Since first throwing my leg over a bike 17 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 ever done any purposeful off-roading, its high-impact nature can really 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 your muscles 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?
Motorcycle Touring Kidney Belts For Lower Back Pain
This is where the waters become murky.
Most people who wear kidney belts for motorcycle touring are doing so to support their lower back.
They either have lower back pain or, they’ve had it in the past and are trying to prevent it from coming back.
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 will need to consult your practitioner for relevant 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. 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 pain killers 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 sort out the underlying problem. And over time, it could make things worse by allowing weak muscles to become weaker.
The underlying problem will need to be fixed by addressing whatever is causing the problem 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 whole host of other mobility and flexibility issues.
And almost overnight, the pain went away.
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 did.
And as long as I keep doing them, the pain stays away.
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 that 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: The Motorcycle Seat Pads For Comfort
Postural Changes In Everyday Life
Low back pain often arises from the posture we adopt at work.
Desk jobs and driving jobs are both ill-famed for bringing about postural changes which 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 activate 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 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 that suggested I should wear a weightlifting belt in the gym. Instead, I lowered the weight and concentrated on form instead
Reducing the weight allowed me to work through greater ranges. And that meant I could strengthen muscles throughout the full range of motion.
Motorcycle Touring Kidney Belts: Conclusion
There is a time and place to wear kidney belts. If you spend your weekend’s off-roading, then you may find a place for one in your protective arsenal.
But if you’re wearing one to alleviate low back pain, it might be worth spending a little extra time on investing the root cause.
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 greatly enhance your comfort on the bike without the need of a motorcycle touring kidney belt.
Top image via Louis