How To Stay Comfortable On Long Motorcycle Rides

How To -

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Motorcycle Comfort

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.

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.

BMW F 800 GS
The F 800 GS’s seat is so poor, I stood most of the way from New York to Labrador and back.

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.

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.

Related Links:
More Tips: 10 Motorcycle Riding Tricks You Don’t Know, Yet
Our Last Big Trip: Honda CBR500R Review
Bad Conditions: How To Ride A Motorcycle In The Rain

  • Kevin

    Being able to stand up and stretch while on a bike can make all the difference. So I would avoid pegs that are either racer high or cruiser forward. No clip ons or drag bars. No ape hangers.

    • PracticalBatman

      Once I bought a KLR and discovered I could stand up for a few miles.. I was in heaven!

    • wbizzle

      Agreed. As batman stated below, being able to stretch while riding did wanders for me when on longer trips.

    • Piglet2010

      When there is no traffic close to me and I have a good sight-distance to the front, I will stand for a minute of two – both the Bonnie and Deauville have high enough bars and mid-mount pegs that make this comfortable without compromising control.

      • Nate Terrill

        Be careful, Bonnie pegs are pretty weak.

        • http://www.motopraxis.com/ Aakash

          True. Best thing to do is drill in a couple of auxiliary support holes for a pair of M4 screws and nuts on either side of the M8 stud that fixes the clevis joint.

        • Piglet2010

          What years, or are they still the same (my bike is a 2013)?

          • Nate Terrill

            I don’t think the pegs have changed through the years, despite a pretty massive out cry from riders. I can tell you that my 2013 peg did not snap off but bent to the point of needing replacement from a zero mile per hour drop into soft sand.

    • Jack Meoph

      I’ve stood up on my pegs since forever. I now understand it’s stunta trick. It does help relieve sourness and cramping before it gets out of hand.

  • Eric Shay

    I’ve found that wearing a backpack keeps my back more straight, and more comfortable.

    • Geert Willem van der Horst

      Back protector has a better effect in that regard imo

  • Lee Scuppers

    I got a memory foam bath mat at a Walmart in Presque Isle, ME that did wonders, doubled and strapped to the seat. Cheap, and better than a towel.

  • Piglet2010

    #2 – Drinking nothing but water when you are sweating a lot may lead to hyponatremia – I did this once on a push-bike and it was a miserable experience.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyponatremia

    • Jack McLovin

      Ok, I hate it when people do this. You have to qualify your statement. Are you an old woman? Was this a 200 mile uphill 100% sprint while full on doping? Coz I bet 99.99% of people will be fine just drinking water when they sweat, as humanity has done for 200,000 years. JFC people, If you just want to show off how much you know go to reddit.

    • phoebegoesvroom

      It *is* true that you can lose a lot of salt if you’re sweating heavily over a long period of time. It’s happened to me. It certainly doesn’t hurt to take in some sodium with all that water you’re drinking.

    • darngooddesign

      This is a good thing to keep in mind. I find that snacking on jerky while drinking a lot of water keeps things balanced.

      • appliance5000

        Any excuse to eat jerky is sounds good to me.

    • runnermatt

      Gatorade is a good bet too. I would advise that individuals to stay away from the low calorie G2 version though. It uses aspartame which studies are starting to show it can do bad things to your liver over the long term and may contribute to diabetes.

    • http://hangaround.tumblr.com/ hangaround

      This is über-stupid. Nobody gets hyponatremia on a normal or long range bike trip. Just drink some mineral water and you will be fine. End of story.

  • charlie

    Dam Wes. Looks like you fought off a tigerbear.

  • james

    My top tips;
    1. take up smoking, nicotine allows the brain to focus effectively and will ward off fatigue better than any coffee, though use in conjuction is highly recommended. I know people might be all like, smoking kills, but there is a reson the majority of bikers, truckers etc smoke, its because it really does keep you up.

    2. slamming your butt onto the seat can help stop it from falling asleep

    3. keep your mind occupied on the highway by doing mental arithmatic, things like speed and distance calculations in your head, working out how much time at your current speed to your next smoke break, fuel stop, rest area, and home, can really give you something to do, and the ever constant motion means you always have more math to do. I hate maths with a passion, but i do this almost every time i have to hit the slab for a day or more

    4. pack backup emergency rain and warmth gear, a warm bag, isolated from your other gear and waterproofed twice as much as all your other gear, if you ever find yourself freezing cold in a rest area late at night with no where to go, you will be thankful. All you need is polyprop thermals and some goretex rain shells.

    5. Bring many straps, duct tape, zip ties, cargo nets etc, you might spend hours the night before your ride getting your gear set up just right, but i can garentuee you will never ever be able to get it back to the way it was out on the road after you have to take it all apart to get at something backed deep in the bowls of your luggage.

    this only appies to people going for the dodgey approach to bike luggage people with hardcase panniers and so on probably not such a need. But if your one of those people like me who want to go touring on sports bikes then you will need the extra tie down supplies!

    • Piglet2010

      1. YHGTBSM

      4. I do not bother with a rain suit, since I have a Roadcrafter Light.

      5. I was very happy to have a couple of bungee cords when I needed to get home with a broken pannier latch.

      • james

        No, not shitting you ( i assume that is what yhgtbsm is supposed to mean?) you can disagree all you like but the drug nicotine keeps you alert, that is its primary function and its the reason our civilisation has been using tobacco products for a few thousand years. Go look it up.

        Are you disagreeing that among motorcycling, smoking is highly prevalent, as well as in many other situations where fatigue is a killer, such as truckers, deep sea fisherman, construction workers.

        I have literally pulled into rest areas and collapsed onto picnic tables out of fatigue, and then after having a smoke, was able to finish the last 600 miles of my drive.

        Your comments on here piglet make me think that perhaps, you have not experienced a large amount of this thing we call life, perhaps you should not discount things your not aware of?

        AWESOME YOU HAVE A ROADCRAFTER SUIT PLEASE TELL US ABOUT IT OVER AND OVER AGAIN!!!!!!!! Mate, most riders wear leather, some riders will never wear anything but. Textile is great until you hit the road 500 miles from home and then cant get home in safety because your gear is shredded. Leather is multi use, textile is not.

        • Jack Meoph

          Smoke up, Johnny. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_cigarette You can buy single use ones at smoke shops for under $10 and they last quite a while, and they do the job.

          • karlInSanDiego

            Why did I know the hipsters were going to meet dead-ender James in the middle and doom an entire-nother generation to abusing this ridiculous drug? Don’t use nicotine kids. It’ll suck the remaining chance you may ever have of a good life, right out of you. Ecigs are evil too, and if you try to tell the third guy we’re talking to they’re harmless, I’ll prove you wrong by punching you in the neck. I’m too annoyed at smoker’s poor judgement to sit by and watch people advocate it. Sorry for my knee jerking in all you faces.

            • james

              Mate there is a lot of people out there who would say the same thing about a motorcycle at all.

            • Lee Scuppers

              Punching me in the neck doesn’t prove you’ve got your facts right. It proves that I’ll teach you some manners with 12″ adjustable wrench, and then I’ll be happy to have a civilized discussion as soon as you’re willing to try.

              Or we could start out civilized. How’s that sound? I like that idea better, if you can keep those bulging street-fightin’ bar-brawlin’ little monitor-tanned online-tough-guy muscles under control.

              • karlInSanDiego

                I never said it would make me right. I was attempting some humor, ei, Guy A pleas with Guy C “ecigs never hurt anyone.”, as if he’s got all the facts. Guy B punches Guy A in the neck and says “they just did”. Relax Lee, I’m not into brawling with you or anyone else. I thought James had us all in a Roadhouse with his setup that we were stepping off our bikes, surrounded by Truckers and Construction workers, all saving their lives with sense hightening nicotine highs.

              • Piglet2010

                Lee – Would that be a metric or SAE adjustable wrench?

              • Justin McClintock

                Wait a second. Just above you tried to go out of your way to be uncivilized in your response to me. Now you’re complaining about somebody being uncivilized to you here? All while trying to be some internet tough guy. Somebody needs to revoke your keyboard before you hurt yourself.

            • Piglet2010

              I used to know a bunch of crackheads, and if they were low on money they would give up crack long before cigarettes. Even saw them picking through ashtrays to get the little bit of unburned tobacco out the used butts to roll a smoke. So james, does that count as life experience?

              Most of the people I know that ride motorcycles do not smoke – but then they are “motorcyclists” and not “bikers”. They also wear proper gear instead of sleeveless vests, do-rags, and fingerless “nose-picker” gloves.

        • Justin McClintock

          Wow. Just wow. You’re ragging on somebody for avoiding an addictive drug that’s associated with all kinds of health maladies and you’re ragging on him for wearing gear that might be considered the single best piece of gear available (besides a helmet). All while hiding behind the guise of “experience”.

          Dude, you may have lots of life experience. Some people learn from their mistakes. The real smart people learn from others’ mistakes.

          • Lee Scuppers

            The combustion products are horrible. My lungs are the proof. But nicotine in those concentrations is not harmful, and aids concentration.

            “Wow, just wow” translates a “OMG he said something unfashionable, THAT’S NOT ALLOWED” — which translates as “ignore me”.

            • Justin McClintock

              No, it translates to, “Wow, you’re a dumbass”, but just in a nicer form. You confirm that with the first part of your retort, yet argue with it in the second. What’s your point again? Recommending somebody do something that is guaranteed to adversely affect their long term health and quality of life and may very well kill them isn’t exactly the best advice anybody’s ever given.

        • Piglet2010

          I was not doubting that a lot of people smoke or chew tobacco, just that only an idiot or misanthrope would suggest people take up nicotine use.

          • DaveDawsonAlaska

            I’m surprised that no one has jumped on the man for claiming that a 1pc Roadcrafter is water tight and instead all jumped on the anti-smoking dog pile. For a riding suit it does a lot of things well, but keeping the rain out for any particularly long period of time isn’t one of them. Carrying a rain suit is good extra insurance.

            • Piglet2010

              How old of a Roadcrafter? Starting in 2012, Aerostich has used a new zipper that does *not* let water in while riding (at least not enough to notice for my Roadcrafter Light).

  • Piglet2010

    #5 – Easily adjustable windshields are great – I can easily adjust the one on my Deauville while sitting at a stop sign or red light.

    Anyone else think motorcycles should have seats that rise and lower when riding? More leg-room and ground clearance without sacrificing the ability to hold the bike up when stopped.

    #6 – Wicking underwear and standing on occasion can help prevent “monkey butt”. Push-bike riding shorts and Bag Balm™ also work well.

  • http://www.motopraxis.com/ Aakash

    Taking a break is so crucial. I break every 50-80 miles when I’m on long rides.

  • Geert Willem van der Horst

    I used an Airhawk 2 (http://www.airhawk.net/) when I rode from Amsterdam to the Jura-region (France) last summer. Still got a sore butt after a while, but it was waaaaaaaaaay better than riding without it.

  • phoebegoesvroom

    Believe it or not, I use a gardening kneeling pad made out of the squishy kind of closed-cell foam (not the rigid kind) as my seat pad on long rides. It works incredibly well and stays in place due to friction. I did trim it to fit the contour of the seat. Prior to this, I bought one of those gel seat pads for about $100. The kneeling pad works better and is less than 10% of the price. Plus, since it has a hole in it for a handle, I stick it on one of my grips when I park the bike to keep it from blowing away (which did happen to me once).

    Another thing that I find helps me a lot are grip wraps and grip donuts. They make hanging onto the bars much more pleasant over a long period of time. YMMV.

    I agree with everything else that was posted in this article too.

  • Andrew

    Klim gel shorts were a game changer for me. http://www.revzilla.com/snow/klim-tactical-shorts Also, several buds recommend the Airhawk seat pads which are easily removable when you need to get rad. Finally, take a stack of moist baby wipes to end monkey butt and high 5 me later. After you wash your hands of course.

    • appliance5000

      I got some d30 armored shorts – soft padding but good protection (i hope).

  • BillW

    I think the success of these are highly dependent on your personal physique. I have a fairly skinny butt with little padding under my seat bones, and I found the beadrider excruciatingly uncomfortable. But I know other folks who love them.

    • Beale

      I could see that with no padding at all. I think the thing that makes it work for so many people is that you are constantly changing the point of contact so it’s less likely you’ll get a hot spot from one pressure point.

  • BillW

    If you can afford it, get a custom saddle. Nothing beats a seat made to fit your very own butt. LD Comfort undershorts also help a lot. And don’t wear jeans, either alone or under overpants.

  • Conrad

    Water? You mean like out da toilet?

  • Lourens Smak

    Two pages about long-distance touring comfort, and 48 comments, and nobody mentions earplugs? ;-)

    • Piglet2010

      I use earplugs on shorter rides, except on the Elite 110 (which has a very quiet exhaust). Most stock exhausts are too loud for me to tolerate for long.

      • Lourens Smak

        I have to admit I almost never use earplugs myself… I always have them with me but my helmet is quiet enough I guess, in combination with my bike and seating position, and my bike has the stock exhaust. Going fast on the highway is the noisiest (wind mostly) but I never do that the entire day. I found it also helps to have a neck-tube or something, to close the underside of the helmet.

        • Piglet2010

          My stock TW200 is loud enough to be annoying to me just riding through town. If it was not already so low on power, I would be tempted to stuff some fiberglass batting in the exhaust.

    • Michael Howard

      Yep. Wind noise at highway speeds is very fatiguing. People don’t realize how much until they’ve ridden with ear plugs. Also, over time, wind noise can and does damage your hearing. And, no, even the quietest helmets don’t do much to prevent this.

  • Piglet2010

    It used to almost the rule to see billowing jackets on motorcycle riders, but now it is a rare sight.

  • Piglet2010

    How does putting the cream on a baby protect your own posterior?

  • Michael Howard

    I’ve had two Ultimate BeadRiders (with ceramic beads instead of wood) and they about doubled the amount of time I could spend in the saddle. Unfortunately, since my bike is a daily tool and not a weekend toy, and I’m a horrible owner and leave it outside year-round, the filaments in each of them weakened and broke after about a year.

  • karlInSanDiego

    That’s totally logical. Smoke because I made a negative statement about smoking. I guess that’s why I can’t understand the thought process smokers have. You feel the need to doing what is bad for you out of spite or because I’m being hyperbolic? Do you really want this thread to degrade into talking about nicotine addiction , cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx (voice box), mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and cervix…, acute myeloid leukemia, heart disease, stroke, aortic aneurysm, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, hip fractures, and cataracts? My 47 year old sister’s in the ICU fighting for her life this very moment with pneumonia, no doubt complicated by a lifetime of smoking. Beginning smoking today fits the second definition of
    Retarded: re·tard·ed
    adj.
    1. Often Offensive Affected with mental retardation.
    2. Occurring or developing later than desired or expected; delayed.
    But I guess you’re right, WhatEver.. Yeah that makes sense.

  • Debbie Martin

    Take a break every 100 miles even just to stretch legs or get a drink or snack

  • Tupack Shackur

    What kind of sheepskin should one get for a seat like a Ninja’s? Anybody have any experience? I like how the Aerostich one mentioned looks. I’m thinking tapered?