News 26 Feb 2009

Road: Ride it right

Moto Online takes an inside look at the different body positions needed for different riders and styles.

Street Styles
Riding on the track and riding on the street is like comparing apples to oranges. Both require different methods of riding and it’s very unlikely that you’ll see riders on full lean with a knee on the deck in the real world.

Remaining in a much more upright position with nowhere as much lean angle as the track, I find it best to still manoeuvre your butt off the side of the seat, but without putting the knee out or leaning the upper body off as much.

Weighting the inside that bit extra than remaining square in the middle helps balance the bike throughout the corners, but due to the lower speed and a worse surface on the street, the best technique is to transfer your weight without doing it anywhere near as much as the track.

The correct riding style is a massive advantage on the street, especially if you’re travelling long distances, so always keep in mind to relax on the bike down each straight and flow through each bend while remaining loose on the bike.

Safety is the main priority on the street, so it’s also a good idea to continually analyse your riding and work on improving it as experience keeps on building.

One of the most critical aspects of riding motorcycles is body position. Get your riding style right and you will flow through the corners and breeze down the straights. Get it wrong and riding comfort can be pretty much non-existent.

When you’re comfortable on the bike you can usually ride faster and hang in there longer without tiring, which also basically leads to safer riding.

On the other hand, if you’re uncomfortable you will usually begin to cast your mind onto a cramping body part or lose mobility on the bike — with fatigue usually causing riders to be lazy on the bike and not giving enough rider input.

Concentration is also affected, with your mind on your pain and not on the job at hand and we all know how important it is to have 100% focus when on two wheels whether it’s on the track or in the real world.

I touched on this in the introductory column of Traction Control last issue, but how you feel on the bike and how you actually look are two very different things.

Let’s take a look at body position while riding on the track.

I personally have had times when I feel like I’m riding like Troy Bayliss with maximum lean angle, climbing all over the bike and really getting into it, but when I see a photo or video I look so much different and less extreme than what it feels.

When you’re on the bike it feels like you’re going a lot faster than you actually are and your movements on the bike feel a lot more severe than what they really are.

Andrew Pitt demonstrates the correct way to lean with the bike

Andrew Pitt demonstrates the correct way to lean with the bike

The key is to get a photo of yourself, analyse what’s different to the likes of the pro racers or your more experienced mate, and begin to experiment on the bike.

Setting up for a turn, for example we will use turn two at Eastern Creek which is a left-hand hairpin and requires a lot of input and concentration to get through it efficiently, you should have your lower body in position before you even get out of the tuck position.

What I mean by this is, while remaining behind the bubble with your upper body, pivot your hips so half of your buttocks is off the side of the seat — even before braking and downshifting. This will get you set up so you don’t unbalance the bike if you do it further into the turn.

After you sit up, brake into the corner and begin to turn the bike in, you should slide your weight forward before making the transition with your upper body to really help balance the bike and lean it over.

As a general guideline, for average size riders, I like to use the windscreen as an indicator of where I place my upper body on the bike — this saves having to wait for a picture later on, although it’s not quite as effective to judge from.

If your head is slightly off to the side of the ’screen then your upper body position is in the ball park, although shorter riders can usually lean further off the bike and taller riders are better off trying to remain a touch more neutral so they don’t put too much weight from the upper torso on the inside of the bike.

For example, you see Casey Stoner really hanging off the inside of the bike on selected corners, while Valentino Rossi usually remains a little more neutral on the bike.

While I say you need to use your ’screen as a guide for how far you lean to the side, it’s also important that you’re leaning forward as well to add extra weight to the front suspension and tyre — giving you that little bit of extra feel from the front-end.

Leaning off to the side of the ’screen also helps you visually pick up where you should be at the exit of the corner.

Another crucial aspect of using the correct body position is the radius of the corner. If it’s a tight and long corner like the one explained above, then it’s required that you lean off further to get the bike turned. For faster turns, you don’t need to lean so far and remaining more neutral helps balance the bike at speed.

An important factor in all of this is to get the transition from upright into your cornering position as smooth as possible. Being smooth also applies when you manoeuvre back into the straight position as you lift the bike off the turn and power away.

Everybody has their own particular style and comforts when riding, but analysing your riding and then experimenting is the ultimate way to improve.