How to Be Comfortable on Your Motorcycle

How to Be Comfortable on Your Motorcycle

I’ve seen a lot of discussions lately about the pros and cons of changing out the stock seat on a motorcycle and replacing it with an aftermarket item.  One thing missing in these discussions is that in most cases it is not the seat of the motorcycle that is the problem.  It is yours.

There are exceptions to any rule, and sometimes an aftermarket seat can make all the difference.  There’s a man I know in my area who has been making custom seats for decades, and he is evidently very, very, good. The product is expensive, and may take a day or more, but you end up with a saddle made to fit your own personal derriere and your usual riding style,

I digress.  Cue the usual caveats: I am not a doctor, not an expert in any of the topics that follow, your results may vary, and all that sort of thing. The following may be worth exactly what you are paying for it.

I’ve been riding for 50 years and have experienced over 500 different motorcycles. In my experience, the problem with seat discomfort can usually be traced to problems with the seat of the rider.  In other words, get thee hence to a gym. 

I have lived this. In the year 2000 I was hired to work for a large multi-make dealership as the customer relations person – a job I invented.  I did lots of e-mail (which was becoming a thing way back then); organized store events, wrote newsletters, attended lots of off-site club rides and races and so on, and led customers on rides. A lot of them.  I usually rode a used bike that matched the event, and took home a different used bike almost every day for “staff development.”   I also did the break-in mileage on a couple of dozen new Harleys destined for rental duty, at 500 miles a pop.  It was, for me, pretty much the ideal job, but then again I invented it so it should have been.

Prior to my first day, it occurred to me that if I were going to be riding lots of different bikes in all sorts of circumstances, being in better shape would be a good idea.  My here and there visits to my local YMCA ramped up to now, where I go four days a week – two “light” days that involve weights and walking, and two days where added to that is an hour long class called “Essentrics,” which leaves me exhausted.

The benefits have been obvious.  My usual ride is a 2016 Triumph Bonneville, and during a 400-500 mile day there is certainly some discomfort, but easily bearable.  The gym has also made it much easier to rotate my body into turns and keep my head on a swivel, and these things become even more important as you age.  I just turned 71.

Again, I am not a physical fitness pro, or kinesiologist, or anything of the sort.  The computer you are reading this on can lead you to all sorts of recommendations for what exercises to do, how to do them, when to do them, and so on.   Here is what must of them fail to cover:  you need to want to do it.

HOW TO WANT TO WORK OUT

Some folks invest in gym equipment in their home and do just fine.  That did not work for me.  I had a rowing machine that sat under the bed, some weights that kept the house from blowing away, and other items. I learned that I needed to go to a facility meant for exercise.

For most, that means joining a gym or club.  There are many of them to choose from if you live in a more than sparsely populated area, and you want to visit one or two.  There’s a club down the street from the YMCA I go to, for example, and one of my friends checked it out. He did not like it at all, because everyone he saw was working out with earbuds installed. Nobody made eye contact, and nobody spoke to each other. You might like that. He did not. Nor would I.

If you find a place that seems like a good fit for you, then you need to find a consistent schedule to follow.  If you go to the same place at the same time on the same days of the week, in a short time you will have “work-out” friends that you may not see anywhere else. 

There seems to be a difference between sexes here. Women will begin to talk to each other on about the 3rd occasion, whereas men take a lot longer. For men there may be a nod or two of recognition after a few times.  Eventually, conversations will start with something like “Hey.”  In time, someone will ask a question, and relationships grow.

We now have established the YMCA as a social occasion that involves physical exertion.  Names are usually first only, and the usual crew includes “original Bob” and “ski Bob” and “Dick” and “Steve.”  That sort of thing.  The women include “Mickey,”  “older Paula,”  “younger Paula,”  “Lori,” you get the idea.  Occasionally one of the women will invite everyone over for a mid-morning coffee and goodies get -together for those who do not need to be at work.

Now our YMCA efforts include friends, and I would miss them if I did not go.  More reason to go! The same will work for you.

Your schedule will dictate when you can do this, and not all times are the same.  For a while, while I was still teaching school I tried to work out after school.   My home was eight blocks past where I would turn to drive two miles to the YMCA, and often my car would not make the turn.  If I was on my motorcycle, I would need to ride home, take off my gear, and then get in the car and leave. That did not work very well.  We also tried working out in the evening, but by then you are… tired.

Working out in the morning has the bonus of getting all of your systems working and fluids flowing, and you will notice it the rest of your day.

You may need to make a sacrifice, and it will probably involve less TV.  When we were both working we needed to be at the YMCA at 5am (when it opens) to be able to have a work out before trundling off to our jobs.  I wanted to shower and eat before working out, so the alarm was set for 4am.  It is amazing how little of importance happens after 8pm at night.

HOW TO WORK OUT

Again, tons or research and good advice is available to you, but in my experience, the most important part of your work out is completed before your first exercise.   To wit: you got there.  

If you are new, and walk into a room with all sorts of machines, it does not really matter very much which machines you use, how many reps you can perform, or what weight you select.  Anything you can handle will work.  Lighter weight and more reps should be your guide.  After a few visits you will begin to learn by watching others how some of the pieces of equipment work, and you can add an exercise or two.  Once conversations have begun with some of your regulars, people will offer suggestions. Sometimes one of the personal trainers on staff will not be able to resist giving you a tip about body posture for a certain exercise, even though you are not a paying client.  Of course, if you can afford it, a few sessions with one of these trainers would be an excellent idea.

RESULTS

If you can make the first few steps the rest is easy.  You have to decide you want to do this, find a place where you feel comfortable, find a time slot that will work for you, and establish a consistent pattern.  At first, nothing will happen, but over a few weeks you will notice changes.  Perhaps bending over is easier than you remembered.  You pull on a shirt and notice that it fits differently.  You ride your motorcycle and notice that you are swiveling your head and body more, and at the end of the day you are less tired and possibly not tired at all.

Stuff I left out:

Obviously, the motorcycle you ride and how far you ride in a day are factors. On a Honda Goldwing you will probably feel better at the end of a long day than your friend on a 600cc sport bike.  My other bike is a Triumph Thruxton, and although I love it, a long tour is not really what it was made for. However, you can tour on virtually anything with some forethought and planning.  My first long trips were on a Yamaha 250 and then a Honda 450 Street Scrambler, so if you want to tour on the bike you own – go for it.

Equally obvious, the ergonomics of your motorcycle are key. I assume the bars are at a good height for you, the levers adjusted for angle and finger span, and so forth.

Last but not least: Your weight is not the end goal.  If you are quite rotund, you will lose weight for sure. But muscle weighs more than fat, so at a certain point (for me that seems to be 225 pounds) your weight will tend to remain the same or decline with glacial slowness, but each month you will feel and look better.

Summer riding is coming – get off your butt and get ready!
Copyright 2018                                                   David Preston

About david

I am a 69 year old motorsports nut who lives in Bothell, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I have been married forever and have two grown children. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Bonneville T 120 , a Triumph Thruxton, a Fiat 500S and a VW Tiguan. What else would you like to know?
This entry was posted in Education, Motorcycles. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How to Be Comfortable on Your Motorcycle

  1. Bob says:

    Good start. Before ever going into the details of motorcycle ergonomics, I would recommend the FIRST item(s) to acquire and be completely comfortable with is your personal protective equipment. The motorcycle can only be enjoyed to the fullest extent if the rider is completely comfortable. Being able to live in your gear for extended hours is essential. This means from your boots to your helmet and everything in between from the first layers to the shell. Having worked for a large nationwide outdoor equipment company, there is no substitute for being comfortable in your environment. “There is no bad weather, just bad gear”.

    Then you can worry about how the bike fits you.

  2. Eric says:

    Good article David, Being accountable to my gym family gives me an added incentive to show up regularly.

  3. Patrick says:

    Thanks for bringing this topic up…

    For sure, as we get older and more complacent, our minds may be a bit more optimistic than our bodies are capable of delivering, when we need that extra level of exertion or stamina. Obviously, the more tired you get or the more pain you are feeling on a ride, the greater the chance for lapses of judgement, retarding of responses, etc.

    Obviously, grip strength, butt muscle mass and firmness, and forearm strength seem essential… We see most MotoGP riders spend a lot of time on bicycles which also reinforces their sense of balance and muscle-memory surrounding the physics of riding a two-wheeled machine… This also reinforces their cognitive adaptability to circumstances encountered when driving, like braking and turning, leaning at speed, etc.

    Beyond strengthening butt and very importantly the thigh muscles, the forearm and shoulder muscles, small muscle-sets used in balancing, etc and increased aerobic and anaerobic stamina; bicycling provides a way to strengthen the cognitive skills needed to ride skillfully and confident awareness… Something that must be essential to a motorcyclists’ exercise regime if they are serious about fitness to ride. (A stationary bike or stair-stepper will only get you half the way to a complete regime of exercise)

    I have also found that how my jacket sleeves fit on the forearm and put pressure on the wrist area and the tightness of gloves at the wrist and angle of my wrists on the grips, are the greatest contributors to numbness in the hands and fingers because these things put pressure on the veins and arteries restricting blood-flow… A jacket that pinches arteries and veins in the underarms will restrict blood flow to the forearms and hands… The same holds true for pants that pressurize areas where veins and arteries serve the butt, legs and feet. Besides restricting blood-flow, clothing that puts pressure on nerves will serve to weaken the muscles and the response of those muscles they control…

    A holistic approach to motorcycle fitness to ride, that is inclusive of all these things, is the best strategy if you are serious about giving yourself the best chance of surviving a ride on any given day.

Leave a Reply