How to Physically Prepare For a Long Motorcycle Ride


Long motorcycle rides can be a ton of fun if you have:

  • the lungs of a gazelle
  • Jennifer Lopez bubbly butt
  • core muscle strength (lower back and abs) of a chimp
  • hamstrings as flexible as your favorite ballerina
  • shoulders like boulders

Most of us are lacking in these areas of “inner” strength and stamina.

During long motorcycle rides breathing is strained due to the bent position of the body, requiring strong lungs to pump in oxygen into the bloodstream and other organs. More oxygen means more energy and better health. Less oxygen leads to tiredness and lack of focus.

Try to remember the last time you had a stuffy nose, especially sinusitis. The lack of oxygen made you tired and irritated. You don’t want that feeling ever, especially on the bike when you need your brain to be in the best shape possible.

Strong glutes (butt) are important to protect the tailbone and lower back from pain that comes from sitting for too long, especially during bumpy rides.

Strong core muscles are important for their own sake, because if they’re weak we’re more likely  to suffer from pain or an injury. When we talk about core muscles, it’s primarily lower back and abs. These are also known as stabilizers, because they keep the torso in place, another important part of riding a bike.

Hamstring flexibility is very important because tight hamstrings are often responsible for lower back pain and pain through the entire leg. Tight hamstrings also place more pressure on the knees.

So if you want your long motorcycle rides to be pleasurable instead of painful and dangerous, try to improve these areas of your body by working them out.

I’ve worked as a personal trainer for a few years and have been training in the gym for a very long time, mostly powerlifting. I’ve learned a lot about stretching and exercise and I’d like to share from experience some exercises that can definitely improve your body if practiced consistently.

1. Improve endurance

I don’t know at what physical level you are. Everyone is different. So I can only offer you general advice in the hopes that you will implement it smartly by yourself or even better, with the help of a qualified personal trainer. 

To improve your lung capacity if you’re completely out of shape, I recommend simply walking for an hour every day and/or riding a bicycle.

If you’re somewhat in shape already, upgrade your endurance workout to jogging, swimming and/or cycling with a greater difficulty level. The elliptical machine and rowing machine are also good fitness devices for improving endurance.

It’s generally recommended to perform endurance workouts no more than 3-4 times per week for a non-athlete. Higher training frequency can lead to exhaustion and micro and macro injuries of muscles, tendons and ligaments.

To stay safe, follow the 70% rule. In other words, never do more than 70% of your maximum capacity. Gradually those 70% will become more significant and you will progress without any serious risk of injury.

2. Glutes (butt) strength

If you have a skinny and weak butt you are at serious risk of lower back pain, hip pain and various injuries. I should know because I have this problem myself, but I’m improving with each workout.

First of all, butts are largely genetic. Some people simply have a larger butt than others.

The second most important factor is bodyfat. If you’re skinny, your butt will be smaller. If you’re fat it will get bigger.

The third factor are the muscles in the area.

We can’t impact our genetics. But we can impact the amount of fat and the amount of muscle.

If you’re super skinny, perhaps you should pack on a few pounds for that fat to act as a defensive cushion. I don’t think anyone needs special advice on how to pack on weight. Just eat more!

If you’re happy with the amount of fat in your butt, consider training it with some bodyweight and weighlifting exercises. The best ones in my opinion are squats, glute raises and deadlifts. Three exercises are enough to have variety and make progress without over-complicating your workout. Simply focus on doing these exercises with good form and use progressive overload to make strength progress.

Squats:

Glute Raises/Glute Bridge:

Deadlift:

Progressive overload just means making an exercise progressively harder. So you can add more weight, more reps, sets, reduce rest between sets, perform a repetition more slowly etc. Anything that makes it (strategically) harder will lead to improvement over time. This is true for all other exercises and bodyparts as well, including endurance training.

Learn more: How to Avoid a Sore Bum When Riding a MotorcycleHow to Prevent Tailbone Pain from Motorcycle Riding

3. Core muscle strength

Some great exercises to improve core muscles are:

  • crunches
  • lower back extensions
  • leg raises
  • plank
  • deadlifts
  • squats

The first four exercises focus primarily on core muscles. They are often called “isolation” exercises because they are designed to train a specific muscle or muscle area. On the other hand, deadlifts and squats are known as “compound” exercises, as the entire body has to work in unison to perform the movement.

Deadlifts and squats are already part of the glute strengthening workout that I recommended above, so if you incorporate them in your butt workout you will be working out your core muscles at the same time, killing two birds with one stone so to speak. You can include the isolation exercises in your workouts as well for even better gains.

Learn more: Got Motorcyle Back Pain? The Ridbiker Belt Helps!

4. Hamstring and overall body flexibility

Most of us modern humans have incredibly tight hamstrings because we spend so much  time sitting. And when we walk, we usually do it on very smooth surfaces.

None of this stretches the hams! So you should really dedicate at least a few minutes to stretching the hamstrings every day, preferably in the morning after getting out of bed.

There are many sports stretches and yoga videos available on Youtube. My top recommendation however is less known but just as effective. It’s Qigong, the ancient Chinese form of light stretching and breathing.

I recommend learning the 8 brocades, one of the most popular Qigong routines of all time. It consists of 8 exercises, and it can be done without any equipment, anywhere:

These exercises, especially the first one in this routine is a great way to stretch during breaks. When you feel tense, simply climb of the bike do this routine and you’ll feel refreshed, relaxed and healthy as ever. I perform this routine every morning, and the more you practice the easier and effective both mental and physical results will be!

5. Shoulders like boulders

Shoulders are constantly tensed while riding a motorcycle. The position simply requires the hands to stretch forward, which activates the shoulders, especially the upper region.

Strengthening your shoulders will make it easier to hold them in this position for longer periods of time. I recommend the 8 brocades as a way to stretch and strengthen shoulders without any equipment. You can also do push-ups, chin ups and pull-ups to get some shoulder activation.

But the simplest and most powerful way to build shoulder strength is weight training. I recommend the shoulder press exercise and side shoulder raise exercise. The first one can be performed with a barbell or a dumbbell. The second one requires dumbbells.

Shoulder Press:

Shoulder Side Raise:

6. Avoid alcohol and stay hydrated

Drinking alcohol the day before a long trip is not the smartest idea you can think of. You will be dehydrated. Not completely, but enough to feel tired, irritated and thirsty all the time. I assume that you known the horrible nature of hangovers, so I’ll say no more. Pack a bottle or two of water to stay hydrated during the trip.

Learn more: How to Prevent Dehydration While Motorcycle Riding

Final Word: How to Physically Prepare for a Motorcycle Trip

These tips will not only improve your motorcycle rides but also your overall fitness levels and health. You will be a fit and cool guy or gal with more than one engine to brag about. Perform these exercises consistently at least 3 times per week, 45 minutes per workout and you will make noticeable progress in a few weeks time. Hope this helps!

Luka Barron

Motorcycle mechanic, writer and Heineken lover. A bit like Hank Moody on a Suzuki.

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