Forward controls replace a motorcycle's standard shifter and rear brake lever with versions placed in a forward position. While the conversion is most often performed to make long-distance riding easier, many riders also prefer the aesthetics of forward controls.
On a typical motorcycle, your feet are positioned beneath your hips, with knees bent. Forward controls move the foot controls to the front of the bike, allowing you to shift and brake with legs outstretched. The distance between the foot peg and the controls is preserved.
Adding Forward Controls
To add forward controls, you will either need to acquire a kit specifically made for your motorcycle model or else have the work done professionally. Bolt extensions for the shifter lever and rear brake onto the original foot-peg mount, then replace the stock shifter peg and rear brake with extended versions. According to members of the HDTalking.com forums, installation can take from 1.5 to six hours.
A standard riding position can become uncomfortable and cramped after long distances. Forward controls allow the leg to extend, creating a more comfortable ride with reduced stiffness. If the rider does not quite fit her bike, forward controls can solve the problem by favorably changing its ergonomics.
If you're used to standard motorcycle controls, it can take you a while to get used to forward controls. Normal shifting and braking is an up-down motion with your foot resting on the peg. Forward controls require you to push or pull against the brake and shifter in a forward/backward motion. The different riding position also affects the bike's center of gravity, which may make it harder to control. Finally, with forward controls you will not be able to stand up on the foot pegs.
A compromise solution
For those who want to be able to ride in both an upright and inclined position, highway pegs are a common compromise. Highway pegs bolt to your motorcycle's front frame and allow you to stretch out your legs when reaching cruising speed. While it may take a little while to become used to the wobble as you switch between regular and highway pegs, this method does give you more options in riding position and style. Highway pegs are also much cheaper than forward-control kits.