We’ve all heard terrible stories, seen reports on the news, or know someone who has been injured in a motorcycle accident. In fact, the US Department of Transportation reports an average of 84,000 motorcycle injuries per year. As motorcycle riders, we’re all familiar with the commentary from acquaintances and family about the dangers of riding.
HeliBars is committed to safety above anything, and we know our community is too. We understand the knowledge and safety measures needed to protect us on the road. But what often gets left out of the conversation are the recurring and long-lasting pains associated with frequent motorcycling. We’re all tough stuff, but few riders and motorcycle resources speak to the aches and soreness that often plagues riders in the long term.
How do you know if your motorcycle is the cause of your pain? What are some of the long-lasting pains that are associated with motorcycling? And most importantly, how do you avoid pain when riding? Our goal is to bring a voice to some of the common discomforts of riding a motorcycle and outline strategies for mitigating—or even better, eliminating—these pains. You should have a great riding experience every time you hop on your bike. Let’s start from the beginning.
Can My Motorcycle Cause Recurrent Pain or Injuries?
The short answer is yes. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Riding a motorcycle is a physical activity that takes strength and skill, so there’s always the potential for some sore muscles after a long ride. When it comes to those pesky aches and strains that seem to follow you no matter how short a ride you go on, that’s when we know there’s a problem. Luckily, these types of motorcycle pains are common and can often be solved with a few adjustments and tips.
Motorcycle Back Pain
We’ve all been there before: you just spent a sunny fall afternoon cruising around on your motorcycle, having a great time. But when it’s time to park your bike for the day, you’re dreading the twinge in your back that you know will follow you. Whether its pain in your lower back, your shoulders, or all over, this is one of the most common problem areas for riders.
So why does riding a motorcycle cause back pain? Well, back pain could be an indication of a few problems with your riding style or your motorcycle:
- Posture: How you sit on your motorcycle can have a big effect on your potential for back pain. Sitting too far forward or back or needing to twist your body to make turns can quickly add up and become an ongoing pain (in the back).
- Bike Size & Configuration: It may not be you, but rather your bike’s configuration that’s causing consistent back pain when riding. Motorcycles are built for the average rider and if you don’t fit that bill (or even if you do) it could mean more opportunity for strain on your back muscles.
- Length of Your Ride: Let’s be honest, sometimes a long ride just results in unavoidable soreness. If you love going long-distance, you may want to consider adding some extra comfort accessories to help mitigate motorcycle back pain.
- Stress: If you’re new to riding or don’t feel confident on your motorcycle, you may be stressed while riding. Whether you realize it or not, your stress can tense your muscles. You may be gripping the handlebars like a vice or tensing your thighs constantly. When your muscles are tightened all the sensations and vibrations of your motorcycle are intensified and can easily lead to motorcycle back pain.
Neck Pain After Riding a Motorcycle
Riding a motorcycle is and should be invigorating, but we can often feel held back by the limitations of our bodies. If you’re suffering from motorcycle neck pain, you probably aren’t getting the most out of your riding experience. Like with back pain, neck discomfort can be caused by riding position, bike configuration, ride length and stress.
Additionally, your motorcycle gear could be contributing to the problem. We all know that high-quality helmets are a must, but just because a helmet is strong and protective doesn’t mean it’s automatically perfect for you. An ill-fitting or heavy helmet can put unnecessary pressure on your neck or affect your posture while sitting on your bike.
Look for a motorcycle helmet that is lightweight and fits your head properly. When trying on helmets sit on your motorcycle or try to position your head as it would be when riding. This will help you get a sense of whether the helmet will produce a pressure point at the back of your neck.
Motorcycle Wrist Pain
Your wrists and hands are often overlooked but can be a common area for tenderness and pain. Motorcycling can cause anything from mild wrist irritation to feeling like your clutch hand is on fire. Wrist pain is also commonly referred to as carpal tunnel or tendonitis and can a lasting effect on the health of your wrist tendons, ligaments, and nerves.
There’s typically one leading cause of motorcycle wrist pain and that’s your riding position. Depending on your posture, you could be putting unnecessary strain on wrists in multiple different ways.
- Bending: The ideal wrist position for motorcycling is neutral, but if you must bend your wrists up and down or side to side, something about your riding position is off.
- Supporting Weight: Without realizing it, you may be placing your body weight on your wrist and putting strain on ligaments that are not meant to hold you up. Do you feel the palms of your hands pressing into your grips? That probably means you are supporting yourself on your wrists. Instead, your weight should primarily be held by your core muscles.
How to Avoid Motorcycle Pains
We’ve identified a few of the most common areas of pain and soreness caused by riding a motorcycle, though there are many other parts of the body that can become irritated from riding. Now the big question is how do you avoid these discomforts? Each unique rider is going to require unique solutions to their pain, but here are some of the best steps you can take to avoiding common motorcycle pains.
- Stretching: It may seem simple but stretching your body before and after a ride can go a long way to making you more comfortable on your bike. Try some simple exercises like neck circles, shoulder shrugs, forward folds, and desk presses with your hands.
- Adjust Your Riding Position: We can’t say enough how important motorcycle ergonomics are. Every common motorcycle pain can be attributed in part to your posture. Make sure you have a relaxed position, where your neck and wrists are neutral, and your back isn’t hunched over.
- Accessorize: Sometimes, changes to your bike are necessary to achieve the best ergonomics and stay comfortable on your rides. A few small adjustments can make a big difference. For some simple modifications we suggest changing your stock seat to reduce back pain, installing a windshield to reduce pressure on your neck, and changing your handlebars to improve wrist pain and all the above.
- Build Your Strength: Motorcycling isn’t always an extreme sport, but it still requires use of your muscles. If you’re looking to improve your riding experience, especially long distance, it may be worth investing some time and energy into strength training. Work on your core muscles to better support your body weight while riding and improve your grip by using small weights for wrist exercises.
- See a Physiotherapist: When pain is persistent and unbearable, it may be time to see a professional. A physiotherapist can work with you to personalize treatment and solutions so that you can get back in the saddle safely.
Know that you aren’t alone. Though the conversation so often revolves around major injuries, it’s important for our community to talk about and share tips on avoiding even the smallest of hurts. If you’ve experienced one of these common motorcycle pains, or another, and have questions or advice on how to avoid them, let us know in a message!