Body Position Again
Last weeks blog on Body Position gained a lot of attention and I received a lot of emails with questions about personal preference, and how a pro-racers body position relates to that of the average track day rider.
Rather than answer each individual email I'll address these questions here and go into more detail about the points I made last week.
"How can a pro racer be a pro with such bad body position?"
As I mentioned last week, a riders body position is like the rider - unique.
An AMA Pro at speed. Although he doesn't look like Marquez no one can doubt his skill or speed.
At Ridesmart we encourage students to adopt a body position that works well
for most riders most of the time. New track riders will benefit the most from
this - by learning good habits the first time they get to the track they will
minimize the problems that face a long time rider who has never had the
chance to analyze and develop their riding style.
The man in question. Different corners can require differeny body position but the differences are clear.
But an experienced rider who has developed what can be referred to as 'bad' habits can still be a safe, fast rider. But like the old saying goes - if you have to choose between two riders with identical lap times, which do you pick, the one with the terrible body position or the one with the perfect body position?
You pick the one with the bad body position because that rider will go even faster after fixing the bad habits...
There are so many factors that contribute to what makes a rider feel comfortable while cornering that changing any one of them can have either huge or insignificant impact on the rider.
For example, since Marc Marquez has shot to fame, the catch-cry in our classrooms is "be like Marquez.
The problem is, only a tiny percentage of riders at our events have the ingredients to emulate the famous #93.
Firstly, of course, is the fact that he's one of the most naturally talented riders ever seen in competition. Thats a little hard to emulate...
With that little factor aside, he's also a tiny, tiny man. At 5'5" and 130lbs, he has less weight to use as a counterbalance than most of the riders I see on track.
How does that affect his body position?
Remember that the reason we lean off a motorcycle is to create a counterbalance to offset the force of (Correction, not centripetal) centrifugal acceleration acting on us and our bike as we go around a corner.
If this doesn't make sense, keep in mind that every time we are riding around a corner, there is a force called (Correction - not centripetal) centrifugal acceleration trying to push us up and out of the corner. This is the same force that slides your sunglasses/cellphone across the dash as you take a tight corner in your car.
The faster the corner, the faster the sunglasses slide.
If your car could lean the glasses wouldnt slide because the lean would balance that force.
If two riders are going around a corner at the same speed on the same bike, the rider who weighs the least will have to use a more gymnastic body position to offset the force trying to push them up and out of the corner.
This rider has less counterbalance available (body weight) so has to put his weight further away from the motorcycles center of rotation.
So this begs the question - who here weighs 130Lbs or less and is under 5'5", riding at pro speeds?
If you dont meet these criteria, the simple truth is that you wont need to use a body position that looks like MM93.
"I'm worried I'll crash because in photos I can see my head is not down beside my mirror"
The first detail that I clarify whenever I hear this question regards the Level this rider usually rides in.
Its very common for a Level 1 or new Level 2 rider to not have a body position as aggressive as faster Level 2 or Level 3 riders. The simple reason for this?
The faster you go, the more you need to adjust your body position.
This is a rider after 1 track day in Level 1 - and again here after 10 track days, now in Level 2.
Keep in mind that the average Level 3 rider has spent a long time perfecting their body position, adjusting it as their corner speed increases. In other words - getting their head down.
The average Level 1 rider doesn't need a body position as aggressive as this because they are not going fast enough. But as a riders corner speed increases they will have to alter their body position to compensate.
Why change body position?
As your corner speed increases you either have to increase your lean angle or put your body weight lower and further inside the corner.
Again, going from Level 1 to a quick Level 2 pace. The changes are obvious.
Remember - too much lean is dangerous.
Its quite common to see riders so focused on increasing their corner speed that they forget to alter their body position to suit. These are the riders who start touching a pipe or a peg down. The first time this happens can be a little surprising. If its just a slight touch, its nothing more than a little surprise. But if its a big touch, this impact can take weight from the rear tire. And when the rear tire suddenly has much less weight on it we know what happens...
The biggest risk here is when a rider has a crash cage fitted to their bike. These cages touch down much earlier than a footpeg or pipe. If the rider has never been on the track before they most likely dont realise how much lean angle they can get on the track. The resultant meeting of cage and asphalt at speed can be a significant emotional experience.
To keep riders from making this mistake as they learn I always watch clearances from footpeg to track very, very carefully. As a rider gets faster, I continually remind them to start using more muscle to get their body further off the bike and down to where the mirror would be. The key here is to use upper and lower body weight. Dont keep your head behind the screen as you slide your butt off the seat.
Early on, a rider will learn from every session. New braking markers, new corner entry points. These change as speed increases. Dont forget to change your body to match all the other changes.
One more for today:
"My buddy said I have to get my butt further off the seat the way she/he does, but I just cant do it. Will this make me crash?"
This is another issue that directly relates to individual rider size, weight and style.
The critical issue here is to remember that there are many contributing factors behind a riders body position. To focus and change only one will never have positive results.
One rider who has more lower body weight off the seat will likely be using more weight on the inside peg.
This works for this particular rider, perhaps because they have stronger thigh muscles. This rider will likely have their knee pressed hard against the outside of the tank and have their foot dug in against the outside peg in response to having less weight on the seat.
This may feel natural to one rider but totally wrong to another rider.
If the rider giving advice to a friend doesn't also mention these factors, the result will likely be counterproductive.
As with any complex system, you cant change just one factor and get what you want. Every point of your body in contact with the motorcycle affects its behavior. Hands on the grips, chest on the tank, knees against the tank, butt on the seat, feet on the pegs, even a knee touching the track - all affect the way the motorcycle feels and reacts. And each aspect is related to one or more of the others.
So the next time someone tells you to move your butt further, or your head lower, keep in mind that doing this will require you to adjust another part of your body in some way. It may not feel right at first, but if the suggestion is one that repositions your body more evenly its worth sticking to it until the new position feels natural. Fixing a crossed up style will take time and effort, and will definitely feel weird at first, but its worth the investment.
And if it helps you to go faster more easily, more safely, its definitely worth the time and discomfort.
Things have changed a lot since then.