Touring Tip: Spring Training For Riders

May 10, 2013 View Comments by

BJN71789smallSpring has finally arrived and it’s time to get back out on the road and enjoy the visual feast that is America. But, just like professional baseball players, you may need some spring training before venturing out. Here are a few things to consider before heading for distant destinations.

  1. Are You in the Right Physical Condition to Ride? In terms of physical conditioning, here are some possible areas to focus on:
  • Flexibility: Tightness in the lower back and legs can increase the onset of rider fatigue. Moderate, but regular stretching, particularly of the back and hamstrings, can pay big dividends on the road. Here’s a website that shows some basic stretches.
  • Muscle Tone: Unlike car drivers, motorcycle riders probably won’t be riding in a relaxed position with lower back support. Also, the process of riding a bike requires much more muscle activity and coordination than simply turning a steering wheel. Big biceps and triceps may be desirable for guys strutting around the swimming pool, but core muscle strengthening is much more important for riders. Core strengthening also helps improve balance, which is of obvious importance to riders. Here is a website with some suggested exercises.
  • Endurance: Aerobic activity helps a person’s all-around endurance and health. One of my favorites is bicycle riding, because it increases lung capacity, strengthens cardiovascular functions, burns calories, strengthens leg muscles and, best of all, it’s fun to do.

Riders can also maintain their flexibility, muscle tone, and endurance, even while they’re on a road trip. Flexibility and muscle toning do not require special equipment and can be done almost anywhere. While having a bicycle on a road trip isn’t feasible, touring riders can achieve many of the same benefits by walking or running.

  1. Is Your Bike in Shape to Ride? Before the touring season begins, riders should thoroughly inspect their bike(s), making sure that: key fasteners are at their specified torques; brake and clutch fluid is fresh; regular services have been performed (oil and filter changes, etc.); tires are not damaged, have sufficient tread, and are properly inflated; chains and sprockets aren’t worn out; brake pads don’t need replacing; all controls are freshly lubricated. A list of other things to check is mostly likely contained in the bike’s Owner’s Manual. Additional recommendations on this topic can be found here.
  1. Is Your Riding Gear in Good Order? Make sure your riding jacket, pants, gloves, rain suit, and other apparel are in good shape. Most importantly, though, inspect your helmet closely to make sure it doesn’t need to be replaced because of damage or age. Here are some indicators of helmet damage to look for:
  • Visible Damage: Obvious damage like cracks, chips, or severe sun fading are clear causes for concern.
  • Concealed Damage: Signs of helmet damage may be concealed on the inside. Remove the inner fabric liner to see if the polystyrene liner shows any signs of compression or other damage.

If your helmet has been in an accident, dropped, or you have some other doubt about its functional integrity, there’s no need to inspect it further—just buy a new one! A helmet can always be replaced, but your brain can’t; buying a new helmet is relatively cheap insurance.

  1. Do Your Riding Skills Need Brushing Up? There’s no better way to start the riding season than with a little parking lot practice of fundamental skills, such as: emergency stops, swerving, tight, slow-speed cornering, etc. This also may alert you to any potential mechanical issues before embarking on a long day or week in the saddle. Riders should always strive to be more accomplished this year than they were last year. A good way to leapfrog up the riding skill ladder is to attend an advanced riding course or clinic, such as the MSF Advanced Rider Course, a track school, street riding school, an off-road course, or one of the host of other rider training options available for motorcyclists.
  1. Are You in the Proper Frame of Mind to Ride? Last, but certainly not least, it’s always important to have a calm, positive mental attitude before riding. That means you should have an undistracted focus on riding competently and safely. Motorcyclists should avoid riding when they are in a high emotional state or are otherwise distracted from the task at hand. In addition, I always find that, after not riding for a while, it takes a period of time, albeit a relatively short one, to regain my automatic mental and physical synchronicity with the motorcycle. During that period of mental reprograming it’s important to ride conservatively.

Motorcycle touring is great fun, but make sure you’re ready before venturing out.

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