“Hanging off” is mainly a road race technique – but I think there is a place for it on public roads in situations where you need to turn but want to keep the bike as upright as possible. Now this isn’t for emergency maneuvers, and this isn’t something that most people need to think about – beginner riders should be much more concerned with getting locked into a good position, one that enables you to steer, accelerate and decelerate quickly. BUT….there is a place for hanging off, because hanging off is an effective way for you to lean the bike less while getting the same rate of turn. So take this, for what it’s worth – as a more advanced riding concept/technique.
How do you do it?
It’s a very simple idea (although difficult to do properly). The key is to first find a good upright riding position, then sliding over so that you’re sitting on one butt cheek with your shoulders lined up facing straight ahead. Your head should sit straight pretty much above your torso and at the same time be at or past the rear view mirror toward the inside of the turn. Here, Pedrosa’s head is all the way to his right (where the right mirror would be)and his torso is pretty much lined up straight with his chest facing forward. You are literally shifting over one butt cheek to one side, but everything else remains straight.
What NOT to do…
You don’t want to do what MOST people do when they try to hang off: which is, get your butt way off the seat but leave your head and torso pretty much in the center (behind the windscreen). That’s called being “crossed up” – the lower half is hanging off, but the upper half is in the same place. It’s actually the upper part of your torso that you want to be concerned with. As in most of life: It’s where you place your head that makes the biggest difference, not your butt.
To experiment with this concept, try this when cornering: First take a turn the normal way, locked in, sitting straight up on the bike. Then try it a second way… Stay seated as you normally would, but put your head as far as you can to the inside (try to ‘kiss the mirrors’). You should notice a huge (depending on how much you weigh v. your bike weighs) difference in how much you need to lean the bike for the same corner speed. The idea of hanging off is that it simply enables you to get your head even further to the inside of the corner…
What professional riders do on the track is, as they approach a turn they get into their full hang-off position as they are braking, and when they turn in they are already in position to minimize lean angle (or maximize speed). You need to get in position before the turn…which is why this isn’t all that useful on the street in emergency situations. It can however be useful on long turns (like entrances and exit ramps) when the ground is slick or questionable – you can get around safer by keeping the bike more upright through turn leaving you a greater safety margin in case you hit a slick spot or gravel.
How does it work?
The basic idea is that if you look at where the weight is placed on the tire during the turn, figure A is identical to figure B, but it can be accomplished with less lean. The heavier you are, and the lighter the bike is, the more impact your body position will have on the lean angle. *Good note for scooter riders!* If you’re tired of scraping the center stand, you can work on your body position during turns… The principle is the same. Cruiser riders will get less benefit off of this, but there is still a noticeable difference that may make it worth your while.
So that’s the idea, but of course you don’t get better reading a blog, so get out there and ride safe!