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Best stretches for motorcyclists to do after long rides

Added March 15, 2021
Someone riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle

That long-awaited trip, that Odyssey you planned for so long, is finally over and you are back home. The days of great riding, the bends, the parties and the adventures are now fading from reality to memory, and it feels like it’s all over. For now.

But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is the backache that came back with you, the pain in your arms, that strange tension on your legs, or that numbness in the finger that you can’t manage to ‘wake up.’

Here are some tips for a speedy recovery.

Disclaimer: Always consult your doctor or physician before doing these stretches.

Cervicals – pains when moving your neck

Wind pressure on your helmet, tension and grinding your teeth while you ride can cause cervicals. This pain comes and goes in the base of your neck, preventing you from moving it from side to side. It can be mitigated with some simple stretching exercises plus heat or heating cream containing ibuprofen, as they increase blood flow in the area and dilate the muscle, helping it heal.

This pain generally means you have been too stiff while riding. To prevent it in the future, move your head around while you’re riding.

Cervical exercises to reduce neck pain

Move your head towards your shoulder, smoothly but continuously. Breathe out along the movement and exhale completely as you finish it. You should notice how your neck muscles stretch and strengthen. 

It is typical to hear your cervical vertebrae adjusting themselves along with the movement which can be a signal that you are producing the desired result. Repeat this exercise several times while still.

Shoulders – vague pain preventing your arm’s full range of movement

Should you feel a pain that stops you from moving or raising your arm, and you can’t even take your helmet off after getting off your bike, you could be facing tendonitis in your shoulder – an inflammation in one of your tendons. 

As soon as you get off your bike grab something cold – a frozen bottle or a pack of frozen peas. Put it on the area, and the inflammation will go down immediately. After the first few hours applying cold, if it improves, apply heat and go to a professional for an evaluation.

You should review your Harley® motorcycle’s handlebar position. Adjusting the position or changing your existing bars for ones more suited to your height and riding position can help to stop this annoying sharp pain from returning.

Shoulder exercises to reduce pain

Gently swing your elbow, supported by your right hand, in order to strengthen your shoulder. Repeat on the other arm. Put both hands behind and stretch gently. Repeat several times.

Lumbar back pain that stops you from standing up

You’ve just stopped on your way home, parked and then realized you can’t get off your bike! Don’t worry – you are one of 99% of riders who suffer lower back pain (lumbalgia).

Tips to reduce lumbar pain

  • You should improve your riding position. Adapt your bike to your ergonomics, not the other way around.
  • Check your bike’s seat – you may wish to speak to your Harley-Davidson® dealer about alternative seats.
  • Check the suspension and tune it to your riding conditions.
  • Take regular breaks off your bike.
  • Pay special attention to cold wind; stop it from reaching your lower back.
  • Gently stretch yourself while holding the left handlebar grip with your left hand and with your right hand on the back seat (facing right), then do it the other way around (facing left) repeat it several times. This is quite a relaxing exercise for your lower back.

Sharp pain in your upper back/shoulder blade

If you have a sharp pain in your upper back and shoulder blades, you may face a trapeze contracture.

If the pain has just begun, apply cold for the first hours, applying heat afterward. Do it this way, not the other way around. If there is inflammation and the pain doesn’t go away, call your therapist for a massage.

Tips to reduce pain in your upper back and shoulder blades

  • Buy a light and protective helmet with good aerodynamics and not too many air entries.
  • If you have a windshield and it is producing turbulence when you ride, try a lower or higher screen, or even riding without it.
  • Try not to keep the same position on your bike for a long time – turn your head from time to time and let your shoulders have some rest.
  • If you’ve had contractures in the past, do some exercises. A contracture not properly recovered can produce muscle fibrosis (hardening of fibers in the muscles) which is difficult to cure.
  • Stress is a problem as it produces metabolic waste within our muscles, slowing down their movements. Go for a ride on your Harley® motorcycle. It will relax you!
  • Carrying a backpack can be the root of the problem and make it worse.
  • Warm water showers and warm baths will relieve symptoms immediately.
  • If you already have the problem, your doctor can advise you on the use of muscle relaxants, ultrasonic treatments, TENS, infrared and massages.
  • Combining zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 will increase the creation of ATP, the fuel of our muscles. A good expert will advise you on its use.
  • Wearing a scarf or bandana is an excellent way of preventing contractures on your back.
  • Stretch the back of your neck with your hands, open your arms widely and swing them gently. Repeat the exercise several times.

Numbness in your hands and fingers

Constant pressure on handlebar grips, as well as on clutch and brake levers, is our enemy – Harley-Davidson has solved this problem in newer models by using lighter clutches and has even developed an affordable reduced effort clutch kit for older models.

Tips to reduce numbness in hands and fingers

  • Relax while riding and make corrections to your posture from time to time; try not to lean excessively on the grips.
  • Don’t ride with your arms too high or too straightened.
  • Check the angle of your handlebar and adjust it to fit your style and needs.
  • Watch excessive grip vibration – this could be producing numbness. Check your handlebars’ counterweights if they are installed.
  • Pay attention to excessive pressure in your gloves: it can interfere with the irrigation of nerves in your hands, subsequently irritating and inflaming the median nerve.
  • Stretch your arms and cross both hands’ fingers, stretch gently, relax and repeat several times.

Numbness in your leg (either left or right)

Be careful if you notice that the low back pain (lumbalgia) mentioned before is going down your leg (left or right), either through the front or the back side. If there’s a pain that stops you from moving, as well as a numbness in that leg, you are facing sciatica (neuralgia along the sciatic nerve).

It is a vague constant pain that will bother you more if you’re still or standing up. If you rode for many miles, your position was rigid and you had to fight against wind, your lower back will be affected.

Tips to reduce numbness in your legs

  • Put yourself in the hands of a good professional and follow his/her advice.
  • Depending on the degree of pain and lack of strength, rest may be mandatory.
  • If pain stops you from normal day-to-day activity you may have to resort to analgesics, muscle relaxants, and anti-inflammatories. As always, consult your physician or doctor prior to taking any new medications.
  • Use of a vitamin B complex or B12 can be quite positive in recovery. Ask a good professional nutritionist.
  • Gently stretch your foot upwards; repeat the movement with the other leg until you feel your sciatic nerve is relaxing a bit.

Exhaustion

Tiredness after tons of miles? Don’t play down the importance of it, even if it seems obvious. The symptoms are blood pressure fall, extreme tiredness, lack of appetite and even fever. Here, we are facing a tiredness syndrome due to the excess miles.

Tips to prevent exhaustion

Having rest is mandatory, as well as good hydration. Watch alcohol. It’s not recommended – I would like to emphasize this. Alcohol causes dehydration. It steals our water so it can be metabolized, so it’s not just our enemy when riding.

If you are tired after a long route, have some rest, drink fruit juices to top up your vitamins and minerals, water, and, of course, more fruit.

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