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Discussion Starter #1
Here is something interested that California Superbike School posted on their Facebook page. Have a look at the coach's left hand then to the next image for a close up view.

Once you've put the bike on line, make sure there is no tension on the handlebars. Photo: @etechphoto

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When you ride do you think you're as relaxed as the coach pictured or do you still carry tension in the handlebars?
 

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Tension creeps up on you in a sneeky way . Many years ago I did a training course at the Nurburgring and before we went out they had us all doing a relaxation exercise .
 

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my advanced instructor [an ex cop] used to have use flapping our arms like demented chickens to 'loosen up', while riding along.!
Tensing up introduces all sorts of control problems, as Hedgepig says it does creep back if your not aware.
 

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I ride with my hands like that most of the time, with just my palms on the grips on my fingers resting on the levers.

When I first passed my test and rode with my hands around the grips i found I would tense up sometimes if I thought I was approaching a bend too fast or other similar situations, that meant I would grip the bars even harder and "lock" the steering which potentially made the situation even worse.

So even though I'm more experienced now I personally find it better to just ride with my palms and thumb underneath and then just push on the inside bar to drop the bike into the turn, so there's no possibility of me stopping the bars moving by tensing up.

The only time I don't do this is when I'm desperately gripping the Thruxton heated grips in winter to keep warm?
 
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Discussion Starter #5
Cool, love the reference to "flapping your arms like a demented chicken" hahahah. We have an exercise at the California Superbike School where we have students work on being more relaxed and the hand signal from the instructors is to, like you said, flap your arms like a demented chicken. Hahaha. So, it's helpful to have relaxed arms and sometimes, simply reminding yourself to relax your arms can help. But what do you do if you try and get yourself to relax but are constantly finding that you are still tense, despite your brain telling your arms to relax?

What causes you to be tense in the first place? What actions can you perform on the bike to help prevent you from getting tense in the first place?
 

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I ride to relax , to go somewhere , to clear my mind . And if that's not working I need to get off my bike and stop putting myself and others at risk . I'm terrible to travel with if riding or driving as my whole attention is on that and that alone , I am constantly observing and considering everything around me . Road condition traffic condition pedestrians animals its all being processed but I ignore the radio and the waffle of anything actually within or on my vehicle . Unless it is likely to affect my safe onward progression .
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I ride to relax , to go somewhere , to clear my mind . And if that's not working I need to get off my bike and stop putting myself and others at risk . I'm terrible to travel with if riding or driving as my whole attention is on that and that alone , I am constantly observing and considering everything around me . Road condition traffic condition pedestrians animals its all being processed but I ignore the radio and the waffle of anything actually within or on my vehicle . Unless it is likely to affect my safe onward progression .
Good reminder that if your mind is not clear then you should stop what you are doing and re-evaluate before getting back on the bike. That being said though, you can FEEL relaxed as a rider and still have unwanted tension in your hands or wrists or arms! (I'm not saying that is what you ride like at all...I'm just pointing it out). So, how do you know if you have unwanted tension in your arms? What are the symptoms of riding while tense (besides the simple tell tale sign of arm pump or sore wrists?)
 

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Interesting topic.
I ride to relax and clear my head, but I find it difficult to relax while riding through corners.
It used to be worse on my sports bike due to your weight also resting on the wrists, yet still on my speedy it happens. Brief moments where I remember to relax, my cornering improves immediately and the whole riding experience gets much better. For me personally its because of my lack in trusting the bike.. just last year I was getting close to 90 confidence that my bike did not want to kill me, and my new rear tire decided to act up and sliding from under me in a very slow corner on a roundabout.. I kept the rubber side down, but only just.

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I remember talking to some riders who said that they would never remove a hand off the bar to wave to another rider going in the opposite direction while leaned over in a turn. I remarked that although you have to be aware of the road surface ahead, rocks, sand, etc, that not feeling able to remove a hand means that you are not fully relaxed and comfortable with what the bike is doing underneath you. They wouldn't even relax their fingers. They thought I was nutz and tempting fate. I make a point of always evaluating my body position and arms, hands and overall tension while riding to keep myself relaxed to enjoy the ride or to take steps to avoid a potential hazard. Let the bike react and do it's job. They really can go around a corner once leaned over all by themselves.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Interesting topic.
I ride to relax and clear my head, but I find it difficult to relax while riding through corners.
It used to be worse on my sports bike due to your weight also resting on the wrists, yet still on my speedy it happens. Brief moments where I remember to relax, my cornering improves immediately and the whole riding experience gets much better. For me personally its because of my lack in trusting the bike.. just last year I was getting close to 90 confidence that my bike did not want to kill me, and my new rear tire decided to act up and sliding from under me in a very slow corner on a roundabout.. I kept the rubber side down, but only just.

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This is a very good observation about your own riding but it means that something is CAUSING you to feel tense, hence the reason why you can't seem to relax when you know it makes your overall riding better. So, first question, do you feel like you are using your legs, hips and core to stabilize yourself on the bike, or are you using your arms to do this? By squeezing your legs against the tank, you can help stabilize your lower body so that your arms CAN relax. This is one of the first things we look at when we observe riders who are carrying extra tension in their arms and hands.

If you feel like you are squeezing the tank with your legs and that you can relax the pressure on the bars but still feel it is difficult to do so, then there can be other factors in your riding contributing to this feeling.

What are some other aspects of riding that can cause a rider to tense up on the bars and find it difficult to stay relaxed while riding?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I remember talking to some riders who said that they would never remove a hand off the bar to wave to another rider going in the opposite direction while leaned over in a turn. I remarked that although you have to be aware of the road surface ahead, rocks, sand, etc, that not feeling able to remove a hand means that you are not fully relaxed and comfortable with what the bike is doing underneath you. They wouldn't even relax their fingers. They thought I was nutz and tempting fate. I make a point of always evaluating my body position and arms, hands and overall tension while riding to keep myself relaxed to enjoy the ride or to take steps to avoid a potential hazard. Let the bike react and do it's job. They really can go around a corner once leaned over all by themselves.
ABSOLUTELY!!! Couldn't have said it better. We have a saying at the Superbike School "set it and forget it." the idea is that once you steer the bike and get it set online, relax all pressure on the bars. Jazz hands ;)

Here is an example photo: I'm coaching a quick student at VIR and giving the throttle control signal. In order to give hand signals while leaned over at pace, you have to be stable on your bike by using your lower body to lock on and that in turn helps you keep your arms relaxed. Photo by Etechphoto.com
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This is a very good observation about your own riding but it means that something is CAUSING you to feel tense, hence the reason why you can't seem to relax when you know it makes your overall riding better. So, first question, do you feel like you are using your legs, hips and core to stabilize yourself on the bike, or are you using your arms to do this? By squeezing your legs against the tank, you can help stabilize your lower body so that your arms CAN relax. This is one of the first things we look at when we observe riders who are carrying extra tension in their arms and hands.

If you feel like you are squeezing the tank with your legs and that you can relax the pressure on the bars but still feel it is difficult to do so, then there can be other factors in your riding contributing to this feeling.

What are some other aspects of riding that can cause a rider to tense up on the bars and find it difficult to stay relaxed while riding?
Exactly that tbh. I do squeeze the tank with my knees, and I do corner by leaning and "allowing the bike to corner". I usually get more confident the further in the season I am (only ride 7 months per year due to winter conditions here).
For me it's purely mental, those moment where I forget the possibility of sliding and feel (cheesy as it sounds) one with the bike my corners are great. Fellow riders even point out they sometimes all of a sudden have a hard time keeping up in corners as I seem to lean in pretty hard, and corner pretty fast, where this would normally be the other way around (due to this tension). I guess it somewhere between trusting the equipment and my own skills without overestimating either.

Straights and mild fast corners are fine btw, it's on our lovely curvy forest paths here in Finland where my hands start to ach reminding me to loosen up.

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I tend to ride more relaxed in my legs and use my arms more than I should when riding quick. Its a very difficult habit to break, and as a result, I am much more tense in the bars than I should.

I took a class at a track day and the instructors would ride up next to you and slap your arm off the bars. It wasnt a hard slap but should be enough to knock your hand away if you had a loose grip.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I tend to ride more relaxed in my legs and use my arms more than I should when riding quick. Its a very difficult habit to break, and as a result, I am much more tense in the bars than I should.

I took a class at a track day and the instructors would ride up next to you and slap your arm off the bars. It wasnt a hard slap but should be enough to knock your hand away if you had a loose grip.
It's a good observation about your own riding that you tend to tense up when riding quick and use more arms than legs. While it is a hard habit to break it should be a priority to sort out. One options for quickly braking bad habits is to go out and ride and intentionally be super tense and tight on the bars for a few corners. Over exaggerate being tense and using your arms as opposed to your legs and really get a sense of how that feels. Then do the complete opposite and squeeze the tank hard with your knees while keeping your arms super loose like wet noodles and see how that feels. This can help you get a handle on exactly how you should be riding, with less tension in the bars overall and a more relaxed position, even when riding quick. Give it a try and let me know if it helps.

What are some other things you can do to help get rid of tension in the bars? Does what you see visually contribute to whether or not you CAN relax or not?
 

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It's a good observation about your own riding that you tend to tense up when riding quick and use more arms than legs. While it is a hard habit to break it should be a priority to sort out. One options for quickly braking bad habits is to go out and ride and intentionally be super tense and tight on the bars for a few corners. Over exaggerate being tense and using your arms as opposed to your legs and really get a sense of how that feels. Then do the complete opposite and squeeze the tank hard with your knees while keeping your arms super loose like wet noodles and see how that feels. This can help you get a handle on exactly how you should be riding, with less tension in the bars overall and a more relaxed position, even when riding quick. Give it a try and let me know if it helps.

What are some other things you can do to help get rid of tension in the bars? Does what you see visually contribute to whether or not you CAN relax or not?

Its not really that I tense up so much its just I know I use my arms to maneuver the bike and adjust my riding position than I should. Its not a fear thing at all and I absolutely can relax, its more of just a bad habit that I developed. When I used to do track days I would be in the fast group but I would get arm pump real bad and be pretty worn out by the middle of the day. Heavy braking zones would be the worst obviously (which there are several at Fontana raceway which used to me by local track)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Its not really that I tense up so much its just I know I use my arms to maneuver the bike and adjust my riding position than I should. Its not a fear thing at all and I absolutely can relax, its more of just a bad habit that I developed. When I used to do track days I would be in the fast group but I would get arm pump real bad and be pretty worn out by the middle of the day. Heavy braking zones would be the worst obviously (which there are several at Fontana raceway which used to me by local track)
Well, it sounds like something that would be worthwhile to sort out as getting arm pump in the fast group and being pretty worn out by the middle of the day indicates to me that you are working too hard! There are many reasons why someone remains tense on the bike, sometimes it is fear based or not even fear based but just an uncertainty about one's own sense of speed and location on track. If you aren't 100% certain of where you are and where you want to go, then you can get tense on the bars. Sometimes it's body position related and one small change in how the hips are pointed or how the leg is locked onto the tank can help alleviate tension in the arms and pressure on the handlebars. I'd challenge you to look at WHY you are feeling worn out with arm pump. You mention heavy braking zones....what is something you can do under hard braking to ease the extra tension in your arms and hands? :)
 

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I hadn’t thought about it.
I don’t think I grip the tank with my knee, properly, unless I’m cold, At 5 11 I find it a bit awkward.
the only time I have trouble with waving, is when in traffic or at lights when I am using the clutch, So I nod. The response is often a nod. Probably for the same reason.
if find I don’t really have to hold on tight, I can have my hands quite relaxed and just push the bars to lean.
There does appear to be a bit of a contradiction between the basic course where I was taught to keep my fingers off the brakes, While I read advice to have a couple of fingers on the brake.
I find once I have twisted the throttle keeping my hand relatively loose with a little bit of pressure keeps it in place, Gripping tightly my hands cramp up, probably because I am getting older.
I was criticized for covering the brake, while I was learning so I consciously try not to,
Unless, I see something which I might have to brake for,
I probably don’t use the brakes enough, I use the throttle, to set my speed, and down shift,

I ride standard or naked bike, because I don’t know any better, I find I tend to sit upright and be more comfortable up to around 100 or 110 or 60 to 65 US which keeps my speed down.
if I go faster I tend to lean forward with my arms bent just to reduce the buffeting.
So I suppose I am a relatively slow rider.

A bike just feels fast,
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I hadn’t thought about it.
I don’t think I grip the tank with my knee, properly, unless I’m cold, At 5 11 I find it a bit awkward.
the only time I have trouble with waving, is when in traffic or at lights when I am using the clutch, So I nod. The response is often a nod. Probably for the same reason.
if find I don’t really have to hold on tight, I can have my hands quite relaxed and just push the bars to lean.
There does appear to be a bit of a contradiction between the basic course where I was taught to keep my fingers off the brakes, While I read advice to have a couple of fingers on the brake.
I find once I have twisted the throttle keeping my hand relatively loose with a little bit of pressure keeps it in place, Gripping tightly my hands cramp up, probably because I am getting older.
I was criticized for covering the brake, while I was learning so I consciously try not to,
Unless, I see something which I might have to brake for,
I probably don’t use the brakes enough, I use the throttle, to set my speed, and down shift,

I ride standard or naked bike, because I don’t know any better, I find I tend to sit upright and be more comfortable up to around 100 or 110 or 60 to 65 US which keeps my speed down.
if I go faster I tend to lean forward with my arms bent just to reduce the buffeting.
So I suppose I am a relatively slow rider.

A bike just feels fast,
Sometimes it is good to really think about your riding technique and how you might be able to make it better. You've mentioned quite a few things here so we can start with the first one. You say that you don't think you grip the tank with your knees correctly? Here is a tip, if you aren't locked on and stable with your lower body then it will be extremely difficult to keep your arms consistently relaxed.

So, step one for gripping the tank is to find a place on the seat where your knee(s) can fit into the cut out of the tank and get a good lock on. If you sit too close to the tank then you end up using the weaker part of your inner thigh muscles to grip and if you sit too far away then you only have your knees to grip the tank. Find a spot where you can get your knees into the tank comfortably and have the stronger part of your quads doing the work. I'm only 5"4 and I don't sit right up against the tank, but prefer to be back an inch or two to slot my knees into the tank.

From there if you lift your heel (on the outside leg) then it tends to drive the knee up and into the tank creating a really strong lock on. Sometimes very small movements, like lifting a heel, can make all the difference to how you sit and stay stable on the bike. This can have a huge effect on how hard you have to hold on to the handlebars.

See if any of those changes make a difference (you can even practice this statically with the bike on a stand).

:)
 
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