Since first throwing my leg over a bike 19 years ago, I have never once seen anyone wear a motorcycle touring kidney belt.
I’ve never even spoken to anybody about a kidney belt.
So what the hell are they? And should you be wearing one? In this post, we’ll look at the potential benefits and drawbacks.
What Is A Kidney Belt?
A kidney belt is like a weightlifting belt that wraps around your waist.
Motocrossers commonly use them to provide support and protection to the inner organs. Namely, the kidneys.
And that makes sense. If you’ve done any purposeful off-roading, you’ll know its high-impact nature can take its toll on your body.
The impacts (in combination with sharp twists, extreme turns, and torsional loads) can have severe consequences on the internal organs as well as muscles, connective tissues, joints, and bones.
But What About A Kidney Belt For Motorcycle Touring?
Well, this is where things get a little vague. Because unlike a spirited weekend of off-roading, touring usually involves smooth, flat tarmac.
Furthermore, we ride expensive bikes with way too many suspension settings that we can adjust on the fly.
Modern-day bikes do a great job of soaking up bumps in the road. And that means the impacts from these bumps don’t get absorbed into the body.
So if we’re riding comfortable bikes on comfortable roads, why do people wear kidney belts?
Related: The Most Comfortable Touring Motorcycles? (Updated 2022)
Motorcycle Touring Kidney Belts For Lower Back Pain
This is where the waters become murky. Because most people who wear kidney belts for motorcycle touring are doing so to support their lower back.
They either have lower back pain or have had it in the past and are trying to prevent it from returning.
Now, as a former physiotherapist, my knowledge of anatomy and physiology is pretty good. And I’ve treated many patients in the past with lower back pain.
Furthermore, I’m pretty certain that most medical experts will agree that wearing a motorcycle touring kidney belt to prevent lower back pain is probably the worst thing you can do.
However, there is a caveat to this.
If you have existing lower back or kidney issues (or other vital organ issues), you need to consult your practitioner for advice.
But for most people who suffer from low back pain, I’m not convinced a motorcycle touring kidney belt is the correct approach.
Wearing A Motorcycle Touring Kidney Belt To Prevent Back Pain
If you have lower back pain and you’ve been cleared of any underlying medical issues, then something is causing your back to hurt.
And in my experience, it’s usually postural. Or there are imbalances. Some muscles may be weak, and others may be tight. Some may be overused to compensate for weaker muscles.
The list is endless.
But either way, low back pain is usually caused by a biomechanical issue that once addressed, becomes better. And the pain goes away.
Wearing A Kidney Belt For Motorcycle Touring
This could be doing you more harm than good. If you have a postural complaint that is causing low back pain, then wearing a kidney belt is like taking pill killers for a toothache.
Because whilst painkillers may take away tooth pain temporarily, they won’t remedy the root cause of the problem. And once they wear off, the pain will inevitably return.
The same can be said about wearing a motorcycle touring kidney belt for lower back pain. Whilst it may alleviate immediate back pain, it will not fix the underlying problem.
Over time, it could make things worse by allowing dominant muscles to remain dominant whilst weak muscles continue to become weaker.
The underlying problem will need to be fixed by addressing whatever is causing it in the first place.
Make Changes Before Investing In A Motorcycle Touring Kidney Belt
I suffered from lower back pain for a decade. And it only got better when I made a conscious effort to correct postural malalignments.
I also started running again and worked on my tight hamstrings. On top of this, I improved a host of other mobility and flexibility issues through stretching and practising yoga (albeit badly!)
Almost overnight, the pain went away. Completely.
Now, lower back pain is notoriously complex to diagnose and treat. And I still don’t know which of the above remedied my pain. But I know one of them (or a combination of them) did.
And as long as I keep doing them, the pain stays away.
Related: Motorcycle Fitness: Get More From Your Tour
Postural Changes On The Bike
It’s not just in everyday settings that we can make postural changes. Perhaps your bike forces you into a position your back doesn’t like.
And whilst I’m not saying that you should change your bike (although it certainly could be an option), you could make other, smaller changes.
Try different suspension settings. Add a seat cushion. Install (or uninstall) bar risers or alter the height of the pedals and levers.
Tailoring these small factors to your needs could bring about instant postural changes.
Related: Wave Goodbye To Numb Bums With A Motorcycle Seat Pad: Top 7
Postural Changes In Everyday Life
Low back pain often arises from the posture we adopt at work. Desk jobs and driving jobs are ill-famed for inducing postural changes that promote muscular imbalances.
You might have a rounding of the shoulders and shortened chest muscles. Or you may have tight hip flexors and glutes that don’t fire properly.
The bad news is these things can all contribute to low back pain on the bike. The good news is they can be fixed. And whilst a motorcycle touring kidney belt may help alleviate the issue, it won’t fix the root cause of the problem.
Swap A Motorcycle Kidney Belt For General Fitness
As mentioned above, I alleviated my low back problem when I made a conscious effort to change it. For me, it was a combination of running, resistance training, and a flexibility programme.
In other words, general fitness.
I went against ‘bro talk’ advice suggesting I should wear a weightlifting belt in the gym. Instead, I lowered the weight and concentrated on form.
Reducing the weight allowed me to work through greater ranges. And that meant I could strengthen muscles throughout the full range of motion.
Related: 11 Ways To Stay Fit On Tour: Feel Better, Enjoy More!
Yes, But I WANT A Kidney Belt!
Despite my protestations, some people will still want a kidney belt.
Perhaps you’re aware of your postural/strength imbalances and are actively working on them. You just want some extra support (for now) until you remedy your situation. And that’s fine.
Or perhaps you have a chronic injury from illness or accident that will never get better. You can still ride your bike (with your doctor’s approval), and a kidney belt keeps the pain away whilst you ride.
I see no reason why you shouldn’t wear a kidney belt in this situation. If your ailment isn’t going to get better, and wearing a kidney belt means you can still enjoy riding, then go for it.
So for the few who actually need a kidney belt for motorcycling, what do we suggest? You’ll find a few below.
Held Mago Kidney Belt
- Outlast outer shell
- Outlast temperature-control fabric to regulate heat
- Has a reinforced back for protection and stability
- Available in 8 sizes (XS to 4XL – 50cm – 195cm)
Held Tri-Tec Kidney Belt
- Outlast temperature-control liner
- Stretch fabric composition for comfort, fit and stability
- Reinforced back
- Removable SAS-TEC protector
- Available in 5 sizes (XS – 2XL, 65cm – 155cm)
EVS Celtek Kidney Belt
- TPR reinforced lower back
- Channelled hex foam for support and ventilation
- Breathable construction
- Perforated bio-foam core
Leatt 3DF Kidney Belt
- CE certified to EN 1621-1
- Impact tested
- 3DF foam for impact protection
- Channelled Thermo foam 3D for ventilation
Alpinestars Bionic Tech V2
- Height-adjustable kidney belt
- Abrasion-resistant and durable construction
- Ventilated chest protector
- Cell-vented back protector
- Protection on arms, chest, and sides
Motorcycle Touring Kidney Belts: Conclusion
There is a time and place for wearing kidney belts. If you choose to spend your weekend off-roading, then you may find a place for one in your protective arsenal.
But if you’re wearing one as a shortcut to alleviating low back pain, it might be worth spending a little extra time investing in the root cause – and taking the necessary action to fix it.
I’m a massive believer in the benefits of general fitness for riding bikes as a whole. And a basic fitness programme consisting of resistance training, cardiovascular training, and flexibility will enhance your comfort on the bike without the need for a motorcycle touring kidney belt.
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Top image: Cottonbro