It’s that time of year when riders start to pull their bikes out of hibernation and get ready for a summer of motorcycling fun.
We all know that there’s a range of things that we need to do to the bike to make sure that it’s roadworthy, such as checking the tyres and brakes, going through the MoT test and arranging insurance cover, but what about you, the rider?
It’s easy to forget about the most important part of the package – you! So while you take some time to prep your bike, why not take a little time to get yourself bike fit too? Being properly prepared will not only help you ride more safely, you should enjoy your riding more too, so why not try these five simple tips and help get bike fit this spring?
Check your gear
It’s a known fact that we humans can pile on the pounds over the winter (or is it just that our leathers, ahem, shrink while they lay in the closest) so check it fits before you get back on the bike.
Tight clothing can restrict movement and even blood flow, making riding less comfortable and fatiguing. Leathers can get dry and brittle, so give them a good once over with baby oil or a specialist cleaner, to get them nice and supple.
Indeed, it’s a good idea to give all of your gear an ‘MoT’. Air out any bike clothing that’s been stored in a mouldy garage or shed and repair or replace any damaged items as a matter of course too. There’s nothing worse than riding around in a stinky old jacket!
Hit the gym
Motorcycling as a hobby is a physical activity. Riding a high powered bike can take a lot of strength and energy, so getting yourself in shape will help you get the most out of the experience. You won’t have to work out like a world champion racer, however improving your general level of fitness will help with stamina and concentration on long runs.
Eat well and be hydrated
It takes a lot of concentration to ride a motorcycle and a thirsty rider or a hungry rider may find that their mind is wandering.
Eat light and healthy meals before riding and make sure you are well hydrated. Drink water and take care not to drink too many caffeinated (and never alcohol). This should be the case whenever you ride, but especially so when getting back after a winter off the bike.
Wrap up warm
The sun might be out but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s warm.
Indeed 10°C might feel suitably warm for some to dump the winter jacket and head out in shirt sleeves, but ride along at 40mph and the wind chill factor can mean that you’re actually going to be exposed to sub zero conditions.
Wrap up with warm bike clothing, preferably layered, because a cold rider will easily lose concentration. It’s better to be too warm than too cold – and you can always stop to remove a layer if need be.
Ease into it
As important as anything else, it’s vital to ease back into the saddle.
Before you head out on that mammoth Lands End to John O’Groats ride, head out on a few steady local rides to get back into the swing of things and build up your bike fitness, stamina and confidence.
The last thing you want to do is to go touring, only to find yourself knackered and out of practice half way through your trip. It’s also a good way to make sure your bike is in good shape too, so we’d always recommend a ‘quick spin’ to get your season underway.
This process of easing back onto the bike is common practice for motorcycle racers, as Carole Nash sponsored Leon Haslam, one of the favourites for this season’s British superbike championship, explains. He says: “Being fit and sharp definitely helps when it comes to riding a motorbike. As a professional racer I try to maintain my fitness over the winter by working out in the gym and maintain a strict diet and exercise regime that is developed in conjunction with my personal trainer. There’s a group of us, all professional racers across a range of motorcycle disciplines, and our competitive nature pushes us to try and beat each other.
“We also do a lot of fun riding on motocross and supermoto bikes. Some of the lads race small pit bikes and although it’s quite a bit different to riding a 200bhp Kawasaki superbike, it does keep your reflexes sharp and helps maintain a degree of bike fitness.
“In March we have a comprehensive testing programme in Spain which is not only to ensure that we are able to get the best settings from our bikes, but to ensure that we are as sharp as we can be for when racing starts the following month.
“The more that I ride, the sharper I become. Whether you are riding on the track or on the road, it’s really important that if you haven’t been on the bike for a while that you ease yourself back into riding and get back into the swing of things.”