Winter doesn't seem like a great time to improve your riding. Sure, there are books to read and videos to watch on technique, but not really much you can do, right? Wrong! Riding a motorcycle, particularly sport or track riding, takes a great degree of physical fitness. If you find yourself wearing out 15 minutes into a 20 minute session, you've got a hole in your game that has nothing to do with your tire pressures or what oil you use. If you want to get the most out of your machine, the best place to start is with the nut connecting the seat to the handlebars. Here are 3 exercises to improve your motorcycle riding:
Not everybody has time to make it to the gym regularly, but that's no reason to stop you from preparing yourself to have your best season ever this year. Here are three exercises you can do in a few minutes at home that will pay dividends on the bike, once salt and sleet give way to sunshine and spring.
Targeted Muscles: Glutes, Hams, Quads
Rounds and Reps: 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps, alternating each leg
Why Am I Doing This? Few exercises can do so much for you in such a short amount of time as the lunge. They target the three major muscle groups in the upper leg, emphasize a stable core, improve balance, and take your hip flexors through a full range of motion. They have the added benefit of exercising each leg independently, working to combat the natural muscular asymmetry that most of us have. Strong hamstrings, glutes and quads are essential to maintaining a strong and steady position on the bike, particularly mid-corner and while on the brakes.
Get Busy: Start the exercise standing with feet together and arms at your sides. Then step broadly forward with one leg while lowering the opposite knee until it just kisses the ground. Yes, all the way to the ground! Your step forward should be long enough that your knee does not travel forward past your toes. Once you're all the way down, push through the heel of your forward leg to drive yourself back to a standing position. Repeat with the other leg, and that's one rep. The movement should be fluid and quick, but controlled. Remember that balance is a part of this exercise.
On the Gas: If you find you can get through 20 sets with each leg without a problem, try holding something heavy while you do it. A cinder block will do.
Targeted Muscles: Glutes, Hams, Quads (again)
Rounds and Reps: 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps
Why Am I Doing This? Squats are normally something you think of doing at the gym with a barbell, but don't overlook the lowly air squat. They are a perfect exercise to increase your range of motion, train correct form, and increase your muscles' resistance to fatigue. They are the deep-flexion companion to The Lunge, and will put your legs closer to the position you have on a sport bike.
Get Busy: Start standing again with feet shoulder width apart, and toes pointed slightly out. Start the movement by sending your hips back slightly, then bending your knees to allow your hips to track downward. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the range of motion. Lower yourself until your hip crease is at or below the level of your knees, keeping the majority of your weight on your heels. Your heels should never leave the ground, and your knees should track directly over your feet (not collapsing inward). Again, your knees shouldn't go forward of your toes. Once at the bottom, drive through your heels to stand back up. Strive to get as low as you can while maintaining good form, paying particular attention to your knees, heels, and keeping a neutral spine.
On the Gas: If you're getting through 5 sets of 20 without trouble, go get that cinder block again.
Targeted Muscles: Obliques, Abs
Rounds and Reps: 2-3 sets of 20-30 reps, each side
Why Am I Doing This? There are no shortage of ab exercises you can do at home, but I chose the Mason Twist because it targets the often-overlooked obliques, while still requiring support from the abs. Abdominal flexion (think crunches, leg raises) is something most people who train are already doing, but less often do people think to train the muscles that flex your abdomen laterally and rotationally. Sitting off the side of a motorcycle in a corner requires a huge amount of stability from muscles that aren't commonly taxed in normal life, so it is helpful to train them to be up to the task. Contrary to what most of the fitness magazines will tell you, ab exercises won't give you a six pack (those are made in the kitchen), but they will give you a stronger and more stable core to support all of your daily activities.
Get Busy: Start seated on the ground with your legs out in front of you. Lean your torso back 30-45 degrees, and bending your knees, raise your heels 4-6 inches off the ground. Now clasp your hands together, and rotate your torso until you can touch them to the ground on your left side. Twist back over to touch them on the right. That's one rep.
On the Gas: If you're getting through 3 sets of 30 with no trouble, it's time to grab something heavy. For Mason Twists, you'll want to use something fairly light and easily held, like a basketball, medicine ball or similar. Use a baby, in a pinch. You can also try keeping your legs straight out in front of you for an extra spicy variation.
Knocking out each of these three exercises a few times a week during the offseason will pay huge dividends once you're back aboard your bike in the spring. Even if you can't make it to the gym (and who wants to fight the crowds of Resolutioners anyway?), there's no reason you can't start working to prepare yourself physically. Finally, if you find yourself enjoying this routine and want to add a challenge, consider purchasing a couple medicine balls and/or kettlebells to use at home. They're a small investment that can open up a huge variety of home exercise possibilities.