An important topic is missing from learning to ride a motorcycle and that is how to sit on it, or more specifically, how to position ourselves on it.
The only official advice I recall is in the Highway Code, but that is directed at pillions where Rule 85 states:
“Passengers MUST sit astride the machine on a proper seat. They should face forward with both feet on the footrests.”
Great advice, but what about the rider?
Q1: Is riding causing you back, wrist, shoulder or neck pain?
It’s likely this is caused by your posture, rather than the design of the bike.
The head and helmet can weigh more than 6kg. Having the head in front of the shoulders means the neck muscles have to hold this weight up, causing pain and discomfort. With our neck already bent backwards, any buffeting can damage both the vertebrae, discs and nerves in our neck as we lose the normal flexibility.
Pain and discomfort can quickly cause fatigue and can become a distraction from riding.
Q2: Does your bike feel nervous? Is it hard work to get it to steer or change direction?
This can be caused by the way you hold yourself on the bike or hold the controls. The following guide will not only improve your comfort but will make a positive change to the way your bike feels and handles.
Like our bikes, we come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so this guide is intended to help you to find the best riding position. Try the following to find a good position on your bike. It’s best to try this while the bike is stationary, so stick it on the centre stand or get a couple of people to hold your bike upright. It’s also good to do this with your bike kit on as this can restrict movement.
Finding the correct seating position
- Sit upright astride your bike and try to position your backside directly above your feet — providing your bike’s design allows this.
- Your weight is now correctly supported through the seat and foot pegs. You may now be sitting closer to the petrol tank than usual, which is a good thing.
Holding onto your bike
- Still sat upright, squeeze your thighs enough to have a grip on the tank but without causing discomfort.
- You should be able to lean the top of your body to the left and right without holding the bars and without feeling like you’re going to slip off.
- This is how we hold ourselves on the bike, NOT through the handlebars.
- We control the bike through the handlebars, so of course we need to be able to reach them.
- From your upright position, lean forward, pivoting at your hips without stretching your back or shoulders.
- Keep going until you can rest the palms of your hands on top of the grips with thumbs underneath and fingers resting on top of the levers.
- Keep pivoting forward until the bottoms of your forearms are roughly parallel with the tops of your thighs.
- Drop your shoulders and relax your arms.
- Drop your fingers under the levers so you have a light hold on the grips and your wrists are slightly higher than your hands.
- Adjust your body position considering all of the above.
Are you now sitting comfortably?
You should now have an idea of your basic riding position but at this stage, it’s still work in progress. You will need to ride your bike to make further adjustments, while remembering the following:
- Backside above pegs (if the bike design allows it)
- Grip bike with thighs
- Pivot at hips
- Hold your body up with core muscles
- Relax your arms and upper body
- Drop your shoulders
- Avoid leaning on the bars
This isn’t just about comfort. Positioning yourself correctly on a bike will change the way it handles and make controlling it easier, especially when turning and even more so when turning from one side to the other.
Riding with straight arms, elbows locked and leaning on the bars means you’re acting against the bike’s natural desire to turn. When you lean at higher speeds this, in turn, makes the bike feel nervous. It will also transfer all the bumps in the road through the forks up into your wrists, elbows and shoulders. It can also push your shoulders up, restricting head movement.
Your new, more relaxed riding position will allow you to drop your shoulder in the direction you are leaning, making it easier to turn your head to look towards the exit of the bend. All this will have a positive effect on the way your bike feels and handles.
Your elbows bent with arms and shoulders relaxed gives you a much wider range of movement when steering the bike at slower speeds; it also helps with balance at low speed.
It may take some getting used to, and from time to time you may forget and slip back into old habits. Simply remind yourself to relax, breathe out and drop your shoulder and elbows.
Guest Blog by Chris Harrison