Alan and I were getting at exactly the same thing. We both agree that what you said is correct, but oddly, despite the fact that you tout a street focus, your advice is better suited to the track. When I mention track riding techniques in response to your posts (like the one about clutchless shifting), it’s because you’re posting about track-derived riding techniques applied to street riding, and I think it’s useful to compare the way they’re used on the track vs. the street. In particular, it’s useful to think about why they’re used on the track and what, if anything, is gained by applying them on the street.
Your use of “hanging off” isn’t wrong. You mean “hang off” exactly the same way that we mean “hang off”: one cheek off the seat, upper body pushed down and to the inside of the bike. As far as the difference between “hanging off” and “getting a knee down” goes, they’re the same thing. The only difference is the bike’s lean angle. If you’re hanging off and you lean into a turn hard enough, your knee will touch down. Like Alan said, however, most people obsess about getting their knees down rather than maintaining proper form for the situation, and often stretch their legs to meet the ground when they don’t need to. If anything, you want to be able to get through the turn just as fast (or faster) than somebody else without using up all your available lean angle. If you watch the GP guys, they go through plenty of turns without touching a knee, and often when they do touch down, it’s only to feel where the ground is, not because they’re leaned over all the way. Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked.
So yes, you’re right in that hanging off always allows you to decrease lean angle through a turn, and so in some sense, it’s always “safer” to hang off. But the point I’m making is that, at “safe” speeds, your bike can already maintain perfectly good traction (on dry, clean roads) without hanging off. In the wet, or otherwise low-traction conditions, the solution is not to hang off, but to slow down. On the track, hanging-off works great on a wet corner. You can maintain more speed in and get on the throttle earlier on the way out. Worst case on the brakes is that you lose the front, low-siding into the runoff area. Scrape off some pride and a few bucks worth of paint, but no biggy. On the street, your ability to quickly brake for an unexpected hazard, or change course mid-corner for that matter, is severely impeded by a wet road, AND you have all kinds of obstacles and moving vehicles to hit. Without hanging off, you will have plenty of grip through a corner even in the wet, assuming you’re going the appropriate speed for the conditions.
There are, however, good reasons I believe you SHOULDN’T hang off on the street. First, hanging off makes you a wider target. Especially when you’re on a windy two-lane road, that extra width at the apex of each corner means less room between you and oncoming traffic. Second, and probably more important to me, is that hanging off subtly impedes your control of the bike and makes it harder to stay on in the event of a bump or slide. While you can get reasonably “locked in” to your bike to hang off at the track, there’s no doubt that two legs firmly clamped into the tank beats one.
I still use my bodyweight to minimize lean angle on the street. My upper body moves a bit (not as much as on track) into the turn, but both knees stay planted to the tank. In certain corners I might even scooch my hips a few inches into the inside of the corner as well. That’s my personal preference on the street. What do you do Alan? Just keep it straight up-and-down?