Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Forward controls – the jury is still out

Well I finally got to go for a short (50 mile) ride after putting the forwards on last week, and I have to say the jury is still out.HD forwards

But first, for those concerned readers worried about my minimalist fix for the old shift lever, I fabricated a metal bracket to hold it in place and was able to remove the quick-tie. You can rest easy now.
HD quick tie          HD bracket

The reason I wanted to try forwards in the first place was because I spent most of my riding time with my feet on the highway pegs and found having to take them off to shift or use the rear brake was a pain. Besides, I like the look and I got them at a very good price, so my financial exposure was limited.

After an admittedly short time (and distance) here are my initial observations that might be of value to someone considering the change. I also expect to get some comments from readers who swear by forwards, so let’s get a dialogue going.

YogaNow to provide a significant caveat… I have never ridden a bike with forwards before, so my decades of experience have always been with my feet firmly planted near, or beneath, my butt. Except for the rear-sets I had on my Z1, that is, but that was only for a year or so and I was much more flexible back then.

So with that out of the way, here’s what I found.

On the highway they are great. Very comfortable. As I indicated earlier, I was used to the highway pegs anyway, so this gives me the same riding position with the added benefit of not having to change foot position to shift or use the rear brake to slow down.

But in town and on the gravel roads around here I feel like I’ve given up a lot of control. I didn’t realise how much I managed balance and controlled my road position through my lower body and legs. With the forwards I find I’m using much more upper body with the resulting tensions in less-used back muscles. I expect that may change as I get more familiarity with them and my body acclimates to the riding position, but it caught me by surprise.

Also around here the roads can get pretty rough – even the paved ones. Having the ability to lift your ass off the seat, even slightly, when hitting a bump does a lot to smooth out the ride. Clearly that’s not possible with the forwards, although I have heard of some people leaving the mid foot pegs in place for exactly that purpose. I may have to give that a try.

And speaking of being able to get one’s ass of the seat, there’s a particular problem we guys face, and that is the need to adjust the “boys” once in a while. Sitting in one spot for hours on end, things can get, shall we say, cramped, and being able to lift off the seat and let gravity realign everything can be a great relief (ladies, trust me on this one). With the forward controls  you lose that option unless you retain the mid pegs in place, which is another reason to consider doing just that.

While it may seem that this is mostly  negative, and I am disappointed, I have no intention of pulling them off just yet. Over the next few days I hope to get a chance to put some serious miles on which will really let me get comfortable (or not) with them. But with a 4- or 5-day road trip in the planning stages for next month I want to be sure I have the most comfortable ride I can manage.


  1. hmmm, canajun, im sorry. i will agree with your observations-i understand completely.

    in my case, i have a bad lower back and tend to steer with my hips vs my legs, so mids leave me feeling like humpty dumpty.

    with forwards vs mids, the ability to stand on pegs is eliminated. i know men (former racers mostly) that keep the mid/both pegs for this reason. this is probably the best of all worlds.

    there is a slight posture change which could create the need to consider handlebar or seat position.

    and yes mine have all handled as completely different bikes when converted. im sorry, i did not think to warn you of that. IMHO, they become different bikes, the change is drastic-to me.

    note, mids allow you to steer/lean with the balls of your feet. forwards are by big toe instead. its different, but it works, try it.

    i am really curious of what happens. im sure that you will know fairly quickly what works for you, and im looking forward to hearing more...

  2. ps, great looking brkt :)

  3. Thanks for your comments on forward controls. Being short of leg I have not really entertained the thought of using them, and your comments on diminshed control are what I feared. Also, I have floorboards and I like having my whole foot planted.

    And, like mq01 said, nice fab job on the bracket!

  4. When I need to, I use my passenger pegs. It's like riding a crotch rocket. Good for change of position on a longer ride. You will get used to forwards. you will gain control after a while too. You can lift yourself up while feet in forward position too. Just takes time and practice.

  5. hmmm, mr motorcycle is right, i DO stand on my forwards when clearing an obstacle like woodplanks in the road...

  6. Thanks all for the comments. I will have to try some of those techniques if it ever stops raining (the last thing I want to do is be learning to handle new controls on wet, slippery roads).
    And it IS rather a nice bracket, isn't it? LOL

  7. Thanks time to get used to forwards but certainly not the same in city driving...the centre pegs is what I prefer in my case.


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