Disharmony with your dirt bike often results in poor technique, frustration and occasionally throwing in the towel for riding altogether.
Finding the sweet spot to all-around riding comfort takes time, a bit of troubleshooting and sometimes an upgrade in parts. An uncomfortable ride often results in arm pump, cramping and fatigue. Riders though tend to live with factory set-up and roll the throttle with little to no problem...for a time.
However, once racing or long trail rides come into play grasping a misaligned clutch lever repeatedly takes its toll. Eventually, it hurts! Even more importantly, you might not know you have a problem until you fiddle with adjustments. Think of it like walking around with a useless heavy sack you grew accustomed to and finally realized your full potential after letting it go.
Therefore, when determining adjustment needs, best practice begins with a test run. Sometimes, simply sitting on the bike and gripping before heading out offers clues. Terrain also plays a part but riding, adjustments, riding again and so on offers the only way to find an accommodating mount on the bike. When you hear pro riders say they feel comfortable that's through hours of testing including tweaks to individual components that eventually provide confidence and security to handle whatever the track throws at them.
So, what simple adjustments can you control to make riding more comfortable? All of the below affect how you sit and grip the bike:
Don't bother with adjusting everything all at once, make small adjustments and work your way, rather, feel your way from the handlebars to the brake and clutch levers on down. Keep in mind if you adjust one expect to adjust another. For example, if you reach too far for the handlebars and adjust them backwards you have also changed location of the levers so assume some adjustments to realign with your grip.
Start with the bars centered to grasp the initial feel. Typical adjustments to the handlebars include moving them forward or backwards. The bend also affects the feel but you can't adjust the bend unless you buy a new set of bars. You can adjust the height of the bars by installing aftermarket bar mounts.
Brake and Clutch Lever Adjustments
The brake and clutch levers offer several avenues of adjustments including the forward and backward reach, changes to the cable and lever free play, also the up and down settings of the perch. The type of lever also affects adjustability.
You don't actually "adjust" the grips but rather find the right feel. Different compounds and the contact patch (thickness of the grip) affect the feel. Some riders prefer a full waffle grip others find a thin one-third grip works better.
Brake and Shift Pedals
The brake and shift pedals (or lever) at your feet generally offer only up and down adjustments. When ironing the kinks out on the pedals wearing the boots you ride with helps. Some aftermarket pedals allow forward and backward modifications.
Generally, foot pegs remain static however size matters for some riders thus smaller or larger aftermarket pegs make all the difference. Additionally, some pegs allow for placement further forward or backwards on the bike but otherwise have little wiggle room.
More elaborate adjustments include changes to the suspension and wheel base. Change the suspension through the clickers and rear shock sag. An inch forward or backwards to the wheel base also helps with set up just remember any adjustments to the rear tire's position requires a longer or shorter chain.
Modifications to the fork height, using an aftermarket triple clamp set, helps with overall handling and addresses height/stance issues.
Finally, you can cut and shorten the subframe, it's a bit drastic and if warranted find someone who knows how to do it and once done expect additional modifications to the suspension once complete.
Ultimately bike comfort comes down to experience and individual needs. Taller riders have a different set-up then shorter riders, the same goes for limb length. In the end, personal preference determines your overall dirt bike set up, so make adjustments that allow you to ride comfortably and at your best. Ricky Carmichael rode handlebars positioned low and pulled back.
It worked for him.
Written By: AndrewT