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… Here’s how to prepare your motorcycle and yourself to ride long distance in comfort.
Comfort on long distance motorcycle trips
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.
Get a comfortable motorcycle seat
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.
Adjust your bike’s handlebars
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.
Motorcycle foot pegs and rests
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.
READ MORE: SW Motech Footrests Review
Take a break often
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.
Watch what you eat 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 motorcycle clothing and gear 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.
- 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.
Read more on adventure bike riding tips
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8 thoughts on “How to Motorcycle Long Distance in Comfort”
Great tips and good advice here. I’ll be preparing my bike soon for a long trip and so this is very helpful. Thanks
I’ve had an Airhawk for a few years now and use it on long tours, but am thinking of trying out a sheepskin seat cover. They look to be less hassle and as you say can double up. Wouldn’t be so bothered if it gets pinched either. Cheers
Hi Ben, sheepskin seats are great as they keep you both cool and warm, are cheap, double up as a pillow or ground mat and are easy to replace. But if an AirHawk has been working well then there’s no harm in taking it as I wouldn’t worry about theft on your trip. Both are good options and it really depends on whichever works best for you. Sheepskin covers are around £20 from https://www.lambland.co.uk/product/genuine-half-sheepskin-seat-pad/ so you could always try one out first before you set off. Good luck!
It’s obvious, that ONE industrial designed seat post can’t fit to all butts! Many bikers pay attention on tuning gear, tyres, jackets or helmets and don’t pay attention on the seat. I met lots of riders, climbing off their bike like 86 year old disables. Every back, the muscles, spines or grades of fitness are different. In cars we can choose several settings, so everybody has to take care of the personal good with the bike seat. Every cent investing in a perfect seat is worth the result. Bad seats may have many unpleasent consequences like pain in back and legs, headache, immobility, movement restriction and lack of concentration. Pay for perfect seats!! 🙂
Kind regards, Henry
Very well said and an excellent point! You’re right, a lot of people spend hours researching the best gear, parts, tyres etc but pay no attention to their seats or comfort. It’s so worth the little extra time it takes to set it up properly.
What seat are you running and on what bike? Do you have a custom setup?
Sorry, I overviewed this post!
Yes, meanwhile I own a wellknown product by Touratech, who use harder foam. That might sound painful, but it’s not. Soft seat material causes many more pain in the back and knee angles on long tours. After I did the foolish try, to cut out some material by myself, 1. I got more pain and created a lumbago, and 2. I spoiled my seat. So I bought that one from Touratech and I.m very satisfied.
What ‘Steve Fife’ wrote, I can confirm, that “normal service guys” make a lot of wind and measure even your balls and nose… real experts in seat construction know, what to do: Using the correct foam and creating no steps or higher levels, except with a 2nd rider.
Can’t say enough about custom seats. I’ve been using Corbin for years (not plugging them here, pick one that works for you). I bought my BMW R1200 GSA in 2016, and immediately rode it 500 miles to the Corbin factory in Hollister, CA.
Apparently the engineers who design BMW seats are not “long riders”. After 500 miles on the factory seat I could hardly walk. But with the custom seat I barely noticed the 500 miles to get home. I’ve done multiple Iron Butt rides since then on that seat, and a 3 month, 25K ride around the US, averaging 300 miles per day. Butt and back pain was never a problem.
The techs took measurements of my butt (although admittedly that was probably theater) asked me a bunch of questions about riding style, and even made a last minute change when we discovered I prefer the hump between front and rear to not press against my back. I even got to select the custom stitching, color and pattern. The whole thing took about 8 hours and $700 USD.
That seat has 100K miles on it now, will soon be taking me to South America, and when the leather finally wears out, I’ll take it back to them and they’ll put another leather seat cover on ($100 USD) because the “pan” is still functional and simply need to add more foam and cushioning
Money well spent for adventure riding.
Hi Steve, thanks for your comment.
Yeah, agreed! A custom seat is an absolute must for any long distance rider.
That does sound expensive at 700USD, but considering the mileages you’re talking about, it does sound like money well spent!
Hope you have a brilliant trip in South America. We’ll be entering the US on our RTW trip sometime mid-2023, let’s meet up!
Cheers and all the best,