Motorcycle body position has got to be one of the most, if not THE most desirable skill that riders want to learn about and improve when they start getting a little more serious about their track riding efforts.
I’ve seen it countless times through various channels that body position becomes the default area of improvement when looking at how they can progress.
I believe that this is the case for a few reasons. Firstly, riders want to look good and get that epic knee down shot. There’s probably VERY few riders that haven’t had that internal goal at some stage.
Second is that it’s an easier area to see where you’re going wrong. First in how you look compared to what’s “correct”, and second in how you feel. The feeling that you can’t do what you want, and/or the feeling of discomfort will be in the forefront of your mind if your body position is poor.
All of this leads riders to spend a lot of attention on improving, and in some cases, trying to perfect body position by achieving a position with pinpoint accuracy to the detriment of other areas of riding.
Here I wanted to talk about body position, what you’re looking to achieve with it, and roughly where it sits in the ‘skills order of importance’.
It’s an easy way to make improvements. Look at other riders who are doing it correctly and copy them. If you’re positioned in the same way you’re doing just as good a job, right?
There are three key things you’re looking to achieve with a good body position, two of which are very hard to distinguish just by looking at a picture or video. Those three keys are…
The reason racers started hanging off the inside of the bike (moving inside the centreline) was because they realised that they could offset lean angle by doing so.
If you move more of your mass farther inside the centreline, the bike uses less lean angle for a given speed which brings with it a number of benefits. That’s one of the keys of a good body position and the one that’s most easy to observe.
However, the next two are not.
A good body position allows you to reduce how much you rely on the bars for support when trying to hang off.
If you try to hang off the inside of the bike with very little support coming from your lower body and core, you’re going to find yourself with too much tension in the arms and on the bars as a result.
This has a negative effect on many other things. Your ability to steer and use the throttle, it restricts the front end which impacts stability and traction, and the rate at which you fatigue will shorten too, to name a few big ones.
With a relaxed grip, controlling the bike and getting your upper body into a better position becomes so much easier.
Strongly linked to the previous point, all things being equal a comfortable rider is going to be able to ride at a higher standard and speed than one that isn’t 9 times out of 10. Not to mention that they’ll likely be able to ride longer too.
You need to reach a point where you’re operating in a way that is comfortable to you. If that means sacrificing your goal of looking like Marc Marquez in order to be more comfortable, then that is a sacrifice well worth making.
There’s definitely a line here, a line that will sit in a different place for every rider, but you have to find that sweet spot between hanging off enough to benefit you and the bike, but not so much that it inhibits your ability to actually ride the thing!
As I said up top, body position on the track is such a big focus for many riders, and many times that means too much focus.
The thing is, in the early stages of rider develop you would be better off focusing on the more likely things that are going to bring you speed and safety around the track.
In my opinion things like visual skill, steering ability, throttle control and braking structure rank higher up the order of importance than body position. Both from a safety standpoint, but also how much speed they’ll unlock for you too.
For newer riders those are the areas you’ll likely need to be focusing on first. For more experience riders it simply comes down to how poor your body position is as to whether it would be of higher importance to you.
Another trait I mentioned up top was the desire to perfect body position. By that I mean making finite adjustments to different parts of their position simply because someone says to, or because they saw it on TV.
However, if you can achieve the three core goals I listed above and ride to a good standard, you really don’t need to change anything until you come up against a problem.
When you reach this point you will simply be riding with your own ‘style’, and if you watch any motorcycle racing you’ll know that every single rider in every racing paddock have their own style too.
They can be similar, but there’s always observable differences.
If you sit down with your scientist’s hat on I’m sure you could make a case for a ‘perfect’ body position. Or even how riders at the very top aren’t doing things as well as they perhaps could.
In a real world environment, however, these standards are unrealistic. In the end it comes down to how the rider can best achieve what they need to at any given point in time, and a slightly altered body position won’t be a huge detriment to them.
With that said, I still strongly believe that it’s worth finding a structure to follow from a trusted source, taking that advice and working to apply it.
This will help you understand what we should do and why we should do it, and if the source is a good one it’ll also help you understand things on a deeper level, more than simply ‘this limb goes here like this’.
However, on that quest to reach a good body position, don’t get too hung up on achieving that standard with pinpoint accuracy. You can still achieve the same overarching fundamental standards while using slightly different positions and/or methods.
There are ideals, but around those ideals is an area of variation which you can happily operate from while still getting good results.
Photo by Keith Ellwood