Monday, February 16, 2009

Discomfort Zone

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in the garage re-tuning my motorcycle’s riding position. I have some back problems, and when they flare up the only thing to do is change the handlebar position, or add a seat pad, or both, to change the ergonomics slightly.

While I was doing this—with an aching back, by the way—I couldn’t help thinking about the fact that I'd never had to do this to any of the cars I've owned. If the seating position wasn’t right, I just moved the seat. And if the steering wheel was too high, or too low, I moved it.

It doesn’t really matter what kind of car you’re driving. Sports car, truck, SUV, minivan, they’re all adjustable. How weird would it be if a Porsche came with the seat bolted to the floor, and the steering wheel in whatever position Franz back at the factory decided was correct?

But if you buy a sportbike, you get the racer’s crouch along with it. You buy a cruiser, you get the laid-back, feet-forward position.

Car designers would see that as the tail wagging the dog. Motorcycle designers don’t, so if for example you want a bike with the performance of a sportbike and the relaxed seating position of a tourer, or a big thumping V-twin engine without the hurricane-force wind up your pant legs, you’re out of luck.

And don’t tell me it can’t be done. Just take the time and money engineers spend making streetbikes go 160 mph—which we all need to do on the way to work, right?—and put it toward designing adjustable footpegs and handlebars. It’s been done before—on some Laverda, if my memory is correct—but the range of adjustability was small.

I want a handlebar that can be raised or lowered 5 or 6 inches, and tilted forward and backward. I want a seat with several inches of height adjustability. I want footpegs with a usable range of positions to take the kink out of my knees on long rides.

And I want them now. Please. Because I’m running out of combinations of handlebar risers and seat pads.

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carlaking said...

Jerry - totally sympathize - but maybe you need a muscle cruiser? I recently reviewed the Suzuki Boulevard M90, a new bike for 2009. It was amazing, with some caveats. Check it out.

Aaron Weber said...

At least some of these things exist, for variations on "exist" -- convertibars, for example, let you adjust your handlebars, although maybe not as much as you want... and obviously not while riding (I think you need to stop and get out your toolkit, but it's a relatively quick process). And there are adjustable hand and foot controls, although again they have a relatively small range and require tools to adjust.

jwesterman said...

Yes, thank you. I second that wholeheartedly!

Nick said...

I agree, and so does the motorcycle parts aftermarket, one size does not fit all. But once you get your bike to fit you, generally no one else rides it... unlike the family car.

Plus, it gives us an excuse to customize!