motorcycles, travel, friendship, respect… I may drift off into WTF-land at times so hang in there.

Make Your Bike Fit Like A Comfortable Pair Of Jocks.

There are a couple of new riders at work who have just complete their Q-Ride. Q-Ride is a competency-based training program that aims to get new riders up to a sufficient level to know how to ride a motorcycle safely. Courses generally cover the following four (4) topics:-

  • Pre-ride checks,
  • Low speed manoeuvring,
  • Controlling a bike at speed, including emergency braking etc,
  • Recognising hazards and reducing risk.
The course is done over three (3) days. BUT! candidates can opt for a short one (1) day course  if they have had previous riding experience. Its basically a course to get a certificate of proficiency, so they can go to the transport department and get an endorsement on their licence.
Anyway, one of my work colleagues has been riding for about 2 months. He enjoys riding, but (I feel) he doesn’t ride enough, and I have told him so. I have ridden with him a few times on the trip home from work, or up to Mt. Mee and I noticed that he doesn’t look comfortable on the bike. 

Photo Courtesy

At first I though it was because he was too big for the CBR-125 he was riding, he is around 183cm (6′) and maybe 70-75kg (155 – 165lb). 

But then I looked a little closer and noticed that he was struggling with the hand and foot controls.
So I asked him if he had ever made the bike “fit” him. 

He looked at me with a blank expression “What do you mean?”
This surprised me a bit because apart form pre-ride checks, a bike should be made to “fit” the rider. After all you wouldn’t drive a car without first adjusting the seat and steering wheel height would you?
So I explained…
All bikes, whether they are brand spanking new or second hand, will have some degree of adjustment. All bikes allow you to at least adjust:-
  • Handlebar position
  • Clutch and front bake lever position
  • Foot brake position, and 
  • Gear selector position.
  • Tyre pressures.
Once you get out of the beginner class bikes, you may also have:-
  • Seat height adjustment, 
  • Suspension pre-load and 
  • Suspension rebound adjustment.
  • Clutch and brake lever distance form the bar adjustment
I’m not going to discuss the last four (4) points because it’s over and above what most new riders will need to know… this can come later as your experience and riding ability improves.
Handle bar position
Regardless of the type of handle bars your bike has, there is some degree of adjustment you can do. 
For clip-on style ‘bars, the ‘bars can be rotated around the fork tubes to give a more comfortable riding position. 
When adjusting the position of the clip-ons, you need to ensure that your thumbs do not get jammed between the ‘bars and the fuel tank.
For standard style ‘bars you can rotate the them in their clamps on top of the triple tree. 
Make your bike fit like a comfortable pair of jocks.
Again you need to ensure that, your thumbs do not get jammed between the ‘bars and the fuel tank.
Also, if it feels like you are too much head down arse up then handle bar risers can be installed which will promote a less aggressive riding position.
By making this adjustment to the bars, you can often eliminate or at least reduce fatigue though you wrists and forearms.
Clutch and brake lever position.
The operation of these two levers should to be smooth. By rotating the levers up or down around the ‘bars (based on your normal riding position) you can reduce fatigue and improve the smoothness in which you apply the brake or engage the clutch.
What you are looking for is for your wrist and hand to be “in line” with your forearm. I.E. you do not want to raise your fingers up and over the lever to apply the brake for example. Your fingers should extend straight out. 

This simple adjustment can make the difference in an emergency situation, and will improve your riding style because you are  more relaxed when manipulating these levers.
Foot brake position.
When you have your right foot in its natural position, be it over the foot brake, or off to the side slightly. Your foot should not have to rise or lift from it’s natural position to apply the brake.

Instead, your foot should move horizontally in the same plane (assuming its slightly off to one side). If your foot sits over the foot brake it should sit a few millimeters (1/8″) above it and not be touching or riding the brake.

This adjustment can make the difference between a rear brake lock-up and a safe emergency braking manoeuvre.
Make your bike fit like a comfortable pair of jocks.
Consult your owners manual on how to adjust the height of the foot brake as each bike is different, some have splines others have a turn buckle arrangement.
Gear selector position.
All bikes have a one (1) down and four (4) or five (5) up shift pattern. The manual for my bike states that the gear lever should be about 3mm (1/8″) below the line of the foot peg when looked at in a horizontal line from the side of the bike.

I tried this and found it to unsatisfactory. I found that I had to rotate my foot and point my toes down too far to get under the gear selector.

I ended up adjusting the gear selector so that it sits about 3mm (1/8″) above the foot peg. This proved to be much more comfortable
Make your bike fit like a comfortable pair of jocks.
OK its not technically correct but for my foot, complete with Alpinestars, it works well. If I were to wear joggers, the selector could have been adjusted slightly lower because they are not as thickly padded.

Again consult your owners manual on how to adjust the selector position.
Tyre pressures.
This probably the single most important adjustment you can make on your bike. 
With a car you can leave your tyre pressures unchecked for a month and you probably won’t notice the couple of psi under-inflation. On a bike however, two (2) psi can make the difference between tipping nicely into a corner, and struggling to keep the bike stable and on line.
Yes its that critical! 
One thing that I can’t stress enough is that the pressure gauges at your local servo are just not that accurate. They get dropped, run over and are generally abused. The accuracy of these might be great for a car, but not for a bike.
Make your bike fit like a comfortable pair of jocks.
I recommend you invest the $10 or so for a decent well calibrated tyre pressure gauge that measures down to one (1) psi increments. Carry it in your pocket or under your seat, you will use it often. At least once a week.
The photo at right shows a pencil type pressure gauge, but you can use a dial type if you prefer. Digital ones are good too, but are not waterproof and require batteries.
If you are having trouble getting the inflation nozzle into the confines of your rim try a 90 degree angle extension as shown in the photo. These can be carried in your pocket as well. Some tyre fitters offer a 90 degree stem in place of the standard straight stem as an option.
Tyre pressures should be adjusted when your tyres are cold, that little bit of heat that you put into your tyres going from your home to the servo can add a couple of psi difference to your pressures.
To prove this just measure your pressures before you leave home and then again at the servo, there is usually a difference depending on how far you need to get to the servo.If you can afford it invest is a 12 volt compressor so you can inflate your tyres before you ride.
To find the correct tyre pressures you can consult your owners manual. Some bikes also have the pressures on a sticker that is attached to the chain guard. Failing that you can ask your local motorcycle tyre retailer. Note that some bikes will have different pressures for single riding and two-up riding.
When you get more confident you can play with the pressures one (1) psi at a time (up or down) to find what works best for you. I suggest that you get comfortable with your riding before you start experimenting though.
The results.
After spending the morning making adjustments to my friends bike, and taking the time to explain why each item was being adjusted

We sat back and enjoyed a brew and surveyed our achievements.

He explained to me that none of this was covered in Q-Ride, but still didn’t understand that the small outlined above could make such a difference to the comfort and handling of the bike.

Anyway, he went on his way and a few hours later he sent me this series of text messages.
Make your bike fit like a comfortable pair of jocks.Make your bike fit like a comfortable pair of jocks.
I think he is a happy chappy don’t you?

One response

  1. Pingback: Lowering My Ride | Fluidicthought

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