By: Lloyd F Larimore
As we enter the riding season, many of us will be starting out on long-distance journey’s which can often cause premature fatigue after only a few miles. While fatigue is occasionally the result of not having a proper match between rider and machine, this is often the result of physical conditions that can be changed to make our travels a bit more comfortable.
Some of you may experience the most common problem which is often referred to as; “hand fatigue”. I’ve had more than one person tell me about waking up during the night with the experience of their hands “tingling or throbbing”. Others may experience “neck or shoulder soreness” after a long day in the saddle, both of which can usually be attributed to excess squeeze on the grips or tension in the neck and shoulder muscles (which is surely understandable when riding in hectic high traffic conditions but can easily be avoided on highway travels).
WARNING: Excess grip can also cause loss of control due to what expert’s call “wild throttle”, the experience where we hit a slight bump in the road and our hand automatically rolls back on the throttle due to the tightness in our grip.
Most professionals in the Medical and Physical Fitness communities would strongly suggest that if we are going to be involved in a high-risk hobby like riding motorcycles, that we first make every effort to reduce our risk of injury by staying fit and properly exercising to keep our body in tip-top shape (for our appropriate age of course). Others in the world of motorcycle and recreational vehicle sales may suggest a change to the Can-Am Spyder with a 6-speed fully automatic transmission, or perhaps even the Honda Africa Twin with its 7-speed CVT transmission and racing inspired UP/DOWN paddle shifters. Another option offered on many of the newer bikes is Electronic Cruise Control which allows the rider to “relax” the grip (come on BMW, when are you going to add this to the F-Series bikes?). And finally, for those of us riding older machines (or perhaps just aging a bit ourselves) and are not prepared to “change up” to the above technological advancements, there are “add-on” devices like the “Throttle-Meister” or “Cruise Lock” that ‘help’ but still need constant adjustment as the road surface may change from uphill to downhill, etc. And, if you have a bit of arthritis in the hand(s), you may find the foam oversize grip covers to help – I did.
One specific and very valuable lesson I learned in regard to getting comfortable during a distance ride of any measure, was actually learned several years ago when I joined the Great Salt Lake Rowing club to learn the art of sculling.
During our training sessions at the Great Salt Lake Marina, the instructor often emphasized the importance of proper position and alignment of hand-wrist-forearm-elbow-shoulders to maximize strength and control when needed, and how relaxing the fingers and using the palm helps increase endurance.
During a recent day ride along the west side of Utah Lake to Eureka (lunch at the new Porter’s Place that recently moved from Lehi to main street Eureka, along with the historical Porter Rockwell Museum), I noticed that I too had a tendency to “tense up” just a bit during my travels along the rolling hills, curves and high crosswinds typical of UT-68 and Hwy 6 between my home and historic downtown Eureka. To remedy the tension, I reverted back to my lessons from the GSLR Club: “Relax and let go of the tension in the fingers, neck and back muscles. Pull the shoulder blades in just a touch-not too much, perhaps ½” or just enough to keep the neck and back muscles from being rounded and stretched”.
Once you get past all the clutter of the new housing and apartment projects around Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, the ride along the west side of Utah Lake to Eureka is a great place to enjoy the scenery of the Wasatch Mountains and surrounding area and just get away from the congestion. And I really hope the new location of Porter’s Place works out as they have a great menu (especially the Apple Pie alamode).
NOTE: For those that may want to learn more details about the importance of pairing; Ergonomics, Body Position and Rider Skills, you can visit: www.RideCoach.com and review the many tips offered by “Coach” Ramsey Stroud – and I understand he even conducts classes at his Rider Ranch located in Oregon.