Don’t you have to be really strong to ride a bike?


Unless you do dangle yourself off the bike like the MotoGP rider you wish you were, or have a massively overpowered bike and no throttle control. Steering takes a really gentle push on the bars in the opposite direction to the direction of turn, and the lean of the bike does the rest. I have never had a wrestling with the bars experience on a road bike. It’s a bit different off road, particularly at low speed.  Braking requires a controlled grip, occasionally quite firm, but infrequently. I don’t think I’ve ever problems with my right hand from braking. My back brake is a drum type, and it’s fairly easy to stand on if required.

That leaves the gears, selection is foot operated and reasonably light touch is all it takes, clutch is hand operated, and not a particularly hard squeeze, but motorcycle drive trains aren’t like cars, neutral is a pain to find on a sequential box, so the bike stays in gear unless it’s being stopped or started. The clutch is (usually) a wet multi-plate designed for controlled slip, slow speed manoeuvres (like crawling along at walking pace) require the engine be kept spinning quickly (for gyroscopic stability and increased torque) and the road speed be controlled by slipping the clutch. Long periods of heavy traffic or low speed manoeuvre training will cause the muscles in my left forearm to ache something horrible. Taking breaks when required and avoiding heavy traffic can mitigate this a lot.

It helps if you have the strength to pick one up if you drop it, but picking up a bike is fairly easy if you you know how, even if it’s 350kg or more of overweight american icon. Backing a bike up a hill is an arse, and you quickly learn to not get into the kind of situations one needs to back out of. Parking wise it’s a ton easier to back down a slope and ride out, or ride up a slope and back out, or find somewhere level to park. If the bike’s broken down then the RAC exist so pushing bikes doesn’t need to happen.

Lifting my luggage onto the bike, that’s probably the biggest feat of strength I perform, followed by getting my leg over the bike. If those look like a problem, I don’t ride.

Working on the bike is a different matter. Some bits of wrenchin’ require a feat of strength to assemble or disassemble a part, or serious application of cunning. I prefer the latter, picking the right size spanner, using my weight rather then my strength (especially with bolt cutters) and improvising with the available tools. Doing the fork seals, it was apparent that neither I nor my mechanic were strong enough to compress the springs whilst the other pried out the retaining ring, so ratchet strap was used.

Of course every biker would like you to think that he or she is the toughest thing around, and Not To Be Messed With, so few will admit this, and most will suddenly find superhuman strength in order to protect their two wheeled life partner.



One thought on “Don’t you have to be really strong to ride a bike?

  1. Pingback: Does it hurt? | Bikes and M.E.

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