Archambault’s Angle: Dialing In Your Motorcycle

Every motorcycle feels different and has its own personality, factors like rake angle, suspension, swing-arm length, and engine all play into this. That being said there are plenty of things on a motorcycle that can, and really should be tailored to the rider. Unlike a new pair of boots or jeans, the motorcycle will not break into the rider, rather the rider will adapt to what they are riding. Dialing in things like ergonomics and suspension will allow the rider to get the most out of their machine. Below is my checklist of things to dial in. Most of the adjustments are free and only require a few wrenches. Major items like suspension overhauls, seats, and windshields I will normally leave until I have logged some miles and know how they work and what I really want to change.

Hand Control Ergonomics

This is a big one, I cannot count the number of motorcycles I have seen that have never had the hand controls adjusted. If I am borrowing a Touratech-USA shop motorcycle for a weekend ride I will mess with this stuff. A motorcycle should have a very personal fit, so it’s not unlike adjusting the seat and mirrors when getting into a car.

Handlebar   The design of a handlebar is much more complex than one might initially think. The width, rise, and pull back all factor into the feel and this is compounded by the chassis and how it is mounted. The good news is once you figure out what you like it is normally pretty easy set-up other motorcycles. Personally, on my dirt bikes I have been running a CR Hi bend bar or related variant for more than a decade. BMW has been using a 1-1/2” tapered bar recently which will make swapping out the bar harder, but there is plenty of other tweaking that can be done with a stock handlebar.

Bar Angle  Looking at the handlebar the pullback of the handlebar can be seen. Rotating the handlebar even a few degrees will change how your hands will rest on the grips. Your hands should rest naturally on the grips, if the angle is wrong your wrists will feel like they are being forced into an uncomfortable angle.

Bar Risers  Many stock handlebars are too low to allow the rider to comfortably stand when off-road. Bar risers provide a relatively inexpensive and easy to slightly raise the handlebar into a position better suited for riding off-road and standing on the foot-pegs.

Brake and Clutch Levers   Both of the lever assemblies can be rotated into your preferred position. In some cases there is a positioning pin that will need to be removed. I like to have my levers angled so my fingers naturally fall onto the levers when I open my hand.Most current production motorcycles have a way to adjust the reach of the lever. This is generally accomplished by either a small screw on the lever (Brembo and Magura) or a dial on the top of the lever (Triumph and Japanese motorcycles). This adjustment only changes where the lever is when in the rest position, it does not change the length of travel. Folks with shorter fingers will normally have the lever resting closer to the bar than those with longer fingers allowing more comfortable use of the lever. Personally I only use two fingers for the clutch and brake levers, I will position my levers as close to the bar as I can without have them hit my fingers that remain on the bar when the lever is at maximum travel.

Grips   I have never been one to leave stock grips on my motorcycle for long, though if you have factory installed heated grips changing is not often an easy to do prospect. There are countless different compounds, patterns, and thicknesses on the market for grips. Thicker grips will generally provide more vibration damping, and be more comfortable for riders with large hands. Thinner grips likewise will give the rider more feedback, and be more comfortable for smaller handed riders. I used to run thin grips exclusively, I liked the more connected feel and it kept my hands from falling asleep. These days I like waffle pattern grips. Grips are pretty cheap ($10 – $15) so experimenting isn’t going to break the bank.

Foot Control Ergonomics

There are less variables when it comes to the foot controls, but they are just as important.

Pegs   It is very common for adventure motorcycles to come stock with small rubber covered foot-pegs that are not ideal for standing on off-road. Before running out to replace them, check to make sure there is not a good peg hiding under a removable rubber cover, KTM and BMW GSA models both normally have a decent peg under the rubber. More suited pegs will be larger (to provide more comfort when standing) and have some sort of open metal construction (allow mud to fall free and provide good traction). Touratech offers a stainless steel Works Peg both in standard height and a low model to give some additional leg room.  

Shifter Position  The shift lever should be positioned so shifting is easy and without any weird ankle gyrations.  Depending on the style of shifter this adjustment will be done by removing the shifter and clocking it up or down on the splined shift shaft, or by adjusting the threaded adjuster on the linkage. Wear your riding boots when adjusting this, as most riding boots (especially off-road boots) will be thicker than street shoes.

Brake Position  Just like the shifter the rear brake lever should be adjusted so brake pedal is resting in a natural, easy to find position when your foot is on the peg. To adjust this there is a threaded rod on the plunger for the master cylinder going to the brake lever. Remember that this is connected on the other side of a pivot, the more thread showing the higher the pedal will be.


To read more of Archambault’s Angle CLICK HERE. 


About the Author: Eric is an incurable motorcycle nut. He’s owned everything from scooters to vintage motocross bikes and now spends much of his time riding and talking about adventure motorcycles. If you have been to the Touratech store in Seattle or called the offices, chances are you’ve talked to Eric. Eric recently came in second place in the adventure class at the Desert 100 Race. He’s a key part of the Touratech race team and when he’s not at the local Harescramble or Enduro event he can be found roaming the Cascade mountains on his KTM 950 looking for new routes for the Touratech Rally.