Dedicated to the women who RIDE THEIR OWN motorcycles  

BACK TO BASICS - MAKING THE BIKE FIT THE RIDER

by Jerry Palladino (MOTORMAN)

Unlike most automobiles, which have endless adjustments to the seat and steering wheel, and in some cases even the brake and gas pedals, the ability of a motorcycle to fit the rider is limited. If a person is small of stature or even extremely tall, finding a comfortable riding position can be a problem. Sometimes though, a few small adjustments can be made that will greatly improve your riding comfort.

Let's start with the clutch and front brake lever. Even if your bike is not equipped with adjustable levers which bring them closer to, or farther away from the handle bars, the angle of the lever always can be adjusted. I've seen a lot of bikes with the clutch and brake levers turned almost under the bar which places your wrists at an uncomfortable angle and also makes it much harder to safely manipulate them. It's an easy adjustment, usually 2 allen screws to adjust the levers up or down. Try it some time and I'm sure you'll find a comfortable position. If, as in the case with many women, the levers are too far away from you for a comfortable grip, smaller after-market levers are available for a nominal price. If your having a problem reaching the handle bars without leaning forward, try adjusting their position up or down. If that doesn't work, after-market bars with more pull back or pull back risers are readily available for almost all cruisers.

Let's talk about lowering the bike now. A lot of riders feel more comfortable with their feet flat on the ground. If they can't touch easily, the first thing people do is lower the shocks. What a lot of people don't realize is that this can and will cause other problems especially if you lower the bike more than one inch. All cruisers are designed to have that long low look and to achieve that look, compromises must be made. Think about it, manufacturers have scores of engineers working on the suspension and seat height and the bike turns out the way it does because compromises can come up when ground clearance, ride, and comfort are considered.

The easiest and safest way to get your feet closer to the ground is to lower the seat. If you want to use the stock seat, take it to a professional upholsterer. Once the seat cover is removed, it's easy to cut foam from the top and sides of the seat. Cut a little at a time and keep trying the seat until it feels right. On my wife's bike, we were able to lower her stock seat 3 inches with ease. You can also purchase an after-market seat which will bring you considerably lower to the ground. Corbin comes to mind when lowering seat height, as almost all of their seats are lower than stock seats.

As a last resort, you can buy lower shocks and fork springs, but keep in mind that lowering anymore than one inch will severely limit your lean angle and will cause hard parts to touch down and possibly lever a wheel off the ground when you least expect it. I've seen people lower their bikes so much that they can barely lean the bike even slightly. While this may be fine for a show bike that spends most of it's time on a trailer, if you plan on actually riding your bike, use a little common sense. Always contact the manufacturer and ask just what a certain shock absorber will actually lower the bike. If your stock shocks are 12", an after-market 11" shock doesn't mean your bike will only be lowered one inch. Make sure you talk to the professionals and ask the right questions. Ride safe and be comfortable while you ride.

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More articles by MOTORMAN:
Back to Basics Series:   About Jerry Palladino:
A "Motorman" is the term used in police circles to identify a motorcycle cop, or any law enforcement officer assigned to the motorcycle division. Prior to
becoming a Motor Officer, Jerry rode for enjoyment for about 25 years. Then one day, he saw a 5 minute segment on a television show which depicted motorcycle officers training on their Harley police bikes. The way these officers could maneuver these full size motorcycles around like a child's toy, made it appear as if they were defying gravity. At that moment, he knew that he had a lot to learn about riding a motorcycle. Shortly afterwards, the agency he worked for started a motorcycle unit. he was sent for training to Tallahassee with the highway patrol. The training consisted of 120 hours of intensive motorcycle training, focusing mainly on low speed handling. Jerry says, "When I finished this training, for the first time I really knew how to ride a motorcycle."
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