How Can I Get A Smoother Ride From My Motorcycle?

John Burns
by John Burns

Ask MO Anything: My Duke is Hurting my Behind

Dear MOby,

I have a KTM Duke 390 and it is the only bike I use for everything. That includes, but is not limited to, touring, riding to buy groceries, and just riding around town. The problem I have is that at times I ride to destinations that don’t necessarily have tarred roads. Sometimes I have to ride on unpaved roads that have rocks on them. You can imagine how painful the ride is, but I can’t afford another bike for touring.

So the question is, is there an economical solution to fix my suspension?


Your Duke’s suspension isn’t exactly plush and you wouldn’t expect it to be given the bike’s low price and its mission, but it’s really not so bad either. The only adjustment in the stock suspension is for spring preload at the rear, so make sure it’s not wound in too far for your weight.

Adjusting Motorcycle Suspension

Smoother suspension action can be had if you get a reputable tuning shop to revalve it for your weight and riding environment or upgrade it with aftermarket parts. If you’re really light, like less than 150 pounds, you could try softer springs, but then you might also open several new, expensive cans of worms.

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one, Rockhopper, sometimes so simple as to be right under your nose, or butt, in this instance. The great Steve Anderson, the last EiC of Cycle magazine and a real-live engineer, once pointed out this not-so-obvious fact to me: The first component of any motorcycle suspension is its seat.

We’ve ridden a KTM or two equipped with KTM’s own comfort seats, and found them to be a truly worthy investment for long rides. As a matter of fact, we tested the one for your very bike here, where we wrote:

Another sore spot – literally – was the stock seat, which isn’t especially compliant and uses a plasticky cover. KTM’s PowerParts catalog provided relief in the form of the Ergo Seat, which uses much nicer material for its cover and plusher, thicker foam. It’s vastly more comfortable than the stocker and remained so even after nearly 200 miles in the saddle when I rode it out to Chuckwalla Valley Raceway for a trackday.

“Its 20mm of increased seat height certainly helped increase comfort in the legroom department for my 5-foot-11 chassis,” T-Rod lauds. “I wouldn’t hesitate to take it on a longer ride.”

KTM’s Ergo seat for your bike is KTM part number 902.07.940.100. It’s 20mm taller than the stock seat, packed with “technologically advanced components” like “3D structural mesh special foam with built-in tunnel form,” etc, and sells for about $130.

If that’s too rich, consider something like a Saddlemen Tech Comfort Gel Pad, a strap-on deal that comes in five different sizes and puts a layer of shock-absorbing gel between your fundament and your Duke. The size Medium sells for $85.

A lot of riders swear by their AirHawk seats, which as the name implies, use an air suspension-based system to cushion your behind. You’ll have to measure your Duke to see what style/size will fit, but they’re around $110.

I bet you’ll find any of these three will be a huge improvement over your thinnish stock saddle, and there are a lot of other saddle makers out there too. Check forums for advice, but realize that no two butts are exactly alike.

Direct your motorcycle-related questions to, though some say we’re better at non-motorcycle-related ones…

John Burns
John Burns

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  • Jon Jones Jon Jones on Jan 19, 2017

    "The great Steve Anderson, the last EiC of Cycle magazine and a real-live engineer, once pointed out this not-so-obvious fact to me: The first component of any motorcycle suspension is its seat."

    All too true. Although the suspension on my '80 Suzuki GS1000GT is notso-hotso, that big mattress of a seat soaks up smaller bumps beautifully.

  • Merlin Stewart Merlin Stewart on Dec 18, 2017

    Moto-Skiveez riding shorts help a lot but they can be hot. Air Hawk seats help but they transfer pressure uncomfortably to my man bits.