Where Does It Hurt? How To Alleviate Pain From Motorcycle Riding

Where Does It Hurt?

Motorcycle ergonomics are notoriously fickle. What works for one rider may not for another, which is part of the reason you should take recommendations carefully. “That seat is a plank!” “I can’t sit on that bike for more than 20 minutes.” These might be true to those making the claim but might not be for you.

Even as motorcycle comfort is extremely subjective, there are important and effective ways to improve the comfort of any motorcycle, even if that’s simply a matter of refining the fit for your body type.

Aerodynamics

No one is comfortable on a bike when the wind is trying to blast you right off the thing. Almost as bad? Bikes whose aerodynamic setup leaves you in the wake of disturbed, turbulent air. In that case, the noise and turbulence can literally get in your head, causing headaches, neck pain, and general fatigue.

 Vario Touring Screen (VTNB) from MRA
The Vario Touring Screen (VTNB) from MRA is a great way to add wind management to your naked bike.

The goal is to make a comfortable pocket of still air for yourself and your passenger. For naked bikes, the best solution is to add a windscreen, such as the MRA V-Flow Z Screen universal shield or one of the GIVI windscreens designed for roadsters. These products come with mounting hardware for your naked bike and, in the case of the GIVI offerings, usually have bike-specific mounts. Though these screens are small, they can have a large impact on comfort just by directing some windblast off your chest and shoulders. Highway riding becomes much less stressful on your hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders.

But what if your bike has a factory windscreen? That’s where the MRA X-Creen Touring Bolt-On Variable Windscreen comes in. This simple spoiler bolts to your bike’s stock windscreen to “condition” the air flowing over it. By refining the way the air spills off the original screen, the X-Creen promotes something called laminar flow, which is a fancy way of saying air that’s much less turbulent. This way you can also aim the air flow to best accommodate your physical size. Some riders like to direct as much air flow as possible up over their heads. For taller riders, this can actually increase turbulence, so it may be best to accept a compromise of coverage for reduced turbulence. The nice thing about the X-Creen is that you can play with various settings until you find the best balance.

Rider Ergonomics, the Top Half

Bar-backs-blog
Handlebar risers from SW-MOTECH and Rox Risers can tailor the main interface between you and your bike.

We’re all different shapes and sizes, but motorcycle manufacturers make most bikes in just one configuration. If that fits you, you’re the lucky one. If it doesn’t, no problem. There are ways to tailor your bike’s riding position to fit you precisely. Once you have the riding position feeling natural, your body will relax, increasing blood flow and reducing the stress on joints and tendons.

Getting the handgrips positioned correctly can reduce the likelihood of cramped wrists, knotted shoulders, a sore back, and various other maladies that result from your upper body being in a state of tension. For motorcycles with tubular handlebars, one of the simplest adjustments is to add riser blocks between the handlebar and the original clamps. If you want to move the handlebar up and rearward, try the SW-MOTECH Barback Handlebar Riser. The Barback raises the handlebar 31mm and brings it back 22mm. Installation is simple: Remove the upper part of the stock clamp, temporarily lift the handlebar, fit the Barback blocks, and reinstall the bar. (Double check that your control cables and wiring will stretch to fit, though this small amount of movement is usually accommodated by the standard slack in the components.)

Mirror wideners
Mirror wideners can give you a clear view of what’s behind you instead of just your elbows.

Another option is the Rox Handlebar Risers for 28mm bars. The Rox risers pivot on the standard handlebar clamp, offering a wide range of height increase as well as pullback. The nominal distance from the clamp to the new bar location is 2”, so you can have a maximum rise of 2” or a maximum pullback of 2”, or something in between.

While you’re changing the handlebar angle, it’s possible you’ll make your stock mirrors next to useless. No worries there; a simple solution comes in the SW-MOTECH Mirror Wideners. Designed to offset the mirror outward, the mounts can be used to pull the mirror base forward or back, helping you finding just the right angle for a good rear view. Needless to say, not having to crane your neck to see what’s behind is good for that neck and everything attached to it.

Ergonomics, the Lower Half

Don’t discount the benefits of a stable and comfortable lower half. When your hips, legs, and feet are comfortable, it’s much easier to maintain your balance, remain relaxed in the saddle, and increase circulation and endurance. If you don’t want your hips, knees, and ankles to cramp up, make the bike fit you…not the other way around.

Start by moving your feet. Literally. The MFW Vario Footpeg Mount is a fine example of adjustable footpegs. This is a highly flexible system made up of a core mount (to go where the stock footpeg goes), a selection of extension arms, and your choice of footpeg style. Three types of extension arms are available: fixed 23mm offset, fixed 30mm offset, and 25mm-50mm adjustable; all are available in black or silver. In addition, the extension arms can be mounted in any of eight “clocking” positions, which means moving the footpegs forward or aft, up or down by the distance of the extension arm. Somewhere in there you’ll find a position that gives you just the right knee angle for maximum comfort and control.

Adjustable shifter and on-off-road footpegs
The on/off-road footpegs and adjustable shift lever from SW-MOTECH fine tune foot control for big or small feet.

To go with the adjustable pegs, consider the SW-MOTECH Adjustable Folding Gear Shift Lever. Available for a wide range of motorcycles, this system offers protection from crash damage by way of a folding tip—there’s a reason dirt bikes have them, you know—and personalized ergonomics thanks to a tip-position adjustment. Riders with small or large feet will find this flexibility welcome, because it can reduce cramping and other discomfort from having to operate a poorly located shift lever.

Footpegs, like handlebars and seats, are an intensely personal thing. Fortunately, there are plentiful options, including the SW-MOTECH On/Off-Road Footpegs. Designed as bolt-on replacements for your bike’s stock pegs, the SW-MOTECH pieces feature a removable rubber insert (for on road) that, when removed, exposes a serrated surface for great traction off road. They have two height positions and they’re also larger than the typical OEM footpeg, giving you the flexibility to move your feet a little and spread the load across a wider segment of your boot sole.

Rear Sets
For sportbike riders nothing offers more adjustability than these high-quality R&G rear sets.

For sportbike enthusiasts looking for lower-body comfort, check out R&G’s wide range of Adjustable Rearsets. Available for most current sportbikes, the R&G adjustable rearsets provide multiple options for peg height and orientation. Not only that, but the shift and brake pedals are adjustable for reach. Riders who have had some injury history or just don’t bend like they used to will appreciate having the option of different footpeg locations. Your knees will thank you tonight.

Finally, something you might not have considered: Good form dictates that you should carry some of your body weight onto the motorcycle by gripping the sides of the fuel tank with your knees. That’s great as an abstraction, but sometimes doesn’t work when the bodywork is slippery. Solution? TechSpec Gripster Tank Grip Pads.

Give Yourself a Hand

Probably no part of your body takes as much abuse as your hands. Experienced riders know to keep their hands relaxed and warm to promote blood flow and increase endurance. But you can’t really relax when your paws are frozen.

For warmth, you have Oxford’s Heaterz Premium Adventure Motorcycle Heated Grips. Easily installed, the Heaterz have five levels of heat from a solid-state controller (with a convenient mounting plate) and a complete wiring harness.

Handguards Throttle Lock
In most applications you can get heated grips, handguards, throttle lock and bar-end weights to all play nice together.

To achieve even more delicious warmth, add the Barkbusters Storm Lever & Weather Protection Handguards. Designed to fit bikes with 7/8” or 1-1/8” handlebars, the Storm system provides physical protection from low-speed tipovers as well as weather protection that will help keep your hands warm and dry, and give those heated grips even greater effectiveness. There’s an additional benefit that comes with the Barkbusters: adding the External Bar End Weights can reduce vibration in the handlebars – a simple solution to a frequent source of discomfort. If you don’t have handguards, consider adding the Bar End Sliders from R&G, which do double duty with vibration damping and crash protection.

In the same way that tension in any part of your body can lead to fatigue, having to hold onto the throttle grip all day can be trying. That’s why long-distance riders swear by cruise control, a version of which is available via the Kaoko Throttle Lock. A simple screw-lock system effectively holds the throttle steady so you can relax your right hand, shake out your arm, and maybe even perform a little moto yoga on the go.

As you can see, the options for customizing the fit of your bike and opportunities to reduce or eliminate discomfort are many. Carefully chosen ergonomic adjustments can mean the difference between a painful day in the saddle and a happy, refreshed rider at the far end of two-wheeled journey.

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Nick
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Nick

What about adjustable reach levers for cruisers? I knew a petite woman with very small hands… the only way she could get the right reach on her clutch lever was to introduce WAY too much slack into the cable, thus beating up her transmission. Plenty of adjustable-reach levers for sportbikes… what about cruisers??

Brad Zerbel
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Unfortunately we don’t sell seat pads or adjustable levers at this time. For the butt I’d suggest an Air Hawk seat pad or a sheepskin cover from Alaska Leather. If you want to spend more there are custom seats from companies such as Saddlemen, Travelcade, Bill Meyer, Rick Meyer or Renazco. In regards to adjustable brake and clutch levers for cruisers they do exist. Assuming your friend rides a Harley-Davidson (since they are the most popular cruiser) adjustable levers are available from Roland Sands Design, Kuryakyn and Hogleverage just to name three.

Gary
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Gary

Anything for my a.s? I ride a Suzuki V-Strom 1000 DL.