Motorcycle Fitness 

Guest post by Ania Todua

Good health and fitness is important for all of us, but perhaps for riders it is even more essential. If you think riding a motorcycle is no big deal and anyone can do it, then you have another think coming. Motorcycle fitness is one of the key elements that determine a successful rider. For lack of it may not just hinder performance or lead to faster fatigue but also increase the rider’s risk factors while on the road. Fatigue and lack of fitness also means that less flexibility, control and maneuvering of the bike. All in all, a below average riding experience really. In order to negate all these bad effects on your riding, you need to go through a definite motorcycle fitness regime that will bring back the balance and power in your favor.

IMG_3457Even if you know all the correct riding techniques, without fitness or flexibility your performance will always be hindered. Fatigue and rigidity of the body leads to slower reflexes and reaction times, and over time these may even lead to psychological issues. Start with hydrating your body a lot since bike riding is a thirsty business, for your body. You don’t need to become a bodybuilder but you do need to hone and strengthen your muscles in order to maneuver the bike better. Motorcycle fitness leads to increased endurance so that you need less effort to control the bike and handle speed effectively. Riding at a stretch can leads to all kinds of aches and pains, and for a body which is not fit enough these could simply increase.

There are many ways you can start building up strength and increase your overall body fitness. You can choose one which best suits your schedule and time.

Cardio Fitness

Improving cardiovascular fitness is very essential to build up the strength and stamina. One needs to exercise at least 3 times a week at 20 minute sessions which will get the heart pumping. If you are new to the regime or haven’t been too regular this is the best way to start. Over a period of time the body will slowly get used to exercise, become fitter which will allow you to increase the duration of each session as well. When you feel your heart beating fast and your breathing heavy but not difficult then you should know that your pace is right. You want to push yourself but not to the point of collapsing. Invest in a heart rate monitor to keep track of your cardio workouts as well as improvements. Best cardio exercises include a mix of endurance with high-intensity swimming, running or cycling, yes it’s really that simple.

Strength Building

Any veteran rider will tell you how important muscle strength is for motorcycle riding. If you want to be an expert then you need to focus on strength building exercises beginning with your core muscles. These include the lower and upper back, shoulders, chest and abdomen. These will be the foundation for your overall body strength. Other than these you need to work on your stomach, inner thighs and forearms which are used constantly while riding. Focusing on these areas will lead to more stamina and decrease the level of fatigue over time. You can begin with 2-3 (30-40 minutes) sessions a week and slowly scale it up. Start with mediocre weights before you step things up. Remember, when it comes to strength training slow and controlled movements hold more sway. Adopt a regime of combination exercises like squats at times, and step-ups with dumbbells at other times and slowly adding leg curls to a stability-ball bridge.

Stretching

Jathlete-body-exercise-4077-825x550ust like you need a warm up before workouts, you need to do good stretching exercises to make your muscles free and supple after one. It removes the lactic acid that usually builds up during exercise, stretches the muscles and also cools them down. Do these in between your cardio routine so that your body gets more flexible and you have fun in the variety too. This flexibility goes a long way to improve rider performance and meet the G forces from braking, accelerating and turning, head on. You can also start doing Power Yoga which is a great way to make the body supple and flexible while building up strength. It helps one control his/her breathing and therefore leads to a relaxed body for a long time. Complementing your regular workouts with stretching the muscles of your legs and the lower torso will prevent cramps from happening frequently or easily.

A lot of riders use their legs to ride, control and manage their bikes since legs are stronger than the arms. But if one needs to do this well then full-body workouts focusing on making the legs stronger is what should be kept mind. While the muscles work to control and maneuver the bike, the nervous system remains super activated with the proprioceptive sensors so that balance and coordination is maintained at all times. Exercise also helps improve mental focus so that there is excellent brain and motor coordination at all times. Putting on a protective helmet is a must too, so that you are free from the fear and able to focus on the job in hand which is obviously to hit the road. On the other hand, aerobic exercises like cardio improves stamina while anaerobic exercises like strength training and weight lifting adds to one’s endurance.

Exercise lead to overall wellbeing as the heart and lungs become fitter than ever, oxygen and essential nutrients are transferred to various muscles more effectively. As you exercise regularly, you will begin to enjoy better body posture since a fitter body and ease of movement come hand in hand. You will also notice a marked increase in your joint and muscle strength so when you are riding you will find that shifting your weight around and balancing during the rides is super easy now. While riding a motorcycle, the entire body is involved and at times under stress. Other effective workouts involve crunches, push-ups, dips, bench press, bicep curls, triceps extensions, lateral shoulder rises among others. All these things will help you in getting yourself ready for all the challenges that you are going to have during your ride. In addition to this, just do not ignore the need of proper motorcycle gear such as armor jackets for optimum protection, body armors, helmets, riding boots. This is important because no matter how fit have gotten for the day, there’s always a chance for an odd incident to happen.

Very soon you feel see the difference in your body and overall health with a sense of wellbeing pervading your mind. Weight loss for those who have been overweight occurs as well, which too leads to better balance and strength. In fact, there is a kind of freedom, not having to worry about your bodily discomfort or ailments while riding. Your mind is now free to enjoy the ride and take in the sights and sounds better than ever before. All this is only possible when you have undergone a focused motorcycle fitness regimen.

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All the gear all the time…Brazilian style

Honda XRE 300I had the pleasure to spend a week in the Brazilian city of Recife for work recently. The weather was warm and the streets full of bikes. Every day during my taxi commute to the convention centre where I was working I observed the cool bikes we do not get on our roads, like the Honda XRE 300. I wondered if it would be a good light adventure bike. At a time when adventure motorcyclists are realising that bigger is not necessarily better, and CCM is trying to sell it’s (overpriced) 450 Adventure, maybe Honda would be wise to start importing the XRE 300 into the European market. With good suspension and a solid rack it would probably make a good, economic and reliable light touring bike.

As my taxi got stuck into the dense traffic, I also had the time to contemplate a disturbing Brazilian biker habit; riding with NO SHOES ON! That’s right, you read this correctly; most bikers in Recife decide that it is more comfortable to ride bare foot! Now, even though I’m an avid promoter of ATGATT (all the gear all the time), I can understand how in hot countries, where safety campaigns are non-existent, riders decide to ride in T-shirt. But no shoes…really!? Even the thickest, least educated person in the world must realise how dangerous that is! Brazilians are no less intelligent than the rest of us so I cannot understand why they do this.  I have ridden in many countries and it’s the only place I’ve seen this. I’ll leave it to you to imagine the damage caused by a crash, or even having to put the foot down while in motion to regain balance…

In their defence, they probably think that it is safer than to ride in flip-flops as many of them hang their sandals on their mirrors or foot-pegs while riding…safety first.

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A Night of Adventure – London 16 September 2013

IMG_5995Intrepid adventurers, a great charity and Austin Vince without his trademark overalls on a school night? That sounded exactly like what we needed to lift our spirits and inspire us now that summer is gone and pullovers have been dug out of the wardrobe.

A Night of Adventure, organised by the charity Hope and Homes for Children, brought together a panoply of inspiring adventurers to address a sold-out cinema room full of punters in search of their escapism fix. The format is well planned and brilliantly executed; each speaker presented a Pecha Kucha of their adventures; 20 slides, each 20 seconds.

Now multiple this by 14 and you have all the inspiration you’ll need to see you thought the winter! The lineup was impressive; to name only a few: Austin Vince who’s presentation was done in prose; Phoebe Smith, the editor of Wanderlust Magazine who has the dream job of being paid to go on adventures; Alastair Humphreys, creator of the event and National Geographic Adventurer of the year in 2012 and Debra Searle who, at the age of 35 has rowed solo across the Atlantic and was awarded an MBE. I must also mention Dick Willis who gave a brilliant presentation about his career in speleology, including exploring the “Great Crack”. All this talent was host by one of our favourite adventurer; Dave Cornthwaite, whom amongst other things has skate-boarded across Australia and swam 1001 miles along the Missouri River.

Here are a few of our favourite take-aways from the evening:
– take a photo tomorrow and tweet it to @davecorn using the hashtag #1000photos
– ‘adventure is just a decision to do something different’ @Leonmccarron
– the Duke Of Edinburgh award is a great way to inspire youngsters to go on adventures – Debra Searle
– Help other travellers you meet along the way – @mattonabike1
– You’ll come back remembering the good and bad times.  It’s not until you’re on the adventure that you can understand what it means to experience claw hand, sleep deprevation and busy shipping lanes – @explorerstweet
– ‘Do one thing a day that scares you’ Richard Harpham
– Extreme sleeping is all about finding the most remote places to wild camp. The only things in the UK that you need to worry about are cute sheep, ramblers and midges – Phoebe Smith
– write a bucket list of challenges you want to complete. Don’t think about what you haven’t done – Paula Reid

We recommend looking at the tweets from the evening using the hashtag #nightofadventure

All this on Leicester Square for only £20? Yes!

And it’s all for a great charity too. Hope and Homes for Children works with governments to close their orphanages through a process called Deinstitutionalisation by enabling children to return home to their families or into alternative, family-based services. This is a brilliant way to ensure better lives for children whose families have broken down based on the principle that institutionalising a child isn’t a solution; helping families keep their children is.

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A Night of Adventure is a yearly event, held in a few different UK cities so don’t miss the next one!

 

Blogging on the Road workshop

This post was created as part of a live demo during the Adventure Travel Film Festival 2013 ‘blogging on the road’ workshop we gave. We had some really interesting questions at the end of the workshop and have chosen three of them to update with full responses below! If anyone who attended the workshop (or anyone that reads this post) wants to ask more questions, please feel free to add a comment to the post and we will reply.

1. Can you set up any kind of email account with a WordPress blog?
Yes you can but this is not a straight forward wordpress.com service. We recommend clicking on the WordPress Support page for more information but what they offer is a means of connecting your email to your blog domain. You will need to create an email host through a provider and link it to your blog:

‘On WordPress.com we don’t provide email hosting, but you can connect email hosting from another provider to your custom domain.’

2. If you set up WordPress for free, can you add videos to your blog?
Yes you can, however you will need to upload them to a video platform first. WordPress.com offer video uploading but they will charge for this service. We recommend uploading your videos to YouTube and ‘embedding the link‘ in your blog post. The embedding link, which can be found on the YouTube page will appear as a video window in your post:

‘The VideoPress upgrade allows you to host and play videos right from your blog. VideoPress is priced per year and per blog. You can purchase it from the Store panel of your dashboard.

We currently support embedding videos from YouTube, Vimeo, HuluFlickr, DailyMotion, Viddler, Blip.tv, TED Talks, Educreations, Instagram, Vine, and Videolog.’

Having the video on YouTube creates another means of being found on the web.

3. Do you use iCloud to upload and save images?
David makes sure that all of his photos are backed up on iCloud but you need to be connected to wifi to access them.

iCloud is an Apple service and will therefore only work on Apple products (iphone/ipad). Using the ‘internet cloud’ as a means of storing photos is useful when you don’t want to carry a hard drive back up with you but if you don’t have internet access you won’t always be able to view/access them. If you want a non Apple service for storing photos (or data in general) online, we recommend using DropBox or check out the Top10 online storage options recommended online.

Demo of a live video: Hello from the ‘blogging on the road’ workshop (filmed on an iPad and uploaded via YouTube)

Horizons Unlimited Ripley 2012

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Anyone who dreams of faraway travels on a motorcycle will be familiar with Horizons Unlimited; the website set up by Susan and Grant Johnson for adventure bikers to share their stories. It is a real goldmine; from tips on how to pack light to intelligence about border crossings, everything you need to know is recorded there somewhere. I find that I visit the site at least once a day and I wonder how many hours of labour were “wasted” on it by office-bound professionals like me…

But once a year what you read on your computer screen becomes reality for a weekend when travellers meet in Ripley to inspire each other and make new friends. The 2012 edition was the first Louise and I participated in and we excitedly packed our panniers on the Thursday night in view of a “nice” ride to Ripley along the scenic M1. We were wound up because, in addition to the good times ahead, this would be our first day’s ride on our new motorcycles with most of the kit we will be taking to West Africa. A good opportunity to find out what works and what can be improved (see below).

Our ride up was accompanied by an unusual appearance of the sun; you know, that big ball of fire we last saw in April…yes that… until we entered the village of Ripley where we felt the first drops of what would become a very wet weekend. We were greeted by the very welcoming team of volunteers and quickly made our way to the campsite to pitch our tent before the downpour and then headed to our first seminar. The programme for the weekend was excellent; the only regret was that there were so many sessions we wanted to attend but so little time to do them all. We did make the most of those we went to and I particularly enjoyed Dave Lomax’s session “Overweight is Under Prepared”. It is unbelievable how light Dave travels; the sum of his possessions (clothing, medical kit, toolkit, tent, etc etc) all fit into a Giant Loop bag which he throws on the back of his Suzuki DRZ…that’s probably the size of only one of my panniers! Dave takes things to the extreme (he’s the first to admit it), going as far as drilling holes into his toothbrush to save weight. But he is a great source of inspiration for all of us. I have to admit that I now make it a personal challenge to travel as light as possible. We all love gadgets and that’s usually the reason why we overload our bikes, but travelling light and a love for gadgets are not incompatible. I would argue the contrary actually; adding the “lightweight” factor in our search for cool farkles makes it more interesting to find a solution that is both lightweight and multipurpose.

In preparation to the time we will spend in Morocco we attended Tim Cullis’ session. We are lucky enough to know Tim personally and he’s already given us his time to help us prepare our trip but his session was extremely interesting. Tim is a reference when it comes to riding in Morocco and I would suggest that anyone who likes adventure travel should read his website Morocco Knowledgebase. Morocco is unbelievably beautiful and welcoming and it also happens to be relatively close to the UK, so it is a big favourite. I have travelled through Morocco for 10 days in a Land Cruiser a few years ago but Tim’s presentation of all the different regions supported by pictures and videos proved there is so much more to see.

Ripley 2012 was a great opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones. We caught up with Alex Jackson from Kaapstad Motorcyle Adventure tours. We first met Alex at the Adventure Travel Film Festival last year and within minutes we were looking at a map of South Africa and taking notes of all the routes to ride, places to stay at and t people to meet. There’s no doubt that our trip was made unforgettable thanks to his knowledge. Alex told us fascinating stories of his last trip including him spotting tracks of an elusive small wild cat on the Prince Albert Pass. Alex is a ranger and is training to get his field guide qualification (bushcraft) soon so that he can take his clients to the bush for some wildlife spotting after having guided them on the best motorcycle roads in the country. Talk about a complete package! We also met a great Dutch couple, Els and Merijn, who have travelled on two bikes through Africa and Asia. They had really entertaining stories to tell and were very inventive; they had a built their aluminium panniers themselves using “old” traffic signs and did a great job too; but they had a few insights to share, the best being that they had to dull their panniers because they were much too reflective! Els’ Transalp is something to be seen; she had it decorated by artists in Pakistan who covered it in a mosaic of tiny stickers to make it look like the decorated trucks of that country. We also had the pleasure to talk with the legendary Sam Manicom whose books I highly recommend and the incredibly funny Ed March who rides the world on his C90 and has the time of his life. Ed told a funny story of being handed an orange from a truck while riding in Iran, he explained how difficult it is to do but after seeing him riding while playing a synthesizer (!?) I’m confident he was up for the job!

We had a great time in Ripley and the 2 months worth of rain that fell on us did nothing to dampen our spirits. We are looking forward to next year and feel even more eager to depart on our trip to Banjul. Thanks need to be given to the Horizons Unlimited community which we are very happy to be part of. See you on the road!

Things I learnt during the weekend:

– My bike handled terribly on the way up and I quickly realised that, unlike my Nomad 1600, the F650 is sensitive to how you load it. I rearranged my cases, putting the heavy gear at the front of the panniers so as to be close to the middle of the bike and that improved things. I also realised that I had to do something about the suspension, it was set very high (9cm taller in the back than Louise’s bike). So I dropped it by 4 centimetres and it handles much better.

– Carry a mini bicycle pump. Dave Lomax’s tip; they’re small and light and if they can pump 100psi into your bicycle tyre, they can handle the 40psi of your motorcycle. Mine fits nicely under my seat.

– A tea towel will do. Another tip from Dave; no need to carry a bulky towel to dry yourself; tea towels fold to nothing and will do the trick (to be confirmed).

– A two-man tent is a bit small for two adults. My head and feet touched the canvas and I found it difficult to get in or out. I bought a Vango Sigma 300+ three man tent with two doors and patios, it folds down to only a little more than the 2 man tent. It does weigh a little more but I’ll compensate that by drilling holes in Louise’s toothbrush…

– It pays dividend to get a quality sleeping bag and a silk liner. Mine is a Blacks Ledge 400 and I’m very happy with it. It folds down very small and kept me (too) warm when the outside temperature was about 8 Celsius.

A video insight of the weekend edited by Louise and me: