Pretty much any bike is comfortable for just a few minutes, but any bike can be torture if you have to spend hours in the saddle. Luckily, there are ways to address that. Here’s how to stay comfortable on long motorcycle rides.
Stretch all your muscle groups before you ride. If you have the right riding gear — stuff that flexes with your body and allows full range of motion — you can even wear it while stretching.
If you’ve taken a high school PE class, then you know how to stretch, the same techniques apply here. Hold stretches for 30 seconds.
Start with your legs: touch your toes, spread your legs to twice shoulder high and and fold your torso down so your head points at the ground, then bend alternating knees, stretching the inside of your thighs. Stretch your quads by bending your knee while standing and pulling it up with your foot. Sit on the ground with the soles of your boots touching and do butterflies.
Your head and neck need attention too: roll your head around your shoulders. Stretch your back by reaching for the sky and your arms by pulling them behind your head and across your shoulders. All this gets you nice and limber for the hours in the saddle ahead.
Before you set out, drink water until you can't drink anymore. Then, top yourself up on the go. The goal is to urinate once an hour, all day and for that urine to remain clear. If you’re off schedule or it starts turning dark, drink more. Riding a motorcycle, even just cruising down a highway, puts you outside in the elements, remaining adequately hydrated will prevent soreness from developing in your muscles and keep your mental acuity high. And we do mean water. Staying hydrated is better for energy and focus than sugary caffeinated drinks ever will be.
3. Dress Appropriately
No matter what the weather, there’s riding gear that will make you more comfortable in it. We all know what it can do in the rain and cold, but even in extreme heat, appropriate riding gear can allow your body to cool itself more effectively than simply exposing it to the wind. Ventilated or mesh gear controls the airflow around your body, giving the evaporative cooling effect time to work, rather than simply allowing the wind to blow the sweat off your body before it provides any cooling. There’s also cooling vests and other articles that soak up water, then keep you dry (they’re like diapers) while providing additional cooling. Or, you can just soak a scarf (we recommend the Aerostich silk item) in water and achieve a cooling benefit from that too. You’ll also need to protect yourself from the sun, any remaining exposed skin should be covered in high-SPF sunblock.
4. Compress Your Muscles
Compression garments increase long term comfort and athletic performance by increasing the lymphatic and blood flow. It also holds muscles in place, isolating them from vibration, further preventing long-term soreness. A simple pair of bike shorts can work wonders over long distances and compression garments are now available for virtually your entire body. Wear them, they work.
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5. Alter Your Ergonomics and Aerodynamics
Any stock motorcycle should only be considered an ergonomic starting point. This is as true for a Gold Wing as it is for an R6 track bike. You can achieve a surprising level of custom fit simply by rotating bars forward and backwards and levers up and down. Going further, you can fit different bars, different foot pegs and modify the seat to the taller, shorter, thinner, wider or to provide more padding or support.
The same goes for aerodynamics. A screen that works for one person, might create terminal vibration for another, seemingly identical rider. You can shim screen bolts, chop them down or purchase taller screens to tailor aerodynamics to your personal needs.
Find yourself on the road and in urgent need of a quick, easy ergonomic fix? Don’t be afraid to experiment. Duct tape, cardboard and spare clothing can be used to conjure up all sorts of comfort aids in a pinch.
6. Avoid Monkey Butt
Get a sweaty butt and you could experience chafing, or worse. This is what those skeepskin seat covers you see on GSs and Gold Wings are intended to prevent; they do so by helping air circulate around your backside. Duct taping a folded up towel to your seat can achieve a similar effect for free. Talcum powder applied to your nether regions is a good idea too.
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7. Keep Your Hands Warm
Craig Vetter invented the original bar muffs by duct taping a sleeping bag to the front of his motorcycle. Having your fingers pointing into the wind for long periods, even in good gloves, just has a way of creating cold hands. Bark Busters and heated grips help, but in a pinch you can stick chemical hand warmers in your gloves, wear nitrile medical gloves underneath or fashion makeshift mittens from other clothing.
8. Move Around
No matter how comfortable your bike may seem, sitting in one position for hours at a time is going to lead to sore-butt-itis. So move around. Be safe and don’t do this in places where you may need to make emergency evasive maneuvers, but long trips frequently see us sitting on the pillion seat, putting our feet on cylinder heads or other protruding parts or just standing up. The latter can help stretch your leg muscles and return blood flow to your back, feet and legs. Just be careful not to inadvertently tweak the throttle, foot controls or nudge the bars off course when you’re doing so. The gyroscopic force of the spinning wheels makes motorcycles extremely stable at highway speeds though, you can use that to your advantage.
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9. Take A Break
There’s nothing wrong with just pulling over and taking a break. Go sit inside somewhere warm if it’s cold outside or cool if it’s hot. Drink some liquids; take your concentration away from riding and just chill out. The mental recuperation from even a short break might just be what you need to get home.