You are on your own. You are not protected by two tons of steel, rubber, foam padding and safety glass. Neither are you steering two tons of guided missile toward other cars, people and property.
If you are prepared to accept the responsibility of your own actions, then motorcycling can be both safe and thrilling. Riding is an art as well as a craft and no amount of explanation can take the place of experience.
– Theresa Wallach
When you are riding on a motorbike, the above quote holds a lot of value for you. Your authority on the bike matters the same for your body as it matters for your image. And your authority is enforced by your riding position.
If you are riding the best motorbike available(or scooter if that’s your thing) and your riding position is not commanding, then it’s not just injustice to your body, it is injustice to the bike as well.
So after purchasing your bike, the first thing you need to learn before learning how to handle your bike, is how to sit on it.
The science of your body’s position on a bike and your bikes adjustment to it is known as motorcycle ergonomics. The body position and behavior varies with the bike. Most bike ergos (such as handlebar height and suspension travel) can be adjusted but different bikes demand different riding positions. Here are the three most common riding positions.
Riding positions: How to sit on a motorcycle
The Standard Position
If you are riding a standard bike, and using it mostly for your daily routings then this is the best position to ride.
The “Standard” or “upright” riding position is generally accepted as being the most comfortable for all shapes and sizes of riders because it’s a neutral one.
And more importantly it places the least strain on joints and spine and actually positions your body in a natural position of rest.
You need to sit with your back up-right, your shoulders stacked above your hips and slightly pushed back.
An important thing to notice is that the shoulders and your back should not be in a hunched position, i.e. you should not be leaning forward with your shoulders raised, or to bend your shoulders and back into a rounded shape.
If your back is straight, mostly your shoulders will follow the pattern, so you need to be cautious about your back’s position. But do not ignore the shoulders as hunched shoulders will cause discomfort and pain in the neck and upper back area.
With this position you can ride a touring bike too and for long distances, but do not use the same for sports bike, because you will not be able to go long on it (a sports bike) with your back straight!
Note – If you are an amateur to bike reading then please select this one, and no other position. First clear this position level after a little bit of practice, then move to the next positions.
The Cruiser Position
Another position that you can use on standard bikes and likewise bikes is the cruiser position. There is not much difference between this and the earlier position. The only exception is your lower legs alignment.
Mark that your bike has special footrests in the front body of your bike in addition to the ones which are diagonal to your seat. Your bike must also have higher handlebars in general. These footrests facilitate the cruising position. Your legs are extended forward on these footrests ahead of your body. The basic shoulder and back position remains the same – i.e. a straight back with shoulders in line with hips.
When riding in standard position, the ankles are in line with the hips. This means your legs are bent a little back to your body, and your upper body supports you and the bike.
Cruising position allows your feet to support the rest of the body, which means that your upper body is a bit more relaxed because of the support of the lower body.
Personally speaking, the Cruiser position is more appealing for your body. Stretched legs and straight back gives an overall stability to your riding position and helps you to remain on wheels for a longer period.
The Sports Position
This is the most famous riding position and one of the most stylish ones. Bikers who are very obsessive about speed try to imitate this lot.
You must have come across this position in several formula race posters. And if you want a better imagination to this position then just visualize a jockey on a racehorse. Sports position is almost its look alike.
Before we discuss the anatomy needed for this position, it is important to note that this position is best when you are riding a sports bike, because they are designed that way, and secondly this position is formulated for high speeds.
So if you are not riding a sports bike, or even if you are riding one but not at high speed, then don’t go for this one – because it will discomfort your ride more than comfort. So, choose from the two discussed above.
In sports position there are two areas where you need to work.
The upper body and the lower body –
The upper body in this position is leaned forward. This does not mean that the back should be bent! The back should also be leaning but straight. This is very important, or else it will lead to severe back pains. The best way to do this (upper body forward and back straight) is to focus on the chest.
Lean from the chest instead of with the back. Keep the shoulders back rather than letting them hunch over. A straight back and firm shoulders (with a leaning forward body) will eliminate all the chances of hurting yourself!
Now let us analyze the position of the lower body. Your feet are bent back behind you in the sports position, but because you’re leaning forward, you can rest on your heels a bit. So put some weight on your feet. This will offset the strain on your back while you ride.
Common Body Positions
Some common body parts position which you need to look for – whichever bike or style you are riding.
- Use your ‘core arm muscles’ to hold yourself and the bike – and not your hands. This will relax your shoulders and your hands and you can then counter steer with light pushes rather than a death-grip.
- Put your feet firmly on the pegs, and not half in air half on pegs. Firmness of your legs will enhance upright position for you back.
- Your head should always be facing forward and straight, never sideways or down. Don’t look at your pathways just will your eye, but instead look at your road ahead with your head. This is always helpful for your neck, or else you will end up hurting your neck and strain your shoulders. Secondly your head position is also important when you steer through turns. If your head is not positioned straight and you take a sharp turn, you have a very likely chance to injure your neck and feel a blow on your head as well, because of wind pressure.
- The final bike-riding tip is to relax. Keep your mind less tense and less anxious. Take a deep breath when you get on your bike and keep breathing deeply throughout your ride. The supply of oxygen and its quality will never be less once you are in the open! Try not to be rigid to yourself when you are on the streets. When you come to a stop sign or stoplight, stretch your legs and arms a bit. Place your feet on the ground and loosen your arms. You can stretch your ankles, wrists and move your neck up and down and sideways. These small exercises will lead to longer and safer journeys lifelong. After all, riding is not an academic test that you have to pass! It is meant as a recreational activity!
These are the commoners, but remember every bike and every human anatomy is different from other. Every driver has a different height and upper/lower body proportions. A bike can’t be made to fit every single person. So you need a proper fit for your own body.
Today modern bikes allow a lot of adjustment facilities. So before you buy one, hop on your selection and adjust it to your best posture and stance.
Make sure you have everything in the right position. Adjust the seat, the handlebars, and the footrests to fit your body.
Here are some of the things you need to look while measuring yourself on the bike.
- Rider Dimensions: Stature (height) and Inseam
- Vehicle Customization: Handlebar rise, Handlebar pull-back, Seat rise
- Additional Options: Metric values, Feet on/off ground, Center image on seat, Arm Straightness, Placement on seat (center/front/back)
Note – Remember that most often it will not be the riding style or position for your discomfort; in fact it will have more to do with the bike’s settings. Best settings ensure most comfort, but most people take this for granted. They will adjust their bodies according to their purchase and not the other way – which leads to several pains and aches in the long run.
Is riding a motorcycle good for your back?
The best of you (body position and posture) will come out on the bike, if you are always maintaining your body in a very good shape. Don’t accept your body to be firm and sturdy on the bike, if you are almost sitting or walking around slouching – with shoulders bowed down and a hunched back.
These ill – habits or biological behaviors have serious consequences. They tighten and strain the muscles in your back and your shoulder muscles – making them harder to perform when you really need them to.
So the only best way to have good posture on your bike is to practice good posture in your everyday life, – while you are walking around, sitting somewhere or when you are really relaxed, because even relaxation exercises are not aimed at hurting your body. Take care of them throughout your life if you want these muscles to take care of you as you ride your bike!
There are certain things you should notice which will help you maintain a good body posture – which will be great for you not just while riding, but will improve your overall biological and social status.
- Do a mental scan of your body of how you sit.
- Notice if you’re putting more pressure on the lower back than necessary.
- Notice how often you slouch when you’re at work.
- While walking your shoulders should always be straight and spine should never be bent.
- Your legs should be in maximum contact with the ground while you are walking. Don’t walk with your legs or toes in air. Walking likewise puts a lot of tension on your upper body.
- Especially when you are in a very relaxed mood, for example watching television, or playing on your mobile, you should be very well aware of your sitting position. Even while on recliners, try to straighten your back as much as you can.
- If possible take out a little time for outdoor sports, as it will tend an overall stability to your body muscles and help you maintain a good posture.
- A massage once a month, or in two months, is also a very good activity to relieve your muscles and tendons from the overall physical strenuous exertion that you face.
- If you are still unable to solve your issue, use a back brace. This is any easy way to ensure you’re practicing good posture on and off the streets.
Time to visit a doctor
Along with all the fun riding your motorcycle offers you, there is indeed a lot to be cautious about. Severe back pains, shoulder injuries, neck strains, or pains in joints and ligament stretch are some of the very common injuries that motorcyclists face all over the world.
These injuries have nothing to do with your experience. However a better rider you may be, but a single bad ride can lead to life-long damages to your body parts. Sometimes all it takes is one ride with your body in a bad position to seriously hurt yourself.
But before hurting yourself seriously and permanently damaging your body, you need to take care of even the slightest discomfort your body experiences.
If you feel tightness or a pulling in your back muscles, it’s time to get back to basics. Apply oil and balms and avoid riding for a few days. If the pain persists go for the exercises, and if it is really not getting better, visit a doctor at the earliest. And only after you are back into the best of your shape re-train yourself to drive with the correct motorcycle riding position.
If you really take care about these few simple steps and practice riding your bike with posture in mind, you will be well on your way to a safe and enjoyable ride always.
And remember – imagine yourself like a lion when riding your bike and you will always be able to maintain your position and authority! And don’t try the position in the photo displayed below – these types of stunts are not to be tried on roads!