Friday, February 14, 2014

Riding and Ergonomics

The cartoon above may be funny, but not so much when you’re experiencing back pain or neck and shoulder aches. Anyone who’s ridden all day can relate to the suggestion above. Multiply the aches day after day on a long trip and you could be in serious trouble. If the neck and shoulders are troubling you for example, you may not twist your head enough to look over your shoulder at intersections; with potentially deadly results. With that in mind, here are some tips for a comfortable ride, no matter how long you’re on the road.

First let’s look at the saddle. Is your butt or back sore after only a short while on the road ? Many stock saddles might feel fine right off the show room floor, but they soon lose the ability to support your shape. Try an aftermarket saddle such as Mustang or Corbin. In my experience with a Mustang saddle, my first impression was that it felt hard to the touch. That was my hand of course, but my behind experienced something far different. The extra firmness supported my shape, and the design offered lumbar support as well. This last turned out to be of more importance to me than I first realized as I have spine issues in the L region. I can now ride a full day without butt or back issues at all.

Many riders experience shoulder and neck pain. It’s possible they need to adjust the handlebars up or down. An adjustment up or down can spell a big difference in how you are positioned in the saddle. If no adjustment seems to work, consider risers. These extensions can assist your back especially for taller riders who feel as though they are slumping over their tank.

For some, the handlebars are fine, it’s their hands and wrists that tingle and go numb on long rides. Check out the comfort grips on the market. A friend of mine, with arthritic joints has discovered a pair that gives her tons of relief. There are plenty on the market. I suggest waiting for a motorcycle show in your area to examine a few. There is nothing like touching and feeling to help you make up your mind which is right for you.

Another piece of equipment that is helpful for neck pain is a windshield. Being buffeted by highway wind on long rides will put huge amounts of stress on your neck. Check out the various brands on line. They have helpful tutorials to select the windshield that is right for you and your motorcycle. In my experience, the first advice I followed was to select one I could see over. Yet, when I purchased my Star Tourer, the windshield was higher than my eye level. My concerns were soon assuaged, when I discovered that keeping the wind of my head saved my neck and shoulders from fatigue on long rides. You have to experiment for yourself.

We’ve covered the upper body; now let’s move to the legs. I was never a fan of highway pegs, but had a pair installed on the engine guards just before our 2,000 mile trip to Sturgis in 2011. They turned out to be a lifesaver. My knees began to ache on the long stretches of I-90 and it was a great relief to be able to stretch them out on, or even over the peg. Also, keeping the legs in one position for too long can result in serious problems. This is why people who travel by car are encouraged to stop, walk and stretch. For motorcyclist, the do have to stop more often to tank up. During these periods, take breaks that include moving around, not just a walk to the restroom.

One unexpected result of an upgrade I did to Blaze turned out to be a godsend while touring Nova Scotia last year. I replaced the front fork springs with a good pair of Progressive springs that saved me more than a few times. While Nova Scotia is beautiful, some of the roads along the Eastern Shore are brutally in need of repair. The new springs helped in minimizing the jostling, otherwise, I’d have been wiped out managing the motorcycle on these long stretches of roadway.

If you have any other suggestions that would help in the comfort of our rides, please share with us. I’ve only covered a few basics, and you may have ideas that are insightful or from firsthand experience. With spring on the way don’t let your first ride be to the chiropractor.


Richard M said...

Good suggestions. I've found that on long rides, I'll stand up on the footpegs a little. Even a short time really makes a difference to stretch out.

Rhonda Hurwitz said...

we sometimes find that riders appreciate gel gloves -- for whatever reason, the vibration absorption from the bars helps.

Rhonda (from Olympia gloves)

PatnWilton said...

Thank you for the feedback. Andy does stand on his pegs from time to time. Also, I do own a pair of gel gloves. A word of caution however. Don't leave them in your saddlebag over the winter. I ruined a pair after they froze.

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