High speed maneuvers – be ahead of yourself
February 11, 2010 at 10:38 pm #3700
In sports, after you’ve obtained the physical skills, a lot of it becomes a mental process. In high speed maneuvers, whether it’s playing tennis, downhill skiing, mountain biking, or motorcycling on twisty roads, there’s the concept of being ahead of yourself. In motorcycling it starts with looking thru the turn, which we’re all familiar with – your body follows where you look – but it goes a bit further. It’s about anticipating, mentally projecting a few seconds into the future where you will be, how you’re body will be positioned, and “pre-position” yourself before the event. In tennis, it’s pulling back the racket before the ball gets to you. In mountain biking, it’s rising off the seat before hitting a bump, and anticipating the drop after a rise. In motorcycling, it’s positioning your body before the turn before the turn comes up, while getting mentally ready for the next body position for the turn after that.
When you’re ahead of yourself, you flow from corner to corner smoothly. If you feel you’re being surprised by corners and are reacting to it, you’ve fallen behind yourself, your riding would feel jagged, and you need to slow down immediately.February 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm #24527AParticipant
Look where you want to go.. if you look down, you go down… not that difficult.February 16, 2010 at 7:57 pm #24548
A bit more on body positioning, or “pre-positioning” before a turn. It works the same for all turns, but in difficult corners, such as a steep downhill hairpin turn, or when there is debris/gravel/water on the ground, our psychology and instincts often work against us. The instinct is try to keep our body upright, or even lean away from the turn, to not fall, which are exactly the opposite of what you should do. The scarier the corner looks, the more you need to lean your body into the turn, or even hang off on the inside of the turn, to help the bike turn with minimized bike lean and maximized traction. Get your body pre-positioned BEFORE the turn!
Always remember – safety first. It takes time to build up the confidence to lean hard into a scary corner. You just need to practice it all the times, even on city street corners, to build up the muscle memory. Start with lower speed and work up the speed gradually based on your own comfort level. For me, riding on streets exclusively, it took me over 1 year, 11k miles, to finally get comfortable on the most difficult roads in the local hills.February 16, 2010 at 8:55 pm #24556eonParticipant
When you are talking about steep downhill hairpin turns then I think you need to consider what speed you will be doing before advising ‘hanging off’. Your body weight is used to counter balance the bike. At slow speeds (~<10mph) it wants to fall into the corner, therefore you shift your weight to the outside. Above that speed the bike wants continue on a straight line therefore you shift your weight to the inside (hang off) to counteract that.
I have a steep hairpin bend near me that I struggle with. Going up isn’t so bad but going down I struggle with it. I’m certainly not going fast enough to hang off (though that might be part of my problem).February 16, 2010 at 10:09 pm #24557
…I dunno man. It’s my personal philosophy, and loads of people completely disagree with me, but I’m not really down to push that hard on the street. If you need a “scary lean angle” to make the corner, I think you’re going to fast. Granted, I know you’re also just addressing people’s general fears of leaning, but your post makes me think of you taking blind downhill hairpins at 50, hanging off to the side. Not recommended…February 16, 2010 at 10:31 pm #24558
I agree completely that you need to be properly positioned BEFORE you enter the turn. In order to do this, you’ve got to do several basic things:
1.) Properly set-up for the turn, i.e. which side of the lane for a proper apex
2.) Scan through the turn, identifying any obstacles, debris, etc., and find your apex.
3) Have your weight distributed between bars, seat and pegs…balls of the feet on the pegs.
4) Move your body slightly to the inside of the turn before you tip in. Your upper body should be inside of the verticle axis of the bike.
5) Point your inside toe and knee towards the turn.
6) Press the inside bar foward while keeping your head/eyes level, looking as far through the turn as possible.
Don’t hang off on the street…if you’re going that fast on the street, you’re going to crash in the next turn or two anyway!
There are a few different techniques that will get you through hairpins, or quick left/right combitions. Even at speed (over 10mph) you can still counterweight provided you have the clearance. Just move the bike under you. It’s not a universally recognized technique, but up to pretty quick speeds (and assuming clearance) it’s effect. On quick turn combinations, you can do the same thing, assuming you are at less than a quick pace.
And, again, don’t hang off on the street! FWIW, the REALLY fast at track days and most of the guys I teach with get their knees down LESS than the guys who *think* they’re pretty quick. They just get a cheek off, and manage the tire and throttle. It’s humbling…February 17, 2010 at 12:41 am #24560
I didn’t mean to counter what you were saying…I was actually echoing it, but I think I countered against your terms! You were right on with what you said.February 17, 2010 at 12:51 am #24561
Alan (IBA270), I got you – we were essentially in agreement on this issue the first time. I was more responding to eon and eternal, but in general, it’s totally understandable that people read and interpret things differently. Heck, I often read the same article several times and get different meanings out of it each time. Anyway, I really appreciate an experienced rider like you taking the time to help us beginners along.February 17, 2010 at 6:45 am #24562
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?February 17, 2010 at 3:52 pm #24563
The best part about all of this is that we have a healthy discussion that I hope members and “lurkers” alike are reading. Riding is a craft that requires the development of skills which are perishable. It’s important that people “think” about and visualize how they ride and endeavor to learn something on each and every ride.
Definately some good stuff and good advice here!February 17, 2010 at 7:52 pm #24565
“Hang off” (I’ll use it to mean leaning your body into the turn) is just a technique to minimize bike lean -> maximize traction. It’s independent from how fast you go. Slowing down when traction is poor is a given, and hanging off buys you extra margin. Correct body position is an integral part of riding, so I don’t know why one would not want to hang off when cornering, unless you’re just into a mellow ride and not want to bother with the effort of the extra body movement. Also, noticed that I didn’t say how much you should hang off – again, that’s up to you to learn, discover, and decide how and when you utilize a technique. I never said that you should hang off to the point of compromising your bike control or becoming a traffic hazard. There maybe specific situations where you wouldn’t or couldn’t hang off, but then again, it’s up to you, the rider, to decide when to utilize certain techniques.
I know many good street riders just keep their body position straight up and down when riding at their “normal” pace. They know and trust the bike and the tires to handle the necessary lean angle. They even make fun of new/inexperienced riders leaning their bodies excessively at fairly low speed while the bike is hardly leaned. I disagree with that mentality. For new riders, it’s critical to build up the correct muscle memory as soon as possible, and the way to do that is to use the right technique all the time, whether you need it or not, so it becomes an automatic response when you really need it. When you get really experienced and can ride with your eyes closed around a corner, then you have the luxury of riding more sloppily and laugh at the new guys.
I purposely shy away from mentioning “knee down” and “track technique” because I don’t want new riders to confuse a basic riding technique discussion with going fast. In fact, I think it’s often misleading and counter-productive to say GP racers do this and that because they’re riding for an entirely different purpose, not to mention the totally different environment, equipment, and the extreme talent level involved. The purpose of riding technique discussion in this “beginner general forum” is to maximize control and safety. Being able to go faster after you’ve mastered the control is the result of better control.February 17, 2010 at 8:25 pm #24569JackTradeParticipant
…experimenting with a very mild “alignment change” in reasonably tight turns, basically moving my head to about even with the inside grip, and shifting my weight slightly inward. (Got this from the MSF “motorcycling excellence” book)
Once I got comfortable moving around the bike at speed (hard for a newbie), I was amazed at how just that tiny bit of “hanging off” (such as it was) decreased the lean angle. And safety aside, I also noticed that the turns became much more fluid…I felt less like I was purposely directing the bike, and more like we were in harmony (kinda like the difference between steering the bike at low speeds vs. countersteering the bike at regular speeds).February 17, 2010 at 9:46 pm #24566
Another thing I found very helpful is to video myself doing tight circles and figure-8s during parking lot practices. When I did the practice, it felt like I was leaning the bike a lot, like I was about to drag on hard parts, but when I viewed the video, I saw that the bike could lean a lot more before touching hard parts. That kind of visual feedback really helped me understood the amount of bike lean available and its relationship to my body positioning, and that knowledge also resulted in greater confidence when cornering.February 17, 2010 at 10:03 pm #24559
Seems like no matter how I write someone will read it differently from what I intended. I guess it’s normal because you’re not in my head, and we don’t have the same point of reference. I said this before and I’ll say it again – I’m a street rider, not a track rider, and my main focus is on street riding technique, maximizing control/traction in a safe manner. I’m a strong advocate of never riding faster than your sight line, and I cringe whenever I see guys diving into blind corners. With that in mind, allow me to respond:
– Hanging off is a totally different and separate issue from dragging knee, or even high speed, for that matter. I used “hanging off” as a way to describe “extremely weighting the inside” during a turn. You could be hanging off with the bike nearly vertical going merely 15 mph around a treacherous turn. The point is to minimize lean angle and maximize traction. This will result in a higher, and safer, speed, but the speed is a result of better control, not necessarily the goal.
– When you’re doing tight parking lot u-turns, which is generally at constant speed, pushing the bike under you (counter-lean), dirt-bike style, with your body upright, maximizes bike lean angle, and minimizes the turning radius. However, It’s different in a steep downhill hairpin turn. See next bullet.
– In a steep downhill hairpin turn (let’s say 15 mph going in), you’re loosing elevation and gaining speed very quickly during and after the turn. For example, elevation-wise, you could be dropping 15 ft in 15 ft of forward movement. [Edit: Maybe that’s exaggerating a little bit – maybe 15 ft drop in 25-30 ft of forward movement in a severe downhill hairpin – but hopefully you get the point I’m trying to illustrate.] If you kept your body upright and pushed the bike under, like you do in a parking lot u-turn, as the bike drops down the slope and gained speed, your body would be lagging behind the bike, i.e., you’d be out of position and playing catch up to the bike. By leaning your body down and into the turn, you’d be ahead of the bike, and in position for the next move. Think about skiing or snowboarding – how do you take a steep downhill corner – body first or feet first?
There are all sorts of variables – your own skill level, the type of bike, road camber, steepness, tightness of the turn, duration of the turn and the nature of the transitions, surface texture and cleanliness – so no matter what you read it’s not one-size-fits-all. Whatever you read, you should extract the essence, experiment on your own, and adapt it for your own use.
[edit: maybe I shouldn’t have used the term “hanging off”. Maybe “kissing the mirror and getting a cheek off the seat” is closer to what I was trying to describe in terms of body position for street riding. But the point and the goal are the same – pre-positioning and strongly weighting the inside BEFORE the turn.]February 18, 2010 at 1:49 am #24571
If you’re going to debate a point, at least read the post you’re debating
My post: “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…There are, however, good reasons I believe you SHOULDN’T hang off on the street: [REEZUNZ]…”
Your response: “hanging off buys you extra margin…so I don’t know why one would not want to hang off when cornering…”
My post: “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.”
Your response: “‘Hang off’ (I’ll use it to mean leaning your body into the turn)…”
For the record, just as you wouldn’t say “trail brake” to mean “brake on a forest trail,” you shouldn’t say “hang off” unless you mean “hang off.” The phrase has a well-defined meaning in the motorcycle community, and using it another way can be confusing (see above thread of posts for reference ).
My post: “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.”
Your response: “I never said that you should hang off to the point of compromising your bike control or becoming a traffic hazard.”
My point is that, if your inside leg comes off the tank, you’re compromising your control and your stability on the bike. Therefore, hanging off inherently compromises your control. If you keep both legs firmly on the sides of the tank, you’re totally fine.
My post: “When I mention track riding techniques in response to your posts…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 response: “I purposely shy away from mentioning ‘knee down’ and ‘track technique’ because I don’t want new riders to confuse a basic riding technique discussion with going fast. In fact, I think it’s often misleading and counter-productive to say GP racers do this and that because they’re riding for an entirely different purpose, not to mention the totally different environment, equipment, and the extreme talent level involved.”
Right. Hanging off is not a “basic riding technique.” If it was, they’d teach you to “hang off” in the MSF BRC, or at the very least, the IRC. But they don’t. Where do they teach you to hang off? At high-performance riding schools and track days.
So why do I keep making your street-riding discussions come back to the track? It’s because you’re talking about track-derived techniques. If you’re going to bring a track technique to the street, you better be damn sure it makes sense, because as you say it’s a “totally different environment.” Perhaps for different reasons, Alan and I are both saying that it doesn’t make sense to hang off on the street.
Moreover, I mention track riders and racers (which are NOT at all the same thing; I am one, but not the other) precisely because they are at the very far extreme. If they don’t always do [track technique X], then maybe you should rethink doing it on the street. THAT was my point.
Look, this whole thing started because you gave the EXACT same spiel that a track instructor would give about corner setup, including moving your hips off the side of the seat, talked about hanging off, etc.
If all you mean is “move your upper body weight towards the corner,” then nobody disagrees with you. In fact, I said myself:
“I still use my bodyweight to minimize lean angle on the street. My upper body moves a bit … into the turn…”
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