How To Warm Up and Cool Down For A Motorcycle Ride

You’ve done it. You finally set aside enough time in your schedule to take that long motorcycle trip that’s been in the works for months. As a RideApart fan, you’ve read How to Gear Up for Adventure, picked up an Aerostitch Roadcrafter, and worked on your adventure skills with 11 Tips for Riding Off-Road. But, have you prepared your body? Here’s how to warm up and cool down for a motorcycle ride.

Photo by Gunnar Pettersson

With the top of the line gear, a fully prepared and maintained motorcycle, and a full spectrum of riding skills, the weak link in the journey is likely to be you, the rider. Long days in the saddle, and possibly questionable sleeping situations can have a tendency to negatively impact even the most well prepared riders. While at this point it’s too late to fully whip your body into ideal shape, spending about ten minutes pre and post ride to take care of your body (as you would your bike) will pay huge dividends in your comfort while both riding and sleeping.

Most riders (myself included) get some variety of back, hip, and shoulder issues after spending significant time riding. I’ve compiled a selection of easy to perform dynamic warm up movements and static stretches that, when performed before and after a long ride, will make your motorcycling life far more comfortable. For all of the dynamic warm up movements, it’s crucial to start with a short range of motion, and gradually progress to a full range of motion while the muscles, tendons, and joints heat up. Ideally, stretches would be performed after the warm-up.

Dynamic Warm-up Lower Body

Exercise: Lunge with Twist

The lunge with twist is a great way to start the glutes, quads, hips and back working without much stress. Step out with one leg, drop the back knee slightly above the ground and bring the opposite elbow to the front knee. Make sure to twist under control — no wrenching.

By loosening the musculature surrounding our hips and spine, we are able to enter more comfortable and varied riding positions with ease. Remember, just do enough lunges to feel warm, no need to tire yourself out prior to riding. How much you do depends on your age, flexibility, and general fitness level. For those of you that are more advanced in that regard, try holding the lunge position for a solid two-second pause fully extended.

Exercise: High Knee to Back Kick

This movement can be done holding on to something for balance (as I need to) or standing without aid. Pull the knee high to your chest, and then drive it backwards, squeezing the glute during the kicking motion. Again, this movement loosens up our hips (compressed while riding), and activates the glutes, which helps to pull the hips into proper alignment.

Make sure to take your time and control the tempo. Swinging your leg around wildly will not be beneficial. After a few of these, you will hopefully feel your lumbar spinal erectors (muscles to left and right of spine) start to work and heat up.

Exercise: Hip Opener

There are two main points to focus on while performing hip openers. First off, try to keep your hips square, and not rotate them with the leg; that increases the amount of stretch. Secondly, ensure that you are pulling your leg vertically high enough so that your low back begins to feel worked as well.

The back and forth motion does a great job of opening up the entire hip joint, an area that can get extremely tight while riding, especially in a compressed sportbike position. Go back and forth on your right and left legs, or just do one until you feel it’s warm.

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