Body Position: What the Bike Wants From You As a Rider

If you jump off a bike at speed with the throttle jammed in position it will quite happily travel along in a straight line until it runs out of fuel, or it hits something.

Left on its own, a bike is a pretty stable machine.

It’s only once we jump on board and start operating it that stability is affected. So the ideal scenario for the bike, really, would be for you to sit there and do very little.

But that wouldn’t be all too enjoyable, would it?

So, we have to accept that we have to affect the stability of the bike to get it to go where we want and do what we want. It’s our job to make sure what we do upsets the bike as little as possible.

How We Move Our Bodies Around

Among the many actions we perform while riding, one of them is to move our bodies around on the bike to better position ourselves for the act of cornering.

Now, you don’t realise it in everyday life because your muscles have got used to lugging your sizeable weight around, but you are heavy!

You make up a considerable portion of the combined weight of bike and rider, meaning that large shifts in weight (particularly at the wrong times) are going to affect the handling characteristics of your bike.

This is why we get our lower body into position well before the corner, so that we only affect the bike’s stability when it is most stable.

Where We ‘Hang On’ to the Bike

The second thing to consider in this is what parts of the motorcycle we’re using to anchor ourselves to it so that we can hang off.

Do it incorrectly and it can have an impact on how the bike behaves and it’s general stability, which is due to the fact that, as riders, we are connected to one very important part of the bike…

The Front End

The front end has a pretty important job of keeping the front tyre in good contact with the ground, and keeping the bike going in the direction you want to go.

It does this through the suspension, but also how the front ends flutters and ‘self rights’ as you’re riding along and as it deals with the contours and imperfections on the track surface.

To so its job most effectively the front end wants to be left well alone, but as you know that’s where the controls are and that’s what we use to get the bike to go where we want it to, so we have to hold onto them.

But as soon as you affect the front end’s ability to do that job, you’re going to have a negative affect on the bike’s stability, or in lesser cases, just getting the bike to go where you want.

And how do riders affect the front end’s ability to do its job?

Riding Stiff on the Bars

Many riders on any given track or race day will be riding with a tense grip in all the wrong moments.

There are two main reasons as to why they will be riding tense:

Nervous Tension or Panic

You may be tense because what you’re doing in that moment feels uneasy, or you’ve got yourself into a situation you don’t want to be in and you think you may be in danger, such as going into a corner too hot.

Poor Body Position

This one is more common in mid-corner situations and is a result of poor body position, meaning you hang onto the bike incorrectly and you rely on the bars too much for support.

This naturally brings about a tightness in the arms as you try to support your weight during your hang-off. Because your lower body and core isn’t correctly set up, your hand and arms are called in to pick up the slack, creating a tight grip.

The Negative Effects

Whatever the reason though, a tense grip could cause a variety of different issues, such as affecting your ability to create the line you want, your throttle control, it can amplify any bar flutter or movement through you, even to the wind affecting the bike as you are buffeted by it.

Not to mention it knackers you out riding tense for long periods of time! All of which could be fixed simply by riding a little looser in the key moments.

Body position is more than simply looking good in pictures. A fundamentally good body position will look a certain way, yes, but they’ll also be impacting the bike as little as possible while in that position, as well as while moving around the bike going in, coming out and moving between the corners.

A better way to ask if your body position (and movement timing) is good is to ask how much are you negatively affecting the bike throughout a lap, because in all honesty that’s going to have a much bigger impact in how fast, tidy and safe you can ride, as opposed to basing your body position purely on how you look.