A sports bike is the standard bike in the track riding world for obvious reasons. As such, the vast majority of teaching is done from the perspective that you also have a sports bike.
This isn’t a problem for most of the core skills of riding a motorcycle quickly, but with their altered geometry and riding position, with body position it does start to raise some questions about what we should be doing.
It’s a question I get asked a lot, so here I wanted to offer my thoughts on what changes as we move to a bike with a more “friendly” riding position.
Before we get to that though, let’s quickly recap what exactly we’re trying to achieve with body position in a fundamental sense.
As I’ve covered in the past, body position isn’t just about creating shapes for the cameras. We are actually trying to achieve three fundamental things so that we can ride in a better way and to a higher level.
To offset bike lean angle with the body, to remain relaxed on the bars in the critical moments, and to reach a level of comfort so that we can operate at a higher level and for longer.
Those core goals should give you a little indication of where this is all going, but stick with me nonetheless.
To kick off the differences then, let’s look at the lower body first.
The biggest job of the lower body during cornering is to provide a solid base so that you can do what you need to do with the upper body – effectively use the controls and move into the desired positions while remaining relaxed on the bars throughout.
On a sports bike the three main contact points that we use to create that solid base are the seat, the pegs, and the tank.
On a naked bike we still have those three contact points, so theoretically we should still be able to do a good job at creating this foundation we want for cornering. The key factor being how good the outside leg attachment is with the tank.
It’s the peg position and tank shape that will determine how well you can create this anchor point, and on most ‘bikes that aren’t sports bikes but would be used on the track’… bikes, you should be able to create this fundamental piece of body position with relative ease.
In a roundabout way what I’m saying is that nothing really changes with the lower body. You still want to achieve the same things and get into the same positions, and most bikes that would be used on the track will allow that.
With the lower body in place and doing its job, we now want to get our upper body to the inside and our head farther forward and down so that our inside arm isn’t straight. This is true of any bike used in a performance setting.
Once again nothing really changes in the sense of what we’re trying to achieve on a fundamental level. We bring our upper body to the inside to offset lean angle and we also lower it to aid control and to better move around with the bike, as opposed to pushing it away from us.
Even with higher bars this fundamental principle remains the same.
However, there are two things that will change as a natural consequence of the more relaxed position of the bars.
First is that you won’t feel like you need to crouch down quite as low because the bars are in easy reach. This will naturally create a more comfortable position for you because you aren’t trying to get lower than your body will allow. If getting low on a sports bike is difficult for you, this is going to naturally feel easier.
The second is that the bike will likely feel easier to steer (assuming similar geometry to a sports bike). With the bars higher you’ll end up pushing on those bars more directly, rather than down on top of them like many riders do on sports bikes.
When your forearms are more parallel to the ground your input is more direct so the bars will turn easier, as will the front wheel, so it then becomes easier to counter steer and the bike feels like it changes direction with less effort.
What you also might have are wider bars on your bike. If you do, that extra leverage is just going to add to the ease of steering.
It goes without saying that there’s very good reasons why sports bikes are designed the way they are, and there are benefits to the geometry and ergonomics they set out to achieve.
That said, I would guess you aren’t looking to set any lap records if you’re heading out onto the track on a road-going Triumph Street Triple, KTM Superduke or Ducati Monster, for instance.
So from a fundamental standpoint you aren’t at a disadvantage if your goal of riding is simply to go quicker than you did before and improve as a rider overall.
If anything, the more relaxed position of bikes like this may actually help you reach that higher level, because like I said back at the beginning, being comfortable and relaxed is a key component to riding fast, and achieving those things may well be easier for you on a slightly less sporty machine.
That’s not to say that everyone should rush out and bike a bike that’s out of the norm, merely that your body position goals don’t really change with a bike like that – they just look a little different.