How to fine tune your riding position
05 March 2009 12:00
Isn’t your bike’s riding position just something you have to put up with?
No - there is a wide variety of small adjustments you can make to even the most comfortable bike to make it fit your body shape and riding needs better. It’s worth the effort because being uncomfortable or unsettled on a bike brings on mental tiredness far quicker. A more comfortable rider is a faster, smoother, safer rider.
How much is this going to cost me?
Many of these adjustments cost nothing at all. And every quid spent on making your bike fit you better pays back every single time you sling your leg over. Stuff like adjustable rear-sets and posh saddles sting the wallet to the tune of between £250 and £400. Handlebar risers and replacement clip-ons with reduced angle are in the £100-£250 range, while double-bubble screens and heated grips make a lot of sense for £50 or so.
What about my pillion?
A twitchy passenger is as big a pain in the arse as a hobnail saddle. If they are uncomfortable, you will almost certainly join them as they slam into your back when braking hard, break your ribcage when dialling in too much acceleration, or twitch around like a flea-ridden monkey. A good grab-rail makes for a happy pillion, but only if they know how and when to use it.
Anything else that may affect my riding?
If you’ve got leathers that pinch at the joints and a helmet noisier than a Heathrow penthouse then you’ll be chucking money away on rearsets and such like. Leathers are like shoes, they will stretch and shape to your body, but if they’re tight to start with no amount of wearing-in will help.
1. Adjust clutch and brake levers so they’re at their most comfortable by loosening their bracket clamps and rotating them until they are in the right place. This is when the levers fall in line with your forearms, so there’s no bend in the wrist with fingers resting on the levers. Some switchgear assemblies can also be swivelled for the ideal thumb position.
2. Too much throttle free play – the amount the twistgrip is turned before the revs rise – will cause an aching wrist as you twist it more than you need to. There should be a couple of millimetres free play before the throttles open. For fine adjustment use the sleeve and locknut on the cable. Make sure throttles snap shut when you’ve finished.
3. Clutch and front brake levers should be adjusted for finger reach to reduce tendon ache in the fingers and wrists. Most bikes today have adjusters at the lever’s base. If yours don’t, you could consider aftermarket performance levers as replacements. Keeping cables well lubed can have a big effect on preventing tired hands.
4. Foot controls can be adjusted to suit your physique (large feet, long legs etc). Slack (excessive movement) and angle of lever can be tuned out of the gear-change mechanism using the adjuster threads on the linkage rod. The rear brake lever can be set at a comfortable height via a screw and locknut setup. See owner’s manual for exact details.
5. Clip-on-type handlebars can be raised to a comfortable height and reach with aftermarket riser kits, or replaced with fully-adjustable items. Traditional one-piece handlebars can be changed for different styles, or be loosened at the clamp and moved forward or backward to a more comfy position.
6. Fitting rearsets is usually about gaining ground clearance – and many people find having feet higher and further back more comfortable, especially for bracing against windblast. But the latest multi-adjustable versions can also allow for lower or more forward positions, letting you get set up for different disciplines – touring, trackdays etc.
7. Suspension can be adjusted to give the rider’s bum and spine an easier time. A correctly set suspension shouldn’t see you bucked out of the seat. A click or two less compression and rebound damping usually does the job. Conversely, adding more pre-load reduces the rear shock’s amount of travel with a pillion or luggage.
8. Heated grips are a blessing in cold weather by providing invaluable warmth which in turn helps you maintain a high level of concentration. Hot grips also extend the summer glove season for finer control. Enduro-style ‘brush guards’ can also be fitted to handlebars to give extra protection and keep the chill off the digits.
9. Windblast from a low screen or non-faired bike stresses neck and shoulder muscles. An aftermarket screen, whether double-bubble, aerofoil, or simply a higher touring version can reduce windblast. On a naked bike, a small aftermarket fairing can make a big difference to making long journeys more bearable.
10. Aftermarket gel seats mould to the rider’s bum shape to keep cheeks sweet over big mileages. They help support the spine, too. Alternatively, there are replacement seat specialists like Corbin, or there’s the option of having the shape and foam density of your current saddle altered by local upholstery specialists.
11. As tyres are the first line of suspension, pressures play a bigger part in comfort than you might imagine. Too hard and they transmit wrist-and-spine jarring shocks, too soft and they make steering heavy, and thus hard work on the shoulders and arms. Refer to the owner’s manual for correct pressures, or contact your local dealer/tyre fitting shop.
12. Posture is all important for a comfier ride. Ride tensed – like you have a broomstick wedged between bum and neck – then you’re causing every muscle to strain and every bump through the seat is harmful. The idea is to relax so when sitting on a bike it feels totally natural. Arms should be slightly bent at the elbows to absorb bumps.