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Ergonomics Setup

Does your bike fit you? If you’re scratching your head over that one, saying that "all bikes are the same." Then I have a little lesson to teach you. Setting up the bike to fit you is a simple matter of fine tuning the controls so that you can use them effectively. Bikes come from the factory setup for the average rider. The problem is that I have never met an average rider.


One of the most common changes riders make is to cut down the bars. This makes the bike narrower. This also has the effect of making the bike more unstable at high speeds. The other change that can be made is to roll the bars backward or forward. Rolling the bars back can make the bike feel better in turns, but a little more twitchy in the straights. Rolling them forward has the opposite effect. Also rolling the bars forward can make standing a little easier. A good starting point would be to have the upright part of the bar in line with the forks. To set the bars easily, put the bike on a stand. Roll the bars forward. Then stand on the bike in "attack position". Then roll the bars to where your hands are.

Levers are usually run about 10-15 degrees from horizontal. The key here is to have full control in both sitting and standing positions. Riders with larger hands can move the lever perches towards the center of the bar. This puts the outside of the part of the lever nearer the index and middle finger. This puts the strongest fingers where the lever effect is the greatest.  Small handed riders can do the opposite for the same effect.


The first thing a rider thinks about when modifying seat height is ground clearance. But there is a fatigue factor here too. Transfering from a seated position to a standing one can take a lot of energy. If the seat is set properly then the effort can be reduced. There may not seem much in the way of modification that can be done to seats. But there is. For shorter riders, some of the seat foam can be cut out. This must be done carefully. The best way to do it is to remove the seat cover and cut the underside of the foam. (The part that touches the plastic.) The best tool to carve the foam away with is a electric bread knife. Don’t carve too much foam otherwise the bare plastic spanking will be a bit too much. The aim here is carve out the foam between the legs so that the vertically challenged can put their feet down. (Of which I am one of them.) Taller seat foam is available for all the overtall mutants in the world.  Of course after changing the seat foam, you should look at the suspension settings since the new seating position can affect the way things work. Seat covers are a matter of preference. Motocrossers use them since they can grip the seat with the legs and ease of the strain on their arms. Off roaders such as desert racers however don’t use them due to the "baboon butt syndrome". The grippy seat pulls on their pants as they accelerate and brake. This causes chafing in places that shouldn’t be chafed. An alternative to the grippy seat cover is to use grippy tape on the side panels of the bike. Skateboard tape works the best but then pants have a life span of about 10 minutes.

If you really feel creative and have a machine shop you can modify your footpegs, triple clamps and subframe to modify the way the bike feels. I won’t go into that since I don’t have factory support and I suspect that most other riders don’t as well.

Contents Copyright (C) Michael Fodor 2012.