How To Improve Motorcycle Interface

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How To Improve Motorcycle Interface

One of the greatest thrills of motorcycling is the immediacy of the experience. Improving your connection to the bike improves your ability to handle, brake and accelerate whether you’re on the road or the track. Read on to learn how you can improve the major points of contact with your motorcycle.

Sorting out ergonomics is one of the most important parts of motorcycle ownership. If your hands don’t fall in a natural position that works well for your style of bike, you won’t be comfortable, and your bike control will suffer. Likewise, if your feet aren’t secure, or you are slipping and sliding around your seat when you should be planted, you won’t be getting the most out of your bike. Upgrading just a few key points will drastically improve the quality of contact that you’re making with your bike, making you faster and safer.

Handlebars/Clip-Ons

Improving this can be as easy as rotating a handlebar in the clamps, or replacing it altogether. For riders with clip-ons, rotating them outward improves leverage, but increases reach. An adjustable set can offer tremendous versatility, allowing you to lower your bars for track days, then raise them back up for the ride home. Check out these from Apex Manufacturing.

How To Improve Motorcycle Interface
Handlebars/Clip-Ons

Grips
Stock grips on many bikes leave a bit to be desired in terms of feel and feedback. Many companies seem to prize smooth and black for showroom appeal, and leave it to the rider to determine if they want better hand traction. Options are extensive, so spend time shopping for something that will fit your needs and pocketbook. A good set of grips like these from Renthal can help dampen vibrations, and improve feel substantially.

How To Improve Motorcycle Interface
Grips

Tank Grips

Adding a square foot of textured polyurethane to your motorcycle’s tank will give more positive traction, helping your support your body weight with your legs while riding, leaving your hands free to control your bike. Sliding around while hanging off feels awful, and a distracted rider isn’t smooth, and won’t be faster or safer because of it. Stomp Grip, TechSpec, and several others offer grip pads for your tank, that won’t erode your riding pants or track gear like grip tape.

How To Improve Motorcycle Interface
Pegs and Rearsets

Pegs and Rearsets

Another great candidate for increasing rider-bike interface is to change your pegs. Slick pegs aren’t going to help you stay planted on your bike. Dirt riders have a vast aftermarket that caters to improving foot traction as having a slippery peg that won’t clear mud or debris is unacceptable when you spend so much time standing on them. For road-oriented riders, switching from your stock pegs to a knurled peg or (even better, an adjustable rearset with a knurled peg) gives you a chance to hook your boot into something really assuring. Also, the increased adjustability of a rearset allows the rider to fine-tune their pegs in relation to the rest of their riding position.

How To Improve Motorcycle Interface
Levers

Levers
Even the nicest of bikes can come with lower-spec levers and limited adjustability. As bikes are designed around an imaginary average rider, we’ve got to look out for opportunities to fit our bikes to ourselves. Since so much motorcycle control is done with our hands, it’s important to have levers that you can reach and use effectively. Whether you prefer short or long levers is always subjective, but if you don’t fall into the happy medium, or want something with a wider range of adjustability/durability look into some good aftermarket levers. Folding levers add an extra amount of breakage prevention so you can make it home after a minor lowside.

What are you using to improve your relationship with your bike?

  • Nathan Haley

    Article definitely written by a sportbike rider!

    Enduro/dualsport/ADV/MX/other off-roaders will be amazed at how much their bike can be transformed with a set of $30 handlebar risers, which allow the to stand up without bending over. A lot of guys swear it completely changes the “handling” of the bike for 1/10th the cost of a fork rebuild.

    • Piglet2010

      Any good suggestions for a TW200 – the stock bars are definitely too low for me to be comfortable standing?

      • Nathan Haley

        I started on a TW200 – it’s as small as bikes get in the USA. I loved it, but it had some limitations. The pegs are quite high (for ground clearance) and as you note, the bars are very low. Those two ergonomic features make it very difficult to stand on for any duration. You can get 20-30mm bar risers (you may need longer cables as well) but if you’re over 5’6 or so, you should just give up standing on a T-dub.

        Let me explain – the TW isn’t really made for standing. It likes to putt around on trails at a modest pace, not attack them like an enduro would. Even if you do stand up, you can’t effectively grip the tank because…there’s just not that much bike there at your ankles! Sometimes I would try to charge into a section while standing and the bike would always want to flop over underneath me, simply because I couldn’t grip the tank with my knees.

        Nor is the T-dub built for all-day standing on gravel/dirt roads like you would on a bigger ADV – the engine is bulletproof but a bit buzzy for long distances and high speeds.

        The TW has a comfy seat – use it! If you want to get into standing-up-riding while keeping things cheap and cheerful, consider trading it in for a Honda CRF250L or a Yamaha XT250.

  • Jonathan Ward

    I think the only thing I’d do to improve my 1st gen Fazer is to change the levers, even then, I can’t decide whether it’s worth the expense. Current levers work just fine.

    For road use the best thing to do is keep yourself warm and comfortable. Adding things such as heated grips and handlebar muffs do the trick, especially when you’re riding in sub-zero temperatures. Higher concentration levels = safer riding. Also, I’ve just ordered a set of auxiliary lights and an MRA Vario touring screen. All these things are more important to my daily riding than tank pads, levers and aftermarket pegs. Yet again, it depends what you use your bike for. Weekend warriors will probably agree completely with the article, whereas myself as a year-round no matter what the weather biker see things a little differently.

  • ThinkingInImages

    I have everything here but the adjustable levers. That’s next – I need a little less “reach” for comfort. Why they are not standard on every motorcycle is a mystery to me. The levers handle two critical controls.

    The “interface” that needs the most improvement is the control pods. I’ve seen basically the same layout since the ’80′s. Turn signals should be easier to reach, activate, and self canceling. They should also integrate the high/low headlight switch. Stop/run should incorporate the start switch. I can’t think of the last time I used the “stop” function. There’s just so much thumbs can do.

    • Justin McClintock

      You must have some poorly laid out control pods or some really small hands. I’ve never had an issue with the turn signals or brights on any of my bikes. And that includes bikes back to 1978 and as new as 2005.

      • ThinkingInImages

        Small hands, and broken bones in them, too. It really is more a matter of comfort and a little better lever control finesse in traffic. I’m used to it, but I can imagine it being awkward for new riders.

        We’ve gotten used to the control pods but when you really think of them, they haven’t evolved much since kickstarter days.

      • Piglet2010

        The only issue I have is that Honda puts the horn too close to the turn signal for riding in fat winter gloves, leading to occasional inadvertent honks.

    • tobykeller

      I’ve always been curious about the feasibility of self-canceling turn signals on a bike. On a car it’s easy… wheel turns past a certain point, triggers a release catch. But on a bike… unless you’re using a compass or something to determine a change in direction, how would it work? Handlebars turn one way at slow speeds and (very slightly) in another at higher speeds, so that wouldn’t work…

      • ThinkingInImages

        Maybe a timer and lean angle sensor? If the can make a black box to handle all the variables of fuel injection, ABS, traction control, and drive modes, it can’t be that complex to sort out.

      • zion

        Already exists on H-D’s. It comprises of lean angle sensors and speed sensors.

      • Mark

        Harley figured it out a long time ago so it shouldn’t bee too difficult for the Euro and Japanese manufacturers to figure out too.

  • Justin McClintock

    My SV1000S has a taller windscreen, 2003 SV650N rearsets (lower, further forward, a lot more legroom), helibars, heated bars (underneath the grips), aftermarket grips, and a gel seat. Ergonomically I’ve changed everything I touch on the bike short of the levers and the actual pegs themselves…which aren’t in the stock locations (courtesy of those 650 rearsets and helibars). And the levers were adjustable from the factory anyway.

  • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

    Ride naked. Take your fairings off and street fighter your bike. Nothing improves your “interface” like having nothing in front of you, being forced to keep your head on the tank above 80 mph, or being able to see where the front wheel is. Huge confidence booster. Ive gotten lazy since i put fairings back on. I’m thinking about getting naked again.

    Oh corbin seat, progressive throttle tube, bar end mirrors so you can stop looking at your elbows (no you’re not going to bang them into things), and see that diamond grip on the upper palms and fingers? Works as good as cruise control.

  • Jeromy

    Grippy seat fabric is helpful. My girlfriend redid her Honda CB599 seat with seat fabric for a dirt bike, and she can’t seem to say enough about how it improved her confidence and riding experience.

    I was more aggressive and had my tank painted with truck bed liner. The looks are not for everyone (I love it) but it REALLY improved my ability to hang off the bike. And it might help protect my bikes tank.

    • Piglet2010

      When I had a F4i, the seat was splitting, and was very slippery. Covering it with black duct tape kept me from sliding around every time I open the throttle.

  • Jordan

    The best thing about an aftermarket Brembo master cylinder is how adjustable the brake lever is. It uses an adjustable clicking wheel that has an infinite amount of settings.

    • Piglet2010

      As long as you do not get your finger stuck in the concave backside of the lever, as a certain former racer and current riding instructor did.