Riding comfort and seating position: Some prevalent myths dispelled

Comfort on a motorcycle is an important factor for those who ride regularly, especially so for those who travel for long distances. Now, to dispel any confusion, let’s at the very outset agree to one thing – comfort means different things to different people. For the Average Joe who commutes to work on his 100cc motorcycle, having a heel and toe shifter may spell comfort. On the other hand, an enthusiastic rider may think of the feature as an annoyance. Comfort on a motorcycle, broadly, is a factor of good ergonomics, solid engineering and quality of materials. However, individual preferences may make what generally sounds logical look totally absurd to others. Even with those exceptions factored in, there are some general rules that decidedly make one bike more comfortable than the other. Unfortunately, not all of us are aware of these differences, and some still live by what conventional wisdom tells us.

Here in this article, we will bust some common myths about riding comfort. Read on, and you might realize that truth about riding comfort is some distance away from what we perceive it to be.

Myth 1: A soft, heavily padded seat is ideal for comfort

Truth: This may be true for short to very short distances, but for medium to long distances, the reverse is true. A heavily padded, soft seat lets your behind sink into it, the compressed foam loses its cushioning, supportive properties and you end up sitting in a pit which bends your lower back unnaturally, causing discomfort over time, and on prolonged use, may even cause spinal deformities. A soft seat is devoid of support, while a really hard seat can make you feel like you’re sitting on a flat piece of stone. None of the extremes are good from a comfort perspective.

A high quality foam seat feels firm enough without feeling hard. It offers gentle support without being mushy. If you press a quality seat with your palm, it shouldn’t go down more than about a third of its thickness.

The contours of the seat should enhance comfort without obstructing movement. It should be sufficiently wide to let your entire posterior rest on it for maximum support, while still being open enough for free movement.

Myth 2: An upright riding position is very comfortable

Truth: Again, this may appear to be true for those short rides, but for longer distances, an upright riding position is detrimental not just to riding comfort, but also to your health. You see, when you sit upright on a motorcycle, with your legs forming a ninety degree angle at the knees and hips, and your arms forming a similar angle at your shoulder, the entire weight is borne by your back and buttocks. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on your spine and may cause damage to your back, especially if you ride over rough surfaces. Every pothole will affect your back directly, with no support from any other muscles or limbs. The situation becomes more difficult if you are on the heavier side.

Weird as it may sound, a slightly sporty riding position is actually better for riding comfort in the long run. If you’re moving over from a cruiser, then you might not agree to this as your arms, wrists, shoulders, and to an extent, legs and feet may ache after some time. However, that means that ll of that pressure, was earlier borne singularly by the spine. Now that doesn’t sound right, does it?

With a slightly crouched riding position, with the foot-pegs pulled slightly backwards, the weight is equally distributed amongst all the body parts. Once you ride with that sort of a posture for a couple of days, your muscles will get used to it, and you’d be in a relatively more comfortable state. This doesn’t apply to extreme supersport machines, though, as they take the ergonomics to the other extreme where the entire weight is borne by the arms and legs, with the back not sharing enough load. This again makes the riding position uncomfortable for longer runs.

Myth 3: Cruiser layout is best for touring

Cruiser layout essentially comprises a very upright riding position, sometimes with legs extended out taking away whatever little support they may have provided in a normal commuter riding position. This makes the traditional cruiser position bad for comfort in long distance riding scenarios owing to the reasons stated in the point above.

Myth 4: Twin suspension is better than mono suspension for comfort

It’s a contentious topic, but in general, mono-shock is a superior choice. You’re not going to get any extra comfort by having two shock absorbers at rear. In fact, what you will get is uneven spring compression when you are leaning into a corner, with the inner springs compressing more than the ones on the outside. This reduces the dynamic ability of the motorcycle. Monoshock is more consistent as there is only one mechanical unit undergoing expansion and contraction. It also helps keep the unsprung weight low, while also saving weight. Oh, and did we mention that most monoshock units these days are multi-step adjustable to suit your requirements?

Myth 5: A motorcycle which is sporty cannot be comfortable

As we mentioned in Point 2, the fact is, a motorcycle needs to be slightly sporty to be more comfortable in the longer run. A sporty motorcycle also means a more powerful engine and better dynamics, all of which aids performance, speed and control, which ultimately aids comfort.

Myth 6: Riding gear causes discomfort

The one thing that everyone needs to know and acknowledge is that a helmet is probably the most vital accessory to ensure riding comfort. Try riding for anything more than 50 km without a helmet, and your eyes would be irritable, sore, and you’d start feeling tired. On the other hand, a helmet with a visor protects your eyes from wind, dust and foreign elements, thus aiding comfort. Anyone who tells you otherwise needs to get some education on motorcycle riding.

Talking of body gear, only substandard, and overly heavy gear will cause discomfort to a rider. Riding gear is available for a variety of climates, terrains and conditions. For example if you are riding in sweltering heat with a heavy, dark coloured jacket with inner liners, you’re sure to get discomforted. For such conditions, there are lighter jackets with breathable fabric and ventilation. You should choose the riding gear based on the climatic and other conditions you usually ride in. There’s an economical and comfortable riding gear available for every requirement.

So are you among those who’re surprised with those revelations, or did you always know and practice what we discussed here? Do let us know your own thoughts about riding comfort on motorcycles. Any tips for riders to stay comfortable while riding over longer distances would be welcome. Share your thoughts through the comments section below or give us a shout-out on one of our social channels.

Lastly, don’t forget sharing this with your biker buddies who don’t know these facts yet.

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