One size doesn't fit all

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The bicycle industry spends much more time and effort fitting their customers to their machines than does the powersports industry. Perhaps because bicycles are more “rider active” than motorcycles: they require more perfect seat, handlebar and pedal configurations to more efficiently transfer physical energy into forward momentum. Even if our industry’s machines have motors, our industry’s salespeople still should take more care in selling machines that better fit their customers.

Harley-Davidson now has what it calls the “Fit Shop” on its website and in dealerships to better address customers’ fitment needs. On the website, meet Rico, who is 6’4” and chooses an Ultra Classic. Then meet Leilani, who is 5’1” and rides a Road King. Seth is 5’8” and fits himself to a Fat Boy. Customers are “fitted” to their ride with small adjustments accommodating their body frames with lowered suspension, different floorboards, a more ergonomic seat or improved handlebar bends. Like riding a well-fitted bicycle, it’s amazing to us customers what a small change can make in comfort, handling and confidence for our motorcycle, too.

The human body firmly and constantly contacts a motorcycle in three places: hands, butt and feet. (Let’s not include the knees touching the tank as Keith Code might for high-­performance handling purposes.) In a grand total, that’s five points of contact — two hands, two feet and one seat. Because a motorcycle is a single-track vehicle with two wheels as opposed to a two-track vehicle with four wheels, it has to lean left and right to turn. This is an additional rotational axis not exhibited in an automobile. Balance is obviously way more important to riders than it is to drivers; thus the proper alignment and placement of hands, feet and buttocks are more critical to vehicle control. Kudos to The Motor Co. for addressing this subject head-on with a well-thought-out program online, in a brochure and with in-store displays.

The rest of the industry and all retailers of motorcycles should take note. If riders are more comfortable and confident, they tend to ride more — and buy more.

I was fortunate enough a few years back to have Scot Hardin, former KTM Adventure Tour and Dakar rider, do an ergonomic analysis of my off-road riding positions. After 60 seconds of looking at my 6’1” body in both the seated and standing position on my off-road machine, he recommended 20 mm handlebar risers and a seat higher by the same amount. To Scot’s trained eye, I was hunched when I stood and had overly flexed knees when I sat.

Most of us never really get to see ourselves ride with analytics in mind. I had ridden and raced around the world for 35 years, and nobody had ever taken the time to “show me” how little changes can make such a big difference. I am a better rider now because of Scot and … I spend more money on bars, pegs and seats than I used to.

I invite motorcycle salespeople to take a more professional interest in fitting customers to their motor­cycles like a tailor would fit a suit. Be sure to check out Harley’s Fit Shop online, and see the sidebar in the left margin for another resource. By following its example, not only will your customers have more smiles per mile, but your parts and accessory sales will grow as well. Fit ‘em up and move ‘em out!

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews January 2011 issue.