Ran accross this on another board, thought some people might benefit. I always find it's good to review technique early in the season
It's time to get down. Steve explains why having your knee on the deck can help - and you'll impress the crowd as well!
There are more and more riders who want to copy their road racing heroes by hanging off the seat and grinding their knees into the ground. While this looks great in the photos, have you ever stopped to think if it's relevant to your riding?
Firstly, your riding style should be results-oriented (meaning there should be a reason for your body position on the bike other than the way you look when you ride). This should be related to; getting the bike to steer better; having correct use of the throttle/brakes/gears etc. How well you use these controls/skills will effectively determine how well you ride.
Often students come to me with the goal of scraping their knee for the first time, genuinely believing they will have 'arrived' as a rider when they can do it. The fact is that hanging off and scraping your knee is a tool. A tool that is there to be used when it is needed, and not when it is not. Just as you wouldn't use hammer to tighten a 10mm nut, or a shifting spanner to change a tyre, you only use this particular aspect of riding the bike (and every other one for that matter!) when it is needed.
The theory behind how this technique works is really quite simple. When you're hanging off the inside of the bike, the weight is moved lower and to the inside of the corner. This means that the bike is less likely to feel the effects of the forces created when you turn the bike (which tries to make the bike go to the outside of the turn) because of the height and position of where the weight is carried.
If you're still sitting upright on the bike, the weight is carried higher and on top, giving the same cornering forces greater leverage. This means it actually takes less force to send the bike to the outside of the turn.
As you try to counteract these forces you will have to lean the bike over further, limiting the amount of ground clearance and traction available. Therefore if both riders are travelling at the same speed the rider that has managed to shift his/her weight lower and to the inside will have the bike more upright, meaning they can carry more speed, and/or have more control.
In essence, this is the main reason for using this technique. There are other benefits that are only relevant to the race rider, such as using the extended knee to balance the bike up as the tyres slide (don't try this one at home!) and having a built-in lean angle indicator.
Hanging off and scraping knees belongs in one place, and one place only, on a racetrack. This riding style does not suit public roads and is not only potentially dangerous to the rider, but also those around him/her. If you're travelling at speeds that involve knee dragging on the open road, you need to seriously consider some safety issues, and perhaps start doing more track days.
While this technique will feel strange at first, with the right effort over time you may find a valuable tool to add to your rider kit' And of course you'll have appeased the motorcycling gods of vanity! See you in the photos...
We all know why riders 'hang-off' in corners. We also know that it must work, otherwise all the best riders in the world wouldn't bother doing it! The question must be asked then... "how exactly do you do it?".
As discussed previously, the purpose of hanging-off is to get the weight lower and to the inside of the turn. If you were sitting directly on the top of the bike and leaning with it into the turn, the centre of gravity would run straight through the top of your head, through your body and the bike at exactly the same angle at which you are leaned over, meaning it would finish along the line of the tyre where it contacts the road.
If you were to hang-off correctly, that line would fall somewhere between you and the bike, making it closer to the inside of the turn. Imagine that the line now passes through your shoulder and hips and contacts the road somewhere to the inside of the tyre. This is the advantage of putting your body into this position. The problem is that a lot of riders tend to 'cross up' on the bike by pushing the bike under them, meaning that their body is no longer in line with the lean angle of the bike and instead tending to go against the inside of the turn.
Seeing we carry a fair amount of our body weight in our upper bodies, this means that instead of the weight being put to the inside of the turn, it can in fact be higher and further to the outside of the turn which can diminish the benefit of hanging-off the bike in the first place. If any part of your body fights against the lean angle of the bike, then it will mean that the weight is higher and to the outside.
In many cases the amount of 'crossing up' can actually counter the hanging-off the bike in the first place! If you were dramatically crossed up the gravity line could not only return to the centre of the bike, it could in fact move even further to the outside of the turn. So, why would you do that? The answer is quite simple really, it's a survival reaction...
Keith Code's greatest observation of motorcycle riders in my opinion is that most of us don't actually consciously make all of the decisions about riding the bike (for more information see 'A Twist of the Wrist II' - Chapter 2).
Many of the things that we do, particularly those that we can't explain, are done almost automatically by our bodies' need to survive. We all have automated responses that are designed to keep us alive. Every living species on the planet has this basic urge. It's the urge to live. Your body doesn't want you to put it into danger and every time it feels you are doing this, it will respond in an attempt to keep you safe. Unfortunately on a motorcycle this can often mean it compels you to do completely the wrong thing. Holding your body up against the lean angle of the turn and fighting the bike is most likely one of these reactions.
The physical fact is that your body needs to go with the lean angle of the bike if you're to benefit from this technique, yet more often than not riders find themselves working against the bike right from the beginning. I'm sure the same riders doing this would complain about a pillion that refused to go with the bike and made their job harder in getting the bike around the next corner!
If you are going to hang-off, then consider what the benefit really is and make sure you're not working against the bike instead of with it.
Hands knees and boomps-a-daisy. Steve teaches how to hold on - look Mum, no hands!
In the last few columns we have discussed the art of 'hanging off' in a turn. We now know that by hanging off the inside of the bike we can move the centre of gravity lower and to the inside, meaning that you can carry less lean angle to go through the same corner at the same speed. We also know some of the survival reactions that can interfere with our attempts to copy our road racing heroes. Now... how about we discuss exactly what goes where so you can recreate it every corner?
Another problem associated with hanging off is how to locate yourself on the bike and how you literally 'hang on' while you're 'hanging off'.
Confused? Don't be... The fact is that as you move your body off to the inside of the bike, you no longer have both butt cheeks firmly planted in the saddle and both knees hugging the tank. You now have only one cheek on the seat and only the potential of one leg to hug the tank as the other is (hopefully) stylishly scraping the tarmac. You have now altered the contact points you have with the motorcycle, meaning that you now have to figure out where you should place your weight and what is going to keep you from falling off the inside of the bike.
In the initial stages of trying this, riders tend to find that they lose some degree of control over the motorcycle. All of a sudden the bike gets harder to steer, feels somehow heavier in the front, along with feeling the bumps a lot more. Also rider's forearms seem to pump up easier while wrists also start to hurt. Sound familiar?
The problem is actually quite simple... you're holding on with your hands! Okay. I can tell some of you are probably looking sideways at me right now, so I guess I'd better explain. Yes, I know the handlebars are designed for you to hold on to, but they are not designed to help you hold your body in position. The handlebars are designed for you to have the controls you need (throttle, brake, clutch, steering) in the right place so you can use them. Simply put, your hands are on the handlebars to operate the controls. Nothing more, nothing less.
To illustrate this in the classroom I often tell a story of me and my one and only four-wheeled lover, my FC Holden. Built in 1958, seat belts were still a novelty and certainly not necessary and big vinyl covered bench seats were all the go. Well, one day I decided to give the old girl some TLC and in my frenzied cleaning, I put Armour-All all over the seat! Now... did I ever claim to be intelligent?! When taking the car out after it's thorough going over, I got to the corner at the end of my street and tried to turn to the right. Needless to say that I found my body now sliding to the left and without a seat belt I only had the steering wheel to keep my body in place. Do you think I got the result from my steering that I expected? Certainly not. In fact I ran up the kerbing on to the footpath. Truth be told, you cannot effectively steer something if you're relying on the instrument that steers it to also hold your body in position.
Now I'm sure you're all laughing at me right now, but I wonder how many of you are using your hands to hold your body in position on the motorcycle? Convinced yet?
Now this represents a problem. If your hands don't hold you onto the bike, then what does? I do believe you've still got one leg hugging up into the tank don't you? Do you think if you gripped with your knee into the side of the tank it might help hold your body in position? (In case you're not sure, the indents in the side of your tank are not there for styling purposes, they are there for your body to fit into them). If you lock your knee into the tank by using pressure against the outside peg, you'll find you can release the pressure on the handlebars, meaning the bike will not be affected negatively as in the description above. This allows you to gain the benefit of getting your weight lower and to the inside effectively without distractions.
Think you can do it? Of course you can. I'll see you in the photos...
Good luck with your riding.
Steve Brouggy of the Australian Superbike School