5 Tips for Comfortable Long Distance Motorcycle Riding
In order to travel long distances on a motorcycle it’s important to be comfortable. The more comfortable you are the more fun you’ll have and the more likely you are to keep on riding. Here’s my top 5 tips for riding long distances in comfort.
1. Riding Position
Manufacturers build bikes to an exact specification over and over again but you’re a unique individual so the bike’s geometry straight off the production line may not be perfect for your body type. Spend some time setting your bike up to suit you - your size, weight, posture, riding style etc.
This may mean adding some bar risers to bring the bars up to a height that is easier to reach when standing or some bar backs that bring the bars closer or further away from you when in a seated position. If you’re feeling cramped in the knee department you can adjust the foot pegs up, down, forwards and backwards with some after-market options which in most cases will also offer a larger platform for your boots making them more comfortable when standing. A lot of bikes will allow you to raise or lower the seat. Adjusting all these elements can make you feel less cramped and more in control.
Once this is sorted, check that everything you need ie: GPS, phone, power, etc are in easy reach and are clearly visible for the style of riding you are doing whether sitting down cruising on the highway or standing up on the pegs on an adventure bike on the back roads.
2. Wind Protection
When you're travelling long distances, that usually means many hours in the wind at speed which can cause fatigue. Often I find that the manufactures' original wind screen is just not up to the job. It's either too small resulting in being blasted by wind or it deflects the wind in such a way that it causes buffeting on the helmet. A change of screen or modification to the existing screen can easily fix this problem. A lot of manufacturers offer a tall or "touring" screen option so check with them first. If not, there are usually many after-market tall/touring screens to choose from.
Another option is to add a smaller wind deflector to the top of the existing screen. Apart from adding extra height to the screen you can also adjust the angle of the deflector until you find the perfect wind set up to reduce the buffeting making for a smooth ride.
Cold hands are uncomfortable hands so it's also a good idea to protect your fingers from the wind and rain too. Hand guards can keep you warm but also have the benefit of protecting your levers if you accidentally drop the bike.
3. Good Vibrations (is there any such thing)
When riding long distances the bike will be revving higher as you increase your touring speed. As a result the vibrations can become very noticeable through all the contact points you have with the bike such as the handle bars, foot pegs and seat. There are however some easy fixes that will reduce vibrations.
Firstly, you can strap a seat cushion on top of your existing seat. They usually include a bladder filled with air or gel (or sometimes both). This has the effect of lifting you just above the seat itself so you ride in comfort. As for the foot pegs, make sure that you have the rubbers in place to eat up the vibrations traveling through your boots. An easy fix for the handlebars is to slide some foam grips over the existing hand grips. These are designed specifically to absorb vibrations reducing hand and wrist fatigue.
These three items combine to reduce the numbness caused by the vibrations increasing your overall comfort.
4. Cruise Control/Throttle Lock
Another major bug-bear of long distance riding is cramping of the right hand as it holds open the throttle for long periods of time. More and more we are seeing the manufactures offer an integrated electronic cruise control that can take care of this issue.
For those bikes without the integrated cruise control there is still the option for an after-market device that in most cases clip to the throttle tube or grip and lock the throttle in place. While a little cruder than the integrated electronic systems, for a much smaller outlay a throttle lock can give you time to rest your throttle hand in order to keep the blood circulating. Problem sorted.
5. Riding Gear
Now that we've looked at what can be done with the bike, it's time to consider the impact your riding gear has on your comfort. It's important to select the right gear for the conditions. There's no point wearing rain gear in 40 degree heat and conversely you don't want to be caught without it in stormy conditions. My tip is to pick riding gear that gives you options.
Many riding suits have three layers to cater to all conditions. A tough outer layer with plenty of zips opening for ventilation in the hot conditions. A zip-in waterproof liner underneath and a padded jacket/liner to go beneath that for warmth when the temperature drops. A combination like this will ensure you're ready for all weather conditions. In addition, a selection of light and heavy and or waterproof gloves and a neck sock should make sure you're ready for any long ride.
Don't ever be put off by the idea of long distance riding on a bike thinking it is uncomfortable and tiring as there are a lot of small things you can do that add up to make sure that you can ride all day, every day in comfort.
If you have any ideas or tips for making long distance riding more comfortable we'd love to hear them.