Body Position Tips for More Effective Cornering

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

Most riders sit pretty much upright in the saddle. There’s nothing wrong with that, however they are not utilizing a simple tool that helps the motorcycle turn, engages the rider in the “dance” between human and machine and increases ground clearance when needed.

We Need More Clearance, Captain!

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 makes this so by shifting the combined weight of body and machine to move the center of gravity lower and to the inside.

Easier Turning

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. By pre-positioning your body just before turn-in preloads the bike so it falls swiftly from upright to leaned. It can be unsettling the first time you do it as the bike turns so much easier, so experiment gradually.

Let’s Dance

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” position

The basic body 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 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.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 2-4 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.
  • Hold the grip like a screwdriver with the forearm more or less in line with the handlebar.
  • 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.

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).

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. Parking lot drills are also provided so you can learn to make proper, “active” body positioning an integral part of your riding.

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32 Replies to “Body Position Tips for More Effective Cornering”

  1. It really puts into perspective how much you need to focus and change what you knew in order to sit properly and use the bike more effectively! Thank you.

  2. I love to read any tips that I can get my hands on, to improve my motorcycle riding experience. Thanks for sharing these nuggets with us. Please do more and more of these. Great theme as well, easy to read and feels great while doing so.

  3. Hi,

    i am a new rider and do extensive research and read opinions about body positioning and riding through the corners safely and quickly. i love the way you have explained the things simple and helpful. you answered a few questions above which I had to ask however one thing is still left. when i am going through the corner and already leaning, sometimes i need to add more lean, can i counter steer further? it seems logical to me however the bike is already at an angle could that make my front end slip? or shall i avoid it totally and lean my bode down further to compensate for the shorter lean angle?


    1. I’m glad you liked the article. You can add some countersteering when you need to tighten your line mid corner, but you need to do it progressively. For very slight increases in lean angle you can add some more body position, which is better when you are near full lean angle so you don’t “tuck” the front tire.

    2. Sorry for the late reply. Yes you can countersteer to tighten your line. Add soem inside body position to reduce the amount of handlebar pressure you need and that will help preserve traction.

  4. I’m always trying to improve my riding and even though I’ve been on motorbikes since 1994 I’ve never felt fully comfortable going into the bends. Despite owning zxr400’s, a zx6 and now a fantastic 99 R1 4xv I still find it tricky. I’ve watched loads of videos, been out with friends the simple advice offered here about “kissing the mirror” and moving your crotch back from the tank made a total difference when I tried it yesterday. I’m not looking to get my knee down, I’m just looking for a better technique and this article has helped already – many thanks

    1. I’m glad the article helped. Just keep in mind that body positioning as down the list in regard to controlling a motorcycle in corners. Countersteering, vision and brake and throttle timing and control are critical to get right. Search my site for these keywords and read about these techniques. Also, find a good instructor (or course) to help.

      1. Hi Ken
        For a full “hang off” do you still need to start with counter steering? Or weight steering is enough?
        Thank you

        1. Youssef,
          Even though body positioning can assist the turning process, you still need countersteering to get the bike leaned into the corner with efficiency and precision.

          1. Thanks Ken.
            I noticed that when i start counter steering my body leans outside and not inside the bike towards the direction of the curve, is it normal? Or you would prepare your body position first to the inside before the corner and then use counter steering with body weight steering?
            I am here assuming using both counter steering and body positioning.
            Thank you

            1. Youseff,
              It’s common for people to “push” their upper body away from the bike in reaction to pushing on the handlebar when countersteering into a turn. This is appropriate when doing a quick maneuver, like a swerve. But, when cornering, you want to move your upper body toward the inside handlebar. This keeps your body inline or slightly inside the bike when leaning. You mention pre-positioning…this is a great way to add that extra upper body weight to help initiate lean (countersteering). Hope this helps.

              1. Thanks. So when you move your upper body toward the inside handlebar in a corner, at the same time you do the countersteering with the handle bar? Both actions should go hand in hand at the same time? And this is in all situations ie full hang off, intermediate, etc…..?

  5. There is one major flaw in this “how-to” article, and it’s one that I know for an absolute fact is flawed. Weighting the outside peg more than the inside peg is the entire reason why hanging your weight towards the turn is important. The knee (and occasionally elbow) dragging is a secondary effect of moving your body weight inside.

    The whole point of moving your body away from center and “inside” is to keep the bike and rider’s center of gravity more upright, which both prevents bottoming parts of the bike, and – especially – to keep the tires in a more physically efficient contact with the surface. It’s very simple physics.

    So, it follows that putting more weight on the outside peg will leverage the bike into a more efficient and slightly more upright attitude, while putting more weight on the inside peg will defeat this purpose. The effect of movable ballast has far less to do with the physical location of the weight than it does the actual contact points between that movable ballast and the object being affected, unless leverage is being employed, which is not the case here.

    And all this is not a wild guess, or theory, or a compilation of available materials on the subject. It is all 100% empirical.

    1. Thanks for the reply, Chuck. You are correct about the reason for positioning you body to the inside. However, I contend that this can be accomplished successfully without focusing on weighting one footpeg or the other. Sure, weighting the outside peg is useful for helping raise the bike upright at the exit of the turn, but for the typical amateur club racer and track day rider the throttle is a more useful tool for finishing the turn…drive out to stand the bike up. Outside peg weighting simply enhances this.

      We put peg weighting (to stand the bike up at the exit) lower on the priority list, and instead focus more on situating and supporting the body to allow light handlebar pressure.

      1. Thanks for the reply, Ken. It appears that we are both … sort of … saying the same thing in different ways.

        To clarify my point a bit, the entire reason for “leaning in”, at every segment of cornering, is to reduce bike lean as much as possible, while turning as efficiently as possible.

        Using simple physics, the only way this can be done is by either weighting the outside of the bike, or by leveraging the outside of the bike, or in this case; a combination of both. And both simple weighting and leveraging require weighted contact points; … the pegs, the seat and tank, and the bars. Without contact points, where the weight is doesn’t matter.

        The function of all this is similar to counter-steering, which everyone who rides on two wheels does automatically, usually without even realizing it. Same deal with outside weighting; … if we’re leaning in correctly during the entire cornering sequence, we’re using outside weighting without realizing it.

        A good way to prove this is by experimenting with weight placement and contact points while cornering, and exaggerating (in a safe place of course.) The key is that the bike doesn’t know or care where the rider’s weight is; it only cares where and how much of that weight is applied by contact to the bike itself.

        1. I believe the leverage you are referring to is over emphasized and that 90% of track day riders and even club racers rely on throttle to stand the bike up and not active leveraging.

          That said, at higher levels peg weighting is definitely used. I don’t know your race/track level, but it sounds like you’ve been trained and/or focus strongly on this technique. That’s good. But I contend that it is possible to be in a proper hang off technique and get the bike onto (nearer) the center of the tire at the exit without actively weighting the outside peg.

          Sure, some weight ends up there, but significant outside peg weighting, while helpful, isn’t necessary. There are much higher priorities when coaching proper body position and proficient track riding.

          1. The weighting of the outside peg is a finer riding point. In this I would agree with Ken.

            The “weighting” or “leveraging” of the outside peg does provide a nice way of providing something to “push” off when counter steering with the opposite hand. It does however remain a very fine riding point.

            Having the “weight” on the balls of your feet – to let your suspension work. Setting up your body position before the turn – to give yourself less to do, picking your turn in point – to give yourself a consistent path, snapping over quickly – to reduce the time at lean and get to the drive stage quicker, moving your eyes to the apex and exit and rolling on smoothly straight away – to steady the bike and get to the drive phase quicker are all things to master ahead of the very fine point of leveraging the outside peg to get a little better push on the inside handle
            bar when counter steering.

            Thanks again for a great summary Ken. Kind regards.

          2. I focus strongly on this point for two reasons. First of all, it’s very simple physics, involving weight transfer and leverage, which is used in sailboats, sidecars, motorcycles, mountain climbing, karting and other sports where the weight and mass of the participant is a major part of the physical equation.

            I focus strongly on this part of the technique because I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to be directly involved in the early development of it. Not trying to be snarky at all, but I know exactly what I’m talking about.

            I’m also 99% certain that if I could show you some graphics, and/or a simple model experiment, you’ll see what I mean. But we are both definitely on the same page.

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


  7. 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?

    1. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

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

    1. 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.

  11. 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?

    1. 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.

  12. 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.

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