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Riding your motorcycle is fun, but when you ride for longer periods of time, your body will start protesting. At least, that is the case for many bikers. Apart from the famous monkey butt, one of the main areas of pain is your back.

If you think about it, or analyze it, your back will take all the strain of your riding posture. A lot depends on several factors; your body measurements, your motorcycle type and some parts of your motorcycle.

Motorcycle Type

Let us start with the type of motorcycle. Basically there are three types, Standard, Sports and Cruiser. Each has a body position, feet position and hands position. These three parts will form a portion of your riding comfort.

Standard

Standard Motorcycle (c) http://www.innova-pain.com/

Standard Motorcycle (c) http://www.innova-pain.com/

In the Standard motorcycle type (typically dual sports, touring bikes), your body is by default straight up, feet are directly below you and your hands straight. This is by far the best position for riding a motorcycle for longer distances.

Cruiser

The second best motorcycle type is Cruiser. Like the Standard type, your body is straight, your hands are straight (unless you are riding an extreme ape handlebar) and your feet are slightly ahead of you. Your legs will “hold” your body less than the Standard type, but your body will remain reasonable straight.

Sports

Sports Motorcycle (c) http://www.innova-pain.com/

Sports Motorcycle (c) http://www.innova-pain.com/

The Sports type requires your body to lean forward, and at higher speeds your torso will be required to fight a strong wind, while your hands are lower and your feet are behind you. In other words, there is a lot of stress on your body, one of the reasons you can not really go that far on a sports motorcycle.

Your Body

Looking at the above motorcycle types, your body measurements will have a big influence on your back. Obviously your body mass (i.e. obesity) will play an enormous factor, but then it will in other aspects of your life.

If you are above average height, you will stoop, hunching your back and thereby creating pain. Raising your handlebars will alleviate that issue. If you are smaller than average, the problem will be different, but the area that will cause your back ache will be your feet. Obviously lower your handlebars (if possible) will help, but few bikes can do that. If your feet reach the ground properly (if they don’t, change your motorcycle), then see if you can raise your foot pegs.

The objective is to straighten your back and keep it straight.

Motorcycle Parts

There are three parts to your motorcycle that can be adapted to make it easier on your back; handlebars, seat and foot pegs.

Handlebars

A motorcycle’s handlebar is made for an average height of the biker. It is obvious that a big percentage of bikers are not the right height, either too small or too big. To make your life more comfortable, and less back aches and hand/finger numbness, you can change the handlebar on your bike for something that fits better. Taller, shorter, wider, etc. When you look at the handlebar make sure it fits your body measurements.

Ask an ergonomics expert for advise what measurements you should take. When you buy a handlebar from a company like Pro Taper, they have an added advantage of usually being lighter and transmit less vibrations.

Seat

Usually the stock seat of a motorcycle is of average quality, and changing the seat for something more comfortable and more adapted towards your body measurements will do wonders towards riding longer distances.

Just adding a Airhawk can make all the difference.

Foot Pegs

Changing the position of your foot pegs will change your body posture. Many bikes allow you to lower or raise foot pegs, and if you buy aftermarket pegs, you can get something that suits your body better.

An alternative to standard foot pegs, depending on your bike are floor boards.

Summary

As you can see, your back ache comes from different areas, and you can help yourself by changing some part of your motorcycle.

Click here to read more about the positions on the three different motorcycles.

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When seasons change, you are always faced with the same question; what to wear. Now that summer is fast approaching, or maybe it has already arrived for you, you need to look at what’s in your closet for riding in the summer. I’ve already written about staying cool in hot weather, but not everyone has extreme temperatures (link). Warm weather does mean adapting your motorcycle clothing.

But whatever you wear, you always need to remember the two important rules; 1) stay protected and 2) stay cool. You do want your body to stay cool, but you also want it protected in case of an involuntary “off”.

Scene from the movie "Waking Ted Devine"

Scene from the movie “Waking Ted Devine”

Helmets

Helmets-ColorsThe biggest winner for summer riding are open faced helmets. They allow the maximum of air coming into your face and head, keeping your head cool.

Obviously they do not protect your face in case of close encounters with the tarmac, but for the rest they will protect you.

The best alternative is a modular or flip-up helmet with lots of vents. Or a crossover helmet. Riding without a helmet is foolish, even if it’s just for bug hits.

Jackets

Nowadays most jackets are well aired, even leather ones. But for sure, a leather jacket is warmer than other materials, except for meshed jackets.

Use jackets that have plenty of vents, so that when it gets warmer during your ride, you just open more and more vents. When riding in the evening, you can close your vents.

Make sure that the jacket is abrasion proof. And since it can rain at any moment (maybe not in Death Valley), bring the rain gear. Just in case!

Trousers

Most bikers like wearing jeans, and although normal jeans are strong, they offer no protection whatsoever against impact or road rash. But there are special motorcycle jeans that do protect you. They will have removable armor and often materials like Kevlar.

But make sure the jeans are well aired, i.e., offer good ventilation. You can also buy trousers that are not jeans, like cargo pants, that are protected and well aired.

Shorts, no matter how welcome they are in the warm weather, are really out of the question. Unless of course you like tattooing your skin with asphalt.

Ad from Utah Department of Public Safety

Ad from Utah Department of Public Safety

Shoes

Obviously motorcycle boots are the best choice, but in warm weather, not very practical. If you insist on sneakers, get some that sits strongly around your ankles, like basketball sneakers.

For the sake of air pollution, yours and people around you, make sure your sneakers are well vented. Because taking them off after hours of riding; you know what I mean.

Gloves

When you take an off on your bike, your first instinct is to protect yourself with your hands. It’s a natural and very human reflex, and it’s the reason we need to wear gloves.

You can get gloves that are thin leather, enough to keep your skin intact after the first impact. They don’t cause much heat build up, and will protect your knuckles from those pesky bug hits.

So when riding your motorcycle in the summer, just be cool; wear protective but well aired clothing. Staying in a hospital in the summer is a real downer.

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There are many types of motorcycles out there. Sports, dual-purpose, cruisers, customs, you name it. One style of motorcycle that became very popular in the 60’s, originally in London, UK is the cafe racer.

The cafe racer is in essence a motorcycle stripped down from cowlings and other items that make it heavy, and used to race between cafe and cafe on London. And with cafe we really mean bar.

Norton Cafe-Racer

Norton Cafe-Racer

One cafe that became very famous the world over because of the cafe racer culture is the London Ace Cafe. The Ace Cafe is an institution for bikers who visit London.

But there’s also another definition of cafe racer, that of the derogatory term thrown at motorcyclists who gather around these cafes and sit on their bike for the whole day, showing off, pretending to be hard-core bikers.

But whatever the origin of the term, the cafe racer motorcycle is unique and has a very special style. Cafe racers are identifiable, and since they are so special, you will often see them in movies.

The cafe racer style quickly spread from the United Kingdom to France, Germany, Italy and other European countries. A whole subculture came into existence because of the cafe racer; the Rockers (balanced by the Mods, a group of scooterist). Rockers were riding cafe racers, dressed in leather jackets, greased hair, and traveling from cafe to cafe usually making as much noise as they could. You can still see many movies about the two rivaling groups, the Mods & Rockers.

As far as style goes, the cafe racer is a motorcycle made for speed, not for comfort. You will not be riding long distances on a cafe racer. Fuel tanks were dented, allowing the knees of the rider to hold on tight, and the handlebars were usually very low, enabling the rider to sit in a very low and crouched position.

Norfield Cafe Racer

Norfield Cafe Racer

Often bikes from different manufacturers were combined, making funny sounding names like Triton (Triumph and Norton) or Norfield (Norton and Royal Enfield).

The first cafe racers, English tradition obliging, were British; Triumph, BSA and Norton were the order of the day, but quickly the other European manufacturers and the upcoming Japanese started producing cafe racer-like bikes. But cafe racers were “custom”, so even if it looked like one in the showroom, it could only be a cafe racer if you modified it yourself.

Cafe-Racer-Triumph

In today’s retro-world, where style from the old days is in again, cafe racers have made a comeback. It has much to do with bikers who raced cafe racers in the 60’s and 70’s, stopped riding to raise a family, and are now BAMBIs (Born Again MotorBIker).

Several web sites have specialized in depicting cafe racers, notably Bike-Exif.com or PipeBurn.com.

Today, a cafe racer doesn’t need to be made in the 60’s. You can make your own cafe racer using whatever motorcycle you want. And many do.

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MIC-LogoDespite gloomy forecasts last year, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) announced that a very strong sales of new motorcycles and scooters was achieved during 2012 in the USA. An increase of 2.6 percent was gained by the leading 19 manufacturers that the council tracks.

A total of 452,386 motorcycles were sold last year.

Almost half of the motorcycles sold were Harley-Davidson, who saw their growth increase by 6.2% in the USA (and +5.6% abroad).

Harley-Davidson-Showroom-Door

All four main segments of the market grew, a first since 2002. The scooter segment had the best increase, with 7.7%, showing that more and more people are turning to scooters for their daily commute, a lot like what has happened in Europe.

Dual-purpose motorcycles also had a spectacular growth, with 7.4 %. Dual-purpose bikes allow bikers to ride on and off road, an attractive proposition for many.

Off-highway motorcycles, i.e. dirt bikes, grew by 2.1%, while on-highway bikes went up 1.8%. All very positive results showing that more and more Americans are using motorcycles & scooters for fun and work.

MIC compared the number of miles travelled during 2009 and 2003, and the difference is astonishing; during 2009 29 BILLION miles were travelled, an increase of 8 BILLION miles over 2003.

Source: MIC

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Tail-of-the-Dragon-mapMany countries have twisting roads, but none are as famous as our Tail of the Dragon in Deals Gap North Carolina bordering with Tennessee. And since Jafrum is from that part of the country (we are headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina), it’s about time we talked about it in more detail.

The Tail of the Dragon, AKA The Dragon, is motorcycle heaven; it’s an 11 mile road (US129) counting no less that 318 (yes, you read it right, three hundred and eighteen) curves. The 2 lane blacktop road brings you through the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in other words a forest with a magic scenery. And since it’s a national park, no sudden intersections that can cause a danger for you. But the road is not meant for the scenery; don’t slow down or stop to take photos. It’s the road itself that attracts bikers.

The 11 mile ride is an incredible motorcycle ride for those of you who love the twisties. It’s one curve after the other. Although speed has been limited to 30 mph since 2005, many bikers still try to run The Dragon as fast as they can (which is not very smart since law enforcement is out in force).

Many of the sharpest curves have received funny sounding names, like Copperhead Corner, Hog Pen Bend, Mud Corner, Sunset Corner or Brake or Bust Bend.

Deals-Gap-Tree-of-Shame

Part of the folklore of Deals Gap is the Tree of Shame, a tree decorated with motorcycle parts of bikers who went just that bit too fast. It’s a reminder that it’s best to ride the road at a moderate speed. You will also need to remember that it’s not just motorcycles riding the road, you will also find many cars.

If you ride The Dragon, chances are you’ll see a photographer taking photos of you. This photographer is an institution; called Killboy you can find many of his photos on his website Killboy.com. Once you’ve done the 11 mile run and you are back safely at home, head on over to his website, since you might find a nice souvenir photo of you riding The Dragon.

If you want to see what The Dragon looks like on a motorcycle, have a look at this video (do turn down the volume before you do).

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The first decision you have to make when buying a new motorcycle is which brand and model. They are important decisions since the manufacturer and model have to please you since you’ll be riding them for years to come. But the second decision is probably as crucial as the first, namely what color.

PigeonIt may sound strange that color would be so important, but according to a recent survey done by British retailing group Halfords, depending on the color of a car, more or less bird droppings may be found. In other words, if you have got the wrong color, be prepared to be cleaning more.

The survey was made on cars, but it applies to motorcycles as well. The surface is just smaller for birds to make their deposits, but make them they will.

The survey of 1140 cars showed that 18% of cars that received bird poop were red. The next in line were blue cars at 14%, black at 11%, white at 7% and grey or silver at 3%.

The lucky ones? Kawasaki owners should be happy, since only 1% of green cars got hit by bird droppings.

Of course this is not a scientific study, but a survey. Color is not the only determining factor for a bird; location, shelter, threats etc all play a factor. But one thing is for sure, if your motorcycle has been targeted by birds, clean it off immediately. Paint will deteriorate if you don’t remove the bird droppings. You will start seeing discoloration, and that is a bad thing. And that goes especially for Ducati and Honda owners, since your motorcycles are predominantly red.

The only thing you can do if your motorcycle “sleeps” outside is put a motorcycle cover over it.

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Polar-Bear-Grand-Tour logoJust because it’s winter doesn’t mean it’s the end of your motorcycle riding fun. Yes, agreed, it’s not easy in snowy conditions, and it will mean you need to wrap yourself up in loads of layers of clothing, but riding in the winter can be much fun. Especially when you join a group of likeminded bikers.

One of these groups constitute the Polar Bear Grand Tour. Some 550 motorcycle riders brave the icy conditions and set out for rideouts. Often the rides have a purpose, like a children’s charity; brining toys to kids.

(c) Polar Bear Grand Tour

The rides are centered around New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut. Riders met up at a general starting point on Sundays, and from there they head on out in the cold.

Riding in the winter earns you points, as do special awards like giving blood at the blood banks. The accumulated points earn you patches you can wear with pride.

(c) Polar Bear Grand Tour

So not only do you get to ride your motorcycle in the winter, you do some good as well.

Click here to access the Polar Bear Grand Tour web site.

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