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I'm looking at the idea of a large feline as a rideable mount, and I'm running into a question about the rider's posture when riding. Would it be best to have the rider mounted Prone, like on a modern racing bike, or more upright, like on a more classical horse. Or even a bit more reclined?

This is a designed feline mount (ancient wizards), so things like spine flex and all the other problems with feline mounts (like described here and here) are not a problem, or at least not for this discussion.

The creature's designed intent was a fast moving, short range mount. Think a day or two's travel at most to get around the flank of an army, to get the spec-ops team into their area of battle, or for a quick getaway. This is not long hauls over great distances... the mount wouldn't have the stamina for that day for more than a couple days.

I like the concept of the Prone position, and it has history to it (See the Gandalara Cycle for example). I'm just not sure about position as a longer term ride either for the mount or the rider, and how the seat posture affects things like:

  • comfort
  • visibility (fore and aft)
  • endurance
  • the mount's mobility.

I'd also appreciate any feedback from motorcyclists with real word experience on the two styles of seats and middle range

Notes:

  1. This is not for riding in battle, they would be more likely to dismount for that because 1) cat fighting, and 2) other reasons not pertinent to this discussion.
  2. I'm loosely basing the mount's build on an oversized Tiger, or a smilodon populator without the teeth. I might shorten the torso, depending on the rider's posture.
  3. This is not a land of giants. Super big cats also break normal sized tree limbs, so less climbing. Yes, we do have to take the vertical into account some, and while I would would like ideas on how that would affect the posture it's not a dominant thought.
  4. I'm also not caring as much about how the "saddle" is attached (as described here) but how the rider would be sitting on it. (If needed I can do a magic glue saddle attachment points.)
  5. Yes, this word does have magic, but it has rules, and I'd rather not have to stretch the rules here.

Edit note: Corrected from Supine (on the back) to Prone (on the belly) which was my intent. Thanks to Monty Wild.

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    $\begingroup$ You're asking a lot of different questions at once about seat posture. Please remember that we have a strict one question per post policy on this site. If you're asking about how posture is related to long rides, you've indicated some avenues of research that you seem to haven't followed up on your own yet, (How motorcycle posture affects the comfort of long distance rides). You should probably consider how horse riding posture is related to ride length as well. Please edit this post to ask a single question, preferably one that you can't answer yourself with basic research. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Nov 26, 2023 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ There is only one question here as I see it: What would the effects of supine posture while riding a big cat be? The four points merely reflect the potential consequences that would have to be considered anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 27, 2023 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ I also think that you've mixed up prone (lying on one's belly) with supine (lying on one's back). $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 27, 2023 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ You are writing 'short distance' but then talk about a days worth of travel. That counts as long endurance for most animals. If you look at the hunting strategy of felines it is based on sprinting towards the target for a few hundred meters at most. If they can't catch their prey by then they just give up the chase. $\endgroup$
    – quarague
    Nov 27, 2023 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ @quarague I can imagine that a world with a different timeline than ours can develop an endurance-based feline, just as we have endurance-based canids on our own timeline (And we often forget that not all canids are endurance-based. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Nov 28, 2023 at 20:24

6 Answers 6

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Motorcyclist here.

Well, Currently between Bikes Motorcyclist. I used to commute daily on a 120km round trip (60 km there, 60 back) - my Bike?

A Suzuki Hayabusa. I put 100,000 Km on that thing and a good percentage of that was in heavy traffic.

Initially my bike had stock handlebars (more of a Sports bike feel) but I put on a Bar Riser kit (this info will become suuuuuper relevant shortly).

I also did this when I was rather unfit (peak weight 130 Kg) and not very physically active, although whilst still riding daily, I did slim down to 103. As an aside - I'm currently 93 - trying to get to 85. It's a long journey.

On a Bike, on the Open road, travelling at Motorway speeds (100 Kph/60 MPH or there abouts) a Sports Bike position is actually quite comfortable - especially if you don't have a lot of upper body or core strength - the Wind stabilizes you and takes the pressure off your wrists. With the stock bars on a long-distance trip, I could ride for hours without getting tired.

However... You'll note I said most of my riding was done in heavy traffic, even though I was filtering through the traffic (Legal in NZ due to vagueness of NZ law) I was still only doing about 50-60 Kph, and making very frequent usage of my Brakes.

A forward leaning Sports bike position at those speeds and is not comfortable, it's hell on your wrists. Now - you might see very fit guys or guys in their 20s saying how they can daily a Gixxer or similar Sports bike and it's not a problem on their wrists - I would call into question how many of them actually daily their bike.

That position is good for leaning for corners, good for hanging on whilst accelerating hard (God I miss my 'Busa....) - but for slow speed, with lots of breaking or just things that cause your weight to go forward - it's not comfy.

The Bar riser kit I got was something like this: Here

This shifted the riding position to a Sport tourer type position

General Idea here

This took the weight significantly off of my Wrists and lower back - resulting in a nice comfy ride.

This, however, is for a Motorbike riding on flat and level roads - the movement of a Cat, no matter how graceful will be more jarring - much like a Horse - and for a more aggressive position, this jarring would be much worse than braking in heavy traffic because some... 'driver' is unaware of these magical devices on their car called 'Wing Mirrors'... So a leant over position would be a no-go.

In addition, a Cat isn't going to be hitting the speeds necessary for the wind resistance to make a leant over position comfortable.

You could perhaps make an argument that if they were in Combat, a leant over position would be advantageous for helping the Car corner by leaning - but since you've said no direct combat - I'm ignoring that.

TL;DR you would want an almost vertical upright position, much like a Horse rider, leaning forward or back as and when needed - but the majority would be sat upright, as to do anything else would cause absolute pain in your wrists and lower back.

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  • $\begingroup$ Those who really do commute on a Gixxer probably don't have much regard for speed limits - at least the one I worked with didn't. That was in a rural area where getting fast enough for wind pressure was possible if not always legal (or wise). Similar arguments apply to cycling posture, only we don't have the wind pressure. Aerobars reduce the arm and torso effort required dramatically by supporting the forearms near the elbows, to the extent that time-triallists can ride in a really tucked position for 24 hours straight. $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Nov 27, 2023 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ ... whether you could fit something to a tiger is another matter $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Nov 27, 2023 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ is to daily a verb when it comes to motorcycles? $\endgroup$
    – njzk2
    Nov 27, 2023 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @njzk2 - Kinda - It's more a slang term (not an official verb) - but if someone was to say they daily their Harley - it means they ride a Harley Davidson every day - this is because a lot of Motorcyclists will generally only ride in nice weather or in the weekend - it's differentiating between those that ride for fun or when the fancy takes them and those who routinely ride, regardless of weather/circumstances. $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2023 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ From what I'm hearing you want both options. When the cat is sprinting through or around combat, moving fast and where you want a low profile, you take a prone position to optimize your safety and max speed and who cares if it's uncomfortable if it keeps you alive. When the cat is just helping you get to the nearby town you take a more upright posture. The manner with which horses were ridden, saddles used, etc changed depending on intent of the ride why not cats? admittedly optimizing a cat for both formats is harder but you got a great 'a wizard did it' excuse for that so.... $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Nov 28, 2023 at 20:08
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The issues of riding any mount or even a vehicle in a supine position (effectively lying on the back) are similar, whether it is a cat, a horse or something else. I also believe that the OP has mistakenly substituted supine (lying on one's back) for prone (lying on one's front).

  1. Human heads are mounted on the neck and normally face forwards while the torso is upright. Altering the posture to a supine position while still needing to look forward necessitates bending the neck forwards to a degree proportional to the leaning-backness of the riding posture... or bending the neck backwards if the OP meant prone. In either case, this bending of the neck is a departure from human neutral posture, and the greater its degree, the more rapidly it will cause discomfort. Secondly, riding astride an animal or vehicle in a supine posture limits the ability of the legs to grip the mount's body. Human legs flex forward relatively easily, up to 110°, but do not extend backwards very far, perhaps 40-45°. A supine position may work for a vehicle in which a seat that is leaning back may be used, but it does not work well for an astride seat where the legs must point downwards. A prone position works much better.

  2. In a fully supine position, the rider must see past his own body and the head of the mount, while when fully prone, the mount's head will be in the way. In-between, there is likely to be stress on the rider's body from the necessity to support themselves in that position... especially when partially supine.

  3. A non-upright riding position is going to reduce the rider's endurance. It takes more muscular effort to maintain a leaning position, whether backwards or forwards. Human muscles are not like electric screw-jacks that use power only when changing position, they are working constantly, and consuming more energy when in an unbalanced position.

  4. The rider's posture won't affect the mount's endurance or straight-line speed much, since it won't be going fast enough for aerodynamic drag to become much of an issue, but it will affect its maneuverability. When sitting upright, the rider's body and center of gravity is located more or less over the mount's center of gravity, and does not extend forward or rearwards much. As a result, turning would be easier and faster than if the rider was entirely prone or supine, with their mass spread out along the mount's body, requiring more force to rotate the mass that is spread-out across the plane of rotation.

So, to summarise, the upright posture adopted by horse riders has been adopted for good reason. A leanoing-forward prone posture may be adopted in order to wring just a little more speed from a galloping mount by marginally reducing drag.

As for endurance, for a big cat, a couple of minutes of running is a very long time, and a couple of days at anything much above a quick walk would be unthinkable. Cats are not endurance hunters like wolves or humans, they are sprinters, and if they don't catch their prey in a few hundred metres, they give up.

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  • $\begingroup$ I suppose some apparatus that holds a mirror in the right position could negate the discomfort from turning your head. $\endgroup$
    – Hearth
    Nov 27, 2023 at 7:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Hearth I would expect that would be disorienting, and mirrors haven't always been readily available. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 27, 2023 at 7:26
  • $\begingroup$ Rather than fully supine, a recumbent position would be more feasible. But it would take a lot of seat to support the body. And aero drag affects speed/endurance at the speeds of fast humans running (and normal ones cycling, which I'm more familiar with) let alone at cat speeds $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Nov 27, 2023 at 10:11
  • $\begingroup$ Point 1 makes me think of an F1 driver's position in the car. Nearly supine (feet actually elevated above the hips), but the seat (a custom, form-fitted carbon fiber affair) holds the upper torso/shoulder area nearly vertical so that the head is upright. Even with this position, driver's heads bounce noticeably (and sometimes violently) as they hit bumps in the road, and despite being well strapped in, the body rises/falls under acceleration/braking. All this to say, yes, I agree that prone would be much more appropriate on a cat than supine, but upright would be better than either. +1 $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Nov 27, 2023 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ Correct. I got the two terms mixed up. (the big clue for me is that the title also has reclined, which would be more on the back.) Corrected the Post. $\endgroup$
    – Hugh Ayers
    Nov 28, 2023 at 2:25
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I try my best not to be ageist, but the essence of the question leads me to believe we are from different generations. Anyone who had their infancy between the late 1970's to early 90's should immediately and outright say upright riding. And that's because of this guy:

He-Man riding on the aptly named Battle-Cat

The Rule of Cool demands it.

Now, on a more serious tone, let's go over the separate points in the question:

Comfort

TheDemonLord already gave the perfect answer on this.

Visibility

The higher your head is, the farther you can see. Also try it yourself. Sit on a chair, put your hands on a table and turn your head around to look back. Now get on a bed, hump a pillow from above and try to look back. Which one was easier?

Endurance

The human head was made for connecting to the neck from above. You go supine, and you have to pull your head up, like superman when he flies. You spend a considerable amount of time doing that, and you will be making a chiropractor richer in the near future.

Mount Mobility

You very probably won't be going so fast as to act as an airbrake atop your cat, so air resistance shouldn't be an issue. And as long as you carry a loaf of bread covered in butter with you, the cat should be gyro-stabilized in even the harshest of conditions.

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    $\begingroup$ BY THE POWER OF GREYSKULL!!! $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2023 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ hehe, fond memories. But then again, Gandalara Cycle (By Randal Garret) where the main character rides a Very Large cat laying down on it's back, is the same era (Early 80s) $\endgroup$
    – Hugh Ayers
    Nov 28, 2023 at 2:37
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I have, over the years, ridden both horses and motorcycles and I would suggest that you stick to horses all the way for this one.

Modern sportsbikes are designed for a very specific environment, smooth tarmac, and hence give you limited freedom of movement, left and right. In practice it's an almost unique posture for control of any mount, the closest being racing bicycles.

The advantage of the classic (European) horse riding position is the ability to move your weight around fairly freely. Your cats are going to be scrambling up hills, jumping rivers, crouching behind hedgerows. The freedom to stand in the stirrups, to shift your weight forwards and back aiding climbing and descent, to rise out of the saddle and take the impact out of jumps. All of this is going to be essential to your riders. All of that is in addition to the comfort issues @TheDemonLord mentions, remembering that you're unlikely to have hardpoints resembling motorcycle handlebars that you can actually lean on on an animal mount, so you need even more strength in your core to maintain that posture.

Currently an XSR700 if you're wondering, chosen over competitors primarily for its more upright riding position and longer more relaxed leg position.

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  • $\begingroup$ "that you're unlikely to have hardpoints resembling motorcycle handlebars that you can actually lean on on an animal mount" now I can't help but think about some sorta goat cavalry that allows for this $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2023 at 4:21
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    $\begingroup$ @TheSquare-CubeLaw, I take it you've never tried holding a goat by its horns? You'll be in for quite a ride, then you'll spend some time airbourne before abandoning any dignity you thought you had. Admittedly I've not tried it since I was quite small, but they're quite strong and don't really like it! $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Nov 28, 2023 at 8:36
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This is a frame challenge.


enter image description here

Give the cats a sled or cart to pull.

We've used sleds in the past to allow us to use animals for transport when such animals wouldn't be able to be properly ridden - dogs being the prime example for that.

With a sled, the anatomy of the cat becomes less relevant, and you solve a bunch of problems at once. With a quick-release system, you can even send your "Pack of Cats" towards your enemies quite easily, unleashing a storm of claw, fur and hisses.

And, I mean, you can't beat this level of cool, when it comes to cat-travelling..

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Best for whom?

Professional jockeys get the best performance out of their mounts while riding like this : jockey riding a racehorse

(Image from : https://fitfreaks2.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/athlete-of-the-week-a-jockeys-hard-life/)

This crouched position minimizes the strain on the horse, but it's incredibly hard on the jockeys, who have to be very fit and strong with great balance and reflexes.

https://fitfreaks2.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/athlete-of-the-week-a-jockeys-hard-life/ https://www.twinspires.com/edge/racing/the-science-of-horse-racing-why-do-jockeys-ride-like-that/

This position would enhance the speed and mobility of the feline mount, while increasing the skills needed and danger faced by the rider.

I personally think it'd be pretty hard to stay on a pouncing twisting feline in that position without some sort of telepathy.

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