10 Things You Need To Know About Motorcycle Body Position For Sport Riding

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Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa - Action

Is body position the new knee down? Not only does it look better in photos, but it actually makes you faster and, believe it or not, safer. Here’s 10 things you need to know about motorcycle body position.

1. There’s a reason all GP riders look the same right now.
Compare a picture of Marc Marquez on his RC213V to Jorge Lorenzo to Dani Pedrosa, to Nicky Hayden, to Valentino Rossi to anyone else on the grid right now. With the exception of the colors on their gear and bikes, they look identical. That’s because an accepted form has developed; think of it as a best practices for the sport of motorcycle riding. And, the thing is, you, me and everyone else can benefit from looking like this too.

Motorcycle Body Position

2. It’s not about elbow down.
It’s actually about safety. The reason GP riders hang off like this isn’t to show off; it’s to remove as much lean angle from the bike, at a given speed, as possible. Less lean angle means a larger tire contact patch, a greater margin for error and the ability to brake later and accelerate sooner. While you and I aren’t achieving the same level of performance or lean on the street or track, we can benefit from that too.

Motorcycle Body Position

3. Mick Doohan had it wrong.
Well, maybe not for his time. But, with modern tires, it’s no longer ideal to drop your butt way off the seat, crossing your torso across the tank to keep your head high. In fact, the opposite is true. To achieve correct, contemporary BP, you actually only want to drop half your butt off, then drop your torso and helmet down to a position parallel with the road.

Motorcycle Body Position

4. Why it works.
From a front-on view, draw an imaginary line straight up through the center of the front tire. In order for your body weight to have the greatest possible influence on the bike’s lean angle, you want as much of your body as possible to be between that line and the ground, on the inside of a corner. The further in that direction you go, the less the bike will need to lean at a given speed. Say, at 45 mph, you have to lean the bike at 45 degrees to take a certain corner while sitting bolt upright on top of it. Using body position, you can decrease that lean at 45 mph to (again, hypothetically) to 35 degrees. That’s safer; you’ll have more tire in contact with the road and more grip. If you suddenly have to alter your line, you can add that 10 degrees back in, no problem. Or, for the purposes of going fast, your 45 degrees suddenly becomes more miles per hour.

Motorcycle Body Position

5. How you can get there.
Honestly, your best bet is simply studying photos of racers, journalists and other fast riders, then trying to emulate their BP. There’s a basic formula that seems to work though. We’re going to assume you’re already riding with the balls of your feet on the pegs and without putting weight through the handlebars. First, scoot one butt cheek off the seat, on the inside. The corner of the seat should be up your crack. Then, open your shoulder and chest towards the corner and try and “kiss” the inside mirror. This should drop your torso down parallel with the road, but a good reference point is to touch the top of the tank with your fully extended outside arm. Remember to look where you want to go, and voila, good BP.

Motorcycle Body Position

6. What to do with your weight.
Lock your outside thigh and knee into the groove in the tank designed to hold them; it’s called “hanging off” for a reason. The rest of your weight can go through the balls of your feet, into the footpegs, but keep the inside foot free enough that you can pivot your leg. That way, as your knee touches down, your leg can fold up and not impede your ability to lean further. Never put weight through your knee as it’s dragging, that’ll remove weight from the tires and could cause a lowside. Also keep your weight off the bars. Doing so leaves steering unobstructed and allows the bike to move around a little and correct itself and also makes it easier for you to make steering inputs.

As you begin to accelerate out of a corner, deliberately hold your body down while pushing the bike up. Less lean angle means you can use more throttle, accelerating harder. Then, as you prepare for the next corner, put your weight through your legs and slide your butt across to the opposite side without bouncing on the seat or bars; it should simply be a smooth transition.

Motorcycle Body Position

7. Ergonomics help.
Our buddy Garret is, by anyone’s standards, huge. But, he rides an 848 Evo with a fairly compact rider triangle. For the longest time, he’s struggled with BP, getting a little better with practice, but has been frustrated with his progress. I suggested he call up SpeedyMoto and get a custom set of clip-ons made that would be higher, further forward and wider, creating more room for his upper body. Look at the result; this could be Marquez, just 10 years into a Paella binge. As a tall guy riding stock bikes, this is something I struggle with, too. Give me something spacious and I have no problem (see Guzzi shot below). You should consider stock ergonomics a starting point, swap rearsets and handlebars until your bike actually fits you.

Motorcycle Body Position

8. Your bike doesn’t matter.
Just your body position. The same basic principals apply whether you’re riding a tourer, standard or even an ADV bike. Heck, hanging off can even keep a dual sports’ knobbies happy. Less lean angle at a given speed makes any type of bike safer and faster.

Motorcycle Body Position

9. It helps in bad weather too.
Hanging off with correct body position doesn’t just help GP riders go faster around a track. It works in the city, on highway exit ramps, in the rain and pretty much anywhere that you want to be safer. By taking lean angle away from a given speed, it keeps the bike more upright and more of the tire on the road. It helped me on Tuesday, while I was riding the 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale at a soaked Imola. By hanging way off, I was able to keep more of the tires’ grooves on the pavement.

Motorcycle Body Position

10. But it’s not everything.
The basic principals and advantages always apply, of course, but just because you can’t get your torso parallel with the ground doesn’t mean you’re a bad or slow rider. Think of the ideal BP as a direction to work in, then try to do so while focusing primarily on smooth control inputs, good lines and safe riding. Proficient motorcycling is the whole package; it’s not just about looking good in photos.

Related Links:
Cheap Speed: The Most Fun You Can Have For Under $10k

More Technique: 10 Motorcycle Riding Tricks You Don’t Know Yet

Ride Safer: 10 Common Motorcycle Accidents And How To Avoid Them

  • Jay Hartley

    Awesome breakdown of the technique Wes. I’ve been experimenting with different ways of leaning my CBR250 into a corner (noob here), and this clarifies some questions I had about starting to hang off. Will give it another go this weekend.

  • Ayabe

    I have trouble with sliding my butt, I always end up putting some weight on one of the pegs or hopping a bit to get over. Probably doesn’t look very graceful nor effective in the end.

    But I’m not giving up! :P

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Put our weight on the pegs, left your but a centimeter off the seat and sliiddeeee over.

      • Ayabe

        Thanks Wes, gonna give that a go this morning and forget about trying to just use my thighs to scoot over.

    • Scott Otte

      Weight on the pegs shouldn’t be a problem, in fact you should be putting most of your weight through the outside leg.

      • Ayabe

        To be more precise I think I’ve been trying to do too much with my thighs and then fine tuning with a little peg pressure. Just need to get myself settled quickly and correctly the first time.

        • Scott Otte

          I push myself over and off with my outside leg.

    • DrRideOrDie

      go do some yoga. I know a weird thing to say here but lower body strength and flexibility helps a lot in making small adjustments in riding position. It also makes the feel of being connected to the motorcycle way more awesome

      • Ayabe

        Interesting, I’m in pretty decent shape but not “motorcycle” shape for sure. Thanks man, good suggestion.

    • Mugget

      People shouldn’t even notice if you’re graceful or not (people usually don’t pay attention to others who are riding in a straight line). Your setup for the corner should be completed well before you even spot your turn in point. Move your butt and get your body position set while the bike is upright. Then you turn in and all you should need to do is drop your inside knee a little bit.

      Those people you see who change their body position just before they turn, or during – yeah that’s a good example of terrible technique.

      (Of course chicanes or closely spaced corners are completely different and do require some more finesse, but then in those cases your butt may not even be fully contacting the seat at all.)

      • Ayabe

        Thanks man, I think timing is definitely part of my problem.

    • pdad13

      You should be on the balls of your feet. Stand up a bit on the pegs on corner approach so your butt is just skimming the seat and use your legs to shift your butt to the inside. Your just have to push a little with your outside leg. Hang one cheek off. It doesn’t take much strength, just a little technique. Although, a little more strength can only help.

  • Rau

    Any theories on why the 500cc GP riders rode so crossed up? Also, WOW that Moto Guzzi pic is awesome!

    • Brian

      one theory I heard as to why they rode crossed up the way they did was because of the way they pressed the bike into the pavement through their footpegs in order to gain traction, and also to be able to kick the bike away in a fit of self preservation when the bike started to let go. Mick Doohan ( as pictured) had his own issues also with his legs post his major recovery where he rode a little different just based on his ergonomics and comfort.

  • Sjef

    Trying to kiss your inside mirror really helped me with my body position at my first track lessons. At first I crossed up pretty badly but that one tip made everything much clearer to me. Also on a standard/naked it’s important to try and stay low and not upright, this also helps with keeping the center of gravity low.

  • Stephen Mears

    Your legs really look like they are about 5 feet long.

    After suspension, ergos are the place to drop $$$.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Yeah, they’re really long. One downside of the all-black suit thing is that it limits depth perception in photos. I end up looking like I’m pointing my (normal length) legs straight out, when actually they’re (long legs) pointed forward.

  • Generic42

    One downside to this however is the “perceived speed” someone leaned way out on a bike looks like they are riding hard/faster even if they aren’t. This tends to get the attention of the local 5-0 when going through canyons. This is one reason that The Pace specifically recommends not using this type of large overhanging body position.

    Also note that when the tire rolls off center your contact patch actually increased until you hit extreme angles. This doesn’t directly translate to increased grip, but to say the contact patch is smaller isn’t always the case.

    • beefstuinit

      Honestly “the pace” comes off to me as common sense written in the cheesiest way possible from the perspective of someone who doesn’t do much track riding.

      • Generic42

        Isn’t this article about street and not track riding? As for The Pace’s author Nick Lenatsch credentials:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Ienatsch
        http://www.cycleworld.com/author/nienatsch/

        And his article from August 2012 about this same topic – http://www.cycleworld.com/2012/08/05/world-superbike-style-check/

        • beefstuinit

          He’s experienced no doubt, and I agree that there’s some good advice for people who are riding on the street – but having done many track days I’m of the opinion that any speed you go around a corner is safer with good body position. Obviously you can use BP to go faster than you otherwise would – but having hammered on good BP for the track I find myself more comfortable riding at anything above commuting speed with some use of weight management. It’s how these bikes were designed to be ridden.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Sure, but the direction of the forces applied also changes. As you move from straight up and down to full lean, you have progressively less grip to work with.

      • Generic42

        Right, that’s why I mentioned that grip is still changing but to say the contact patch always decreases may not be correct.

      • Mugget

        That’s exactly how riders get confused and end up with the wrong idea in their head – they read or hear one thing, but it’s either not accurate or not explained properly. Those who already know get the point understand it, but they’re not the ones who need to know it!

        Better to say what you mean.

        “Less lean angle means a larger contact patch”.
        Those of us who know, understand this to mean that less lean angle = more grip.
        But as a statement – at best it’s misleading and may not be correct. At worst it’s completely false.

        Much better to just say “less lean angle means less grip”.

        And another one to be wary of is not making the mistake of confusing contact patch with grip and thinking of them as interchangeable. Because contact patch doesn’t necessarily have the effect of increasing grip. (In simple terms a larger contact area does not increase grip, but in a dynamic situation such as tires there’s many other factors involved.) Believe it, it’s science. But that’s a topic for a whole other article on it’s own…

    • Garret C

      That looks quite strange.
      What evidence is the image based on? I’d be very interested in a citation.

      • Generic42
        • grb

          good graph, you can see that in this case around 40º is the optimum/maximum patch, beyond that its starts to decrease, so if you’re cornering at this angle and you want to go faster, the only two options are, lean more or hang more, leaning more will make the patch smaller thus reduce grip, so obviously hanging more it is. But could it be that this not the case in other circumstances? specially on the road, for example, you’re taking a corner on a mountain road at a fixed speed and at a 30º angle, (based on the specific tire on this graph) in this case you do not want to hang out more to try to maintain this 30º angle (or reduce it), on the contrary you will need to lean in more to achieve a better contact patch closer to the 40º angle of optimum corner grip, even if it means hanging out less

          • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

            No, it doesn’t work like that.

            Yes, newer sport tires do have softer side compounts and specific profiles intended to maximize the contact patch at high angles of lean. No, you don’t magically get more grip at 40 degrees (or whatever) than you would otherwise have at lesser lean angles. It’s just a product of the direction of the forces involved. Straight up and down, the tire is just coping with weight while finding grip. At lean, it’s dealing with less weight and more sideways forces. Regardless of any muddling of the contact patch size at a given angle, less lean always equals more grip and more safety. Hang off the fucking bike.

            • Aaron L

              “…less lean always equals more grip and more safety. Hang off the fucking bike.” – QOTW
              You’re the man, Wes.

            • grb

              Ok, thats what I’ve been practicing all this time, but me questioning it is just a way to rethink what I do, and the whole point of an argument is to think or “over think” stuff, its the only way to evolve, so for arguments sake I will add another thought…

              We know a bike turns very differently then a car, bare with me, on a bike when you lean into a corner you hardly notice any turn in the front wheel, this is because its leaning and it is the same principle as a coin rolling on your table, when it leans to one side it turns and the greater the lean the more it turns, and the coin does this without any steering, just lean angle. Same thing would happen if you roll a single motorcycle tire down the road, right? So lets say you could hang off your bike to the point were you could keep it practically upright, you would be fighting physics to do this, and if you get it upright the bike wouldn’t turn naturally, you would need to turn the steering to make it turn, kinda like on a sidecar. Leaning is how bikes turn, its just natural, I know thats obvious but what I mean is there has to be an optimum angle depending on speed and radius, I think hanging off your bike is just a way to find this balance and maintain it, and not just to try and keep your bike as straight up as possible..

              Now, you definitely want to reduce as much lean as possible on exit to be able to accelerate sooner and harder, Im completely with you on that, but leaning is like flying to me, because the bike is performing a physics phenomenon which makes it balance like magic on two wheels (I know, gyroscope effect), and its literally like flying, this is one of the reasons I love motorcycles and leaning is part of this equation, I think you don’t have to reduce lean as much as you possibly can, but rather more like trying to find the perfect angle for each situation and the body position to achieve it.. Again if you want to twist it hard then you do want to be as straight up as possible

            • Jeff Victory

              More contact patch equals more traction. Period. Any given tire has it’s specific coefficient of friction, i.e. amount of available traction. If you calculate how much friction is available the area of contact is part of the equation, and bigger area means more traction. It’s physics. Learn it.

          • Mugget

            Actually, there IS a 3rd option to go faster… ;)

            That is to get more training, and increase your “quick steer” ability…

    • Piglet2010

      Jason Pridmore teaches rotating around the tank on a sportbike – he is quite fast without hanging way off the bike.

    • Mugget

      I was going to mention something about that as well…

      It seems like riders who learn that “more lean = less contact pact” are going to be prone to doubting their tires ability. (That’s not even true anymore, so good to clear that up.) The same could be true of a rider who is constantly thinking that more lean = less grip. Yeah, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be the focus of your riding.

      I prefer to think of it as “more lean = larger contact patch”. Turn it around and use it to give more confidence in the tires.

      At least that is what worked for me. Most mention of riding technique dwell on the negatives of lean angle (less margin for error, less grip, less everything…). I’ve seen very few that talk about what you actually gain with more lean angle. That brings about a massive change in thinking, the rider who thinks on the positives and what they can do, rather than the negatives and what they can’t do, is going to have a massive improvement in their riding. Guaranteed.

      • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

        More lean does equal less available grip, sorry.

        • Mugget

          Did I say that it didn’t? ;)

          The point is – it’s better to actually say what you mean, right??
          It’s not true to say that more lean angle means less contact patch. So why say that? It’s just misleading.

          Why not just be clear and say that more lean equals less grip? That will save riders becoming confused and this conversation wouldn’t need to be happening.

        • Piglet2010

          Ignoring tires for the moment, more lean on the bike will compress the suspension more, both reducing ground clearance and traction, since the suspension works best both in the middle of its travel and with lesser side loading.

        • grb

          That could be a lie… from what I have been reading, there is a peak point in your lean that is going to give you the maximum contact patch, designed by the tire manufacturer as the intended lean angle(on the graph above of the Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart II, its around 40º angle), more or less lean then that and you get less contact, so its relative when you’re going to want more lean or less. Also if youre riding on tires with double or triple compound like the “Bridgestone BT016″ less lean angle could mean you are not using the third and softer tire compound on the outer edge of the tire… So, and depending on circumstances, more lean could equal bigger patch and softer compound, and less lean could equal smaller patch and harder compound… I think as a rider you need to know your equipment, its characteristics and have discernment, there is no definite answer

          • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

            No, this is an absolute. You’re massively over thinking what’s in fact a very simple concept. Yes, softer side compounds exist. No, they don’t grip more than a tire will straight up and down, even with a hard compound in the center. Less lean angle always means more safety.

          • Mugget

            I completely understand what you’re saying, but things aren’t quite as they seem… the whole topic of grip/friction is somewhat counter-intuitive.

            Grip does not increase with a greater contact area. Basically… let’s take a simple example and not worry about all the variables of motorcycles for a moment. If you setup an experiment on a table using a brick with an eyelet & string attached and keep adding weight until it moves, it will take the same amount of weight to move the brick regardless of whether it’s sitting on it’s larger side or the smaller side! I know it seems daft, but this is a scientific fact. In fact that’s the second law of friction: The friction is independent of the contact area.

            This is one of the reasons why you don’t get more grip at increased lean angles on a bike, even though the contact patch increases. (Some of the other reasons having to do with the angles and direction of forces involved.)

            The design of tires does have something to do with optimising whatever grip is available, but the larger contact area at lean has other functions such as heat management (a smaller contact area would heat up quicker), etc. It’s a pretty complicated topic, and honestly it’s not something that’s worth worrying about too much.

            IMO the important reason for recognising that there is a larger contact patch at lean is to dispell the idea that leaning a motorcycle is inherently unsafe. It’s not! Lean angle is nothing to be afraid of when used correctly along with proper body position and knowledge & skills gained through good training.

      • http://protomech.wordpress.com/ protomech

        It’s also worth pointing out that the contact is probably changing shape more than actually growing (simplified, the contact area is just weight on wheel / tire PSI). Any growth in contact area will be due to loading up the front wheel under braking, not lean angle.

        • Mugget

          But then how do you explain the rear contact patch increasing with the lean angle? ;)

          Check the Roadsmart II image below – the contact patch does actually increase with lean angle. That’s just how modern tires are designed. You could be coasting mid-corner and it still happens, it’s not a result of additional forces applied, it’s all in the design.

          Yes the tires will squash out and have more contact area when greater forces are placed upon them (front under braking, rear under acceleration etc.) but that is yet another variable independent of the tire design.

          • http://protomech.wordpress.com/ protomech

            Hmm.. good call.

            Let’s try this:
            contact area = weight on wheel / contact pressure

            contact pressure is related to both the internal (and external!) air pressure and the structure of the tire. So presumably as the tire – at least the RoadSmart II tire – rolls over, the internal load “resistance” decreases and the contact area grows.

            Really my response was better directed to the contact patch image above, and illustrating that an increase in contact patch width does not necessarily dictate an increase in contact patch area; see also the RoadSmart II illustration. Even though the contact width has grown at 30 degrees of lean, the contact area is only marginally larger.

            Here’s a pretty nice writeup with actual data (!) from Avon F1 tires. Car tires are different from bike tires, of course, but some of the principles will carry over.

            http://www.performancesimulations.com/fact-or-fiction-tires-1.htm

          • http://protomech.wordpress.com/ protomech

            Hmm.. good call.

            Let’s try this:
            contact area = weight on wheel / contact pressure

            contact pressure is related to both the internal (and external!) air pressure and the structure of the tire. So presumably as the tire – at least the RoadSmart II tire – rolls over, the internal load “resistance” decreases and the contact area grows.

            Really my response was better directed to the contact patch image above, and illustrating that an increase in contact patch width does not necessarily dictate an increase in contact patch area; see also the RoadSmart II illustration. Even though the contact width has grown at 30 degrees of lean, the contact area is only marginally larger.

            Here’s a pretty nice writeup with actual data (!) from Avon F1 tires. Car tires are different from bike tires, of course, but some of the principles will carry over.

            http://www.performancesimulations.com/fact-or-fiction-tires-1.htm

    • vic06

      There’s also the fact that your suspension, mainly the forks, only react to directly opposing forces. Also, in extreme lean angles, legs and stanchions can lose their alignment if they’re not strong enough, what causes them to lock. Less lean angle reduces internal friction and helps tracking bumps.

  • Garret C

    Nice photos.
    Thanks for the article. You’re really pumping them out recently!

    BTW

    #5, line 5 you(r)
    #6, 2nd para., line 3, but(t)
    # that’s not me ;)

  • Anthony Gibson

    Wes, what about your outside foot? I heard it helps to slide your boot heel forward onto the peg and it helps you lock in a bit more and with braking. Thoughts?

    I had my first bike track day this month and I’m hooked.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Eh, just rotate it as you hang off, it doesn’t need to achieve anything fancy.

    • beefstuinit

      Sliding your foot forwards on the outside means you have to make a large adjustment to your foot position if you quickly transition over to the other. I prefer to move around on the balls of my feet especially in technical corner complexes as one second you’re hanging off the left, then the right, and back again – you don’t want to have to shift your weight that much.

    • Mitchel Durnell

      Personally, I find placing the peg in the middle/up against the heel of my outside foot to be the optimum for both stability and stamina.

  • Mitchell Cardwell

    And do this all the time. You’ll be amazed at how much it helps you on the track when you do it on the road. In my mind I think, “Open yourself to road.”

  • HunteR

    I really discovered body position mattered when I was going down a mountain in the rain one day, and steered the bike by simply shifting myself left or right, and keeping the bike [mostly] upright. Pretty eye-opening exercise into how bikes work for a newbie.

    • Piglet2010

      Works really well on a narrow tire bike – I can “knee steer” my Bonnie through all but the tightest corners.

    • Mugget

      It might appear as though the steering was caused by your change in bodyweight, but you can be certain that the handlebars moved in order to effect the steering – there’s just no other way.

      Yes, some movement on the bike may carry through and move the handlebars. But the most effective way to steer is by direct input to the handlebars. Good body position will will allow you to have the most effective steering input possible, more input going direct to the ‘bars and less wasted energy.

      • David Kent

        Yupp, when a motorcycle turns, the front wheel always always always turns. Back in the 70′s when MSF had instructors instead of heavily censored DVD player operators, I used a bicycle to drill this into students. I took a simple beach cruiser bike and tack welded the steering head at O degrees. Letting them attempt any direction change without steering input made believers of everyone. Subsequent countersteering lessons were much more readily accepted.

  • Lee Scuppers

    Look at pictures of journalists, jam the seat up your crack, and kiss the mirror… do I have to make duck lips?

    TMI, either way.

    …but you never said it was a family publication, did you?

  • Johnny Thunder

    This article was amazing and really cemented my methods of riding. I feel I have improved greatly in the last year despite a bad highside that left me unable to walk for 3 months. Leaning further off the bike while trying to keep the bike upright made a night and day difference for my cornering speed and acceleration exiting a corner. My girlfriend has been even more content with me since now I have reduced the time it takes me to pick up groceries on my track inspired Vespa. Wait…. were we talking about street bikes?

  • Corey Cook

    Thank you guys for simply and properly explaining this. So many people are completely clueless about why exactly you’re supposed to “hang off”, it’s just basic physics.

  • ThinkingInImages

    Great article, Wes. The pictures and explanations are perfect.

  • Piglet2010

    Actually, Lorenzo does not hang off the bike as far as Marquez, and is the faster rider (sorry Tuning Fork fans, but the YZR-M1 is not as fast as the RC213V). Hanging too far off can compromise control, not to mention wearing out the rider prematurely.

    Although neglected in this article, body position matters even more on a cruiser with limited cornering clearance. Also is effective when riding a scooter around town, but the short reach to the bars limits upper body forward lean.

  • Mugget

    What to do with your weight?

    This has got to be one of the most misunderstood ideas out there. When I started out I was literally trying to put all my weight through my feet when cornering. I succeeded, there was barely any weight on the seat – but it didn’t really improve my riding and I wound up with really sore knees!

    “The rest of your weight can go through the balls of your feet, into the footpegs, but keep the inside foot free enough that you can pivot your leg.”

    That seems a bit vague, so I’ve gotta try and clarify this. If “the rest of your weight” is referring to the weight of your leg, then that’s exactly right. But this may be where so many people get confused and start to believe that all the weight needs to go into the footpegs (with more into the outside footpeg, just to complicate matters).

    The fact is, seats are made for sitting on! That’s basically what the current Aussie Superbike champ Wayne Maxwell said when I asked him about the question of where to put my weight. And that’s exactly what I started to put into practice. In addition to getting some training this has improved my riding 10 fold. All the while I’ve just been sitting on the seat, not even thinking about weighting the footpegs – they’re just there so I have somewhere to place my feet.

    For anyone else doubting that you can ride fast and safe by just sitting on the seat and letting your feet rest on the ‘pegs – have a look back through old WSBK races. There was one race that demonstrated this point exceedingly well. Troy Bayliss was rounding the final chicane and his outside foot completely slipped off the ‘peg! “Big deal” you might say – that’s racing, limbs always go flailing. But think about that for a second… if the ‘peg was so heavily weighted, there’s slim chance it would have happened. It didn’t upset the rest of his body position either – most likely because his backside was firmly in contact with the seat, and that never changed, regardless of what his foot was doing.

    In summary – what to do with your weight? Well, seats are made for sitting on. So sit on your seat.

  • Kodiak

    Just out of curiosity just how “huge” is your buddy Garrett? I’m 6’4 and a bit um…chunky… myself. I’m thinking of getting back into sport bikes after a 3 year hiatus (from sportbikes, not riding) and wouldn’t mind picking the brain of a similarly sized rider.

    • GarrettK

      Hey there. I’m 6’4″ and 225lbs. I learned how to ride a motorcycle on a sportbike so I would encourage you to get back on one. As Wes had suggested I had custom bars made which were almost an inch longer than stock. It doesn’t sound like much but the clip on’s allowed me to pivot the bars forward and really widen my grip. I would highly recommend this as well as adjustable rear sets.

  • Robert Horn

    Want to see the difference between the right and wrong body positions? Cornerwork for the local roadrace club at your favorite track for a season. You will learn a lot, get very tired, and have the second best view of the action. Among a whole lot of other things, how the fastest experts hang off and how the slow novices hang off is very different.

    Like a whole lot of fun, educational, and potentially risky activities, pictures and video just don’t work as well as being personally involved…

  • Martin

    Considering the proper way to ride is with the balls of the feet, can anyone explain me why Moto GP riders don’t do that?
    They ride with the feet on what people call “squid” position and just before a turn switch to the ball of their feet on the the inner side leg. The outer leg (and both legs in long straights) stay half way or closer to the heel than the toe.
    When I watch a race I’m always curios about that.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      In general, the move around much more than a normal rider would. Perhaps it’s just reflective of the strain riding at that level for 40 minutes or so takes.

    • Mugget

      The thing is that motorcycles are very complex machines. There isn’t actually any “proper” way to ride a bike. There might be a particular way of riding that is “ideal” for the majority of riders – but that’s all. It’s just a suggestion really.

      There’s a lot of room for personal preference, comfort, etc. As long as your particular methods don’t compromise your ability to control the bike and maintain the proper inputs (relaxed grip on the ‘bars, etc.) then it’s not a problem.

      For instance the main reason why it’s suggested that riders lock their outside leg into the tank cutout is so they are well supported on the bike. This means they don’t need to support themselves through the handlebars, which would compromise their riding ability. But not everyone rides with their outside leg locked in, and for those people it’s fine because they can do that and still not use the ‘bars to support themselves.

      Hope that helps to explain it.

    • Lindsay Ross

      There are definitely different styles. Some people always stay on the balls of their feet. One of the reasons why you (or in this case the majority of racers, myself included) would “hook” the outside foot more close to the heel is to get a better angle for your knee into the tank. Another reason is that it makes weighting the pegs more efficient/less strain/etc. Another reason is it helps hold you forward on the bike (you can rotate your foot and push yourself forward if you need to, see pic).

      If you stay on the balls of your feet, quite frankly your calves are going to be burning by lap 2 or 3.

      Here’s me at Big Willow:

  • DrRideOrDie

    I would have to say that I will always hang off whenever seemingly reasonable. The reason is that I experienced my first crash on a deteriorating road that had used that small pebble/cinder material as anti-icing material. I was firmly in the middle of the seat when I lost the rear end for about a half foot to foot slide. When the traction finally returned I was almost thrown high side because I was so firmly attached to the seat and the whip like motion from the wobble of the bike was translated directly to my body. I was only going 25ish mph at the time and was in about a 30 degree lean I would guess. After that crash I did attend the Advanced Rider Course by my local MSF school. We learned the COW, chin over wrist, method as well as hanging half off the seat. About a month after that I was on a city street and took a right turn at a light that I was kind of hustling, I hadn’t looked far enough ahead to see the line I set up on put me directly over a smooth manhole cover. After my accident any time I am trying to go quickly, I am on the balls of my feet and at least opening my hips into the corner, hanging off a little. Well as I came over the manhole cover first the front slid out, and then the rear. Both tires immediately regained grip after the slide and the bike did a little wobble/shake. Because I was on the balls of my feet and basically maintained my body position I made it safely around the corner and learned a little lesson about going a little quick on the streets. I’ve started watching MotoGp in the last year as well, and noticed that when the bikes do lose traction and the riders are loose, and on the balls of their feet that the bike will settle itself and they can avoid a crash.

  • enzomedici

    Here in Las Vegas, the worst problem for us are wet roads. Since it doesn’t rain often the oil builds up on the roads. When it does rain, all of that oil mixes with the rain and the roads become like ice skating rinks so even basic corners can become very dangerous.

  • bossturbo

    #6 is a photo by CaliPhotography. Can you please add photo credit for that. Thank you.

  • mohd hafiz

    any comment on my BP as photo enclosed? speed 170kmh, with 4th gear….a little bit sliding and chatting on the front wheel., is it normal?

  • Slartibartfast

    I must say I’ve read this discussion with much interest and would like to raise a few points of clarification…

    Firstly I’d just like to acknowledge that I’m a complete noob at this and although I have many years cruiser experience I have zero performance riding experience, I do however have a fairly good grasp of the physics involved and I have been fascinated by it for years.

    The first point I’d like to raise is that the traction that adherers the tyre to the road is entirely governed by the force that presses the tyre into the road and (assuming the corner is flat -ie. no camber or undulations) it is entirely generated by gravity. It makes no difference what the riders position is nor the lean of the bike. There has been some discussion as to the murky relation ship between contact area and traction, which is not something I intend to go into, the only point I’m trying to make is that the only force component increasing traction is that of gravity. All the other forces are sheer forces that act to break the traction between the tyre and the road.

    The next point I’d like to clarify is that of lean angle and force vector.

    “Generic42″ has posted a good graphic demonstrating the concept of lean angle and contact patch:

    While this image does indeed demonstrate the relation between lean angle and contact patch very well, the arrow down the centreline unfortunately introduces probably the biggest misconception I’ve been reading in this thread. That is that the horizontal component force acting between the tire and road is determined by lean angle. This is not the case at all! The horizontal component of the force is governed entirely by the centripetal force of the turn – that is by the speed and radius of the corner. Obviously one needs to lean the bike over to make the turn and that the resulting centripetal/gravitational vector needs to be somewhat directed down the centre of the tyre in order to keep the bike balanced but it does not need to be exactly down the centre and in fact the entire point of this article is to encourage riders to have the bike more vertical than they otherwise would.

    Image attached.
    (sorry, don’t seem to be able to work out how to post the image directly)

    Effectively the article is saying to position the bike such that it is more representative of the image on the right rather than the one on the left. No attempt is made to justify why this gives better traction, other than the misleading statement that “you’ll have more tire in contact with the road” which others have gone on to show is actually not true.

    Thank you all for the discussion.