my hands on before I climb on boyfriends Harley. So please keep em coming! Thanks again!

      Hi Michelle, it’s great to hear that! Just sing out if you have a topic you want me to cover – I try to make sure all my content is useful (and ideally even fun). May you have many wonderful adventures on the Harley! 🙂

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