By AJ Jacobsen
When it comes to racing motorcycles at the top end of the sport, I doubt that anyone would argue that fitness is a very important factor. Top racers are honed athletes, and they train like it. For them, it may mean the difference between 1st and 4th place after a 20+ lap race.
But what about for the rest of us “mere mortals” who aren’t chasing national (or higher) level championships? What about for the average street rider who’s only goal is to go out and enjoy a Sunday ride through the canyons with their friends? Does fitness matter?
I would argue that yes, it can indeed make a huge difference. First off, let’s look at basic comfort on the bike. The more fit you are, the better able you will be to support your body, and to support it properly, without undue fatigue. That alone can make your ride far more pleasurable. Along with being able to properly support your own body, you are far less likely to have unwanted inputs, which will allow your bike to respond the way it was designed. A bike that is responsive and agile is far less work to ride.
These things also lead directly to safety issues. If you must react to an unexpected circumstance, being in the proper position, and having light inputs, can make the difference between safely avoiding a hazard or a crash. Even experienced riders, with thousands upon thousands of miles under their belts, can crash due to poorly executed inputs, which can sometimes be directly related to poor riding posture from a lack of fitness.
Going back to the issue of fatigue, being fit will allow a rider to relax more and enjoy their ride. The less you have to work at riding “properly,” the more attention you have available to watch the road, scenery, and keep an eye out for hazards. Less fatigue means more alertness. Endurance also means you will be as alert near the end of your ride as you were at the beginning. Rides don’t become safer the longer you are out, and your own fitness levels can make a long day in the saddle a pleasure – or a pain.
So, what should a rider looking to improve his or her fitness consider? First, I highly recommend working with a trainer/fitness professional. One who is familiar with riding is a bonus as they will have firsthand experience in what is required to be a safe, competent rider. Next, consider your riding style and bike. While some things are true regardless of these things, any specifics you have will help your trainer come up with a more targeted training plan. Finally, your ultimate goals. Are you just looking to trim up a bit and build some endurance? Or do you have higher goals of track days or even racing? The intensity of your workouts can be targeted to your end goals as well.
Whether you are an aspiring racer or just a cruising weekend warrior, your own fitness will play a key role in the enjoyment, and safety of your ride. You don’t ignore your bike’s maintenance and care, don’t neglect your own!