The Summer riding seasons now in full swing you may be preparing to pop off around Europe for a few weeks or perhaps a big tour of Wales or Scotland. A big part of enjoying motorcycle touring is that by riding a motorcycle we are out in the environment, we can smell the flowers and the fresh air and we get a great sense of immersion from it. Unfortunately though touring means long hours in the saddle and this can mean serious discomfort! Now you may have chosen the ideal bike for the job such as the BMW 1200GS or the Honda Africa Twin but this doesn’t mean straight out of the box that they are perfect for you specifically. There are quite a lot of adjustments that can be made even on a stock motorcycle to improve the comfort levels for those long rides which we will take a look at.
You can easily adjust the lever angle on most motorcycles by just loosing a single bolt. When you are sitting on your motorcycle, there should be a straight line from your elbows through your wrists. This line should carry on through your fingers when they are resting on the levers, not to you are reaching for them. This reduces fatigue and wrist cramp. In regards to the actual angler of the levers from the bars quite a few bikes have a reach adjuster on the top of the lever. Some bikes have extremely wide set levers and without knowing it you have to stretch to reach them. These factory levers can make your hands get tired quickly, creating aches and pains.
With adjustable levers you are able to set the distance between your fingers and the bar perfectly. For those that use two fingers on the clutch and or brake, you may find the shorter levers more comfortable. Particularly if you wear bulky gloves as they can get trapped between the lever and the throttle grip, with shorter levers this isn’t a problem.
Aftermarket pegs are a good idea for all bikes as the larger the platform, the less pressure on the sole of the foot. Adventure bikes tend to already have them but with more sport orientated tourers the pegs are often very narrow and can become uncomfortable quickly. For most bikes you can purchase peg extenders that allow you to alter the position of the pegs a little to increase comfort.
Seats are a very personal thing and for one person a specific bike seat might be very comfortable but for another it could be torture. There is quite a few manuffacturers that make different comfort seats for most modern bikes but these can be quite expensive and cost up to 300gbp. There are however a few cheaper ways to make your bike fit you for long periods of time such as pads and air cushions:
All purpose built touring and adventure machines have factory windshields fitted as standard but that does not mean you are getting the best protection. Factory windshields tend to be made for one size of person and can cause bad buffering on taller riders. There are a few add on windshield extenders that are adjustable and can really quiten down the wind noise and give you extra protection from the elements such as the MRA X-Screen. On naked bikes some riders don’t like windshields as they can disrupt the appearance of your bike. Although when travelling long distances and touring, being shielded from the wind is extremely important. If you have motorway miles ahead of you, this will make the journey much less tiring and uncomfortable as you won’t be fighting the elements. Windshields allow you to sit in a little bubble of protection which is ideal for long road trips.
Something which can really affect the enjoyment of a ride out is cold hands. It’s not just a comfort thing either, your hands play a rather important part when riding so if they get cold reactions can get slower which is dangerous.
Fitting the grips can be done with: Sharp knife, Contact cleaner, Glue, Combination of spanners/Allen keys, Phillips/Screwdrivers. Heated grips are found on most higher end motorcycles but they are not the best option available for keeping your hands warm. Heated gloves such as the models made by Gerbing can be attached to any motorcycle and heat not just the palm of the hand but the back and fingers. They also have an excellent warranty.
A motorcycle suspension system performs the primary job of absorbing the rough surfaces beneath the machine’s tyres, which isolates the riders from impact. As well as enhancing the comfort, a bikes suspension plays an important part in the handling and steering of the machine.
Standard motorcycle suspension obviously isn’t made for you specifically, therefore is unlikely to give you exactly what you want and need. Most shock absorbers are adjustable in terms of ride stiffness and damping control. This is a very important aspect of motorcycle touring that people often overlook. Standard suspension is usually set up for a single rider and is usually based for a sporty style of riding. However adding even a small amount of luggage affects the ride height and damping control of a bike quite a lot nevermind adding a pillion passenger and their luggage. The preload on the suspension must be increased as the weight increases so that the bike remains at the same level and thus the suspension can work properly and maintain grip with the road. Sometimes you may have to have the spring replaced for a heavier duty version if you carry a lot of luggage.
Having a good navigation system does not directly increase your ride comfort but having and easy to read and use system saves on energy, reducing fatigue over the long road miles. Most aftermarket navigation systems such as the Garmin models are slow and cumbersome to use and have limited accuracy when finding addresses. Bikes with built in nav systems tend to be of low quality and have a poor position out of the line of site.
With the advent of slick, easy to use smartphones the traditional GPS systems have become very hard to use as they often have poor touchscreens, cumbersome software and slow processors. In the modern age we expect more from an electronic device and so using a smartphone as a navigation device (and free maps) is ideal. The only way that traditional gps beat the smartphone is waterproofness and on board power but with an aftermarket waterproof phone case and USB power system this is not a problem. By using a mounting system based on the 20mm ball attachments you can position the phone for optimal line of sight to save you taking your eyes off the road and also allows you to see your speedo and instruments. This is a great way to navigate better and more efficiently when you want to enjoy the ride.
This rounds out our tips for increasing comfort when touring and we hope they may help you enjoy your motorcycle touring holiday that little bit more!
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