Adventure and touring bikes are often peppered in protective equipment, trinkets and luggage. People spend serious money on that stuff, but hardly ever consider their everyday comfort. But a few little changes here and there can make a huge difference to your riding and the distance you’re able to cover - especially when you’re covering big miles in a day. This guide will help when on and off the bike.
On the bike
The big one
The most obvious and important change is your seat. Most standard seats are awful, too hard or too soft and uncomfortable for long distance. You’ve got three options to fix this.
The cheapest option is a sheepskin throw-over. You can pick these up online for under £20 and they really do work. They keep your bum warmer when it’s cold out and cooler when it’s hot as air passes through the fur. It can also double up as a sitting mat when off the bike.
Next up is an inflatable AirHawk seat. These seats are fantastic. They’re inflatable and contort to the shape your backside and disperse the pressure. You’re looking at around £50-£70 for a seat.
The most expensive option is to have your seat tailor made. A specialist seat upholsterer can add memory or gel pads inside the seat, shave height off or add a little extra. This is especially a good idea if you’re taking a pillion as you can have both seats made into one comfy unit.
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.
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.
- Ear plugs – a pair of plugs makes a huge difference to your ride. The plugs will protect you from wind noise that can make you feel tired after a long ride.
- 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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