Motorman’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques
Recently, at a performance of my rider’s skill show, I was approached by a young woman who said she was amazed by the way the two ladies in my show handled their Electra Glides. I’ll call this woman Jane. Jane stated her bike couldn’t maneuver the way the Electra Glide’s could. I explained that it wasn’t the bikes but rather the techniques the ladies were using that allowed them to handle their 800 lb. motorcycles with such ease. Jane gave me a look that said no way will my bike do that. So, I asked her to show me her bike which she happily did. Jane’s bike was a late model Wide Glide that Jane had “customized” with a raked out fork, ape hanger bars, forward controls and a 3″ lowering kit on the rear.
The modifications on this Wide Glide might fit a person 6′ 4″ or taller, but Jane was barely 5′ tall. I asked her to sit on her bike, put her feet up on the pegs and hands on the grips. In order for Jane to reach the grips, she had to lean as forward as possible and extend her arms up almost 90 degrees. She was so stretched out, she couldn’t turn the handlebars more than 2″ in either direction. Her right toe barely reached the forward peg and couldn’t reach the rear brake at all unless she shifted her whole body to the right. Jane had to be the poster child for the worst bike to rider fit I’d ever seen.
I asked her what possessed her to make these type of modifications, she said it was her boyfriend’s idea. Jane admitted she wasn’t comfortable on the bike, but she did think it looked cool. I then explained to Jane that if you can’t turn the handlebars or reach the rear brake, she could never handle her bike properly at low speeds, where you must turn the handlebars and use the rear brake to stabilize the bike. I then had her sit on my wife’s Electra Glide. My wife is 5’4″, so I adjusted the stock bars a little to bring them closer to the seat. I also equipped the bike with the HD Sundowner solo seat. This seat brings the rider 2″ closer to the handlebars and has a narrow nose which bring your legs closer to the ground. Jane admitted the difference between the Electra Glide and her “customized” bike was amazing.
The moral of the story is, if you can’t comfortably reach the controls on your motorcycle, you can’t control your motorcycle. It’s just that simple.
Here’s how the motorcycle should fit in order to properly control the bike and be comfortable at the same time. The bars should be well below the shoulders and the grips should allow the elbows to be bent. You should be able to turn full lock while only leaning slightly forward, or not leaning forward at all. With the bars fully turned, the grips should not hit your legs while your feet are on the pegs or floor boards. Your feet should be able to easily reach the brake pedal with the ball of your foot.
The seat should allow you to sit upright so your back is straight up and you should be able to reach the ground with at least the balls of your feet.
If you can’t reach the ground easily, narrow the horn of the seat. Lowering the suspension should be a last resort.
Until next month, as I’m sure your mother used to say, “sit up straight and quit that slouching.”
Remember, all it takes is a little practice. Good Luck!