Rightly or wrongly, weighting the pegs and body steering are techniques that are still prominent in today’s track riding culture.
From “my mate said”, to high end coaches, these are techniques that are taught as solutions to improve the way we handle a motorcycle at speed.
It’s a subject that will often bring about debate (sometimes heated) among those who stoutly fall on one side of the argument, and one that still confuses many a learning rider as they attempt to learn just what they should be doing.
In this article I want to cover my thoughts and opinions on weighting the pegs and body steering. Thoughts that I should stress are not backed up by a physics degree, merely my own experience, study and observations on these techniques.
But first, let’s be clear on just what we’re talking about here…
The phrase “weighting the pegs” can be used in a few different instances, and sometimes there can be some confusion about the application of the technique.
What I’m predominately going to be tackling here is the use of weighting the pegs to change the lean angle of the bike.
The general premise is that riders press down on the inside peg to get the bike to lean into a corner, and then press on the outside peg to get the bike to stand back up again at the end of it.
This is information that you will see touted by many different riders and even some established riding schools.
What you’ll also find is that the act of body steering is closely related to peg weighting, so I think it’s worth tackling that too.
First, a look at peg weighting.
Again, it is a much touted technique that supposedly aids steering by giving you helping hand in getting the bike to lean over.
With so many (typically older) professionals claiming it’s true, who are we to argue?
It’s difficult to argue with those who rode at a whole different level, but given the option of arguing with what someone says and universal physics, with respect I’m going to go with arguing the spoken word.
There are a few things to consider in this argument. The first is Newton’s third law of motion.
Don’t worry, the boring bit will be over quickly, so bear with me. He said:
“When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.”
What that basically means in this instance is that when I push on something, it’s going to push back with that exact same force. If I sit on a skateboard and push on a wall, I’m going to move away from the wall. That’s Newton’s third law in action.
As a further example, imagine being in a squat position with your feet planted on the floor. When you try to stand up you push against the floor with your feet, but the floor doesn’t move away from you, it pushes back against you (like the skateboard example).
As a result, your body begins to move away from the floor and you stand up.
Now you have to consider how your body weight acts against the floor throughout that movement.
Once you’re weight is planted on the floor, aside from jumping up and down there is nothing you can do to apply MORE force to the floor.
The only way you could apply more force is to have a counter force. Put simply, something else to push against.
So to bring it back to motorcycles, once you hop on your bike there is nothing you can do to add MORE weight to the bike itself and onto the pegs unless you have a counter force to push against.
Like the floor, there is nothing you can do to apply more weight to the bike once you’re on it. Wherever your weight sits on the bike (pegs, seat, tank, bars) the contact patch doesn’t know any different no matter where you push.
So we know we can’t exert more force down on the bike, but what we can do is change where that weight is distributed in an attempt change the angle of the bike.
This is typically what people refer to. Moving the weight to the inside peg to make the bike tip into the corner.
It is thought that by moving your weight to the inside peg you are altering where your weight is positioned on the bike, and thus changing the bike and rider’s combined centre of gravity.
But what you have to realise is that once you’re in your riding position, no matter where on the bike your weight is being distributed, the ONLY way to change the bike and rider’s centre of gravity is to move the mass that makes it up.
Basically meaning, until you physically move your position on the bike, your CoG will not change, and so the bike will not lean.
This video demonstrates this point perfectly (I’ll explain after).
When you look at the result, it appears that all of the weight from the two forks is being applied toward the end of the horizontal tooth pick, when in reality the combined weight of the forks (and the toothpick) is in the centre.
On a bike at speed, if you’re strong enough and while remaining in exactly the same seating position, you could plant the majority of your weight on one peg and the bike would not change trajectory one bit because your CoG hasn’t changed.
This is where body steering comes into play.
While weighting the pegs does nothing to change the centre of gravity of you and the bike, a change in position of the mass does.
Again to bring it home a little bit, when you move your body weight around on the bike, bringing your head down to the inside for example, you are altering the centre of gravity and it will have a small effect on the bike’s lean angle.
With more dramatic shifts in body weight, you can displace the front wheel enough to start a natural countersteer, and the bike will lean in that direction. Albeit slowly and with little control.
This guy trying to call out Keith Code is a good example.
Quite simply because when they push on the peg and shift their bodies to the inside of the bike, they ARE doing enough to initiate lean. Though that is solely down to the shift in body mass, not the weighting of the peg.
But you can also be damn sure that they are pressing on that inside bar to more accurately get the bike to go where they want it to on the track.
If they weren’t, they’d find themselves in the dirt quicker than they can say “countersteering sucks”.
I could talk till I’m blue in the face about why these techniques are falsely touted to be as effective as they are, but seeing real world examples cannot be disputed.
If foot peg weighting leans a bike over, how can this be explained?
Another example is this screenshot I took from the below video from the i2i Motorcycle Academy here in the UK.
At this stage the trainer is demonstrating how moving the body around affects a bike’s lean angle and trajectory. What IS happening is that because his body mass is so far inside the centre-line of the bike, the bike is travelling in a circle while remaining upright (this is why riders hang off – to offset lean angle).
But why isn’t the bike falling over with all that weight on one peg? Even at this relatively slow speed?
You can see this in action from around the 1:00 mark in the below video.
These special steering methods have been taught for years, but in the end it always come back to the same thing.
While you can alter your direction with mass shifts and they do have their uses in certain circumstances, countersteering is the only way to effectively and accurately steer a motorcycle into a corner. Especially as speed increases.
Still not convinced? The next time a car pulls out of a junction in front of you, see how quickly you can dodge it with peg weighting and body steering.
Feel free to come back and tell me about it (if you can).
There are a couple of scenarios when we do actually want to weight the pegs.
The first is when we create lower body attachment with our legs. By pressing down on the pegs and getting into the correct position by using the tank, you can create a stable base that allows you to free up your arms and hands from hanging on the bars.
Another instance where distributing more of your weight on the pegs helps is going over crests or rough areas.
While it doesn’t bring the weight down lower (remember what I said about CoG) by weighting the pegs to the point where there’s very little weight on the seat, your legs become a second set of suspension, meaning you won’t be bouncing around in the seat.
Good for the bike and good for you.
So you see there are benefits to be gained from weighting the pegs, but steering is most certainly not one of them.
For that I will only ever recommend riders concentrate on the actual method that effectively steers the bike. Countersteering.
Photo by Fiat Yamaha Team
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