We spend miniature fortunes on improving our bikes. They’re covered in protective equipment, trinkets, electronics, luggage systems and paint jobs. But one thing that’s often overlooked is comfort…
Everyday comfort isn’t a big deal if you only use your wheels for sunny Sundays and nipping to the shops, but it makes a huge difference to those who tour and travel. Nobody wants to spend their biking adventures with sore wrists, an achy arse and wobbling into hotels.
The good thing is that you can improve your riding comfort with easy – and mostly inexpensive – changes. A few little tweaks and modifications here and there will affect your riding, the distance you cover in a day and how your body feels when you get off the bike.
Take a little time to set your bike up, try these tweaks and you’ll go further for longer in comfort.
ON THE BIKE
Are you sitting comfortably?
A long day in the saddle is greatly affected by … your saddle. This is the most obvious one as your butt is usually the first to complain after too seated hours. Spend a little time weighing up your seat options because a tiny change here can make a big difference when pumping out 800 kms a day.
You’ve got three options. First up is a cheap sheepskin throw-over. You can pick these up for around £10. They’re great for adventure travellers as they keep your bum cool in the heat and warm in the cold and they also double up as ground mats and pillows.
Option two is an air cushion. AirHawk seat cushions are a good example, although more example than sheepskin. Think of them like wearing tennis rackets on your feet in heavy snow; they’re designed to redistribute your weight away from pressure points. Expect to pay around £50-£70.
And finally, if you’re covering serious mileage, then it may be worth having your seat tailored, carved, plumped up and filled with either memory foam or gel inserts. This saves the faff of strapping a cushion or throw-over down and increasing seat height and also perfectly conforms the seat to your backside. Expect anything from £150 upwards.
Adjusting your handlebars takes minutes and can make a massive difference. The position of the bars greatly affects your shoulders, back muscles, wrists and arms. Try imitating the riding position with your arms as you read this. Now move your hands slightly forwards and slightly backwards, let your shoulders go forwards and backwards too, as they will move with your hands. Do you notice how much your body moves? Try tilting your handlebars forwards or backwards first to see if that relaxes the muscles and find a comfortable point.
You may want to opt for a pair of bar risers as well. These will push your back into a more upright position and take the strain of your shoulders and wrists. Companies like SW-Motech produce bars for a large range of bikes.
If you make any changes to the bars, make sure you check that your bars turn freely from left to right full-lock and there’s no strain on the cables.
Your feet are a little trickier to please. But they are one of the three points of contact and so can be altered. There are plenty of companies out there who make aftermarket pegs. You can go for wider pegs if your feet don’t feel comfortable, or move the pegs forwards or backwards if your knees ache. Quite often, a slight change to the gear lever can make a big difference to an achy foot and it’ll only take you a couple of minutes to unscrew one bolt and raise or lower it. Check out our review of the SW Motech Footrests here.
ON THE ROAD
I’ve ridden with plenty of people who feel that riding covering hundreds of miles in one go without stopping is heroic or how it should be done. But it’s not. Sure, they can ride that distance in one go, but struggle to do much more if they have to keep going. By the end of the day they ache all over and by morning aren’t able to cover decent mileage anymore.
Instead, try riding 100 miles maximum, stop for a mini-break and then go again. Stopping for little bits of time and often will stop your body and brain from seizing up and will allow you to ride much further, for longer and in greater comfort than the guys blasting massive miles in one go. It’ll also mean you can get on your bike the next day and repeat.
Food and drink
What you consume when you take your break also makes a difference to a long ride. Loading up on a big, starchy meal will make you tired half an hour after eating it and feel lethargic on the road. Instead, try light and quick snacks like fruit, coffee, granola bars and water. You’ll feel more refreshed and it’ll be easier to jump back on the bike and concentrate.
Get your kit right
The two main problems with kit affecting comfort are fit and suitability. It’s far more important to go for a loose riding suit over a sexy fitted garment. Tightness in the elbow, arm pit, knee and backside area all help to restrict blood flow and will inevitably make you sore and tired. Your kit wants to be loose, easy to move around in and able to take extra layers underneath without restricting movement if the weather changes.
Suitability is also an issue. Match your kit to the elements you’ll be riding through. There’s no point opting for Gore-Tex Pro Laminate with absolutely zero breathability if you’re riding in warm conditions. Instead, go for well ventilated mesh kit, chuck the sweaty internal waterproof liners away and stuff a pair of throw-over waterproofs in your panniers. And for cold conditions, try going for a heated jacket instead of multiple layers as it’ll keep free movement and promote better blood circulation.
Another quick tip is to try using ear plugs. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel muting out the monotonous hum drum of wind blasting through your helmet after a few hundred miles of freeway riding.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT ADVENTURE RIDING GEAR
- Holding a pee – when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. It’s not true that holding your pee will keep you warmer! In fact, it actually makes you colder because you use energy to keep it warm.
- Sound of silence – some people get incredibly bored while riding bigger miles. Try a Bluetooth helmet system like a SENA or Schuberth’s Intercom system. They seamlessly connect to your phone and then you can listen to a podcast or music as you ride.
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START HERE: Planning a motorcycle trip but don’t know where to start? Start Here!
BIKE: Get your bike ready for adventure by checking out our Motorcycle Preparation guides.
DESTINATIONS: Check out our comprehensive Destination Guides for Overlanders and motorcycle travellers.