Get Fitted Up Your Motorcycle !

Forget any idea of "one size fits all". Your bike has to fit you just right if you want to have precision control. To change down smoothly under braking, your front brake and clutch levers must be positioned right. For smooth starts and slick changes the clutch bite point needs to be set right. A badly set gear-shifter can make you wobble and your changes slow up or down the box. Little things do matter. Even two people the same size may need to set a bike differently to fit differences in arm, leg and trunk lengths as well as riding style and personal preference.

Fitted Up Your Motorcycle

Adjusting the controls "spot on" gives you optimum control with maximum comfort. Each control action does its own job without disturbing balance or weight distribution, in an emergency that can be the difference between staying in control and coming off.

So let’s look at how to do it.

Set that Front Brake

- We want instant braking

- Good "feel"

- Easy throttle blipping for smooth down changes

OK, in your normal ‘at speed’ body posture, reach out for the brake. It needs to be angled so that it "falls to hand". Try it eyes closed. If the lever is too high your wrist will bend up uncomfortably and it will be even worse as you lean back into your braking posture. If the lever is too low, it might feel OK in your sit up braking posture but it won’t fall naturally to hand at speed.

Once you have found the small range of rotation of the lever that feels right for just braking, work on braking and blipping the throttle at the same time. Most times you do this, you will be in sit up posture under firm braking, slowing for a curve, but just occasionally you will want to brake and downshift while maintaining your ‘at speed’ posture. (I find this happens when aborting a passing maneuver and getting ready for the next chance).

Riding with 2 fingers covering the brake is a recommended technique – but it may require a different setting.

Perfect blipping is most critical when under heavy braking because that’s when rear tire is lightly loaded you are most likely to break traction with a bad downshift, so bias your final setting to favor this situation.

Set the Clutch

Easier than setting the brake lever because your left hand only has one job. For me precision clutch control is most demanding when maneuvering at walking pace, so I want the angle set for that.

The other thing to adjust is the clutch biting point. Two things are important here: low speed maneuvering and quick downshifts at speed. To get quick shifts, I want the clutch disengaged with only a part squeeze on the lever, not have to pull it up to the grip. For maneuvering and stopstart city traffic, you want the ‘just engaging’ point of the travel at the most comfortable and controllable amount of squeeze. Bikes with a heavy clutch or a long, draggy action can be a pain! One thing is for sure, you’ll always ride better with your best compromise setting than the way it came. And if it is still a pain, maybe you should see if there are any upgrades or modifications available for your model.

Set the Rear Brake

If you thought adjusting hand controls was fiddly, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

The rear brake is the third control that needs ‘feel’ and feedback to the rider. Motorcycles vary in the pedal pressure and travel that’s needed. You only need enough pressure to squeal, not lock(!), the rear tire at 70mph. The brake may be capable of more than this but you won’t ever be able to use it, even with a failed front brake. If you have the confidence and control to rear tire squeal from 70mph down to 20mph, I congratulate you. You truly are a rear brake maestro. If not, please don’t start practising at 70 mph unless you are feeling suicidal!

Unless you are a maestro already, set your brake for maximum comfort and control when using it fairly gently for low speed work and slippery conditions.

The correct way to make adjustments may not be obvious, check out the manufacturer’s instructions in the manual. Make adjustments a little at a time. Remember that a pedal set too low could reduce ground clearance and the available lean angle. Look what other settings (peg position for example) are available on your model.

Set the Gear Shift

There is probably more variation in travel, weight, feel, crispness and adjustment in gearshifts than in any other motorcycle control. Just be glad you are not forced to use hand gear selection that was popular in the old days. Read the manual to see how to make adjustments. Aim to be able to make quick, clean shifts both up and down without repositioning your foot or straining your ankle. Be aware of possible ground clearance issues.

When you reckon you have got the right setting just do a quick check to make sure selecting first at standstill with your other foot down still feels OK. This move is different because you are unbalanced and out of the normal body position. Sports bikes can be a bit awkward and tiring to ride in the city unless you get it right.

I hope you have got your bike set up to suit you now. I promise it will make a major improvement to your comfort and control. As you get familiar with the new feel, give yourself a little time to settle in, but don’t be afraid to make further minor adjustments that get the total package working in harmony.

Setting the bike for precision control is groundwork advanced riding.