Riding Tips: Which Leg?

Here’s a quickie that applies to all types of street riding, but is especially effective on lighter motorcycles and scooters… When you’re making a turn the right way (figure B), where should you put your weight? In the inner foot (the right foot in the diagram) or the outer foot?

Most people put their weight on the inner leg… But the key to bike stability (for light bikes) and proper riding position is to put your weight on the outer leg.

How come?  Two reasons.  One, in terms of handling it puts more of the weight in a spot where the suspension can handle bumps and lack of traction…  I don’t know exactly why this is the case…but you can try it out on spots like where the Grand Central goes to the Triboro Bridge – the grooves in the ground make lighter bikes and scooters chatter at speed.  But if you shift your weight to the outside, viola!  You probably won’t notice the difference on heavier bikes with better suspensions.

And in terms of posture it allows you to find the correct position A or B (in the first diagram) and not C.  Most people do C (a little bit) without realizing it.  Even sport riders who are aggressively trying to hang off (figure A) are surprised to see pictures of themselves on the track “crossed-up” (doing figure C).  Because when you put your weight on the inside leg, you will naturally push up against the turn.  But if you look at professional motorcycle (and scooter) racers, their outside legs are clamped onto the tank, while the inside leg is free of weight (this might also be why it’s so hard to get your knee down at first – you don’t want to drag your knee when all your weight is on it…)

So how do you do this?  It feels funny at first.  But try doing your regular turns while just keeping your toes lightly on inner peg…  So make right turns with your right toe lightly on the peg, and your weight on the left.  Make left turns with your weight on the right foot and your left toe just lightly on the peg – making sure you are straight in line with your bike (and not doing figure C).  It helps to realize that the actual turn (no most turns in the street) only last for a second or two…  You won’t be able to do this as well with slow lazy turns – but that’s a discussion for another time…

So that’s the tip – take it for what it’s worth.  Cheers!


One response to “Riding Tips: Which Leg?

  1. Hanging off in either direction serves the purpose of altering the center of gravity. This may have a trivial impact to the position of the tires’ contact patches, but it doesn’t make much of a _direct_ difference in the turn radius, which is proportional to the bike’s lean angle. What it does do, is make a difference in how fast you can take a turn, which can give you the ability to make a tighter turn _without_ slowing down. While leaning (turning), gravity and centripetal force must be balanced, or you crash. You can’t change gravity, but you can change how much centripetal force you are subjected to by altering your speed or your center of gravity. In general, altering one of those means you must also alter the other. So if you want to take a turn faster, hanging off towards the inside of the turn will lower your center of gravity and counteract the extra centripetal force of your faster speed that might otherwise high-side you (A). Likewise, if you want to take a turn slower (like in a parking lot, or a U-turn on a side street), shifting your weight towards the outside of the turn will put your center of gravity closer to being directly over the wheels again, which will counteract the _lack_ of centripetal force that could cause a low-side crash (C). So, C can still be correct, but only in low speed turning.

    At “normal” speeds, keeping your body in line with the bike happens to put your center of gravity at just the right spot when taking a turn at its rated speed. Be sure to watch out for those yellow signs that tell you a certain turn is rated for a lower speed than the current speed limit, or at intersections, and adjust your speed appropriately before entering the turn.

    When turning at higher speeds, “putting your weight on” the outside peg (should really be “pushing off of” the outside peg so as to not confuse it with “shifting your weight to” the outside, which would be bad) really does help keep you in line with the bike, instead of subconsciously trying to keep your body upright.

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