Safe Riding

Proper Body Positioning

Written by  December 31, 2004

I’m sure you’ve seen extreme racing either on TV or at the track. You know the ones I’m talking about, with the riders hanging off their machines like monkeys and dragging their knees in the corners. Although this may help riders corner on the racetrack, it's not necessarily the best body position for street riding. A more centered riding stance may not look as cool, but it will give you more confidence and control in a variety of situations. Besides, if you ride a cruiser, you can lean only so far anyway before dragging your footboard or peg. For most cornering, you should be centered on the seat, and leaning with your bike so your head is either on or just to the inside of the centerline. Tilting your head to match the horizon stops your brain from getting confused by mixed visual and balance signals. If your controls don't fit correctly, adjust them to match, rather than adjusting your style to fit your controls.

Keeping your inside elbow locked, and using the weight of your upper body on that arm to countersteer is a common, lazy habit. This prevents you from making small steering corrections, and limits your control of the motorcycle. Any bump in the road can upset your upper body, and that movement will transmit directly down your locked arm and into the bar-unintentionally steering your bike. It's important to remember that the handlebar is more for steering your machine rather than for holding onto. Experiment holding your body in position using your stomach muscles and pressing your outside knee against the tank, while keeping your elbows bent with as much weight off the bars as possible.

Using the centered riding stance puts your outside knee in the correct position and will help to distribute your weight properly. Try variations until you find something comfortable. With as little weight on your arms as possible, you'll find it much easier to make small steering corrections, and bumps won’t unsettle your bike as much because your weight has a reduced effect on steering. Also, make sure to experiment with foot position to find what works best for you. It's usually best to keep your toes on the footpegs, especially the inner foot to avoid dragging. If you like to use the rear brake, keep your foot as far back and tucked in as possible.

There are times where some hanging off helps with maneuverability or traction. For instance, on wet or slippery surfaces, moving your body to the inside of the turn will allow you to keep your bike more upright to take maximum advantage of the available traction. And during quick countersteering swerves, when you're avoiding an obstacle on the road, keeping your body upright lessens the amount of mass you have to throw from side-to-side, and lets you push against your bike using your own inertia. Body position has a significant effect on your bike's handling, and it's well worth trying different techniques to find something that gives you more confidence as well as comfort.