Monthly Archives: April 2008

Body Positions: Hanging Off…

“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!


The Greenest Alternative

What would you say if I told you there was a two seater that got around 100mpg in the city, and had the magical property of being able to breeze through the worst Manhattan traffic (at a reasonable 25 mph)… And that you could buy a brand new one for $3,200 out the door? Perhaps a better question is: if this existed, why doesn’t everyone have one? It costs less than an upgrade package on a luxury car…

Scooter may not be the most macho form of transportation, but in the old days they kept pace with classic motorcycles… A Buddy 125 has a top speed of 55-65 (depending on which way the wind is blowing on its 9hp engine) while carrying a passenger. I’ve seen a Vespa 250 (which is arguably the Lexus of scooters) hit 75 on the 59th Street bridge… The Buddy 125 (which my wife bought in the Fall) gets 90-100 miles on the gallon which is good considering it has a one gallon tank. My wife’s weekly commute costs in the ballpark of $3 in gas…a little less depending on where we ride out for dinner.

I wasn’t making up that part about traffic either… Have you ever heard of a scooter traffic jam? There are like a billion scooters covering every square inch of Asia and not one traffic jam – okay so maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit… But where my sportbike gets behind a car or at an intersection, the scooter travels with ease.

Now I don’t think scooters are for everybody. If you love motorcycles, you probably wouldn’t want to trade one in for a scooter – you can’t really go on the highway and the small tires make Manhattan potholes seem like the Grand Canyon. But if you wanted a second bike – or were averse to the noise and difficulty of motorcycles, the scooter is an alternative that I think ANYONE could ride and love…

How can I know if a scooter is for me?  If you can ride a bicycle and drive a car, and are tired of paying $50 to fill up your car with gas, then you will LOVE the scooter.  You will need to get some protective gear (at least a helmet, gloves and over the ankle boots) and you will need some practice, and you will need to get a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license (take the written learner’s permit test at the DMV, then when you’re ready take the road test on your scooter).

Question, “But won’t girls think I’m a dork?”  What are you…in high school?  And the answer is – I don’t think so…  Most over high school age girls are a bit risk averse, and would think twice about jumping onto the back of your Ducati (that even sounds like a dirty euphemism!)  But even Audrey Hepburn wouldn’t think twice about getting onto your scooter…provided you had an extra helmet and gloves (which stow under the seat in the trunk – of which my 600rr is deathly jealous).

So there you have it.  If you want to ride a motorcycle – go ahead, a scooter will never satisfy that itch the way a cost efficient 600 can…  But if you like having fun and want to get around Manhattan – then for the sake of the planet – get out of your Hummer and onto a scooter.  Cheers!

“Check Your Helmet Month”

Whereas in ancient times the months were named after “gods” and rulers (Janus, Augustus, …) we in modern times add colorful semi-educational occasions such as “Women’s History Month” (March), “Dental Health Month” (October), “Environment Month” (June)…  Far be it for bikers to be left out of the mix – there are plenty of months to go around – as a result April is “Check your helmet month.”

And to celebrate I want to point you to one of the many sales going around – looky here!  I don’t work for this place.  Really!  But I think this sale on Shoei helmets is particularly good…