March 8, 2023
It’s the great beauty of motorcycle riding: everyone is free to enjoy the road in their own way. But the path to maximizing that enjoyment actually starts well before setting off on a ride.
To take to the streets on your bike confidently and comfortably—and make the most of the time you have out there—it’s important that your bike is tailored to your particular body and your preferred riding style.
Luckily, setting up the most comfortable motorcycle riding configuration for you doesn’t have to be an arduous process. Follow the guidelines and steps in this guide to motorcycle ergonomics and find out how to get comfortable on a motorcycle.
Motorcycles come in many different shapes and sizes, but no matter which bike you go for, some universal principles apply. As you can learn about in the video below, you should be able to feel a “triangle of comfort” (also called the “triangle of control”) from your hands on the handgrips, to your hips in the saddle, to your feet on pedals, and back up to your hands. So, even while different styles of bikes—from cruisers to touring to more aggressive sport bikes—lend themselves to different styles and postures of riding, the same triangle principle applies.
Establishing and maintaining a triangle of comfort that fits your particular body—that’s ergonomics. And it’s the key to being able to ride your bike comfortably over long periods of time, without placing unnecessary strain on your body.
To create an ergonomic riding position that works for you, start by focusing on the three points of that triangle:
So, now you have an idea of how to get comfortable on a motorcycle according to the triangle of comfort. But how do you know when things still aren’t quite set up right for you? Begin by watching out for these five common signs of an improper motorcycle fit.
1. A Sore Back
If at any point you’re feeling pain from a ride, it’s probably time to take action and get fitted. Discomfort in the lower back is a common indication that something’s wrong with your bike fit—potentially your motorcycle seat, foot position, motorcycle handlebars, or even a combination of all three. Evaluate your ride and stop in to see a Fit Shop expert to get back on the road in total confidence.
2. Worn Out Hands
A grip diameter that doesn’t match the size of your hands can wear you out faster and can make a long ride more torture than pleasure. If your hands are tiring over time, try to find a grip diameter that lets you grab the controls firmly and capably—and do so for long periods.
3. On Your Toes
Not having your feet planted firmly when you come to a stop not only poses a safety risk but can also put a damper on your confidence in the saddle. Adjusting to a proper, lower center of mass will strengthen your command of the road. Drop your seat height and suspension to a point where you have solid control when starting and stopping.
4. Knees Are High
A cramped riding position can put unnecessary strain on many parts of your body—from your feet up through your knees, hips, and back. Try stretching out a bit more by moving your foot position forward. If this doesn’t quite do the trick, you may need to test-sit some seats that offer a different position.
5. Reaching Too Far
Stretching too far to reach your handlebars can be downright exhausting. Over time, you might feel it in your shoulders, neck, arms, and lower back. Plus, it can make for tougher handling in tight spaces. A fit with the right handlebar and seat combination can go a long way toward taking the weight off your arms and the strain off your upper body.
To help ensure that your riding posture is as comfortable as possible, you can zero in on some of the areas of your motorcycle covered above and make simple adjustments. Soon, you’ll have a customized fit that allows you to confidently hit the road.
Adjusting your rear suspension is a go-to strategy to instantly lower your ride height. With a lowering kit, you’ll be able to plant your heels with confidence and get a deep-set custom look.
Feel the difference in the responsiveness of your front end, while keeping the ride quality of a standard suspension. Careful though: slamming the front fork should only happen in tandem with a low-profile rear suspension.
There are three primary measurements for any handlebar:
These three measurements will determine your ability to reach the bike’s hand controls and, ultimately, your overall feeling of comfort and control. However, these measurements are not necessarily the end-all, be-all when it comes to fit.
Many bars can be mounted using various handlebar risers that affect the final positioning and give you a more comfortable, customized fit. In addition, H-D offers the Reach line of handlebars (as well as seats and foot controls) that are specially designed to give shorter riders between the heights of 5’2” and 5’8” a more enjoyable ride. It’s important to note that handlebar height is regulated in many locations. Check local laws to ensure your motorcycle meets applicable regulations.
Where your feet meet the foot controls is equal parts riding style and fit to your body. Do you want to ride aggressively or more laid-back? Now, take your inseam into account. At the intersection of these two factors, you’ll find the position that’s best for you. Keep in mind: as we discussed above, foot position determines ankle, hip, and knee angles—so keep it comfortable.
There’s a lot more to a seat than padding. Where the seat positions your waist relative to the foot controls, hand controls, and the ground is very important to consider. Harley-Davidson offers a wide range of motorcycle seats, with various heights and shapes, giving you dozens of combinations to choose from and helping you find a custom fit that works for you.