Yes, Noddy, the Pogues and Mariah C are monopolising the airwaves, you can’t move for German markets, and mince pies are being consumed at 9am. It’s Christmas alright.
It’s time to relax, have fun and do a bit of socialising, no doubt with a drink or two.
But where does that leave bikers?
Well, in trouble if we drink and think we can ride home afterwards.
There are only two options for bikers: either leave the bike at home, or stick to soft drinks. There is no third option that allows us a drink or two.
Ever wondered why…
Alcohol could be best described as a biker’s kryptonite. It lessens our skills, reduces our powers and affects our ability.
Here’s a list of the things it harms…
JUDGEMENT: The ability to make sound and responsible decisions.
Alcohol affects your mental functions first, and judgment is the first to go, which means reason and caution are quickly reduced. You start to take risks.
Our judgement can be affected by alcohol levels as low as .02% BAC. That is about half a pint of normal strength beer, or less than a small glass of wine (125ml).
CONCENTRATION: The ability to shift attention from one point of action to another.
Alcohol impairs a motorcyclist’s ability to concentrate on the multiple tasks involved in riding, such as vehicle speed, positioning, responding to other traffic on the road and signals/commands, and co-ordinating with other road users.
COMPREHENSION: The ability to understand situations, signs, and signals.
Alcohol impairs our ability to “interpret” situations, signs and/or signals which we must understand and respond to quickly to be safe on the road.
It leaves us easily confused and not able to respond to emergency situations or comprehend the meaning of simple signals (ie, running through a Give Way sign, handling a roundabout).
CO-ORDINATION: The ability to co-ordinate motor skills.
In many ways, this is the biggie. Alcohol impairs our ability to co-ordinate motor skills, beginning with the fine motor skills (putting the key in ignition, steering, use of switchgear and balance) up to gross motor skills (handling a heavy bike).
Loss of co-ordination also severely affects reaction. Just when your lack of co-ordination is putting you more at risk, those parts of your brain that help get you out of trouble are on the go-slow too.
VISION & HEARING: Perception, depth and clarity of vision
Here’s one I bet you didn’t know: Alcohol reduces your visual acuity by up to 32%. Visual acuity is better known as the clarity of your vision, and your ability to recognise small details with precision.
It also reduces peripheral vision, resulting in tunnel vision, and impairs our ability to judge distance and depth perception (position of the bike on road and other road users, for instance).
Finally on vision, it dilates your pupils, slowing down their ability to react to headlight glare, potentially leaving you riding ‘blind’ for a few seconds.
It even affects your hearing: alcohol reduces the ear’s ability to hear muffled sounds, and interferes with the ability to determine the direction they are coming from.
REACTION TIME: Ability to see and understand a situation, then take an action.
Alcohol in even the smallest quantities leaves us with severely impaired comprehension and co-ordination in particular, leading to an acute slowing down of reaction times by around 15-25% – and that’s for moderate amounts of alcohol.
Whichever way you look at it, riding and drinking just don’t go together.
If you fancy letting your hair down and having a drinking this Christmas, remember, that’s why Greater Manchester has such good public transport!
But if you do have a drink, remember the effects will still be with you the morning after. Every year plenty of people do the right thing by leaving their bikes at home for the night out, only to still be over the limit the next morning. If you do party this Christmas, it’s always a good idea to apply an old RAF adage from the Second World War: ‘Leave 24 hours between bottle and throttle.’