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Riding a Motorcycle after a PRC

December 23, 2014

Many readers have mentioned that they too ride a motorcycle or scooter and ask about how long it will take before they can ride again. So this morning I will review how I began to ride and what I did to expedite it. I have another blog called www.ridingadventures.ca and at the time I had documented much of my riding recovery on this blog and did not mention it to much here at Proximalrowcarpectomy.com.

First and foremost I would like to say that if you love riding you will ride again.  There are many factors to consider but I can tell you one very interesting fact. After a PRC or a 4-corner fusion, one would think that the limited range of motion would have a large affect on throttling or braking. In reality this is not true.

Throttle

Our bodies seem to have many back-up systems, joints, muscles and ligaments that automatically take over when one or more of the others fail. For example, when you hurt your foot, your body goes into a limping mode that allows you to walk. Losing the wrist joint either all motion or most of the motion is compensated automatically by your elbow and shoulder joints.  I have made a slow motion video of just that example and please watch the various muscles and joints used to throttle and brake as opposed to just the wrist. I often found it more challenging to get the key into the ignition and turn it because of the location of the Honda CTX. This will thankfully not be an issue with my new BMW F700 GS because the ignition is right in front where most gas tanks are.

elbow

As you can clearly see, the throttling is accomplished by the elbow and shoulder and just slightly by the wrist. Additionally, I noticed that while riding my hand will automatically slide forward or backwards on the throttle ever so light so as not to affect the speed but position my hand on the throttle for the next action such as to accelerate more or less. It is hard to explain because your body just does it.

For me the throttling was not an issue and I was able to ride comfortably 3 1/2 months after the surgery date. However, there is more to consider for a PRC recovered patient other than just the throttle.

Brakes

Generally the ability to open your thumb is reduced and therefore if the brake lever is too far away from the throttle, it becomes a painful stretch or even an unobtainable stretch. Each bike is different but there is a solution for all bikes and scooters. I purchased a Remus adjustable brake lever. When shopping for an adjustable brake lever, try to look at the more expensive ones because they have more adjustments. Some motorcycles have an adjustable lever but even at the lowest adjustment, the brake lever may be too far away and uncomfortable and you may still want to consider an aftermarket brake lever.

Then there is the braking pressure or squeeze strength required to safely stop your motorcycle in all conditions, especially in an emergency stop. Depending on the braking system on your motorcycle, you may want to consider on or more of the following:

  1. Change the brakes to better brakes such as Brembo. Changing the brakes to Brembo brakes will definitely improve your braking and reduce the amount of pressure/squeeze required to brake. However, not all motorcycles are able to have Brembo brakes installed.
  2. Change your brake pads. You can put on sintered brake pads which will dramatically improve your braking to the point where you most likely could brake in most conditions with your little finger. However, you must pay special attention to braking in corners, in the rain or other adverse conditions since you could lock up your front wheel very easily.

Vibration

Vibration, sudden shocks, bumpy roads and such are your main enemies after a PRC because of the lack of proper cartilage between the small bones. The greater the vibration and shock, the greater chance of inflammation and pain. So there are a few things you can do to help reduce the vibration and sudden shocks:

  1. First have a look at the throttle itself since this is the first immediate buffer between your hand, wrist and bike. Throttles are not designed for PRC recovered riders. But there are products out there that can help. On my Honda CTX 700 I decided to use the Kuryakyn ISO Gel Grips combined with the Kuryakyn throttle boss. These helped tremendously. However, you would lose your heated grips by using these. I choose to have heated gloves instead. The throttle boss when adjusted properly allowed me to not hold the throttle but just place the palm of my hand on the throttle and throttle boss when cruising at the same speed. The gel in the throttle wrapped in aluminum reduce the engine and road vibration considerably. For my new BMW, I am going to try (it was bought and in storage until spring) these Neoprene Super Sharkskin’s grips that wrap around the throttle to eliminate vibration yet they allow the heated grips to work. If they do not work as well as the Kuryakyn Grips then I will forego the heated grips on the BMW and add the Kuryakyn.
  2. Tires are also a factor. For example, if you are riding a endure bike, you may want to change your tire to road tires and not 80/20 off road. Additionally, speak to a tire expert  (such as Revzilla) and discuss the types of tires available for your motorcycle that would provide the least amount of road vibration.
  3. Finally, have a look at the types of shocks on your motorcycle and how they are adjusted. Talk with a mechanic and see if better shocks are available or if adjustments can be made to your existing shocks to reduce road vibration and better handle pot holes and bumps.

Gloves

Funny enough gloves are also a major factor in riding. It took me a long time to find a pair of gloves that balanced between safety and mobility. Because I lost grip strength, it is very difficult to brake in a new pair of gloves. Additionally, because of the new shape of your wrist, many gloves are difficult and painful to get in and out off. I settled on a pair of kangaroo leather gloves with some protection for road rash. I figured that if by chance I lay my bike down, my elbow and shoulder will hit instead of my hand. You can also wear a small wrist brace if you find that it helps. I did not. However it is suffice to say that 98.6 % of existing motorcycle gloves just did not work for me and I was very pleased to have found the pair that I did.

The Bike

The seating position will also greatly affect the vibration and stress on your wrist. Any cafe racer style bike will definitely stress out and possibly hurt your wrist as compared to an upright seating position. I think that the enduro style bikes are the best for two reasons:

  1. The foot pegs are immediately underneath the seat directly below and are attached securely to the bike’s frame. You can stand on these pegs while riding. So you can use this to reduce know vibrations by putting most of your weight on your legs when going over bumps such as train tracks and ever so lightly hold the throttle with your PRC hand.
  2. The upright seating position when adjusted properly allows for your hands to lightly hold the throttle and your arms are bent and not reaching. Depending on your height you may need handle bar extensions to achieve the proper position. Bikes to consider in order of price are:
  • Honda NC 700
  • Kawasaki Versys
  • Suzuki V-Strom
  • BMW GS series Bikes (F 650, F700, F800 and RS 1200 GS)
  • Ducati Hypermotard
  • Motto Gucci Stelvio

An interesting bnote that we discovered when shopping for my wife’s bike is that BMW offers an amazing rider fitting service. For example, if you are short, you can order the F700 GS lowered right from the factory. My wife has only a 26.5” inseam and they fit her on the F-700 GS lowered with the low seat. And visa versa, you can have the bike with a higher seat if you are very tall.

The Path

Obviously the road you choose to ride on will have a direct affect on the vibration and shock to your wrist. It is impossible to avoid all bumpy roads but often it is possible to avoid those big bumps, pot holes and such. Always keep the path in mind.

After Riding

After riding you may want to consider wrapping your wrist with ice. This will just help eliminate any possible  inflammation that may occur later on and it often just feels nice. I still wear my brace while I sleep and often will slip it on after a long ride just to rest the ligaments and muscles.

Conclusion

If you love to ride, you will ride! Will it be perfect and like before, no. However, it may be better since you will have a new appreciation for riding and you will enjoy every second you have on the bike. I had my surgery on June 19, 2013. Last summer I did over 14,000 Km on my bike. Were there times when my wrist hurt? hell yes! Did it hurt enough to stop riding? NO! You can review my rides on my riding blog but here is a link to my ride to Mount Washington.

 

If you love to ride, you will figure out a way to ride again. Don’t worry, you will. You may change your bike if you have a cafe racer to a more upright seating position such as the BMW F700 GS. You may make modifications such as I did. I found preparing my bike with these modifications helped during the recovery stage because I could look forward to riding again. I hope this helps!

Ride On – Ride Safe – Ride Free!

 

DSC01181 WP_20141129_001 peter oin rain

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