Cycling and Motorcycle Fitness
Editor’s note: We are beginning a short series on health and fitness for motorcycling in 2024, and we thought Neale Bayly would make a great “coach” to guide us through this winter. And there’s arguably no better exercise for motorcycle riding than bicycling.
Now, while this might seem odd to most of you, I’ve noticed something very strange lately. Every year I seem to be getting older and those motorcycle track days, adventure rides or dirt bike sessions seem to be getting a little more challenging. Without much chance of adding to my limited skill set, I made a conscious decision to stay as motorcycle fit as I can and to that end find myself doing a fair amount of bicycling these days. Nearly all top level motorcycle racers use cycling as part of their training. With it being the perfect activity to complement our motorcycling habits, I found myself in Georgia recently riding with my good buddy Scott Russell. Those of your old enough to remember rotary phones will remember he won the World Superbike Championship in 1993, as well as numerous American championships and a few Daytona 200s. Well, packing up to leave his place recently he grabbed his mountain bike and shoved it in my car saying, “Pay me later.”
The Scott Spark 29 that Scott Russell remanded into my care. There is no greater fitness regimen for motorcycling than riding bicycles, on and/or off-road.
Scott bought the Scott Spark 29er in 2017, raced it to a championship first year out and has had a lot of fun, and success, on the carbon fiber mountain bike. Over the time of ownership, he has made a number of upgrades and recently had the suspension rebuilt as part of his maintenance program. Here came the problem. He never felt the confidence and comfort level he enjoyed before, and with the new Scott mountain bikes now coming with electric shifting, it’s going to be time for him to upgrade soon; so home it came with me. With admittedly fairly limited time on a mountain bike, I was immediately impressed with the 29-inch wheels, full suspension and amazing disc brakes. It had a neat lock-out switch for three positions to set your suspension while riding, but there was something though that just didn’t quite feel right. I am to suspension adjustment what fish are to flying, so other than trying some changes with the air adjusters I decided the best thing to do was to take a trip up to Hendersonville, NC, and go talk to the motorcycle and bicycle suspension experts at Andreanni USA.
Pietro preparing to work his magic on my mountain bike. They do motorcycle suspensions as well. World class service and skills.
“Andreanni USA” I hear you all chorus, who or what are they? Well, I have to admit when I was invited to an open house there around a year ago I thought the exact same thing. And for the interest of brevity here I will focus on my suspension for now, but if you want to know what a major player they are in Europe, a said gentleman named Valentino Rossi uses their suspension on all his ranch training bikes in Italy. Located in the North Carolina mountains, the Andreanni USA facility is a stone’s throw from the Öhlins USA factory and the perfect location for a company that provides suspension for all types of motorcycles and mountain bikes. My friend David Behrend greeted me, and we took the Scott into the work shop for suspension guru Pietro Palladino to give it a look over. He checked the settings, made some adjustments and sat me on to get the sag right. Carefully I got on and off the bike a few times as he worked his magic on the rebound settings and the air levels until he was happy. Debriefing, he told me he had taken out a couple of clicks of rebound in the front, added two in the rear and changed the air pressures to suit my weight. He then set about adding in the Andreanni Pro-Impact Rock Shox ZEB fork kit ($95 retail). For my bike he went with three hard, two medium and one soft inserts and once it was all buttoned up, mountain bike specialist Tom VanDevender stopped by to check my set up. A few minutes later, a couple of test rides up and down the warehouse he had changed the seat height, moved the saddle position, set up the levers to better center them and make sure my wrists were in a more comfortable position, and I was off.
The Andreanni Pro-Impact Rock Shox ZEB fork kit, and the install. So many setup similarities between motorcycle and bicycle suspension work.
Taking the Scott for a quick spin around the parking lot, it felt immediately different. More compliant and comfortable but not so familiar with the different seat height. Tom has won championships on mountain bikes so knows what works, and he explained to me his thinking with the saddle height and pitch was to keep me more over the pedals when climbing. He also explained why the bike had felt like it was running wide in the turns with the rear suspension packing down and the front setup too hard and stiff. With the Pro-Impact fork kit I can now run lower air pressure in the front for a more compliant ride and Pietro gave me a range to experiment with. Having set the suspension up with rubber bands to check the travel, I bade the crew a fond farewell and headed home to Charlotte, eager to hit the trails.
Pietro buttoning up his handiwork in the bike. These folks are the best, for moto or pedal powered cycling.
Hammering down a steep, gnarly descent at the White Water Center near my home in Charlotte, chasing one of my wild cycling friends, it was time to cue the choirs of angels, set the light to soft and glowing and put everything in slow motion for effect. The only experience I’ve ever had like this before was when we threw the stock Triumph Speed Triple pogo sticks away and installed an Öhlins race shock and fork kit to my 2008 Triumph 1050. The confidence and comfort I was experiencing on the rough trails was mind blowing. The way the Scott turns, holds its lines and flicks through the tight stuff was enough to induce some whooping and hollering. I get what Tom has done by repositioning me for climbing, and no matter how fast I dared to go dropping off ledges and roots I never got close to bottoming out the suspension. The longer we rode the faster I went and quickly began to realize my wrists and arms were not feeling any fatigue- A major issue I’ve felt with the bike in the past.
Proper suspension setup makes a huge difference in ride comfort and longetivity, both on motorcycles and bicycles.
Getting a feel for the new setup, and back in Charlotte hitting the trails.
Still hard on the pedals as the ride was coming to an end, I heard Tom’s voice from the first time we met telling me how the fork kit will allow you ride longer and faster as you’ll be more comfortable and less fatigued. He wasn’t wrong. With the geometry now set, all the suspension adjustments just right, and a much more compliant front end I have to admit I think I’ve found a new drug and can’t believe I waited so long to have the suspension checked and set. Now I have even more reasons to stay training and doing my best to offset this getting old business. Big shout out to the technicians at Andreanni USA for transforming my mountain bike, and I look forward to coming up with a more specific feature article about this incredible company from Italy, the family that owns and runs it, and all they do in the world of moto and cycling suspension one of these days very soon.
Let’s get fit for 2024!
*Photos by Neale and son Patrick