Back Pains On Your Motorcycle

Back Pains On Your Motorcycle

Posted by Mike Werner on Oct 4th 2016

More often than not, bikers complain of back pain when riding their motorcycles over long distances (or even short ones). They are not the only ones who have this problem when participating in their favorite sports; horseback riding, surfing, kayaking - just a few sports that require attention to your back. It has all got to do with posture and equipment.
But there is no cure-all solution, a magic formula that one applies to cure all bikers from this ache. It all depends on the individual. What applies to one, will not apply to others. It all depends on your morphology, the kind of motorcycle used and the equipment you ride with. So if it works for you, it does not mean it’ll work for others.
Let’s have a look at the types of bikes.
Standard Type

Figure 1 Standard Motorcycle (c)
The standard type of motorcycle is one where you feet are under your body, your hands are straight on the handlebar, and your head looking straight ahead.
This is what you will normally find on mile-eaters; Honda Goldwing, BMW RT or LT, etc. In other words, long distance touring bikes.
The position you sit in is very much like sitting in an office chair, working on the computer. You do that for 8 hours, right? (and you still get back aches.. but that is another problem).
Equipment: The equipment used is often a big windscreen, preventing strong turbulence from hitting you in the chest and head. Saddles are firm and soft enough to enable long rides. Suspensions are set to reasonable softness so that uneven pavements are not a problem.

Figure 2 Cruiser Type (c)
On a cruiser your feet are more in front of you and your body more tilted backwards. Your head is titled forwards (ie straight).
You can ride long distance, on typically bikes like Harley-Davidson, but after a long ride, your back will suffer more than standard types.
Equipment: Often windscreens are used on cruisers, and they can be quite tall. Riding without one means you’ll not be going for long distances. Saddles are comfortable and will allow you to sit for hours. Suspensions are often mid-firm, enough you to glide over the roads. Often you‘ll find back supports (usually the pillion seat) that make long distances a breeze.

Figure 3 Sports Motorcycle (c)
Sportsbikes by their nature force you to be as aerodynamic as possible, to be crouched over the fuel tank with your feet behind you, and your torso on the tank, and your head titled upwards.
On long rides, this can be uncomfortable, especially if you are tall. Not only can you get back pains, but also neck pains. This is why you will not see many sportsbikes riding an Iron Butt Rally (although it has happened and they finished the rally).
Equipment: Windscreens are very small on sportsbikes, and at higher speeds do their job admirably. But at normal speeds, a lot of the wind will hit the biker. Saddles are usually very firm, which can be great for an hour or two ride, but for 12 hours it’s going to be a pain in the butt (literally). Suspension is also very firm, and you’ll feel every crack in the road.
Your morphology plays a big part in the problem as well. If you are “skinny” and not that tall, a sportsbike will not be a problem for you. But on the other hand, if you are overweight and tall, that sleek superfast sportsbike is not for you if you are planning to ride a long distance.

Depending on your weight, height and body strength, you can play with the handlebars (new ones, height and width), saddle (soft, jello, air filled, etc.), foot pegs (height and width) and even put a backrest for your back.
For example, Airhawks are a great, fast to install and reasonably cheap way of making your saddle more comfortable for long distances.
Obviously if you are planning to go long distance, and want to avoid aches, invest in a cruise control. No, I don’t mean an expensive electronic one, but a manual one that allows you to take the stress of your right arm.
Riding long distance, no matter what motorcycle type, will result in fatigue coming from your back and neck. And when I say long distance, I don’t mean a 2-hour trip. I’m talking many hours of riding over several days. Sportsbikes are not meant for this kind of riding, but it’s not uncommon to see it done. But often these riders, when they arrive, head for a chiropractor. Or a nice massage. But then arriving on a Honda Goldwing after 6-8 hours in the saddle, a massage sounds about right too.