• Does This Bike Fit Me?

    reprinted from BB.com , September 2003
    copyright owned by author

    Does This Bike Fit Me?

    Perhaps one of the most important questions a person should ask when bike shopping is that one. Once a person can decide upon what models he/she likes, the best advice I can give (aside from power and weight issues) would have to be fit and comfort. A comfortable rider is a safer rider, if someone is constantly fidgeting in the saddle for a better position then that person isn't devoting their entire attention where it needs to be directed: towards the road ahead. So with our properly fitting DOT approved helmets on, let us carve right into the meat of the proper fitting of a motorcycle.

    First and foremost, you want to be able to plant your feet flat on the ground, without having to shift around in the seat. Flat meaning both heels and all, not just the front part of your feet or one foot down and the other partially down. Why is this important? For one thing, when coming up to a stop you will be far better off being able to plant both feet down as you roll up to said stop. Especially when there is that unexpected patch of oil or sand that you might plant a foot in. If you should slip and the bike begins to capsize, your chances of recovery increase with a bike you can flat foot from the get go. If you have to lean a bike over to plant a foot on the ground, guess what happens as that bike leans over even more as said foot slips in said oil...if you answered that it leans over more as you struggle to find another secure footing position, then award yourself one Beginner Biker point. If you also guessed that as the bike leans over more it succumbs to gravity easier all the while searching for better footing, award yourself five additional Beginner Biker points. One more item, make sure you can also flat foot the bike while parked with the sidestand down. It's nice to be able to have enough room to reach the ground on the other side while the kickstand is down and have a frim support as you raise the stand, if you're "pushing" it over onto the other foot while executing the sidestand maneuver you're depending upon balance to keep the bike from capsizing one way or the other, and I've seen people fail on this maneuver more than once. If you drop the bike due to poor fitment, deduct ten Beginner Biker points. I said it before in forums everywhere, "If you've ever found yourself on a too-tall machine at a slippery intersection, you know you'd trade in all the shiny chrome in the world for more secure footing." I owned such a bike once, and man was that ever an understatement.

    Next up is the handlebars. While sitting on the bike in an upright position (with both feet planted firmly), turn the front end from full left to full right. Make sure that you aren't stretching/straining your arms or digging your elbows into your ribcage during this exercise. Also make sure you can squeeze both levers at any point of the movement, because it's important to be able to use the clutch and brake while turning. Repeat with a friend or sales associate holding the bike up from behind and with your feet on the foot pegs (or floorboards). Make sure the handlebars don't pin your knees to the tank. If your knees are pinned to the tank in a full lock position while negotiating parking lot maneuvers, if you ever need to plant a foot down in an emergency you won't be able to as the handlebars will prevent your leg from moving outward in such a situation. That means both you and the bike capsize, and that answer is worth another two Beginner Biker points.

    One more major fitting point is the foot pegs or floorboards. Can you comfortably reach and operate the controls? If not changing gears and braking could be compromised. Also be sure that you can easily move your feet from the pegs to the ground and back. If the pegs are awkward feeling during this movement you might need to consider a different riding stance or simply look for an alternate model that does feel more cozy.

    The last item up is to take a good look at all the indicators. Is the speedo easy to see, or are you pushing your chin into your chest/straining to see over the handlebars? How about the "idiot lights", are they in plain view or do you find yourself tilting or moving your head to see all of them? These are all useful items that you'll want to access with a simple glance rather than adjusting your position for.

    Now then, let's just say for the sake of argument that you find a particular motorcycle that you just can't live without, but it just doesn't quite fit you perfectly. Can that bike be tailored to fit you via the aftermarket? If you reply yes, award yourself ten bonus Beginner Biker points. In most cases many items can be found in the aftermarket to assist in the riding position, but make sure you do the research prior to purchasing the bike, because if you bring the bike home first and then can't find any or all of the desired items needed, you lose all your accumulated BB points. For example, if you're coming up a little short on the flat footing, a lower profile seat or lowered rear suspension can help out there. If the handlebars are just a bit far from you taller risers can be had, some manufacturers such as Honda use the same bolt pattern on all their cruiser risers so they're interchangeable. For example: the taller pullback styled 1100 Shadow Spirit risers can replace the short straight ones on the 600 Shadow VLX and bring that handlebar a tad higher and closer for a vertically challenged rider. And the foot controls can often be interchanged from model to model as well, or if you find yourself cramped a taller replacement handlebar is easily obtainable and forward controls (foot peg/control relocation kits) are available for most cruisers. And the same holds true for the sport bikes as well, replacement pegs/controls and clip on/standard handlebars are available as well, along with some methods of lowering too.

    So in summary, find some machines that you can flat foot and comfortably reach all the controls. And if a particular machine doesn't quite fit, find out what can be done to make it fit. All that considered, I would still recommend buying a bike that fits from the get go, because it's much more fun to ride that bike right away rather than waiting for replacement parts to arrive. And that's worth all the points in the world over not being able to ride that beckoning new acquisition.

    Shadow Shack can be emailed through his profile if you would like to redeem any accumulated Beginner Biker points

    "Customarily Minded Machine of the Month"

    This month's featured Customarily Minded machine is something from outside the realm of cruiserdom. Well, sort of anyways...it's a ZL-600 Eliminator which was Kawasaki's limited contribution to the non V2 cruiser market. The 600 Eliminator started life as a chrome laden 600R Ninja powered machine, available in black w/ghost flames or yellow w/colored flames.

    This sample received headlight and chin fairings along with replacing the tall OEM "Mickey Mouse" shaped mirrors with something in a lower profile, a streamlined seat was added and the low slung cruiser mufflers were exchanged for a 4-2-1 (4 into 2 into 1) sport can. The bike was blacked out from the rear fender rails to the fork lowers and the aluminum wheels to feed the menacing look. Performance shocks were added out back and a steering damper was added to assist in the twisties. No doubt the ex-Ninja mill received some tweaks as well, resulting in a clean and race ready street fighter.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Does This Bike Fit Me? started by Shadow Shack View original post
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