Seating position can be a nuanced affair for each and every rider, with big differences being observable even from the best riders in the world.
In this article I wanted to touch on one particular facet of seating position and how that can help or hinder your ability to do a good job on the bike.
And as I’m sure you can guess by the title, this is going to be a look at how close or far away from the tank we should be sitting.
Specifically, should we sit as close as possible to it? Or should we sit a little way off the tank. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each
By that I mean sitting as far forward in the seat as you can without any space between your man or woman parts.
Sitting forward like this offers two main benefits. One fairly big, the other not so big.
The biggest benefit it offers is greater support for the lower body under braking. Having slid as far forward as you can, when the time comes that you need to brake very hard for the next corner, you shouldn’t have any trouble stopping yourself from sliding forward because there’s nowhere else to go.
This can save a little energy compared to a rider that sits farther back and has to brace themselves to maintain their original seating position.
The other, not so big benefit comes on the power when coming out of corners. On modern powerful machines it doesn’t take too much to have the front wheel pawing the air, and even on bikes with wheelie control, if you can stop that electronic aid kicking in to keep the bike driving forward then that’s simply going to save you time.
By sitting farther forward more of your weight is over the front end, meaning you can accelerate harder before the front wheel begins to lift.
However, we’re talking about only a few inches difference in seating position here, so that in itself won’t make a big different for most riders.
The biggest downside to this seating position is how it affects your ability to hang off the bike.
Sitting close to the tank means you’ll have a tendency to rotate around it when you try to slide off sideways, which will most likely leave you in a “crossed up” position on the bike. Your inside knee will also move more forward of the bike, rather than sticking out away from it as it should.
If you try to slide off too much from this position you could also lose too much contact with the outside leg which will compromise your lower body stability and mean you’ll struggle to maintain a more modern style of hanging off.
Another downside is just the opposite of the advantage above. Sitting father forward will mean the rear wheel will be easier to lift under braking because your weight is forward. But again, this would only be a small difference.
By this I mean sitting about 3-4 inches (8-10cm) away from the tank. We don’t want to sit too far back because that can also compromise lower body stability, but just sitting a little way back can have some positive effects.
As you would expect, the benefits are the opposite of the cons from the previous case. If we sit a little way back we can more easily slide sideways off the seat while retaining solid contact with the outside leg against the tank, a vital part of your lower body stability.
With your hips less twisted and more “square” with the bike, it’s easier to find and maintain a nice neutral upper body position, with your spine either running parallel with the bike, if not pointing a little inside of it toward the corner. A more ideal position by modern standards.
And again, by sitting farther back you’ll gain slight advantages in terms of outright braking potential with more of you weight over the rear wheel.
The biggest downside comes from the lower body support needed under braking to stop yourself sliding forward.
This can come from your feet on the pegs and your knees up against the tank, which depending on your bike setup can require a fair amount of effort to achieve in the biggest braking zones.
Anyone who has been following me for a while will likely know that I advocate sitting a 3-4 inches back from the tank for all the body position benefits it brings.
I think it falls more in line with what we see today in modern performance riding, and it’s what I recommend riders aim to achieve because in my opinion the pros outweigh the cons.
However, I don’t tend to be one of these people that likes to vehemently sit behind every tiny detail of riding, especially when riders up to a very high level can be observed using something different.
For that reason I would always suggest working to achieve the modern standard of riding, but if you genuinely feel more comfortable using the former approach and it allows you to ride to a higher standard, I’m not going to say you’re wrong.
As long as you’re adhering to the fundamentals of a good body position, that approach is OK in my book.