Revisiting the Body Position Conundrum

Surprise! Both Marc Marquez and Kevin Schwantz are skilled riders.

The subject of the “correct” body position on a motorcycle comes up pretty frequently in the MD Comments Section. I thought it worthwhile to revisit the topic here. Be skeptical if someone suggests that a certain body position is always correct, or incorrect, when riding a motorcycle. They might be right … or they might be completely off-base.

We wrote an article a few years ago discussing body position, and I wrote the following comment in response to a reader on the same topic this morning (my comment is re-printed below).

As with any skilled activity, the ultimate goal in motorcycling is to forget technique altogether while riding. It may seem corny, but here is a quote from Bruce Lee: “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

Jeff Ward (9-time AMA champ, including 2 supermoto titles)

So resist slavishly following advice regarding body position, and be like water. Here is what I posted in the Comments Section to another article:

I’m afraid it’s not so simple. Here is the old article on the topic: http://www.motorcycledaily.com/2015/08/shifting-your-weight-to-the-outside-in-a-corner-why/ . I have ridden with Kevin Scwantz on the road and he sat bolt upright in corners. Freddie Spencer told me many years ago that he doesn’t lean to the inside while cornering on the street. He keeps his weight centered. You have to think about it a bit more carefully. You are effectively saying Jeff Ward (9 time AMA champ, including multiple supermoto titles … where the typical track is 85% asphalt), who leans his body to the OUTSIDE of the bike in road corners, doesn’t know how to ride.

Experienced riders vary their body position as circumstances vary. When ground clearance becomes an issue, you have to shift your weight to the inside of the bike. The same applies when the lean angle of the bike risks rolling off the edge of the tire – you have to shift your weight/lean off to the inside to keep the bike up on the grippy part of the tire. An extreme example is a MotoGP rider dragging his elbow on the inside of the corner.

If neither of these circumstances exist (restricted ground clearance or rolling-off the edge of the tire) leaning to/hanging off to the inside of the bike in turns is an unnecessary exercise and a waste of energy. This was Freddie Spencer’s point, and I agree. Some inexperienced riders have an exaggerated body position when it isn’t necessary and they look stupid, frankly. They read somewhere that they should ride that way, apparently, and they don’t have the feel/experience to realize it is wasted energy.

The pictures of Jeff Ward and Kevin Scwantz dipping the bike and shifting their body weight to the OUTSIDE of the bike on road surfaces doesn’t mean they lack skill or experience. This can be the best technique on the road, and the fastest way around. Again, these riders can feel when it is the right technique because of their experience. Basically, when ground clearance/tire roll-off are not concerns, you can typically change the motorcycles direction, and lean angle, more quickly and easily by “pushing it down” on corner entry. If you think about it, counter-steering illustrates this principle.

Years ago, Gabe would exaggerate his body position in corners even when the bike was relatively upright (not close to dragging the pegs or rolling off the tire) and I told him it looked foolish in photos appearing in MD. He disagreed, and you are entitled to disagree.

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