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How to avoid pain on the bike: surviving long motorcycle journeys

photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.netphoto courtesy of freedigitalphotos.netClearly we love exploring the country by motorcycle, but it often means long gruelling hours in one position!

When you finally arrive would you rather be popping painkillers and nursing aching joints and muscles for days afterwards, or enjoying yourself some more?

We believe that the journey itself should be as enjoyable as the time spent at your destination since it can make up so much of the time, I mean that's the whole point of a motorcycle isn't it? Ride everyday and you'll be used to it, but just how do you go about achieving such a utopian ideal when you only get out and about every other weekend?

See below for our top tips to stay pain-free whilst touring long distances on a motorbike:

  • Positioning – the seating position for rider and pillion is generally something dictated by the bike itself, and is as individual as you due to height and weight differences etc so that's down to you. There are however a few things you can do to help yourself, whatever you're riding. Aim to keep your wrists and shoulders in a comfortable neutral position to avoid carpal tunnel or other nerve pain developing. Similarly try not to drop your neck into a slouch, and avoid arching your lower back too much in any one direction. 

  • Set up – make sure that the bike is set up properly for you, and take into account the weight of your luggage and/or passenger. A well set up bike allows you to concentrate on the road itself rather than wrestling it the entire way!

  • Listen to your body, and be able to communicate if riding together! Don't be a hero, if you need to stop and stretch out do so before it turns into full on cramp and misery! In fact it's a dangerous thing to have your mind constantly wandering away from the road and traffic ahead to the developing pain that will only get worse. Riding is so much different than relaxing in a car seat, we find that one hour is about our limit before we need to get off and straighten up, even on the tourer. Ten minutes is generally enough for us to feel re-set to go again for another hour. 

  • Stay well hydrated. Doesn't this seem to be the advice no matter what activity you're undertaking? Well there's a good reason for that - the average person needs between 2 and 3 litres of water per day to function properly, a target that most of us are often far from day to day as it is. Dehydration means muscle cramps, fatigue, and head-aches among other issues like poor concentration. Again, it can be tricky to drink enough on a bike unless you have one of those nifty hydration packs with a straw to your helmet. Of course more water means more pee, so you might as well just factor in the need for frequent stops in your journey time and have a nice stretch while you're there! ;)
  • Develop your riding muscles. A good strong core and back help with balance and stability, strong forearms are necessary for control, and the only way to stave off soreness and fatigue is to work the muscles regularly. As a pillion passenger I find the inner thighs really suffer under braking and cornering, they can be tricky ones to maintain but are worth the effort to avoid the John Wayne walk! Some muscles, like the neck in high speed winds, are only properly worked whilst on the bike itself so ride regularly to make sure you stay bike-fit!

  • Good posture – if you have good overall posture and body alignment everyday, you'll have far less problems when riding and working out so try to work on that. A posture brace is an effective way of training your shoulders into a more comfortable position and helps you to develop the surrounding muscles so that they want to stay that way! 

  • Stretch thoroughly beforehand and at rest stops – It's easy to forget that riding a motorcycle can be such a tough exercise, especially when there's so much else to do before you climb on zipping ourselves into boots, jackets, gloves and helmets... Of course we all know to warm up before running or lifting weights and we can reap the same benefits by stretching and warming our muscles properly before riding too. Perhaps learn a little yoga, you'll be glad you did!

  • Clothing – make sure that your clothing fits you properly when sitting on the bike. Is your armour in the correct placements and not digging in anywhere? Although it may seem irritating to hold yourself or riding partner(s) up any longer, it's important to get things in place comfortably BEFORE you set off – one extra minute sorting yourself out is better than an hour or two of distracting discomfort! Similarly avoid wearing anything with rough stitching against your skin that can rub you sore, or with lumps and buckles etc that will be poking you for hours at a time.

  • Supplement yourself – No matter how fit you are, I'm afraid you will probably still experience SOME pain and stiffness after a long motorcycle journey. Of course a balanced and varied diet is the key to good health overall but I still like to supplement myself with extras where I can. Vitamin C is used for all sorts of body processes but most importantly here it helps your body clean up lactic acid (the stuff produced by hard working muscles that causes the soreness in the days that follow). The trouble is our bodies cannot store it so need a constant and regular supply for use about the place. I do find that I suffer fewer muscle aches after working out when I include extra vitamin C in my diet. Needless to say to help avoid joint pain, make sure to also keep yourself well fed with Omega 3's and other joint-healthy oils. 

HAPPY TOURING! :)

 

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Sarah is a UK artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more


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