Motorcycle Handbook

Driver Education illustration

Additional Formats

  • Open selection options
    Download PDF

Section 6 of 7

Being In Shape To Ride

Riding a motorcycle is a demanding and complex task. Skilled riders pay attention to their riding environment while operating the motorcycle, identifying potential hazards, making good judgments, and executing decisions quickly and skillfully. Your ability to perform and respond to changing road and traffic conditions is influenced by how fit and alert you are. Alcohol and other drugs, more than any other factor, affect your ability to think clearly and to ride safely. As little as one alcoholic drink can have a significant effect on your performance.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol in relation to blood in the body. Generally, alcohol can be eliminated in the body at the rate of almost one drink per hour. But a variety of other factors may also influence the level of alcohol retained. The more alcohol in your blood, the greater the degree of impairment.

Important factors that play a major part in determining BAC:

  • The amount of alcohol you consumed.
  • How fast you drank.
  • Your body weight.

“One drink” is a 1 ½-ounce shot of 80-proof liquor (even if mixed with non-alcoholic drinks), a 5-ounce glass of 12 percent (%) wine, or a 12-ounce glass of 5% beer. These “one drink” equivalents change if you drink ale, malt liquors, or fortified wines or if you drink on an empty stomach, are tired, sick, upset, or have taken medicines or drugs.

The faster you drink, the more alcohol accumulates in your body. If you consume two drinks in an hour, at the end of that hour, at least one drink will remain in your bloodstream.

Alcohol and the Law

In California, it is illegal for a person under 21 years old to drive with a BAC of 0.01% or above; for people under 21 years old, there is ZERO tolerance for alcohol use. It is illegal for a person 21 years old or older to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or above. It does not matter how sober you may look or act; a breath or blood test is what determines whether you are riding legally or illegally.

NOTE: The California Driver Handbook (DL 600) has additional information regarding driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs. Law enforcement is being stepped up across the country in response to the senseless deaths and injuries caused by drinking drivers and riders.

Minimize the Risks

Minimize the risks of drinking and riding by following the steps below:

Do not drink. Once you start drinking, your resistance becomes weaker.

Do not ride. If you are or have been drinking, do not ride your motorcycle.


Riding a motorcycle is more tiring than driving a vehicle, especially on a long trip. Avoid riding when tired. Fatigue can affect your control of the motorcycle.

  • Limit your distance. Experienced riders seldom try to ride more than about six hours a day.
  • Take frequent rest breaks. Stop and get off the motorcycle at least every two hours.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use drugs. Artificial stimulants often result in extreme fatigue or depression as they start to wear off. You will not be able to concentrate on the task at hand.