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ERGONOMICS: Making Your Bike Fit You: Part One


MXEditor

er·go·nom·ics: a science that deals with designing and arranging things so that people can use them easily and safely: the parts or qualities of something's design that make it easy to use (Webster).

 

The ergonomics of any motorcycle are not fixed and many manufacturers have devised clever ways to make your bike “fit you” better… so we’re going to take a look at some of the items that you’ll want to consider when customizing a motorcycle to fit you and be as comfortable and efficient as possible.

 

The first thing I think about when I’m testing new motorcycles is “How well does this fit me?” Because if the machine is too big/small/heavy or whatever, I don’t want to be riding it on the street, track or trail.

 

Once I commit, I’ll take the bike out for a full day and take notes on how it “feels” during the ride. And that encompasses many factors that all add up to that magic feeling that makes the riding the best that it can be… and then I think about how to make them even better.

 

So let’s take a look at what’s available and how to use these products for their correct application(s).

 

HANDLEBAR RISERS

 

Simply put, these handlebar risers can dramatically change the position of your handlebars to suit your upper body and riding style. By changing the position of your upper body and distance to the handlebars, you can achieve better control and comfort on virtually any motorcycle.

 

Many different manufacturers make these bar risers and among them are companies like Biltwell, Rox Speed FX, SW-Motech and Heli-Bars.

 

We contacted Mike “Otto” Deutsch from Biltwell, who offered these tips:


“Bar risers dictate the height of the bar and sometimes stock cables limit what size risers and bars you can run on the bike.”

 

“Also, you have to consider the electrical wiring to the controls as well. There are plenty of companies that offer cable extensions and extending your wires isn't something that should deter the garage do-it-yourselfer from changing his or her bars and risers.”

 

“Biltwell offers several shorter risers and some handlebars can be easier to reach than others so the right bar and riser a combo can greatly affect a riders comfort level.”

 


We then spoke with Ryan Jensen from ROX Speed FX, where they have pioneered advancements in the bar riser arena for all types of powersports vehicles.

 

TT: What are bar risers and why do you make pivoting units?

 

RJ: Handlebar risers are just what they sounds like, parts that raise your handlebars higher than they are located from the OEM position. Rox Pivoting handlebar risers are unique because they mount just like your handlebars and allow you to pivot your bars fore and aft to get you set up right where you want to be on your bike.

 

TT: When installing bar risers, what should we be aware of? i.e. - stock cable length limitations, handlebar choices, etc.

 

RJ: The #1 question we get asked is: “How high can I go with the stock cables, or will my stock cables work with a riser?” I would love to say that we have unlimited access to every bike out there but we do not.

 

The easiest way to find out how high you can go is to first, pull the bars out of the clamps, next lift them up and see how high you can go before the cables get tight. At that point figure out what cables are tight and see if you can cut any cable ties that might be holding them from gaining a bit more length. Next see if they can be rerouted if needed. A lot of times gaining a very little bit goes a long ways with risers.

 

The next question we get asked is: “What bar diameter does my bike come with?”

 

Again, I wish we knew what all bikes had. In the dirt bike, enduro and dual sport world there’s typically 2 sizes used; 7/8” (22mm) or 1 1/8” (28mm). Some of the newer BMW’s are coming with 1 ¼” bars too.

 

Once that’s figured out, decide what you’d like to gain from installing a riser. Most folks want to sit upright more on dual sport bikes. Dirt bikes and enduro bikes, it’s more common to get the bars more comfortable for standing. The biggest thing is to make the bike fit you, it’s amazing how much better the bike can be and how much more fun you can have when you make the ergonomics come to you.

 

TT: What is a 2-axis bar riser?

 

RJ: A 2 axis or “pivoting” handlebar riser allows you to pivot the bars right where you want them on the machine all while maintaining proper handlebar alignment. They are a way for you to make the machine come to you.

 

TT: Does installing bar risers affect any other parts of the bike's ergonomics?

 

RJ: It can yes. Depending on the person, it can feel much different and most of the time for the better. Sometimes getting the bars more comfortable can bring out other areas that need some adjustments but rarely does it ever cause any negative issues.

 

SEAT FOAM

 

Altering your seat foam is the least inexpensive, easiest and simplest way to raise or lower the seat height of your motorcycle. I’ve used this technique with great success on a number of my off-road mounts.

 

The lowering procedure has very little room for error, so if you aren’t comfortable with wielding an electric knife or installing a seat cover, it’s best left to a professional upholsterer. I’ve never seen this method used on street applications, and I would guess that is primarily due to the total re-engineering of the fitted seat cover.

 

Altering your seat foam so it’s taller is a lot easier and is a great method for taller riders to achieve the correct positioning on top of the bike. Manufacturers such as Enduro Engineering, Factory Effex, Guts Racing and SDG offer taller foam, replacement seat covers and even pre-made complete seats with approx. 1.5” of taller seating position.

 

For street machines, we would recommend either a custom seat as offered by our friends at Mustang Seats or take the whole thing to a car upholsterer and see what they can do for you in this regard. Café racers style bikes normally have a seat that is very thinly padded as it is so we wouldn’t recommend trying to shave any more off.

 

FOOTPEGS , SHIFT LEVERS and BRAKE PEDALS

 

Many options abound for both street and dirt machines when it comes to altering the position of your footpegs and associated shift lever and brake pedal.

 

Off-road aftermarket footpegs are available from our friends at Pro Moto Billet, who make some of the best products in this segment. I’ve used their Fastway pegs, I have a set on my YZ144 and they are the bomb. Let’s look at what how they can help a rider “fit” on the bike.

 

We spoke with Caleb Frankamp from Pro Moto Billet/Fastway about how their footpegs work and what features they offer…

 

TT: How do adjustable footpegs help riders fit on their bikes?

 

CF: All Fastway footpeg styles are designed to utilize three patented adjustments: Adjustable Height, Adjustable Traction, and Adjustable Camber (tilt). The Universal Collar System (UCS) allows you to mount Fastway foot pegs in either the stock or lowered positions on most bikes - simply by reversing the collar.

 

For shorter riders, they run them in the stock position. Taller riders (and those wanting less transition from sitting to standing) love our low-boy position, which offers up to 10mm of drop. The UCS system also makes it easy for you to fully rebuild your pegs, or take them with you to your new brand or model bike by simply changing out the collars.

 

All sets of Fastway pegs ship with 2 sets of F3 (replaceable) threaded cleats; short (10mm), and tall (12mm cleats); which allow you to customize the shape and traction level of your footbed. Set them up all tall, all short, arched center, tall outside, tapered, or get creative… We also offer F5 Serrated cleats, and the ultimate in traction– our F6 spiked cleats. F6 cleats are like being velcroed to your pegs.

 

Fastway has a Patented Camber (tilt) System allows you to customize the up or downward angle of your pegs to match your skeletal and joint angles. If it’s important to tune your motor, your suspension, your bar height and rotation– what about tuning the most load-bearing contact you have with your bike? Yep, your footpegs! Tune them in, and gain more endurance, control, and traction.

 

For the street side, there are also a huge range of options in aftermarket adjustable footpegs, and one cool new option for cruisers is the Kuryakyn SwingWing pegs which actually fasten in place of your stock peg and provide a secondary fold-out peg 3" forward.

 

MFW (Germany) makes some really good options for footpegs for many sportbike/ADV and dual sport machines and it’s worth taking a closer look at their Vario System which helps you to find an ergonomic riding position with an adjustable footpeg system provides (up to) eight possible positions over a 360 degree range, and thus changes the position of the inside edge of the footpeg slightly thus by moving the foot outwards.

 

Adjustable shift levers for off-road machines from folks like Hammerhead Designs are “adjustable upward and downward with shim placement and fore and aft with optional shift tips”. These shift tips include options for different offsets that are quoted in degrees! We’ve seen this system and it is very trick…you can actually design the shifter using a myriad of different parts for a perfect feel, no matter the size of your foot or sole design on your boot.

 

Adjustable brake pedals for the street are fairly common with manufacturers like Cycle Pirates offering a forward-thinking adjustable unit that features three possible position combinations as well as a removable arm and folding toe tab.

 

Hammerhead also offers some ultra-trick dirt-oriented hardware in this category and their rear brake pedal with adjustable tip is machined from 6061 billet aluminum and the rotating tip positions are adjustable to change the length shorter, longer or stock.

 

HANDLEBARS

 

Changing your handlebars is a simple way to change the way you fit into the cockpit of your ride. Almost all off-road handlebar manufacturers offer a variety of different sizes and shapes of handlebars. Look to Renthal and ProTaper for some a wide variety of sizes and styles.

 

For off-road bikes, handlebars are measured with three ways: Width, Height and Sweep (aka Pullback) and it’s best to know these measurements on your current ride so you know what measurements will need to change to suit your riding style.

 

When looking at a change in your dirt machine’s handlebars, it’s best to ascertain what you don’t like about the current ones you use. Is the bar too far away when you sand up, not allowing full body extension? You need “taller” bars. Does your upper body feel cramped and you have to stand up to get leverage? Your bars are too short.

 

On street bikes this becomes more complicated. Because of the various mounting systems and styles of handlebars, swapping them out can make for unwanted drama and expense. But with that aside, there are too many choices to really talk about then all here, but both Biltwell and Kuryakyn offer an amazing assortment of picks for many street and cruiser models, with manufacturers like EMGO and BikeMaster offering about everything else.

 

LOWERING LINKS AND OTHER METHODS

 

And in our next installment (Part 2) we’ll expand this topic to include more sophisticated methods; including items like lowering links, adjustable linkage guards and more extensive suspension modifications and also delve into how these items can adversely affect handling, braking, seat height…and the remedies to such issues.



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I agree with some of these ideas,but two things I have noticed in my quest for the perfect setup is that when you install taller bars they are actually closer to you and keep your weight father back unless you move them forward,there is a limit to how far you can do that. Also moving the pegs back moves your weight father back,being tall that could backfire since your weight is already father back,finally I have tried and am not sold on a taller seat because of the the being too far on top of the bike feeling.Just for the record I am 6'5" with a 36 inch inseam.Love the topic!

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My husband shaved the seat on our 78 Honda CX500 and had it recovered to make it a bit shorter seat height for me to ride it.  I know of other friends who have done similar things, so there are people who shave seats on street bikes.  Great article btw!

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I agree with some of these ideas,but two things I have noticed in my quest for the perfect setup is that when you install taller bars they are actually closer to you and keep your weight father back unless you move them forward,there is a limit to how far you can do that. Also moving the pegs back moves your weight father back,being tall that could backfire since your weight is already father back,finally I have tried and am not sold on a taller seat because of the the being too far on top of the bike feeling.Just for the record I am 6'5" with a 36 inch inseam.Love the topic!

 

I am also 6'5 and agree with troy1160.  Tall seats and pushed back pegs are not a good option for us tall guys.  Tall seats make it difficult to get your foot firmly on the ground if you need to prevent yourself from falling.  Rear pushed back pegs only move your weight more to the rear which will make those steep hill climbs a problem.  In my opinion when riding a dirt bike, you want a truly comfortable, near vertical standing position.  Bar risers, like what you can get from Rox Speed FX, are the easiest solution for quick install and modification on any bike.  Aside from that, I think taller bars are the other way to go.  ProTaper and Renthal have some good options, but so does nearly every other handlebar manufacturer these days.  If you really need tall bars, consider purchasing ATV bars for your motorcycle.  Even the short ones are usually taller than the tall rise dirt bike bars.  Just my two cents.

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Troy is right on target...

Bottom line is just like troy said: way more comfortable, protects your joints longterm, ride faster for longer---all for a small trade-off in a couple areas.

The optimum situation would be for a rider to be able to test-ride someone else's bike, as "tall people toys" are $$$, esp if u decide u do not like it!

---even SITTING on someone else's bike can tell you that your bike could be WAY more natural/comfortable: Pastrana let me sit on his RM way back in ~2002, and I was positively amazed at how comfortable/natural it was...I had no idea that a bike COULD be so comfortable. 

Start with risers, can even try bar-caps from a wrecking yard as spacers.

I run spacers, taller bars, fastways, and taller seats on all but one bike. 

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I am currently searching for something to move my bars forward in the mounts without raising my bars too much,I want to be able to stay farther forward on the bike where a shorter rider would be,I am having trouble finding anything that looks like it will work without spending too much.I have RG3 clamps on my KXF and that complicates things a little,Rox has a couple of types I might try.Us tall people feel like little people on a bike with a tall seat :)

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When you stand on the bike, in your gear flat footed, straight as a board, hold your arms straight out ahead of you fingers extended.  Pivot your arms down till your hands are on the grips...still straight.  You middle digits on your fingers should hit the grips 1st.  This is how narrow the window is for proper bar set up.  It is like +/- 1.4".  Seriously...it makes a LOT of difference.  There are other factors like side grip on seats.  The modern trend towards narrow bikes is AWFUL.  It may feel good on the stand...but when riding, a narrow seat is NOT good.  It makes it harder to hold onto the bike with your knees...and leads to arm pump.  It takes a LOT more energy to grip with yoru boots down low than to grab with your knees up on the seat..but most moder bikes make this hard with their stupid super narrow seats.  Bar width is also important.  If you have not gone through a few sets of bars trying to dial things...you probably are not close on your ergos.

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I agree Blutarsky,my old liquid cooled 86 CR500 was very easy to hold onto,my KX450 has nothing in the middle to grab and the radiators make you feel like you are giving birth when you get forward to corner.I wish you could make a bike fatter in the middle. Ordered my new bar mounts to move the bars forward,hopefully that will create the room I need to easily keep my lanky weight forward for cornering.

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I agree Blutarsky,my old liquid cooled 86 CR500 was very easy to hold onto,my KX450 has nothing in the middle to grab and the radiators make you feel like you are giving birth when you get forward to corner.I wish you could make a bike fatter in the middle. Ordered my new bar mounts to move the bars forward,hopefully that will create the room I need to easily keep my lanky weight forward for cornering.

Troy,

Any update on your new risers you mentioned above?  I'm in the market right now and could use some feed back from a fellow 6'5"er.  Thanks.

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Great comments and observations. I am going through ergo's with my Honda XR's.. almost everyone knows they have very low handlebars and high pegs on the big bikes. The XR250 I find has lower footpegs at the expense of dragging your feet from time to time. I put tall 3 inch rise handlbar mounts on the 250 and found the bars were too far back even after moving them forward more than an inch. I dropped them to 2 1/4" and they feel better. The 250 has a bad habit of making me feel like I'm going to fall backward, possibly because the right peg leans back a bit. That is a maintenance issue I think.

 

Moving pegs is very hard on these old bike with welded peg mounts. But a proper position is worth it in the end and will pay big dividends in less fatigue. I am 6' 1.5" and 34" inseam.

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