Posted by Mario on 28 May 2012
There are some things that never cease to bemuse me in the world of motorcycling. Like why anyone would ride without gloves (which I have banged on about before).
Another thing that repeatedly furrows my brow is the way the front brake and clutch levers are usually set up by the factories. And - even more surprisingly - why so many owners fail to adjust them.
The problem starts with the bike on the showroom floor. For me - a moderately tall male - nearly every factory-fresh bike I sit on has levers which point too far upwards. Also, because I also have relatively small hands, they are also always too far away. The latter is usually easily adjusted with a click or two of the knurled wheels which are now so common. The former, however, usually involves getting out an Allen key.
Your height matters in this because the taller you are the steeper the angle at which your forearm will naturally point towards the handlebars. What you want is for the top of your forearm and the back of your hand to be in perfectly flat alignment when you have your fingers around the brake or clutch lever. In far too many cases, however, riders have their levers set so that their hand angles upwards. (Pointing down is far rarer.)
The reason for getting this angle right is comfort. And, ultimately, control. If your hand is kicked up at an angle to your forearm, it puts pressure on your wrist, constricts the muscles in your lower forearm and back of the hand, and restricts blood flow. On short trips you won’t notice too much. But on longer journeys it can make your wrists ache and your hands numb.
The good news is, it’s easily fixed. Usually all it needs is slackening a couple of Allen bolts that clamp the control lever unit on and twisting it forward by a degree or two, then re-clamping. Once you do, you’ll need to reset the mirrors. If you have trouble moving it, or it puts pressure on any cables or electrical leads, leave it to your bike shop. But usually a tiny rotation is all it needs.
So why are so many bikes set up the wrong way from the factory? I have a few theories, involving diminutive Japanese and Italian test riders, and the way the bike looks in the showroom. But I’d love to hear yours.