.....Product Report written by Motorcycle Consumer News: Back-A-Line Back Support Belt We’ve recommended kidney belts before as a good idea for improving endurance when riding long distances. The small but constant impacts that get through the suspension, and the less-than-ideal posture that many bikes force you to adopt, can all put a strain on the kidneys and lower back over time.
As our Physical Motorcycling expert Dr. Paul Kuhn has pointed out, proper posture is most important to comfort. Lumbar lordosis, or the natural reverse curvature of the lower spine when standing, is what we should also preserve when riding.
The Back-A-Line is designed to create that posture all the time. More than a simple support belt, its back portion is actually a stiff shaped pad about 1” thick that keys into the shape of your lower back. Relieved in the center to provide a comfortable groove for your spinal column, it fits very naturally and is not uncomfortable to wear, whether walking or sitting. Worn under your waistband, it doesn’t make your pants any tighter than an elastic belt.
It’s retained by a pair of overlapping 4” velcro wraps on the front, which are backed up by a second 2” velcro belt that passes through a nylon ring and locks back against itself, again with velcro. Unlike most kidney belts, neither strap is elastic, which the manufacturer contends actually create muscle weakness. The rigid design, on the other hand, is said to create beneficial intra-abdominal pressure and isometric resistance. The construction quality is very high and the belt is claimed to last three times as long as stretchy types, which, as we know, eventually lose their elasticity. Although originally designed to reduce workplace back injuries, we found the device provided excellent long-ride comfort (tested for 1800 miles over four days). It works like a back-rest that you can wear all day. And, at $39.95, it’s reasonably priced. (Sorry but now $49.95 & still a bargain.) — Dave Searle
.....Product Report by Thunder Press: Posture Perfected (Stop slouching! Here's how...) Reviewed by Terry Roorda
If you've never had a serious back complaint you're fortunate, but you're also in the distinct minority. It's estimated that 85 percent of the population will endure some significant back problem during their lifetime, and that's the general population. For the biker population, given their demographic profile and nonsedentary pursuits, I'd suspect that percentage to be somewhat higher, and among riders of hardtails, I'd expect that percentage to jump up somewhere into the range of about 300 percent. That's a statistical impossibility, I realize, but I'm counting multiple hump-busting injuries, one each for the three components of hardtail OEM rear shock absorbers-the lumbar, sacrum and coccyx.
Another pertinent statistic in this regard is that only 10 percent of back injuries are the result of obvious trauma like heavy lifting or falling off a roof. The balance is attributed prosaically to prolonged bad posture, and are, as such, preventable. In other words, quit slouching.
That's easier said than done, since slouching is pretty much what humans do naturally and few people outside of finishing schools and service academies have ever cultivated a proper postural discipline. If keeping your back straight is not a habit ingrained in your psyche, you just don't do it.
Telegram for Mr. Lumbar While poor posture in any activity makes your backbone vulnerable, it's particularly pronounced when riding a motorcycle. Slouching in the saddle optimally positions the lower back for damage when you take the kind of jolt a swingarm telegraphs from a pothole, or a hardtail telegraphs from an expansion joint-or a picture of a pothole. So how do you go about maintaining healthy posture? Good question. I'll bet you're slouching right now… and now you're not, but only because I pointed it out. Therein lies the rub and, as we shall see, the solution.
Lacking that ingrained awareness of your alignment, the natural inclination is to strap on an appliance of some sort to keep your vertebrae and discs shmushed into shape; some kind of elastic corset like stock handlers wear at Wal-Mart, perhaps. And it must be acknowledged that elastic body wraps are indeed effective-effective at making you look and feel like a human sausage link. A sausage link, alas, with poor posture. Interestingly, it was in fact Wal-Mart who funded the study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health that determined that these rigs are worthless in preventing back injury. (You're slouching again.)
Body talk The Back-A-Line riding belt takes a different tack in approaching the posture problem. It relies not upon strictly mechanical means to keep you upright, but upon a phenomenon called "proprioceptivity"-the ability and inclination of your body to respond to subconscious cues. Consisting of a sturdy polyester belt into which is sewn a molded foam lumbar pad with a channel to accommodate your spine, the Back-A-Line is worn snugly, but not tightly. The intent is not to brace your back, but to suggest a healthy position to it. The belt basically leaves your brain out of the conversation, as it were, and talks directly to your lumbar, keeping up a constant subliminal patter of correction and encouragement like your own little spinal Pilates instructor: "Straighten up! Good! Stay aligned! Beautiful! You go, vertebrae!" The shape and position of the belt teach by example, and your spine responds. That's what the promotional material from Back-A-Line told me anyway, and like you, my initial response was: "Right. Sounds reasonable. Now if you'll help me back up on the turnip truck I'll go and buy one." It sounded like so much biomechanical voodoo, but reading on, I learned that Back-A-Line has the documentation to substantiate their claims. The proof issued from the Fourth Applied Ergonomics Conference held at Ohio's Miami University. (What a swell convention that must be. I can't help but picture a hotel bar full of nerds sitting bolt-upright on barstools attempting to hoist a few without being repetitive about the motion.) Anyway, that august body of body experts determined conclusively that the Back-A-Line improves posture, and was the only product of its kind that actually does so. The belt does talk, and the spine does listen. (You're slouching again.)
From theory to practice Products like the Back-A-Line belt are not the easiest to actually evaluate, as you can probably imagine, but I did devise what I considered to be an adequate methodology. The test equipment consisted of a borrowed Panzer DXF-C hardtail chopper, and the test track was the 20 or so miles of back road between Nemo and Sturgis, South Dakota, a serpentined route through the Black Hills that included a couple miles of washboard gravel and an off-grade railroad crossing on the edge of town. A test dummy was employed for the procedure, and I installed it by throwing a leg over the saddle of the Panzer. The drill was simple from there on out. I'd wear the Back-A-Line while riding the hardtail for a few days over that course and then make a determination as to whether or not I was in pain, or could feel my feet.
That's simple enough, and I would have considered my duty fulfilled with a few passes over those final miles of wretched cheese grater gravel without blowing out anything musculoskeletal. That would suffice for the evaluation and be adequate foundation for saying nice things about the product, and in point of fact I did make a number of laps without squishing a disc or tweaking my slinky out of whack, and that should have been the happy summation of the trial. I hadn't intended to get any more thorough or scientific than that, and certainly hadn't intended to serve as my own control group…
But that's what happened See, on the last run into town to drop the DXF-C back off at Panzer, I didn't wear the Back-A-Line. It was, I reasoned, a quick final hop over a now-familiar back road and stretch of gravel. It was a hot day and I didn't want to be encumbered with the belt in town while wandering around shooting photos. So off I rode, getting nearly all the way into town without incident. I knew by rote now the smooth tracks through the washboard, and rode along smartly without giving any thought to the alignment of my spine. I also didn't give any thought to that railroad crossing until I hit it slouching in my saddle. Mother McCree...
A month later I was still experiencing painful spasms from that episode, but I took some comfort in a job well done. I had scientifically demonstrated the difference wearing the Back-A-Line belt makes when riding a hardtail over an abrupt railroad track, and it's not a lesson I'll soon forget. As a matter of fact, I'm wearing the belt as I'm writing this. I'm training my posture. And you're still slouching, aren't you?
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