This is how you should be riding your sportsbike

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A fairly uncommon dead-center, front-on photo of Casey Stoner in a low-speed corner at Indy gives us a chance to revisit current track riding practices. The form being demonstrated here is the ideal way to wring the most performance out of modern suspension, chassis and tires, removing as much lean as possible for a given corner speed while allowing the rider to continue to make control inputs and respond to changing conditions or slides. This is what you should try and look like when you go for a ride this Labor Day weekend.

Photo: Christian Pondella

Note Stoner’s points of contact with the bike. He’s exactly one butt cheek off the seat with the inside of his outside knee hooked into the crevice where the tank and seat meet. This supports some of his weight. His inside toe is positioned on the tip of the peg with his heel out and away from the swingarm, taking the rest of the weight. His outside arm is stretched nearly horizontal across the tank, nearly lying flat across it.

Next examine Stoner’s body away from the bike. His chest is open and pointed into the corner with his inside shoulder as low and far forward as possible. His knee isn’t pointed straight down, limiting lean angle, but rather forward, hinging in and out as lean angles allow. His head is as far from the bike as possible and his neck is stretched out as he’s looking through the corner to the exit.

In this position, nearly the entirety of Stoner’s body weight is positioned inside the angle formed by drawing imaginary lines; one up through the center of the front wheel and another on a horizontal plane across the ground. This maximizes his ability to keep the motorcycle as upright as possible for a given corner speed or corner faster in more safety; a tire has more grip the more upright it is.

With his weight off his hands and arms and on his inside foot and outside knee, Stoner is free to make minute, uncorrupted steering inputs or respond more abruptly, say to a slide, by weighting the pegs and changing his body position. Riding like this, he can change direction, into the next corner, quickly and easily.

This photo appears to be pre-apex. As he reaches that apex and begins to wind on the throttle, Stoner will begin to move his upper body even further off to the side, pushing the bike up as much as possible to maximize the size of the tires’ contact patches as he winds on the throttle. When he moves his body back on top of the bike to tuck for the straight or swap sides for the next corner, he’ll take his body weight through his legs on his toes, barely contacting the seat with his ass as he slides across it.

What you see here isn’t just a professional athlete at the peak of his skill, but also a guide on how to get the most out of your motorcycle. Study his form and apply it to your own riding and you’ll be both faster and safer.

  • R.Sallee (Ninja 250)

    Great body position if you know the turn ahead exactly and know you won’t need to correct course, probably not the best if a dog runs across the street, an oncoming car enters your lane or a patch of dirt or leaves surprises you and you need to quickly change direction.

    • Roman

      But this body position is meant to increase the tire’s contact patch, thus giving you more grip and improving your margin of error when making adjustments. Granted, you can question whether you need to go to such extremes at street pace in the first place, but this should theoretically make it easier and safer to quickly change direction. At least that’s my takeaway….

      • R.Sallee (Ninja 250)

        Hanging off makes you slower to change direction. Ride your bike down a straight road, don’t move your ass and just push the bars back and forth–you can change direction in an instant. Now try it while hanging off.

        I’m all ’bout hanging off on turns where it’s appropriate, but you definitely shouldn’t be hanging it all out if you’re not confident to commit to a line.

        • mugget

          If you really find it that more difficult to make steering inputs while you’re hanging off, then something is wrong. Definitely it’s not such a great idea to explore extremes of lean angle on the street as you would easily find yourself over-committed, not being able to change your line as quickly since you’re travelling so fast. But if you’re saying that a bolt-upright dead-center riding position in that situation would make it easier to change direction… I mean really??? Not only would you compromise your maximum grip, but also increase your lean angle and reduce your safety margin.

          But if you’re cornering on the road at a comfortable speed where mid-corner line changes are possible you will definitely have greater ability to change your direction, and will be able to do so to a greater degree, if you are hanging off correctly.

          Correct body position is key, and you should always be relaxed on the bike.

          • R.Sallee (Ninja 250)

            We’re using extremes as examples. The photo of Stoner is an extreme. Sitting bolt upright is an extreme.

            When I get home I’ll take a picture of a Bike Interview with Stoner saying you don’t want to hang off like him on the street.

            • holdingfast

              the dudes riding well at the TT dont hang off too much, i do think its something intrinsic to motogp where conditions are so far removed from street-riding conditions – ie perfect – that the “form” of riding is obvs way important (and awesome) but not.. appliable to regular everyday riding.

              • mugget

                I’d say those guys racing the TT don’t hang off so much more out of necessity so they don’t hit body parts on gutters, light poles, stone walls etc…

                You know most of those guys test and setup their TT bikes on racetracks? You’d be interested to see how they ride on a track where they’ve got the room. ;)

        • Wes Siler

          Nah dude, work up to real fast riding and you’ll need to be doing exactly what you see here, on the street. No, the lean angles and speeds won’t be as high, but the method is just physics.

          • R.Sallee (Ninja 250)

            To be clear, I’m not suggesting that there is no time and place for hanging off while street riding. There totally is. But it’s probably not the best riding style when there’s a good chance you’ll need to dodge an idiot minivan driver pulling left across your lane. Hanging off comes at the expense of being able to change direction quickly. Hanging off is committing to a turn. Hanging off is awesome and often the best/safest way to take a turn. Hanging off is not the best way to ride through downtown San Francisco.

            • mugget

              Like I said, if you find it difficult to change direction quickly and easily while you’re hanging off then you’re doing something wrong. I could commute all the way to work hanging a butt cheek off the seat (that’s not to say that I’d be riding any faster), and I’d have no problems. Correct technique means you still have full control over bike controls.

              I do seem to remember something about that Stoner interview, interested to read it again now…

              • R.Sallee (Ninja 250)

                My bad, the quote is from Ron Haslam, not Stoner. Was really hoping for the hit of irony.

                “Hanging off is essential on a track and might be useful on the road in a big sweeping corner. Yet the upright position makes the bike a lot faster to change direction and that’s what you need on the road. You can react more quickly to any problems, particularly those where you don’t know which way you’ll need to go, such as if a car pulls out. On a track you know what’s coming, so you can position yourself early.”

                I absolutely agree with the suggestion that you can change direction more quickly when you’re sitting upright. Even Tourist Trophy on PlayStation 2 supports this. And video games are always right.

                • Patrick


                  Besides, this discussion is going nowhere – you should be feeling like Don Quijote by now. He obviously knows it better while you Sir are simply doing something wrong.

                • Wes Siler

                  There you go, Haslam himself says its applicable when you’re cornering on the street. :)

                • coredump

                  Wes, don’t pull a muscle… with all that STRETCHIN. You see where Haslam said “might”. Come on now.

                  *goes on a ride and practices form*

            • Wes Siler

              I see what you’re saying.

              No, hanging off like this can’t help with your commute through city streets.

              yes, hanging off like this can help hen you’re riding fast in ideal conditions on fun roads.

  • Jack

    Awesome article. Definitely inspired.

  • Patrick

    Practice makes you a faster and safer rider. You certainly don’t gain riding skills examining a picture. Not saying it isn’t helpful at all but you should try and get your riding dialed in within your skills and capabilities. Everything else should come naturally. Eventually. So go out and ride!

  • Coreyvwc

    Even at that level, hardly anyone hangs off as far as Stoner. Ergonomics and anatomy don’t always allow for it, different strokes for different folks.

    At 25 though, he’s well on his way to being the new G.O.A.T. !

  • mugget

    Great article. It’s surprising what you can learn from watching MotoGP… during my last track tuition the coach actually mentioned Stoner in regards to remaining hanging off at corner exit to stand the bike up & get onto the power quicker. So Patrick, yes – examining pictures and video (of others, and yourself) do help to improve your riding skills.

    Above all I’d recommend that any sportsbike riders view it as mandatory to undertake some on-track training. Having someone who is quick and highly skilled give you pointers and help with your technique is guaranteed to improve your riding skill and help you to reach an ideal body position.

  • dmitry

    I think there is also a large amount of weight on the outside peg. Check out Keith codes twist of the wrist and you can see why.

  • Kevin

    I’d like to see one of these for supermoto riding. I’ve taken my bike to a couple track days and whenever I ask for position feedback I get a, “I have no idea, do what you’re doin and follow my line.” Leg out feels more comfortable at low speed and knee out feels better at high speed, but I’d like to hear what somebody who actually knows what the hell they’re talking about says; unfortunately, I’ve yet to run into that person.

    • Case

      Where do you live? If you’re in the SoCal area let me know and I’ll put you in touch with some guys that ride the local supermoto racing series and can give you some cogent, technical suggestions. I’m a rubbish supermoto rider so I’m useless.

  • rohorn

    Next article: You Ain’t Casey, Your Bike Ain’t No GP Machine, Your Tires Ain’t Pre-Heated Slicks, And Your Street Ain’t No GP Track.

    (Insert Casey High Side Picture Here)

    Look at the photo of Casey after he high-sided at (fill in the blank race). Notice how, moments before, he was riding a professionally prepared state of the art race bike. His tires are the best available – and just the right temperature. The track has the best riding surface on earth. There is no traffic or riders coming the other direction. Yet you ride like a complete knob, on that, there, with those, and expecting NOT to get hurt because you stuck your butt cheek in the proper place just so?

  • Tony

    You guys (the commenters) are so literal sometimes it’s ridiculous. A good way to make a point in a case or an argument is to use an extreme example. This is what Wes is trying to do. The more more you hang off, the more the bike is up right, the bigger the rear tire contact patch is, the safer (and earlier) you can get on the gas.

    Riding motorcycles on the street sucks, especially in NYC area and especially having done over 30 track days this year. You should guys should really try it. Much more interesting than complaining on blogs that your gold Rizoma levers faded in the sun.


    • Roman

      30 track days huh? Tip of the hat to you sir!

  • Adrian

    Pretty darn incredible. Great piece!

  • NickK

    Stoner’s definitely the farthest guy off I know of. Love it. Shows what you can do without being crossed up. But man, he looks like he’s at least a cheek and a half off. I don’t have a problem with that. Not even two. You can do it without angling your body out of the turn.

    Edit: I mean look at that left leg! He’s totally two off. (methinks).

  • Dimania

    you get fined here in UK for hanging off

    • Archer

      You get fined for using an arguably safer (in some circumstances) riding style?

      You people really ought to think about a revolution. Between round-tip kitchen knives, losing your empire, and now this, the UK is a sad shadow of what it was.

      • NickK

        Don’t forget the rioting welfare brats. Time for a change over there.

  • okto

    what about his labia?

  • Peter88

    Thanks for saying this is how you should try and look like when you go for a ride. Us bikers need all the confidence and inspiration we can get. Not stuff about how we’re no where near skilled enough to properly operate a sportbike.

  • Scott-jay

    ” … chest is open and pointed into the corner with his inside shoulder as low and far forward as possible …”

    Discounting ‘as .. far as .. possible’; this simple gesture improves things noticeably.

  • Mitchell

    Just spent the day at Chuckwalla and was happ(ier) with my form. Then I saw this.