Off Road Riding Skills: Body position and Weight distribution.
Key ingredients to riding well are body position and weight distribution. It’s these things that will assist you in being able to make your motorcycle go exactly where you want to go and how you want it to get there. Of course you will need to combine this with other skills such as throttle, clutch & brake control, line selection and also practice to master the right position for each situation.
It’s all about balance as balance equals more control. Optimal body position will provide improved traction, cornering and overall control. Many non-riders think you just sit on a bike and twist the throttle, but most of us know that there is a lot more that goes into riding a motorcycle well. Really good riders are very active on their bikes, always adjusting their body position and inputs into their handlebars and footpegs. Sometimes this is very obvious and sometimes it’s so subtle you can’t tell.
The first thing to have a think about here is if you were to stand beside your bike with the side stand up and simply hold it with one hand on the grip, you would notice that it doesn’t take much effort or strength to hold it up when it is vertical. But to turn motorcycles you need to lean, so this is where correct positioning can make or break this nice neutral balance.
As a rider you have forward to back and side to side weight distribution to think about. You need to think about when you need to sit and when you need to stand. Then there is the blending of all of these movements in a smooth instinctive way to get the ideal result.
This takes a lot of practice and can take many years. If you are always thinking about your riding this way, you are probably always improving, which is part of the buzz of riding for many riders.
The standing position is typically used for any off road terrain that isn’t relatively smooth. If you stay seated over rough ground you will immediately become a passenger because with your bum on the seat you have a high centre of gravity, your weight will be over the back wheel and you will feel every bump through your body, losing your ability to move your weight around effectively for maximum control.
If you stand in what is known as the central standing position all your weight is through the footpegs giving you good control and agility.
There are 6 main points that will assist you in getting into the correct standing position.
1. Position your feet so the footpeg is roughly in the centre of your boot – for balance.
2. Have your legs slightly bent and lightly gripping the motorcycle from your ankle to your knee – for increased grip and control.
3. Arch your back over forwards not straight – for comfort.
4. Keep your elbows up – for extra control.
5. Keep your head up and looking forward, roughly over the handlebars – for optimal vision.
6. Avoid “death grip” and try to have 1 or 2 fingers over your clutch and front brake at all times – for efficiency and easy subtle control inputs.
Standing up will allow you to move your weight forward as you accelerate and backwards as you brake which really gives a lot of extra control as well as saves a lot of energy. When standing you can also lean forward up a steep rise or alternatively push your weight towards the rear on your way down to keep the bike well balanced.
You and your bike are a team and you need to feel comfortable and balanced in a range of situations. If standing feels alien to you, it makes sense to work on it so you have it in your bag of tricks when needed. Find an area where you can practice slow speed exercises, see how much you can move forward, backward and side to side.
Make a little obstacle course and practice, start off fairly flat with turns then throw in some slopes and work your way up from there. For inspiration get on youtube and watch some trials, enduro or even BMX competition.
For full story view pdf here.
-Miles Davis, BMW Motorrad Marketing Manager.
This is a summary of a story that was written for Adventure Rider Magazine.