I should be sleeping so that I can put in a full day at the show but I think the excitement of the show has engendered a bit of insomnia, for which I think I may have found a cure. Those stairs you see in the picture...they've become a no-drug solution to bouts of sleeplessness. Funny thing is, if I do the stairs at the start of the day, it's like a jolt of caffeine directly in the veins. I'm bolted alert and feel as if I can leap tall buildings. If, however, I attack the stairs anytime after 6pm, I will drop off to lala land in minutes of sitting or reclining. I'm comfortable climbing 20 flights and descending 21. This is not easy. It takes about 45 stairs to comprise one floor. Descending is a lot tougher on the legs than ascending. But I'm not complaining, really. I'm seeing progress and there are some benefits to riding. What's that? Endurance.
The weights? I've always dabbled in lifting weights, mostly free weights and for the last year or so, I've been fairly consistent. I workout at home and alone. Why free weights? First, I think they force you to master better form. Second, machines require that I visit a health club, which always seems more like a visit to a meat market--I'm a vegetarian. I'd rather have my nose hairs yanked out than go to such places! I'm not the only one professing a link between fitness/lifting weights and riding certain types of bikes. A number of motorcycle instruction books advance a similar fitness argument for sport bike riders. Lee Parks, Total Control: High Performance Street Riding Techniques," is one excellent example to check out for a discussion on "motorcycle-specific fitness."
I've been lifting weights long before my re-newed interest in motorcycling and I'm finding many rider benefits too. Sitting on a sporty-standard/naked is a lot different than sitting on the more laid back cruiser. My seating position on Queenie is upright. On a long trip, my lower back can scream and send shooting pain to my brain if I have been remiss in exercising that area. I must keep my thoracolumbar fascia strong, which is a challenge when the pain is chronic. I have no choice, I must keep this area flexible. Even though at times I don't want to move, I remember that the pain is far greater when I allow the stiffness to set in, then it's like trying to bend cement with only your mind.
On my SV650, my legs are positioned similarly to that of a bicycle racer. The peroneus longus and the extensor digitorum longus need to be sinewy, pliable and able to withstand being in a flexed position throughout a long ride. The entire group of vastus muscles need to be in top form. The balls of my feet rest on the foot pegs, as opposed to my legs being extended forward and my feet resting on floor boards. I need to maintain excellent soleus and Achilles tendon function to ride long with a grin on my face rather than stress on my leg muscles and tendons. My hands grasp the grips but it is important to avoid tension there or in my arms and shoulders. The neck region should remain relaxed because tense muscles interfere with facile movement, engender fatigue, restrict enjoyment and most important, preclude the body from being able to respond easily, effectively and instantly when a situation demands it. But a head is heavy thing. Add to it a helmet and the neck muscles are supporting a lot of weight over 300 + miles. We riders need to avoid jerky and stiff movements in favor of smooth, fluid, and deliberate movement. Yet we need to be quick, ready to swerve and brake on a dime. We can't afford to fight ourselves, which is what tight, tense and unfit muscle require.
Sitting at a computer all day, I have noticed that I have a propensity to tighten my shoulder area, specifically the trapezius muscles. Mine are brick hard--not a desired outcome by any means. I now try to stay aware of when I'm tensing that area as doing so affects all upper body responses. My throttle hand is damaged. Inside my wrist, extending to the lower arm is 6 inch titanium implant that holds my wrist together. In a couple of months I'll pass the two year mark since I "shattered" my wrist and broke my lower ulna (not a motorcycle related injury). Even though I do wrist curls and all the associated upper and lower arm exercises, my wrist still rebels on long trips sometimes. I have a throttle device that is supposed to ease hand fatigue but I've yet to use it--something about it doesn't click with me. I mean, I'm not convinced of its utility. Is it as easy to engage and disengage as the cruise control on my car? I've had a couple of nightmares about engaging the throttle gadget but not being able to release it. Scary, scary thought.
I think the point of all this is that while I've always tried to stay in good physical condition, the demands of riding my bike well require it even more. This I know is true: A strong body with good muscle function and good endurance will surely make the ride more enjoyable, particularly after putting in a 10 hour riding day. At the beginning of a riding season, a 100 mile ride feels more challenging than a 400 miles ride at the end of the season. If we've been riding throughout, we're in better riding shape by the end of the riding season. Our endurance has improved, our bodies have adapted and we can push ourselves more.
A major variable I've yet to mention is the effects of aging...I'm not who I used to be. None of us is. If we are lucky, "senior citizen" is the one minority group to which we will all become members. Running long distances now compared to even a few years ago is harder. I used to jog; now I plod. Each year the body changes, often surprising us in its swiftness. Unless you go the surgical route--no thank you--gravity will win out and muscles all over the body will begin to lose some of their elasticity and strength. Still, we have to forge ahead, do our part to maintain good balance, joint flexibility (standard bikes have higher seat heights than cruiser) and keep our lower back in good working condition--there is no pain like back pain--even child birth pales in comparison--IMHO.
I know for some this talk might seem like too much blather to think about when all we really want to do is ride our machines and have fun doing so. I get that. All I'm saying is that we can ride longer (assuming no encounters with insane cagers or mental lapses on our part) if we remember to lift, stretch, bend, flex, think, hydrate, sleep--and on that note.... if I'm going to enjoy the motorcycle show, I should get some shut-eye before I go.