Motorcycle Riding Positions – Detailed Guide

Troy
| Last Updated: May 19, 2021

Speedy Moto is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Your body position when riding a motorcycle is more important than you think.

An uncomfortable posture can lead to discomfort, aches, and pains. Poor riding position will also lead to tense muscles, which in turn will affect your handling ability and reaction time. 

We’ll take a look at the correct riding postures.

Motorcycle Riding Positions: TL;DR

Before we head into the detail of each position, here’s a quick overview of what we’ll be covering. You can browse over this quickly to see what each section entails.

Position

Description

Standard Riding Position

Natural, neutral position

Sports Bike Riding Position

Leaning forward with chest on tank

Cruiser Riding Position

Relaxed, leaning back

Scooter Riding Position

Upright, arms at 90°

Dirt Bike Riding Position

Adapt to terrain

Adventure Riding Position

Upright, arms bent to handlebars

Motorcycle Riding Positions

Let us take a look at the correct riding postures and put them into context. Different types of motorcycles call for different postures.

Photo Credit: Reddit.com

Standard Riding Position

This is an ideal position for riding in many ways. Known as the standard position, this was the traditional posture used by motorcyclists from the beginning. In this position, the body posture is the most neutral, not leaning forward or back. The upright stance means that your vision is directed straight ahead, neither looking upward nor downward. 

This position allows for a relaxed and more comfortable posture, resulting in a less tiring ride. This position also allows for a good level of control over the bike in most situations and is unlikely to cause strain.

Photo credit: motorcyclecruiser.com

Body Position

Your arms will be extended in front of you, but not fully extended, and this will allow for a relaxed position, with enough flexibility for movement in the arms. Your legs will be straddling the bike, with your knees placed on either side of the tank, and bent in such a way that they too aren’t overly extended. 

Your feet should be able to rest perpendicular to the pedals, with ease of movement. You should be able to stand on the footpegs when necessary, without difficulty. The upright position will mean that there will be some air resistance at speed.

Best For

This position is most suited to traditional motorcycles. Most touring and road motorcycles allow for this type of posture, as do some off-road, and semi-off-road bikes. Delivery bike riders also use this riding position. 

Sports Bike Riding Position

The sports riding position is totally different from the standard one. The rider adopts a leaning forward stance with the upper body and is generally lower than normal. Vision too is different in that the rider will be looking forward with the head raised, and your height of vision is also lowered, meaning that your distance of vision ahead is less. 

Aerodynamically, the position is superior, in that your frontal profile is reduced, thereby reducing drag from wind resistance. Another advantage is that your center of gravity will be lower, which will be an aid when cornering, allowing the bike to lean further over without becoming unstable.

Photo credit: hondaprokevin.com

Body Position

You’ll be sitting lower on the bike, by design. Leaning forward, your chest will be resting on the fuel tank, with your knees drawn up beside it. The forearms will be bent. Your legs will be bent more, and your feet slightly behind the knees when on the footpegs. 

The position dictates that your back muscles will be supporting your upper body, so there will probably be a strain on longer journeys. Ideally, you should keep your ears, shoulders, and hips in line. Avoid hunching the back, as this will lead to more discomfort.

Best For

This position is best for sport bikes and motorcycle racing. Most manufacturers offer sportbikes, including Ducati, Triumph, Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this riding position, but clearly, overall comfort isn’t one of the advantages. Handling and increased speed are advantages.

Cruiser Riding Position

Cruising bikes allow for a relaxed-looking, laid-back style of posture. While similar in outward appearance to the standard position, this one is quite different, as you’ll see. The lower position on the bike may aid your center of gravity, but that can be negated by the higher position of the upper body and outstretched arms. 

Your physical size and shape will also determine whether this position will be comfortable for you, so you may have to make some adjustments to your posture to accommodate this.

Photo credit: c-magazine.com

Body Position

The body position on a cruiser is relaxed, with the upper torso leaning further back than the traditional position. The arms are outstretched to the handlebars, limiting the flex in the arms. Vision is still straight ahead, through the arms and handlebars. Your lower legs will be angled more forward to reach the footpegs and controls, which are placed further forward on a cruiser. 

Standing on the footpegs will be virtually impossible without pulling on the handlebars, which isn’t an ideal situation. Cruiser bikes generally have lower seats, so your legs would be straighter and your feet flat on the pedals.

Best For

This position works best for cruiser bikes, such as Harley-Davidson, and some Japanese cruiser-style motorcycles. The posture can be relaxed, but this is also dependent on your body dimensions and your weight. If you feel comfortable in this position on short trips, then longer journeys shouldn’t present a problem to you.

Scooter Riding Position

This calls for a completely different style of riding posture. The main criteria here is that you try to keep your forearms as parallel to the ground as possible, with your upper arms at a right angle to the forearms. Position your body around the placement of your arms. 

It doesn’t really matter whether you sit forward or further back on the seat, a lot of that will be dictated by your physical size anyway. Place your feet flat on the floorboards, anywhere is fine, as long as they don’t protrude over the sides of the floor.

Photo credit: visordown.com

Body Position

Your body should be upright, with your arms bent at 90°, and your forearms parallel to the ground. Your legs will be bent at the knees, with your feet flat on the floorboards, kept inside of the edges. The head will be upright, allowing for clear vision ahead. 

The length of the seat allows you limited movement for more comfortable positioning forward or to the rear and altering your upper body posture to a position that suits you. Generally, this position does allow a good level of control over the scooter.

Best For

This is suited to scooter riding. A fairly comfortable position, with the added advantage that your legs are protected to a degree by the floorboard. Most scooters, for example, Vespa, are of a very similar design, so this posture is suitable for just about any scooter on the market.

Dirt Bike Riding Position

There are many kinds of dirt bike riding positions. Start off with the standard position. Before long, and depending on where and how you’re riding, you could find yourself standing on the footpegs, sitting back on the seat, or forward on top of the tank. 

You’ll be using your body a lot more to control the dirt bike than any other form of a bike, which means you get a workout too. Generally, dirt bikes are quite high, so those with shorter legs may find difficulty in reaching the ground with their feet.

Body Position

The basic position will be the standard one, but as your ride gets rougher, you will need to adapt your posture to whatever situation you find yourself in, moment by moment. Depending on the terrain you’re riding in, you could be constantly changing your position on the bike, and any wrong moves could lead to an awkward fall. 

The positions can hardly be described as comfortable, but more of you becoming one with the bike. You’ll be controlling the dirt bike with your entire body.

Best For

This is best for off-road or all-terrain activity. That could involve trail rides, off-road, ice, and snow, hillclimbing, or any other form of riding on an uneven or changing ground.

This applies to both off-road and semi off-road bikes. Dirt bike manufacturers are abundant, with KTM, Husqvarna, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Honda being the most prominent.

Adventure Riding Position

Photo credit: offgridweb.com

Adventure bikes are built for long-distance riding, on either tar or dirt surfaces. Your posture should be similar to the standard position, with a neutral lean. The seat on an adventure bike may have a lower point somewhere just behind the tank, and that, ideally, is where you want to be sitting to begin setting up your posture. 

As you may be riding over a long distance, it’s important to find that comfortable setup as early as possible. You may be changing your position during the ride, depending on the terrain.

Body Position

With your pelvis seated in the lowest point on the seat, keep your torso as upright as possible. Your arms should be bent slightly, and the reach to the handlebars should be comfortable. 

Avoid hunching your back, as this will lead to tension and discomfort. You should easily be able to stand on the footpegs if necessary and to change your position for more control in certain situations. 

Best For

This is suited for adventure bike riding, which invariably means long distances on varying surfaces. It’s important, therefore, to find a position that suits you. Body size and weight are factors in finding the ideal position on an adventure bike. Notable adventure bike brands are BMW and KTM.

How to Determine Your Ideal Motorcycle Riding Position

There are a few factors that’ll influence you in finding the best position on a motorcycle, and here are some of the more important ones.

Your Body Size and Weight

If you’re small in stature, there will obviously be some motorcycles that you shouldn’t consider if you want to be comfortable and in control. If you’re sitting on a bike and can’t touch the ground with both feet at the same time, then that’s probably not the bike for you. 

Similarly, a heavy bike, such as the Kawasaki Z1300, will be a handful for a small rider due to its weight, and even a heavyweight will struggle to pick one up if it falls over.

On the flip side, if you’re of a particularly large build, a tiny 125cc road bike won’t be comfortable at all. You’ll be hunched over, with knees and elbows all over the place, and we can’t imagine that to be very appealing.

Adjust the Bike to Suit You

So do you do when you find a seating position that more or less feels comfortable but isn’t quite perfect? Most motorcycles have adjustable handlebars and footpegs. Set those to your preference, after all, that is why they’re adjustable. 

If you’re missing an inch or so in reaching the ground with your feet, have a look at your suspension settings. The majority of bikes will have a setting ring on the rear shock absorbers that can slightly raise or lower the ride height as required.

Try It Out

If you’re about to purchase a bike, sitting on it in the showroom may feel comfortable at first, but taking it for a ride will reveal a lot more. Your seating comfort may feel good standing still, but what will it feel like while cornering, braking, and accelerating? 

Can you comfortably move the bike with your feet while sitting on it? All these are factors to be considered, and they can only be understood by a test ride.

Relax Your Posture

If you’re tensed up, no position is going to feel comfortable. Try to relax and allow yourself to become more supple. Try and maintain a straight back at all times, not only when riding. A slouched posture will lead to an unnatural riding position and will certainly result in back pain after even a short ride.

What is the Comfort Triangle and How Do You Find Yours?

The comfort triangle refers to the three main body parts that have contact with the motorcycle, namely, your hands, buttocks, and feet. You’ll want your feet to remain secure while being in a comfortable position for your rear.

You can find the best hand position by letting someone hold the bike for you, closing your eyes with your feet on the pegs, and reaching out for the handles. When you find the right position, open your eyes to memorize it. It shouldn’t place any extra strain on your lower back or butt.

Photo credit: cycleworld.com

Benefits of a Proper Riding Position

The correct riding position can only be beneficial to you. Below we’ll go into the reasons why.

Safety

Being able to comfortably reach and operate the controls and pedals is crucial. You need to access and fully manage all the controlling functions of your bike. Make sure the reach is comfortable without over-extending limbs or incurring cramps from controls that are too close.

Handling

You need to adopt a position that maximizes your ability to handle the motorcycle. Keep your center of gravity low on sportbikes, or adopt a higher stance for more control of a dirt bike. Make sure that you can easily lean a bike when cornering. A light person struggling to make a 700lb monster lean over is a recipe for disaster.

Speed

The reason sport bikes are designed the way they are is to keep the rider as low as possible, hence the almost crouched riding position. This keeps the rider’s and bike’s total frontal area to a minimum, reducing wind resistance as much as possible. The position allows the rider to “hug” the bike more tightly for precise cornering and handling. 

Comfort

You also want to be comfortable while riding, so you should choose a position that suits you, based on the aspects above.

Conclusion

We have discussed the various riding positions and where they should be used. Your comfort and your safety are important if you’re to continue enjoying your riding experience. Remember that you can also adjust your bike to suit your preferences and not just conform to the bike.

People Also Ask

Here are some common questions that riders ask. We hope the answers will help you.

Is Riding a Motorcycle Bad for Your Back?

It doesn’t have to be. Adopting the correct posture for the specific type of bike will help eliminate discomfort. Remember to keep your back as straight as possible, and try to relax. Tension will lead to back pain, so use a position that’s comfortable.

How Do Motorcycle Parts Help in Maintaining Proper Riding Posture?

All your control parts on a motorcycle are adjustable. Handlebars, brake and clutch levers, brake pedal, gear lever, and even the controls on the handlebars are all adjustable, to assist you in finding the optimum riding setup.

Does Riding a Motorcycle Build Muscle?

It depends on the type of bike, but most riding will lead to developing muscle strength to a varying degree. Dirt bike riding, for example, can be quite punishing to the unfit. In time, you’ll notice that certain muscles are becoming more developed.

Troy

Hi, my name’s Troy. I started riding motorcycles with Clay mid-2020 and soaking up his vast knowledge of bikes. I have been writing for a few years and decided it was a good time to start writing about what I’m passionate about - motorcycles. No matter how bad your day is, a bike will always make you feel better, that’s my motto.