You’re probably riding a motorcycle all wrong, here’s why

WATERLOO, Ontario — Unless you’re an “average-sized” person, you’re likely going to sit on a motorcycle all wrong. Researchers from the University of Waterloo have discovered some very bad news for both short and tall motorcycle enthusiasts — their bikes aren’t ergonomically built for them.

The study, published in the journal Ergonomics, used computer software to predict the riding behaviors of motorcycle riders of all sizes. The review found that shorter and taller bikers need to make several more adjustments when it comes to all of their joints — including their ankles, knees, hips, and elbows. Simply put, it’s really hard for someone who isn’t “average” to get comfortable on a motorcycle.

Tall riders constantly have to fix their position and posture on the bike and flex their joints from discomfort. Meanwhile, shorter riders have even more trouble since there are fewer ways for them to adjust the seat, the handlebars, and foot pegs.

To come to this uncomfortable conclusion, the team turned to a digital human model (DHM), which served as a digital representation of a biker of any weight, size, or sex. From there, the team watched as simulations examined how different riders struggled with posture on the typical motorcycle.

“The use of DHMs in early two-wheeled motor vehicle design could help manufacturers improve safety, posture and comfort, in addition to saving costs,” says Justin Davidson, a Biomechanics PhD candidate in Waterloo’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, in a media release.

“If a vehicle manufacturer were to consider using DHMs earlier in their design, it could remove some of the earlier trial and error steps. We can change the design and improve it within the computer software before building anything, making it much cheaper in the long run.”

Justin Davidson, University of Waterloo PhD candidate, using a digital human model to analyze the posture of a motorcycle rider.
Justin Davidson, University of Waterloo PhD candidate, using a digital human model to analyze the posture of a motorcycle rider. (Credit: University of Waterloo)

The Waterloo team says they hope their findings help motorcycle companies update their designs to make a better ride for people who don’t fit the category of “average.” Researchers believe their DHM is the perfect “test dummy” for those changes since motorcycle ergonomics is a generally understudied field, Davidson adds.

“DHMs aren’t as commonly used as they could be, and their potential for early design intervention could be useful not only when applied to motorcycles but for sitting in a car or even sitting in your office,” Davidson concludes. “Part of our goal in this research is to try to move the field forward in a way that people can use DHM tools more confidently so that we can start intervening and making things better for people earlier on, hopefully making people safer and more comfortable.”

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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