You don’t neeed to be “fit” to ride a motorcycle – as long as you can twist the throttle and hang on, you can ride, which is what many people love about it so much. But motorcycle riding is a more physical activity than many of us realize, and there are a few techniques you can use to make it better for you – check them out below!
One of the best things about riding a motorcycle is that you don’t need to be “physically fit” in order to do it. When you’re riding that machine, as long as you can twist the throttle, operate all the controls, and stay mentally alert, you can ride – which is why it’s such a great activity for everyone, young or old, of all levels of fitness. Even physically disabled people can do it (check out this article to see some awesome stories of severely disabled people who still ride, and even race, at the top of their game!)
However, one thing we simply cannot escape is that riding a motorcycle is still a very physical activity that involves a lot of your body and mind. You may not notice it on a leisurely cruise down the highway, but anyone who has done a track day on a sport bike, ridden a dirt bike at an MX track, or piloted an ADV bike on rough terrain can tell you that riding can seriously wear you out, and leave you sore in muscles you didn’t even know you had!
The bottom line is that, while you don’t need to be physically fit to ride, being physically fit will help you get a lot more out of your riding. This becomes a lot more apparent while doing performance riding, but even casual riding will be easier and more enjoyable when you are physically prepared to handle it’s rigors.
After our recent 2700-mile road trip from San Diego to Klim’s headquarters in Idaho and back (and the subsequent soreness involved) we realized this first hand. So we put our heads together and came up with 5 fitness techniques that would make motorcycle riding better for anyone. Check them out and see if you agree!
Motorcycling doesn’t immediately seem like it would be a leg workout – after all, you’re sitting down the whole time, right? Well, that’s only partially true. If you’re riding hard on a sport bike, dirt bike, or ADV bike, you will be using your legs a lot to control the bike, from clenching the tank of a sport bike while cornering to standing on the pegs of an ADV to absorb the bumps on a trail.
But even regular riding involves the legs a lot more than is immediately obvious. In fact, a lot of proper riding technique dictates that you should be gripping the tank firmly with your legs, while actually being light on the bars; this allows you to be more secure on the bike, while preventing the death grip on the bars that can exhaust your arms, and even lead to steering overcorrections that can become dangerous.
If you’re riding off-road, you need leg strength a lot more, and when you least expect it – when picking your bike up after a drop! Dirt bike riders know all about this, but ADV riders really get a lesson in the importance of squatting strength when dropping a bike that can weigh 500-700 pounds or more on a trail. Without some serious leg strength and proper technique, you’re not getting one of those beasts back upright without some help!
Recommended techniques: leg workouts (especially focusing on the inner thighs), leg presses, and good old-fashioned squats.
“Fitness makes a big difference on the bike,” says former MotoGP world champ Nicky Hayden, in his signature Kentucky drawl. “Once you physically get a little tired, you mentally start making mistakes, and that’s when you get hurt. And when you fall off these bikes, it don’t exactly tickle.”
One thing that tends to plague a lot of riders, especially after long rides, is a sore lower back. Some of this is from the simple shock absorption that the back takes form sitting on a bike going over the road, but a significant amount of that soreness comes from the fact that riding requires you to maintain an upright or leaned-forward posture for hours on end.
In order to prevent that soreness, the best thing you can do is strengthen your lower back muscles, building up their strength and endurance so they can take more abuse on long rides. This will also help prevent any potential lower back injury that happens while riding, which tends to be a higher risk as you get older.
Recommended techniques: deadlifts, back extensions
“I have never trained as much as I did this winter” said MotoGP champ Jorge Lorenzo before the start of the 2015 MotoGP season – which he ultimately won. Lorenzo is an avid Crossfitter in addition to being a pro racer, and largeley credits his physical fitness with his success on the track.
This is not as important on a leisurely cruise when you’re taking in the scenery, but anytime you’re shredding on your bike, on or off-road, your hear rate soars. Competitive racers know this best – Supercross and Motocross racers are known to have some of the best cardiovascular fitness in the sporting world, with heart rates that hover around 95% of their max heart rates for an entire race!
However, even street riders can benefit from improved endurance, because it can help you stay alert and stave off fatigue during long or intense rides – and fatigue is not only an annoyance, it can put you in danger by lowering your alertness and increasing the chances of getting into an accident.
Recommended techniques: there are plenty of ways to do cardio, but the one most preferred by riders is cycling! It’s not only fun, and a great workout, but it’s also used by many professional motorcycle racers as part of their workout programs.
AMA Superbike champ Josh Hayes is also an accomplished cyclist, and he explains why cycling has become the preferred method of cardio training for pro motorcycle racers: “the biggest reason cycling has become such a mainstay of motorcycle racing training is because it’s such a small range of motion. We can do it with most any injury we’ve had to deal with.”
Every fitness freak strives to have washboard six-pack abs – but while that might look great for a photo shoot, it doesn’t mean a thing when you’re on a bike. The true importance of “core strength” is having a strong midsection that can stabilize your body and keep you having good posture for long periods of time, which means a lot when you’re on a bike, especially when riding hard.
Recommended techniques: good old crunches, twists, side bends and planks; believe it or not, yoga is also a very good low-impact way of strengthening your core!
So much of the soreness that comes from riding comes from straining muscles that don’t typically get a workout otherwise. Depending on the kind of riding you’re doing, this can be anything from soreness in your legs, to your lower back, to strain in your wrists; even your neck can become sore after a long day in the saddle!
To prevent this, flexibility is key (in fact, flexibility is a very underrated component of fitness for virtually any physical activity.) It will help to incorportate some flexibility movements into your routine overall, but when you’re on a long ride or multi-day trip, doing a stretching routine will make a huge improvement in your recovery, and cut down on soreness that can make the next day’s ride a painful affair.
Recommended techniques: Yoga (excellent for flexibility and core strength);
Original article: https://www.bikebandit.com/blog/5-fitness-techniques-that-will-make-you-a-better-rider