Here’s why you hang off a motorcycle: You can run less lean angle. If you can run less lean angle at a given radius, you will be safer. Decreasing "lean angle points" allows a rider to add more "braking points" or "acceleration points", so you will be faster, too, if that matters. But mainly, you will be safer when you run less lean angle.
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Here’s a primer for your next track day to fine-tune your body position. I have included quotation marks here and there so you will remember the verbiage when it really counts.
IN A CORNER
- The majority of your weight will be on the inside peg, somewhere around 60 percent. Ideally you have your boot over the edge of the footpeg about an inch, up on the ball of the foot, almost to the toes.
- You will have a butt cheek off the inside of the seat: "The crack of your butt on the edge of the seat," as we say at YCRS. You’re off too far if you find yourself hanging from the handlebars. One cheek or slightly more works best.
- Your core muscles will be tight, crotch muscles tight, holding about 20 percent of your weight with the outside knee that is against the tank. Another 15 percent is still on the seat. You are not hovering over the seat doing a squat. Your butt is riding on the seat, but because your head is moving to the inside of the bike, the weight will transfer onto your inside foot.
- Your inside knee will be flexed out, toe pointed, ankle flexed forward like a baseball catcher behind home plate. Have your heel against the chassis/heel guard, with your foot pointed into the apex at an approximate 45-degree angle. You have a "triangle of light" showing when viewed from behind.
- You are well back off the gas tank… six to eight inches. Yep. Why do modern sportbikes have such long seat pans? Because the designers are way back on the seat so they can better affect the motorcycle with their body weight. Who designed them? Champions.
- The remaining five percent of your weight will be carried by your hands, usually just enough to hold you in place, but often more, especially when trailing the brakes hard into a right-hand corner. Yes, you’re trying your best to keep your hand-load light in the corners to sense front grip, but real-world, non-classroom-theory shows us that the hands carry weight occasionally, especially at corner entry. Don’t sweat it, but do your best to tighten your core and avoid overloading an already-loaded front tire during maniac entries. Mid-corner, you should be able to take your inside hand off the handlebar because the weight is on the inside peg, seat and outside knee against the tank.
IN THE BRAKE ZONE
- Your butt should be prepared as described above before you go for the brakes. If you’re braking first and then moving, you are doing the opposite of what the best in the world and nation do. "Early prep with the butt."
- You are tucked on the straights and sitting up on the brakes so that you block some wind, get your eyes higher to see the corner and most importantly: Let everyone around you know you’re braking.
- Plan to load your hands very, very heavily in the brake zone. Some of the brake force can be taken by your inner thigh against the back of the fuel tank (remember, your butt is already over for the upcoming corner). Don’t lock your elbows, use them as a suspension to help the front tire grip under hard braking.
- Weight will come off your hands and onto the inside footpeg as you trail-brake into the corner, simply by moving your head into the corner to help the bike steer.
- In combined corners, go all the way across the seat, "footpeg to footpeg" between corners, not stopping in the middle of the seat. (YCRS Graduates: When do we sit in the middle of the seat?)
- As you transition from brakes to neutral throttle, and neutral throttle to accelerating throttle, drop your head smoothly to help "offset the acceleration." We call it "The Move," and Dani Pedrosa is one of the best to watch perform it. Your head should be "lowest on the exit," with your "outside arm across the top of the fuel tank." You will be bending at the waist, bending your inside elbow to move your head forward and inside.
If you’re going to the track, commit to the body position the best in the world use, because you’ll be faster and safer. But most importantly, safer at whatever pace you choose.
Nick Ienatsch (@NickIenatsch) is chief instructor at Yamaha Champions Riding School, For more than 18 years, he has provided motorcycle instruction rooted in his own successful professional racing career, which includes two AMA SuperTeams national championships, four top-three annual finishes in AMA 250 GP competition, two #1 plates from Willow Springs, three WERA Grand National Championships, and top-three finishes in AMA 600 SuperSport. Author of “Sport Riding Techniques,” Ienatsch has been a motojournalist since 1984 and currently writes for Cycle World magazine.
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Welcome to the Yamaha Champions Riding School. We want to change your motorcycle riding life. How? Our coaching curriculum follows two overarching principles: 1-How the best riders in the world ride. 2-How a modern motorcycle is designed to be ridden. YCRS focuses on what the best riders do, how the bike was designed, and we apply those techniques to whatever experience or speed each student has and to whatever bike they choose to ride. What? The Champ school comes in three flavors: ChampSchool is our premier two-day program, ChampDay is our single-day school and ChampStreet is our four-hour street-riding clinic. You can ride your own bike in each class, but our perfectly-prepared Yamaha R6s are available to rent in ChampSchool, and available to YCRS graduates in ChampDay. The Goods: We have top-shelf AlpineStars gear and Arai helmets you can rent. ChampSchool adds breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each of the three programs are intensive, hands-on learning experiences with minimal classroom sitting and maximum motorcycle riding. Rules and Schools: Our coaching staff works under a single rule: The students get what they need. That’s it. Customer satisfaction is our first, second and third priority. Our winters are spent at Inde Motorsports Park in Arizona with summers centered around New Jersey Motorsports Park, with occasional forays to tracks like Brainerd International. Who comes? Individual student attention is high because this sport must be specifically taught. Each class will hold a mix of riders, from a first-time beginner to a MotoAmerica participant. We have a majority of street riders attend, but we are very popular with track-day riders and racers. More YCRS Programs: Riders looking for private coaching can hire a YCRS Senior Instructor during any of our schools. Yes, private or semi-private coaching from the best in the business. Clubs or industry groups often hire a YCRS Senior Instructor as a guest speaker or bring them in for chalk talks and parking-lot clinics. Our off-track presentations are sought-after by the International Motorcycle Shows, the Marine Corps, MotoAmerica and all the US Grans Prix since 2006. We have a Youth program that young racers can take advantage of. And what ties all this together? Champions Habits aimed at making you a consistently amazing rider. But I don't race: YCRS is an annual stop for some pretty impressive groups too, from the N2 Trackdays owners to the Harley-Davidson engineering staff. Yep, the HD boys have attended YCRS for the last ten years running…so don’t worry about what bike you ride, worry about how you’re riding that bike! “Life Changing” Those are the words our graduates use when describing their experience at YCRS. We believe motorcycle riding instruction in America has been going down the wrong path for about 30 years now. YCRS is on a Crusade to change how our sport is taught, and those changes save lives and grow our industry. Be a part of it. Give us a chance to be your coaches: We’ll change your life. www.ridelikeachampion.com<http://www.ridelikeachampion.com>