Lucky for me, I’ve never broken a bone, had stitches, or been through a surgery—unless you count getting your wisdom teeth removed. But I’m in the minority. By the time they’re 65, half of Americans will have broken a bone at least once in their life. The point is injuries happen all the time, whether as a result of you riding a motorcycle or completely unrelated, and they can put a pause on your biker lifestyle. Something as seemingly minor—and common—as a sprained wrist can disrupt your ability to ride.
The first thing you should know is that you should always take as much time as needed away from riding to properly recover and follow your doctor’s recommended steps for healing your injury. But when you’ve recovered from cataract surgery, had your last post-op appointment for hip replacement, or it’s time for that knee brace to come off, how do you get back to riding?
We’d love to say it’s just like riding a bike… well, it is. But to safely return to riding a motorcycle after an injury or surgery you’ll need to cover a few bases. In this blog we’ll talk about how to re-evaluate your physical needs, rebuild strength and confidence, and potentially make adjustments to your bike that facilitate your continued riding.
Assessing Your Needs & Ergonomics Post Injury
The first step in your comeback journey is taking a good look at your body—you look great, by the way. Of course, the degree of changes to your body will depend on what your injury or operation was, but likely your physical capabilities and comfort needs will have changed a bit. Assuming that you can jump back into riding the same way you did pre-injury is dangerous. Moreover, the disappointment that might come when these false expectations aren’t met could negatively impact your relationship with motorcycling, and we wouldn’t want that!
Talk to Your Doctor
Start by having a conversation with your healthcare provider. They’re the experts and are tuned into your individual circumstances and recovery. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about how your physical abilities may have changed because of your injury or surgery. Clue them in on your goals to get back in the saddle, as they may have some specific tips for riding a motorcycle. And remember that your needs may change over time, so keep in contact with them regularly.
Hopefully you’re already familiar with stretches and simple exercises you can do to keep your body in shape for riding a motorcycle. Practice these stretches with a close eye on how they make you feel. Is your range of motion limited in a specific way? Do you feel a twinge when you rotate your torso? Are you stiff when doing shoulder shrugs? These clues will better prepare you for how you’ll feel on your motorcycle and can help make decisions around the difficulty and length of ride you choose.
Re-evaluate Your Motorcycle Ergonomics
We can’t say enough times how important ergonomics are to the comfort and safety of your ride. Both your type of bike and your personal preferences determine your ideal riding position. It only makes sense that if your body has changed, your riding position might change too. Like with stretches and exercises, you should start by doing a test. Have a friend hold your bike upright while you sit on it and test your ergonomics. What angle are your arms at when your hands are on the bars? Is your back upright or leaned forward? How much do your knees bend when your feet are on the footpegs? And of course, how does it all feel?
The way you previously sat on your bike may no longer be comfortable. Do you strain when shifting your handlebars as if turning? Is it uncomfortable to lean forward? If so, you may need to make some changes to your bike.
Make Motorcycle Modifications as Needed
By now you should have a good idea about what does and doesn’t work about your previous riding setup. Lucky for us, motorcycles are almost endlessly customizable so there are plenty of things you can do to modify your bike to fit your new physical needs. You can modify your seat, add a back rest, adjust your suspension, and of course, invest in quality handlebar risers or adjustable handlebars—all with the goal of achieving the best ergonomics to suit your physical needs post injury. These changes will help you stay in control and reduce the risk of irritating or further injuring yourself.
You should also consider installing advanced safety features such as anti-lock braking systems (ABS) or traction control. These can provide additional security, especially important when getting back on the road after an injury.
Choose Low Stakes Practice
You’re in tune with your body and its needs and your bike has been adjusted to meet them. But now is still not the time to attend a rally or hit up the curviest, most pot-hole-filled road in town. Start by practicing in safe, controlled environments like empty parking lots where you can revisit basic skills like turning, braking, and gear shifting. Not only does this give you another opportunity to discover any potential discomfort, but it reaffirms your skills and starts to build back your confidence.
Once you feel good under these conditions, take short rides around your neighborhood or on familiar, low-traffic routes. Just as you did when first learning to ride, gradually increase the complexity and distance of your rides and remember that this journey is not zero to sixty.
Focus on Building Strength & Confidence
Depending on the nature of your injury, getting back to riding can bring up some tough emotions. Mental preparation is equally as important as physical preparation so take the time to acknowledge any fears or anxieties you might have. And don’t forget that your community is here to support you! Invite friends to join you on your practice rides, talk with fellow riders in person, or jump into an online forum to share your experiences and get support from the biker community.
It takes hard work and dedication to keep your body in shape for riding, injury or not. One of the best things you can do is continue to exercise outside of riding your bike. Physical therapy, yoga, walks around the neighborhood or simple at home gym routines can target the muscles important for riding and any areas affected by your injury. Improving your strength, flexibility and endurance will in turn boost your confidence every time you get on your bike.
Slow and Steady
Returning to motorcycling post-injury is a journey that requires patience, careful planning, and a willingness to adapt. Listen to your body, don't rush the process, and make necessary adjustments to your riding style and your motorcycle. Remember, the goal is not just to get back on the bike but to enjoy the journey with confidence and safety. With the right approach, you can get back in the saddle, perhaps with even more appreciation than before. As you embark on this journey, stay connected with your motorcycling community. Their support and experiences can be invaluable. And most importantly, cherish every ride, for each mile traveled is a testament to your resilience and passion for riding.
If you’ve had a recent injury, are in the recovery process or have rebounded your riding, we want to hear your story! Sharing your struggles and tips can help the next biker on their journey so send us a message and we’ll spread the word.