Body Position Tips for More Effective Cornering

Railing through turn 9 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Loudon) photo: owenstrackdayphotos.com

Railing through turn 9 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Loudon) photo: owenstrackdayphotos.com

Positioning your body to the inside of your motorcycle when cornering means that the motorcycle does not have to lean as far for a given speed and turn radius.

Hanging off shifts the combined weight of body and machine to move the center of gravity lower and to the inside.  Hanging off not only increases ground clearance, it also keeps the contact patch closer to the center of the tire and adds a degree of “power steering” to help initiate lean.

Body position has an additional benefit of encouraging interaction between you, the bike, and the road. Move your body through a series of curves like you would a dance partner across a dance floor and you’ll be flirting with the Zone in no time. Lead with your eyes and shoulders and your motorcycle will willingly follow your lead.

Active body positioning isn’t just for sport bike riders. Try it on whatever motorcycle you ride.

Body Position “Levels”

You don’t have to hang off like Marc Marquez to benefit from body positioning.

When speeds and lean angles increase, it’s beneficial to use a more “active” body position that provides a greater amount of turning ease and ground clearance. There are three levels of body positioning for cornering: The “basic”, “intermediate”, and “full” hang off techniques.

The basic body position.

The basic body position.

The “basic” position

Use the basic body position for typical street speeds. This position involves simply leaning your upper body off-center, towards the inside of the turn. Position yourself as if you are kissing your mirror. Keep your inside shoulder low and forward while your eyes look through the curve. Your butt stays more-or-less centered on the seat.

The basic position is easy to do and is not intimidating, making it good for people just learning to hang off.

The intermediate Position

The intermediate Position

The “Intermediate” position

The intermediate stage is the body positioning technique I use when riding on street twisties. It is appropriate when riding more aggressively, but is no where near the level of extreme positioning typical of racers.

Learning this is quite simple. All you have to do is lean your upper body into the turn while rocking your hips so your inside sit-bone supports most of your weight. Rocking onto your inside butt cheek just before the corner positions your arms perfectly to countersteer with your inside arm and shoulder pressuring on the inside handlebar and your outside arm slightly extended and relaxed.

Rock onto the inside butt cheek just before the corner so that your body is in position as you countersteer.This is a very simple and effective technique.

The full hang off position.

The full hang off position.
owenstrackdayphotos.com

The “full” hang off position

The full hang off position allows the most aggressive riders to achieve faster corner speed without dragging hard parts. Hanging off has a lot of benefits, but can cause problems if not done correctly. Here is a basic tutorial:

  • Get your weight on the balls of your feet.
  • Use your legs (a little of your arms) to lift your body into position with your butt on the inside edge of the seat.
  • Position your shoulders and head inside and low (kiss the mirror).
  • Keep your hips perpendicular to the motorcycle.
  • keep about 4-5 inches between your crotch and the fuel tank.
  • Rest the inner thigh of your outside leg against the tank.
  • Support a little more than half of your weight with the inside foot.
  • Relax your arms by supporting your weight with your legs and torso.
  • Rest your outside arm on the top of the tank.

Avoid rotating your hips around the tank, which can result in a “crossed” body position where the upper body is positioned over the center of the bike. Instead, keep space between your crotch and the tank so you can move laterally across the bike.

Track days are a great place to refine your body position.

Track days are a great place to refine your body position.

Jack Your leg Into the Tank

For extra support, you can press your outer thigh into the gas tank. With the ball of your foot on the outside footpeg, straighten your ankle to make firm contact between the peg and the tank. Extending your leg in this way helps support your body with your legs, not your arms. The cutouts in sport bike gas tanks are ideal for positioning your inner knee. Adding Stomp Grip® or Tec­Spec® can help make the contact even more secure.

Side-to-Side Transitions

Try not to use your handlebars when moving from side to side. Doing so can upset the chassis and traction. Instead, use your legs and torso. Get your upper body over the tank, keeping your arms bent. I find that more rearward footrests help with this.

Also, be sure to get your body in position before you initiate lean (often while braking for the turn). Waiting too long can make the corner entry rather stressful and chaotic. Pre-positioning your body results in a quicker turn in (the benefits of quick turning is a topic for another day). It takes some practice to brake while in the hang off position, but it is a technique that must be learned (another future blog topic, I think).

At :28 in the video below you can see me pre-position for turn 3 at Loudon.

Hang at Your Own Risk

You should be discrete when hanging off on the street. Not only is a full hang-off posture not often necessary, it also draws a lot of unwanted attention. Even when hanging off on the racetrack, it’s not always necessary to hang off like Marquez. Hang off just enough to match your corner speed. Hanging off more may make for better photos, but it’ll wear you out sooner and could actually decrease control.

Slow Speed Maneuvers

One exception to the “inside” body position is when making slow speed maneuvers. In this case, you want to keep your body upright, on top of the bike. This is because stability is almost non-existent and adding body weight to the inside of the bike will lever the bike to the ground. Read about slow speed maneuvers here.

Body Positioning is discussed in the RITZ book and is demonstrated in the video. Parking lot drills are also provided so you can learn to make proper, “active” body positioning an integral part of your riding.

Learn more about the Book by clicking here.


Check out this video. You can’t see my legs, but you get a good sense of how much I interact with the bike.

What body position tips have you used that helped you feel more comfortable on your motorcycle?

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Ken is author of "Motorcycling the Right Way” and "Riding in the Zone" (book and blog). He is also the "Street Savvy" columnist for Motorcyclist Magazine, and former longtime author of the Proficient Motorcycling and Street Strategies columns for Motorcycle Consumer News. Ken is Lead Instructor for Tony's Track Days, a 20 year Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, and owner of Riding in the Zone Motorcyclist Training.

Posted in All Things Motorcycle, Rider Education, Riding Technique & Tips, Track Days
14 comments on “Body Position Tips for More Effective Cornering
  1. Kimi says:

    Hey Ken
    Great blog really answered some questions for me. At the bottom you mention parking lot drills.
    Are those in the book?

    Thanks

  2. David says:

    Great article, but (as a non native English speaker) I don’t quite understand what you need to do with your hips in the intermediate method. Do you mean you have to move your ass to the inside of the turn, just a little bit? Or do you mean I have to make an angle with my leg, pointing the knee to the inside of the turn, without going too extreme?

    • Ken Condon says:

      David,
      With the intermediate position you simply rock your hips to the inside edge of your seat while moving your upper body toward the inside of the corner, toward your mirror. No need to re-position your ass…just rock onto the inside sit-bone, sort of like if you were sitting in a chair and had to reach for something just out of reach.
      Ken

  3. Tyron says:

    This was a great article.

    I upgraded from a Gs500 to an Fz6. Very different riding… I was terrified of corners, Until I started doing some research and practicing my leaning. I used to smash the corners with the Gs, maybe coz it was an old bike and maybe I am scared of crashing the yammy.

    Anyway … I started leaning forward like I am kissing my mirror, and it works like a charm. I was so excited that I am overcoming my fear. I need much more practice though.

    Thank you for your article and the video…It helped me out.

    Safe riding.
    Cheers, Tyron

  4. Jan Kristiansen says:

    Hey Ken.

    Found youre post (a great one btw) after i tried to find some info about leg positins on my track bike.
    Someone told me i needed to put pressure on my outer peg, and you state “while extending your ankle to press your foot into the peg and your knee into the tank.”

    Might be that im to old for this and my body getting stiffer 😉 but i dont understand how im supose to manage this and still hang off my bike, all my weight atm in turns are pretty mutch on my inside leg hanging on the gastank (hope you understand what i mean.
    I tried to put some pressure on the outside peg but that resulted in my body position coming back up towards the center causing my bike to become rather unstable trough the turn.

    Anyway to explain this so my old head can understand it (english not my native language)

    Sorry for all spelling errors.

    • Ken Condon says:

      Jan,
      You aren’t the first to misunderstand the method. I’ll revise the text. Anyway, you aren’t “weighting” the outside peg when extending the ankle…you are simply ‘wedging” your outside knee against the tank by elongating your ankle. This keeps the outside leg from just hanging there, unable to offer any support to the upper torso.

      Footpeg “weighting” is something I tend to have people ignore for the most part (until you are at a high level of track riding), because the weight bias on the pegs is more or less dictated by your natural balance when in the proper position. This means that the inside peg will be weighted when leaning (and hanging off). Yes, the top riders shift weight to the outside peg as they bike lifts and accelerates, but the majority of average riders don’t need to put thought into this relatively minor task. I hope that helps.

  5. george says:

    Are you in full position before the turn, or you gradualy moving the upper body to the apex? Thank you nice info

    • Ken Condon says:

      On the track, my body is in the full position, except my inside leg, which is close to the bike until I tip into the turn. One advantage to being n the full hang off position before the turn is to allow the inner part of your outside leg to press against the back of the gas tank to support your weight under braking.

  6. Rich says:

    nice write up – i have a quick question. I do a fair bit of track riding but have been unhappy with my head position after looking over photos of myself and comparing them to professional riders. My head is always too central over the tank, and im not kissing the mirror enough. your last sentence about keeping hips perpendicular to the bike strikes a cord. i think my problem might be that im not doing this properly, however, when i try keeping hips straighter and getting my head lower, i feel like there is more of my weight being unsupported and just resting on the seat. is this right?

    • Ken Condon says:

      Rich,
      A common reason why a rider’s head remains over the fuel tank is because they rotate their hips around the back of the tank. By moving perpendicular side to side will help keep your hips “open” and your shoulders and head positioned more toward the inside of the turn.

      Having your head and shoulders farther “down and in” requires you need to support your body using your outer leg against the outside of the tank while extending your ankle to press your foot into the peg and your knee into the tank. Be sure to hang off only as much as you need Ask an instructor to help you get in the right position and then practice. Keep in mind that most riders do not benefit from Marquez-like body positioning…we’re just not going fast enough. Good luck.

  7. Bruce says:

    Thanks for the info.On a standard riding position should one have a straight back with straight arms or slightly forward lean with bent arms.
    Thanks

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