MotorcycleDaily.com – Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Upright Ergos The New Trend?

We’ve written about this before, but the trend seems to be strengthening.  I believed from the beginning that the popularity of the Adventure Touring bikes is largely related to their bolt upright ergonomics, including plentiful leg room.  The seat heights are frequently tall, but once on board the rider is in ergonomic bliss.  No weight on the wrist, no cramps from legs folded like paperclips.

As Adventure Tourers continue to gain in popularity (Triumph, for instance, now has four different models in their line-up with their new Tiger Explorer 1200), we are seeing more upright ergonomics in bikes considered sport models, as well.  The diagram at the top of this article was provided by Honda and represents their CBR250R, and Kawasaki now has three models, the Ninja 650, the Ninja 1000, and the ZX-14R that are modern, sportbike-style machines with upright ergos.  Standards fit in this category, of course, but they lack adequate wind protection.

Kawasaki 2012 Ninja 650

Hard core sportbikes are not selling as well as they did in the past.  Is the trend towards more comfortable ergonomics here to stay?  Is this a growing trend going forward?  Do any of you prefer the extreme ergonomics of a pure sportbike for street use?

77 Comments

  1. Steve says:

    Upright with footpegs below definitely gives you more control in more situations than any other position. That’s why dirt bikes use these ergonomics and also why I prefer my old GL1000 more than any Goldwing made since.

    Report this comment

  2. Andy says:

    @abq:

    I have to differ with you here. If you’re upright you put MORE weight on your butt, not less.

    Chalk me up as one of those who prefers a more aggressive riding position, despite my age. I’m 53.

    I currently ride a Ninja 250R, which has those upright ergos in stock form. Since I lowered the bars and moved the pegs aft and up I’m much more comfortable. I’m actually thinking of that new Ninja 650 as the next bike, and the very first thing I’d do is lose the bars and get some that move my hands down and forward. Looking at the Kawasaki promo videos. the arm/hand/wrist position looks horribly uncomfortable to me. Not so much on the photo above, but that guy must be very tall. Me, I’m only 5’7″.

    I ride the bike like a jockey… my weight is more on my thighs than on my tailbone. I use my core, my legs, and my butt to support myself, not just my butt. On really long rides sometimes I rest my chest on my tank bag.

    By shifting weight frequently (not easy if you’re locked into an upright position), I can ride many hours without serious discomfort.

    Report this comment

  3. Les says:

    Hardly seems like a new trend to me. my 1989 hawk GT has a nice upright seating and so does my 2004 hornet 599. (and so will my future triumph speed triple!)

    There is really no reason to lay on the tank unless you are a racer or a squid.

    Report this comment

  4. MotoADHD says:

    My KTM SMT & BMW R1200R both have upright eros. I don’t think I will ever go back to a race position. The increased leverage makes the bike much easier to steer. I can better use my height advantage to see farther down the road in traffic & it’s way more comfortable this side of triple digit speeds where 99% of my riding is done.

    Report this comment

  5. PatrickD says:

    As the owner of a 2006 R1200GS Adv and a 2001 Aprilia Falco, my own findings are that the BMW is less comfortable on a long run due to all my weight being on my ass. The Falco get a bit heavy on the wrists at low speed, but I’m convinced that the spreading of weight between ass, hands and feet fatigues less due to the simple fact of distribution. This is probably why, when travelling at , say 40 to 80 mph, the effect of windblast supporting my torso makes it so comfortable to tour on.

    Comfort is highly subjevtive, of course, but my tip for touring is to wear some cycling shorts beneath your bike gear. They keep things together (ahem) & don’t bunch. If the Tour de France guys can sit on those bicycle seats for 6 hours at a time, you know they’ve got to be confortable!

    Report this comment

  6. motobell says:

    TALL ADVENTURE bikes are STUPID for the road! We need MORE STANDARD BIKES that KICK SPORTBIKE ASS n the real world!

    I own a 996, a monster, a Ducati Streefighter and a FJR. I will leave a 996 for what it is, but the streetfigher imho could be more upright and I would like it. Standards w/upright riding ergos, that don’t compromise components or performance to the best sport bikes, with good passenger comfort is what I would like to. stick a fairing on these and then you have a sport tourer. Motus has the right idea but unfortunately they are up against start up challenge.

    Report this comment

    • blackcayman says:

      you are describing the Triumph Speed Triple R – look it up and sit on it…our local dealer is begging motorcyclists to come and test ride new bikes…I took one out on the track last august (prior to the R) and did a 40 min track session on one – it was mint.
      In the end I decided I wanted a focused track bike and a street bike – saweet!

      Report this comment

  7. Bones says:

    I much prefer upright ergos. Better still with some degree of adjustment. I love adventure bike ergos except for the seat heights. They must make people taller in Germany, Austria and Italy than in the US. Hopefully England recognizes that we aren’t all 6-foot-4 with 36″ inseams, as I really like the Tiger Explorer.

    Report this comment

  8. Gary says:

    Many of us who started riding in the 70s have been wondering when reason would set in. There is no need to bend yourself into a pretzel to go fast. If you want to race … by all means. Every MPH makes a difference at the track. But for most of us average Joes (and Josephines), upright ergos are the only rational answer.

    And by the way … I would not say the ZX14 has rational ergos for a normal-sized Homo sapien. I sat on one, and immediately resembled a monkey humping a football. That’s a dead giveaway for irrational ergos.

    Report this comment

    • 80-watt Hamster says:

      Perhaps they straightened it up in the new model update? I tried one on at a show, and was astonished by how reasonable the riding position was. A bit more attack-like than the N1000, but much more reasonable than a ZX-10 or Hayabusa, to which it should be more reasonably compared.

      Report this comment

  9. MotoBum says:

    Yeah, clip-ons and rear sets for the street are over. They’re great for the track. And that’s it. The trend for comfy bikes is here to stay as evidenced by the explosion of Adventure Touring motorcycles, as well as dual sports, UJMs, and scooters now for sale in the US. I don’t know anyone, personally, who hasn’t put Heli or Converti bars and Wild Hair Accessories lower foot pegs on their sporty bikes (with the exception of stunt bikes). Seriously, the motos with low bars and high pegs are done. We don’t need them because we don’t want them.

    Report this comment

  10. GP says:

    Thank God! It is about time. That is about all I have to say about this topic. Did you forget to mention that most bikes are much easier to wheelie when set up this way?

    Report this comment

  11. mechanicuss says:

    Told ya so. I wrote a letter that was published in Motorcyclist back in 1985 complaining of the loss of the “standard” bike. Back then, no new bike coming out of Japan or anywhere, would escape the “yeah, it’s a good bike, but if it had rear-sets and low clip-ons, etc it would be perfect” comments from the mall ninja editors of that day… They basically told me fork off butthead. 20 years later they have what they wanted and upright normal UJM’s are rare as hen’s teeth. Can you see an old man like me on a modern rice rocket bent over with my @ss stuck up in the air and my hairy old back showing from the incessant backwash blowing my t-shirt up over the back of my helmet with my head stuck up over the forks like some F1 wannabe? Hilarious.

    Report this comment

  12. Hair says:

    It’s been a few years now since I’ve had to lay down on the seat to eek out a few more MPH on the top end.

    These days we no longer have to give up comfort for performance.

    Report this comment

  13. tmaxgixxerblur says:

    i bought a 2006 suzuki GSX-R1000 right before my back starting giving out on me. i couldn’t lean down toward the bike anymore. family and friends told me to sell it and buy an upright bike. to save money, i went ahead and kept it and modified it. i bought a convertibar riser kit and longer steel brake/clutch lines and went ahead and installed it. for everyday street riding, i can raise the bar up almost 6 inches, and 3 inches back toward me, and it still has clearance from the front inside fairing to the gas tank when i turned lock to lock. bought a zero gravity sport touring windshield, and ventura rear bracket for my givi top case. when i was done, i transformed my gixxer 1000 into a sport tourer. what’s great about the convertibars is that you can lower them back to the aggressive position for sport riding. now i have one of the lightest and fastest sport tourer around! my back thanks me, and my wallet thanks me. upright riding has never been better! especially for us older guys that has a back that can’t stand being bent over for more than 15 minutes!

    Report this comment

  14. mickey says:

    Like many of you I have been legally street riding since I was 16 (and a year before that illegally). Now at 61 I still have 4 bikes (3 if you don’t count the Majesty scooter)and a lot of aching joints. My ST 1300 has pretty good ergos (and great wind protection and storage), but of couse is a lumbering ox of 717 pounds gassed up. It is best suited to our two up cross country rides. Slight lean forward, but nothing hurts after a day in the saddle. The FZ-1 (Gen 1)is a wicked lean beast that I have put 10 hours days on. It has more forward lean than the ST, but less than a true sport bike,and much higher pegs, but it’s not bad. After 5 or 6 hours my knees hurt a bit, but I am always ready to get back on it and ride some more. Decent solo sport-tourer IMO. My 750 Nighthawk is pretty much a true UJM with great ergos, but is not so good touring like the ST or sporting around on like the FZ. It’s mostly a Sunday local rider along with my brother on his Bloor Triumph Bonneville. The Majesty is like sitting in a chair, although sometimes I move my feet back under my hips, 1/2 on and half off the built in floorboards into a more motorcycle like sitting position. The CVT trans makes it an easy ride and believe me you can rail one through the corners.

    If I live/ride long enough to get a new bike, I’ll probably consolidate/sell them all and get something like the NX 700 Honda with the DCT transmission. The best of all worlds I would think. Especially if my wife decides to no longer ride long distance.

    I took a test ride on a new cross-plane R-1 and holy crap I was folded up on that thing. Barely made the 8 mile test ride. So uncomfortable for someone in my age/condition. However, if they put that motor into a Gen 1 FZ type bike,or in something similar to the new Kawasaki Ninja 1000, I would have to buy one for the sound alone. Intoxicating.

    Report this comment

  15. Marty says:

    For a perfect riding position go back to my 1983 Vision 550 :) The seats were better back then too. Everything else though… The ninja 650 is real close to perfect, just needs a tad more legroom. But, it will probably be my next bike.

    Report this comment

  16. Ed says:

    I love it. First off I’ve broken both wrists off road racing over the years. I ride a speed triple which is great bar position but at 6’2″, the legs can get cramped. I’m looking at the 800 GS as my next road bike.

    Report this comment

  17. Spikedlemon says:

    So long as it doesn’t turn into feet-forward or prevent me from leading forward when I’m having fun on the back roads or roundabout… Doesn’t bother me.

    After 10 years on a sportbike: I’m ready for another 10 years on one.

    Report this comment

  18. Dave Bardell says:

    Love my V Strom 650 — Acceptable gas mileage, enough power and all day comfortable – my second one with a Tiger 1050 in between. Still have my 2001 Triumph Sprint ST, but sadly it sits way too much. The Strom is just more fun..

    Report this comment

  19. Dave says:

    Every riding instruction book you read, every MSF course you take tells you that an upright (i.e., hips over pegs) position is best for everyday street riding as it affords better control, better shock damping (using legs), and better comfort (less spine shock). My difficulty is that there are few “standard” geometry bikes that fit me well (33″ inseam) while allowing easy flat-footing at stop signs/lights. It is much harder to change the ergonomic triangle at the peg point, but much easier to change the handlebar/seat height. Why don’t manufacturers produce bikes with adjustable bars (fore-aft/height) and seats (height) right from the factory? The aftermarket has solved this problem for decades. So where are the factory engineers?

    Report this comment

    • blackcayman says:

      Big BMW Touring bikes have multiple position for the bars. Most stock bikes can’t even be fixed easily and cheaply with new bars becasue of the limited length of the cables.

      Report this comment

  20. S Calwell says:

    After years of modifying Ducati’s a VFR and a couple of S model BMW’s, I discovered the BMW GS. Comfort right out of the box. The wide bars made twisties much easier and the longer travel suspension soaked up every bump. I am more comfortable going fast and can haul more gear. Now if the mfg’s would just offer a lighter weight, street only version, the performance would be even better.

    Report this comment

  21. blackcayman says:

    Being closer to 50 than 40 I see this as good news – more choices for me. I did buy an 08 GSX R 750 for track days and short Canyon Romps – to satisfy my “need for speed”. I’ve taken to strengthern my back muscles by using them to hold my upper body weight while I ride, taking all the stress off my wrists – for as long as I can. Being stronger means I can spend more time in the saddle.
    I kept the 03 Suzuki SV1000 N (rare bike)for longer rides, its got a great standard riding position and plenty of torque for great SPORT-touring type riding. Now that I have a track bike and want to keep a Two Bike Policy, I think the Triumph Tiger 1050 is the logical replacement for the SV…some day.
    Cheers!

    Report this comment

  22. Christopher says:

    I like upright ergo’s with a slight lean. But I think as the hands come up, the feet have to go down. Look at how awkward Dirck looks on that bike. Looks like his hands should be lower, or his feet should be lower. I NEVER dragged pegs on any of my Honda Nighthawks so why do we have to sit on our heels? The new CB1000R is about perfect. But I also see having some wind protection for a bit of touring so I look forward to the Honda NC700X. Will test ride a CBR250R soon.

    Report this comment

  23. Vrooom says:

    While I agree with the article, the beautfy of dual sports is also a typically more compliant suspension, which may not help track handling much, but sure makes a better sport tourer from a comfort perspective. Wide handlebars tend to make up for some of the handling deficit of longer travel suspension and a larger front wheel as well.

    Report this comment

  24. Eric says:

    Woo Hoo! Let’s hear it for upright bikes! All you need do, is watch some of these poor sportbike riders on the interstate. Keeping that position for more than an hour is tiring, and I often see them laying on their tanks. I guess it really depends on how much, and how far you ride. Me – I’ll stick with my V-Strom – it’s super comfy, and I can still take a nap on the gas tank on long rides :-)

    Report this comment

  25. PN says:

    Those of us who actually ride and don’t have anything to prove have known about this for a long time. The race replicas look great but after half and hour on one you’re not having any fun. I got a Versys, it has a perfect riding position, and I couldn’t be happier. If I got a sport bike, and they do look like fun, I’d put Heli bars on it. A ZX6 or similar would then be a very nice sports tourer.

    Report this comment

  26. jasinner says:

    As a CBR250R owner I will say that I love my bikes ergos for commuting but the body positioning is very awkward for more spirited riding (actually makes it a chore for body positioning). Ideally I’d have a comfortable commuting bike (cbr250r) and a more focused weekend/track bike with controls that readily lend themselves to that application.

    Report this comment

  27. Wanderer says:

    I like a more upright/comfy position. Probably has to do with the type of riding I now do – lots of multi-day trips all over the continent. My FJR has enough power to keep things interesting, yet is comfortable enough to crank out 1000 mile days with ease.

    Report this comment

  28. Hot Dog says:

    My first generation FZ1 was very comfortable. When I sit on a modern sportbike, it’s like I’m trying to crawl into a toilet. On the other hand, the “Ape hanger/feet forward dog sliding his arse on the carpet” crowd never venture far, so their ergos lack also. My riding buddy has a Wee and he lives on it, of course he’s got a ass of leather and balls of steel, which help.

    Report this comment

  29. MGNorge says:

    I always hear either it’s the wrists that ache from too much forward weight placed upon them or it’s their backs. Different riders are going to find comfort in varying ways. But just like sports cars, sport bikes tend to appeal most to the younger set who do not as yet as a whole have the issues older riders do. Either being tucked in close and tight or having legs thrown forward with all one’s weight on the rear ends presents more issues as time goes on. The upright sitting position, perhaps with a slight lean forward, seems to have found an increasing audience in regards to comfort. Kind of like the standards from years ago.

    Report this comment

    • Wanderer says:

      I don’t think this is true at all. I drive a 911 every day, my kids fit in the back, and after I drop them off at school, I have a wonderful drive to work. Sports cars are by no means as physically challenging as sport bikes. Not even close.

      Report this comment

  30. harry says:

    Illustration is NOT upright it is modified sportbike.The footpegs in illustration are still too high and the handlebar grips still too low. Who can remember the 1982 GS1100 EX?

    Report this comment

  31. Dingerjunkie says:

    I go back and forth on this. I like the feeling of a standard with “superbike-bend” or drag bars. Way more upright than sport bikes, but more forward/aggressive than adventure bikes. This is mostly due to the fact that I’m running higher speeds and like to lean into the wind (I hate being “in the bubble” of big fairings).

    The leg positioning of standards is where it’s at. My wife agrees, but the problem for riders like her is height. She needs a highway/distance-capable bike with a standard layout PLUS low enough height/weight to allow a five-foot-nothing rider to flat-foot on at least one side without sliding off the seat to do it.

    The US market would to well if there were attempts to aggressively market (not just provide) comfortable, affordable, light bikes with real-world performance (not 600SS speed) that were still all day bikes (not city toys).

    Basically, we need this generation’s CB550 and RD350, please…and it must be paired with this generation’s “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” campaign to expand the population of real riders.

    Report this comment

  32. KC says:

    To get straight to the point, I want an standard, naked, motorcycle with decent suspension, good torque, and a 30″ seat height.

    What we’re getting is extremes. Either too low, too tall, too plastic covered, too much engine, too little mpg, too over-styled, too high-barred, too low barred, too foot forward, too rear-set, etc.

    I’d be fine with a decent 650cc to 1000cc standard/naked bike that could be adapted to any on-road adventure. And, please, enough of the “v’s”. It’s played out and takes up too much space. Enough with the canned lifestyle motorcycles.

    Report this comment

  33. viktor92 says:

    Young boys loves to feel like Rossi or Stoner, but the truth is that most of them can’t stand even 100 miles on the bike before stop and stretch their bodies. The RR bikes are beautiful, and its ergos are ideal for the track, but most are totally impractical for the real life.

    Report this comment

  34. andy1300 says:

    I put on 800-900 miles a day easy on my FJR when I do my summer trips.

    Report this comment

  35. Nick says:

    This trend is here to stay so long as the average motorcyclist age continues to tick upwards. I could be wrong, but I think the average age in the US is somewhere in the mid 40′s. Manufacturers are just logically targeting the largest rider population.

    Report this comment

  36. mike says:

    Just look at the top 10 bikes sold in Italy in the past 2 years. Not a sportbike to be found. Italy is the largest seller of full size bikes in europe.

    Report this comment

  37. Bob Burns says:

    This subject is funny. I just rode the new 2012 ZX-14R which hurt my hands after only a few minutes. Ditto for the ZX-10R, Hayabusa, etc. Love the newer bikes’ motors and handling however.

    Guess that’s why I still own and ride modified Z1-900s and KZ1000s. The last new large displacement motorcycle I bought was a 1975 Kawasaki Z1-900. And I still have my ’73 Z1-900, plus a few others.

    It’s “back to the future” apparently. ‘Round and ’round we go …

    Report this comment

  38. Tom says:

    The Kawasaki Ninja 650 and 1000 are good examples of your point – if you don’t mind the knee angles. Just look at your own pictures. But the Kawasaki ZX14R? You can’t be serious. I suggest you take a look at http://cycle-ergo.com/.

    Report this comment

  39. TC2wheel says:

    Illusion of being upright is morer comfortable, road shock actually travels straight up the spine would fatigue a rider quicker.
    Long hours in a upright riding position would do more harm to the body than having a natual forward curve in the spine.
    After riding coast to coast 6 times on different motos, the most comfortable for me is to have a secure tank bag to lean against, allow me to rest my whole upperbody even neck, shoulders and arms.

    Report this comment

  40. Marky Mark says:

    Don’t forget sport tourers that allow all day comfort but let you ride in a more spirited vein when the mood strikes.

    Report this comment

  41. ktmsmt says:

    I want the tech of a sport bike but the ergos of a standard. The KTM Supermoto T showed me that performance and comfort are not mutually exclusive.

    Report this comment

  42. bikerrandy says:

    There is no such thing as a standard body position. In my case I cannot ride for long sitting perfectly upright unless I have some good back support too. I can ride all day as long as my upper body is leaning forward some.

    As the age of riders gets older, many riders have issues with their knees bending.

    Report this comment

  43. exR1 says:

    Well said! Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to ride KTM’s 950 Adventure, a Bandit 1200, a Husky 510 TE, an R1, FZ 750 and a Ninja 900. I recently bought a 2011 Ninja 1000 and it’s the best bike I’ve had overall for comfort, reasonable power, good handling and decent brakes. Being in my mid 40′s might have something to do with it too. = )

    Report this comment

  44. johnny ro says:

    Hurt my back recently. Broken rib. Ouch. Basically, hurts to sit, stand or lay down. Healing fast.

    Rode my Wee Strom for 2 hours on Sunday in Boston. That was, by very far, the most comfortable 2 hours in the last week.

    on the sport bike position bike side, I am still looking for another 1987 SRX250. Silly little tiddler. Uncomfortable low bars. Ride it probably 5 hours a year if I find one.

    Report this comment

  45. Mike Simmons says:

    I will believe that people (at least here in the US) are coming back to their senses when I see the Harley/Cruiser ergos go the way of the dodo bird. Can’t happen too soon IMHO.

    Report this comment

  46. Russell T. says:

    For me, it is once again all about choices, and having them. Are upright ergos here to stay? Probably yes, for the reasons already said. More people that want to ride also want to be comfortable.

    I spend more time on my RT, bolt upright and enjoying it. But I also enjoy leaning over a sport bike, and using very different body english moving it down the road. I love the fact we have so many choices these days, even if I can’t afford to have them all.

    Report this comment

  47. MarxMyth says:

    Here Here! I hope the trend sticks. It would be nice to see all-around bikes–or at least hardcore engines and suspension–paired with reasonable ergonomics.

    Report this comment

  48. Kent says:

    The reason I ride an “adventure tourer” is a great powerband and good ergos. I don’t do any actual adventure touring, but the bike is super comfortable.

    I’m tall, and have messed up wrists – so if I’m going to ride, it won’t be on a sportbike. I haven’t ridden with forward controls, but I have no desire to ride that way, so cruisers are out as well.

    Suzuki DL650 V-Strom is my commuting & fun bike.

    Report this comment

  49. ABQ says:

    Riding a motorcycle is very hard on my butt. The better the weight distribution of my body, the better the ride. There are some bikes that I can’t even sit on in the show room because they put all of my weight on the seat. Harley V-Rod comes to mind. My BMW R115GS with a Russell Daylong seat is much easier on my body. Anybody that likes to ride all day long as I do needs a standard seating position.

    Report this comment

  50. John says:

    People are coming back to their senses or just plain growing up.

    Report this comment

    • Honyock says:

      Growing up, never. Growing older, inevitable. I just traded in my much beloved SV650 (naked) for the new Ninja 650, as I could no longer enjoy rides more than an hour or so because of neck strain. Now after 200 miles (on a single tank of fuel!) I’m ready for more. The riding position on the SV was not extreme by any means, but slightly more focused than on the Ninja.

      I second Marxmyth’s motion for better suspension on bikes with better ergos.

      Report this comment