Motorcycle Riding Posture
To avoid pain in your neck, arms, and back during your motorcycle ride, it is important to have proper body posture. As a chiropractor in St George UT, I get to ride my motorcycle to work almost year around, and I am concerned about fellow riders and their posture.
Three Basic Postures
There are three basic postures while riding a motorcycle. Each posture has variability based on the bike design and size of the operator. The basic postures are Standard, Sport, and Cruiser. Each has it’s pros and cons. Rather than getting into a debate on which is best, let’s focus on how to avoid posture fatigue in each. Our images come from Susan Rzepka Orion, certified MSF rider coach, who wrote an article for www.womenridersnow.com.
Standard Riding Posture
This posture is very neutral. It keeps the back straight and the neck in a more neutral posture. The shoulders and elbows are held comfortably on the grips without over reaching or over-extending the elbows. Elbow are flexed, and forearms are parallel to the ground.
It is important that the shoulders be neutral. If you have a small frame or you are riding a bike that is too big, the controls may be slightly out of reach for you. This will cause you to lean forward or, worse, over-reach in order to gain access to the controls. Prolonged over-reached posture can lead to shoulder injuries such as trigger points, thoracic outlet syndrome, and shoulder impingement syndrome.
Sport Riding Posture
Sport posture looks fun and exciting but it can have the trauma on the body. In the sport posture, the body is in a forward lean, the feet are typically behind the knees, head is in extension. The forearms ought to be parallel to the ground. The wrists should be close to neutral.
At higher speeds, the weight of the body is supported by air pressure rushing onto the torso. But at low speeds there is not enough pressure and the operator is supporting his upper body weight on the wrists, and by extending the lower spinal posture muscles. Also the muscles in the top of the neck are supporting the head, which can lead to suboccipital headaches. This posture can lead to injury in the wrists, creating ligament inflammation and nerve compression, like carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as strain to the muscles in the neck and lower back. The nice thing is, the wind pressure keeps the upper body well balanced and the spinal muscles are less likely to fatigue.
The streets in St George UT are not built for sport bike posture. Our speed limits are quite low (30-40mph), and it is tough to get enough air pressure to support the upper body. Thankfully, the roads are well maintained so the bike operator does not have to deal with additional pressure injury on the wrists from bouncing through pot-holes.
This posture has the pelvis in extension, which can aggravate certain types of disc injuries.
Cruiser Riding Posture
This posture has the operator is a slightly reclined position. The feet are often forward relative to the knee. The grips and controls are slightly higher. The head is upright and neutral. The hips and pelvis are relaxed, with the legs held close to the fuel tank.
This posture looks and feels comfortable, especially for older riders, and at lower speeds. With the pelvis in a minimal flexed posture, there is decreased sacral base angle pressure on the L5-S1 intervertebral disc.
At higher speeds, riding without a fairing causes a huge increase in air pressure on the riders chest. As a result, the rider must lean slightly forward to maintain appropriate grip on the controls. This can cause some fatigue issues for the muscles on the front of the neck and abdomen.
Choose Wisely, Ride Wisely
Whatever your preferred riding posture might be, make sure you are taking appropriate steps to stay healthy as well as safe. Remember to hold the wrists, shoulders, neck and low-back in proper alignment. Doing so will not only reduce your risk of muscle fatigue, but it makes you a safer rider.
If you are having pain associated with your ride, then stop by our St George UT chiropractic office and let us fix you up so you can enjoy those summer days.
Dr. Andrew White
Motorcycle Chiropractor St George UT