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Keith Code

Knuckle To Knee—dragging

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Keith Code    16

I love to survey riders. What do they want from riding; how would they like it to feel; how would they like it to look? Want is consistently answered with smoother, faster and increased confidence. Feel runs the gamut through smooth, solid, stable and predictable. Look also ranks smooth above all; followed by fast, which translates into hanging off, knee on the floor. That is the dream. Riders of all classes of bikes, once astride a sportcycle and at a racetrack, feel left out and are often crestfallen until that magic moment finally comes; the krchchshh of getting a knee down. If only the photographer had been in that corner…that lap. In the evolution of our species we’ve gone from knuckle dragging to knee dragging.

 

An alluring picture of what they imagine or wish to look like can hamstring anyone. These are most often gleaned from dramatic magazine or TV shots stored in their library of mental images and riders envision themselves in these poses as an end unto itself in their quest to improve personal riding prowess. Going for the look without some understanding of its utilitarian underpinnings is, in a word, wrong.

 

In the evolution of the art of cornering the look of it has had four complete phases--so far. The neat, tidy knees to tank, stretched out on the bike style of the 19-teens through the ‘60s was handed down, eye to muscle memory, as the path of least resistance; you could even say “the natural style” of riding. Phase two: Mike Hailwood let his inside knee come off the tank in the 1960’s and practically created a stock market panic in the riding style etiquette market, it was a huge departure from tradition. Paul Smart, Barry Sheene and others followed. Then, Jarno Saarinen actually moved his butt off the seat a bit which was emulated by many. The fourth phase is credited to and was pioneered by our own Kenny Roberts Sr’s knee down style hangoff in the 1970’s.

 

Initially this earth-shattering look was quite personal to the rider, each having his own iteration of the new form. Cal Raybourn and Kel Carruthers were halfway guys, still clinging a bit to phase two. Some others had lots of bum off, some with lots of leg and knee off, some rotated around the tank a la Mick Doohan. A few went head and body way down and on the inside of the tank, Randy Mamola style, some hung-off but remained sitting more upright like Kevin Schwantz. The torso positions for our other 500cc world champs of the era; Eddie Lawson, Freddie Spencer and Wayne Rainey were half way between, on the tank but not inside it. Most of the originals also tended to ride forward on the tank and finally, everyone was stationary in their hung-off position once in the corner. The neat part of that era, with all these splinter groups, was that a fan could have instant recognition of the individual’s style and look. Not so today, phase five is upon us.

 

Conceptually, hanging off couldn’t be simpler. Lower the combined Center of Gravity (CG) of the bike/rider combination and you go through the same corner at the same speed, on the same line with less lean angle: all in all, a brilliantly utilitarian racer’s tool with huge residual benefits; chief among them being an accurate, on-board gauge for lean angle and true to most evolutionary progressions, function now rules the new look and style of road racers.

 

Take a look; riders are low and inside of their bikes. More and more we see them perfectly in line with the machine, not twisted or rotated in the saddle. The bum off/body twisted back across the top of the bike positioning, which many phase four riders had been doing, was and still is an interesting piece of self-deception. With their torso mass on the higher side of the bike, it not only neutralizes the mass of the hips being off the bike but actually is a negative, raising the combined bike and rider C G--defeating the technique’s main function and purpose. Other notable changes include not being so stretched out as before but not always with the family jewels on the tank either. The one new variable in phase five riders is coming further off the bike mid-corner to exit. You’ll see it on the bum-cam position next time you watch riders like Val Rossi in Moto GP. That and the fore/aft in the saddle differences appear to be the only options available to our phase five evolution racers.

 

We have five choices now in how we can look and relate to our bikes. If you keep your eye on the style’s function and do some limbering exercises all the benefits of phase five will become apparent as you become comfortable with it. Is it easy? My experience says it is not a natural style at all and riders are hard pressed to assume the new form. If it is your desire to do it I suggest taking your time and step by step, experimenting with each of the stages through which it has evolved. Good luck.

 

 

ˆ Keith Code, 2007.

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Gtrew    0

Thanks for another interesting article, Keith. Keep 'em coming. The visuals are helpful even before trying them on the track.

 

Glen Trew

CSS Level 4

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parabellum    0

As always, another great article.

 

I especially enjoyed this one because of the history you go through...I took to doing google image searches of the riders you mentioned (most I knew already, a few I did not) to see exactly the progression you talked about.

 

Thanks for yet another piece of instruction.

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Dissident    0
who doesnt' love a great article written by a great teacher!

 

I always thought a higher CG actually meant you had to lean the bike less, and that the purpose of hanging off was to move mass inward towards the radius of the turn, also meaning you can lean the bike less?

 

I know there was a thread on here earlier (found it while I was searching for the article I read awhile back and couldn't find)

 

http://forums.superbikeschool.com/index.php?showtopic=500

 

I always figured the reason riding twisted up doesn't help matters is that it often puts your head over the center line of the bike, instead of towards the inside. It seems like, if I'm on the supermoto and I sit on top and lean in, I don't lean the bike nearly as much as if I get low in the seat and hang off, too

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Cobie Fair    13

Here is a little demo you can do that I've seen Dylan do: take a chair, and hang off it a bit, and at the same time, bring it to the balance point on the inside legs.

 

Observe what happens when you shift your upper body weight (not lower body) over the top of the chair (counter leaning it). Then shift your upper body to the inside, all the while keeping the chair at the balance point. Observe what happens to the "lean angle" of the chair (bike).

 

What do you see?

 

CF

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Dissident    0
Here is a little demo you can do that I've seen Dylan do: take a chair, and hang off it a bit, and at the same time, bring it to the balance point on the inside legs.

 

Observe what happens when you shift your upper body weight (not lower body) over the top of the chair (counter leaning it). Then shift your upper body to the inside, all the while keeping the chair at the balance point. Observe what happens to the "lean angle" of the chair (bike).

 

What do you see?

 

CF

 

Wouldn't that analogy be more applicable to making a slow u-turn with the bike, where you're not trying to add a large centrifugal force to get the bike to change course (turn instead of going straight)?

 

The experiment I've done is sit on the supermoto and go around a corner, and then stand on it and go through the same corner at the same speed (as far as I can tell, the bike doesn't lean nearly as much if I take the corner standing up.)

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Dissident    0

Ahh, here's the diagram I was looking for: (with that said, I would think sitting lower would make it easier to initiate the turn since the cg is closer to the axis of rotation). I've also seen similar stuff in some european mags

 

KneeDown7.jpg

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Wurn    0

This is an excellent topic.

 

The images are really good to see what im doing and what my friend who rides to work with me does in a corner. He has the Doohan-esque style Pic no2 and i definately have Pic no3 style. Im experimenting in gettin my head and body way down to the side almost like Ben Spies and Jamie Whitham, but i dont want to do this just to look cool. I want it to work for me, enable me to go faster smoothly and give me more grip and stability in corners.

 

As it is i cant get my knee down to touch the ground at all no matter how hard i try. I know im pretty fast in corners but still that eludes me.

 

My question is if anybody will answer, why do they say No5 tires are less likely to slide and he could go round faster?

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hubbard_28    0

That's exactly what I was wondering while I was looking at this. I would think that sitting up straight would put more pressure directly down on the rear tires and increase the likelihood of slippage. Hopefully someone can more accurately explain this.

I'm sort of a cross between 3 and 4. I get down on the tank, but I'm not far enough down that I NEED to drag my knee. It's just such a comfortable feeling. Like Linus, my blanket is my knee on the ground. Don't need it, but I'm more confident when I know where I'm at. I'm working on leaning farther. But I can't imagine feeling comfortable doing it sitting up straight.

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SvenCRen    0

I think this is a great article as well, this has been one of those topics that I have been struggling with for some time now. More recently, I do feel like I am making some positive strides to what I feel is optimal. When I look at the photos that Dissident posted, none of them look right to me. I wonder how old that page is because it did seem quite out of date to me.

 

The best example I can think of for what I think is an ideal body position is Dylan's avatar photo on the CSS Team page. He looks like he could give Spies a run for his money in that shot. I think there is a reason why Spies runs so well, getting the greater mass of one's body to the inside of the take seems to make sense to me. I have noticed that even though I am not quite achieving that position yet, that coming close has really improved the about of fatigue I had been feeling previously at the track.

 

Regards,

-scott

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skingraph    0

great article lots of brain food.i have been noticing motogp riders hangin off farther on exit lately as well. at first i was like "what the.." looks like they were falling off(noticed it alot with stoner and pedrosa). very interesting how form follows function.

i would also like to say that i love watching older styles of riders. it reminds me of watching different proskaters of the 70's and 80's. listening to kieth explain each ones riding style is like hearing my brother explain the playful/aggressive riding style of tony alva(ala randy mamola). or watching the clean technical style of tony hawk(wayne rainey).

i always felt(as many have stated) that jet pilots and roadracers were a kin. after reading a small bit kieth said in twist of the wrist 1 concerning timing/coordination an its similarities to skate boarding, i began noticing some of the similarities as well. when i use to carve the ditches by my house, you would want to pull a fast cutback and the only way to do it efficiently was to get low and hang off the board. sometimes so low your seat pocket would drag too and if you were fast enough you didnt even hang onto the board.

anways i think that, is what draws me to dragging my knee, no image or wants but the feel of carving the corner.

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faffi    12

I find it hard to believe that hanging off vs not alters lean from 39 to 52 degrees and that hanging off but crouching brings it from 39 to 52 again. Not saying it is wrong, it just doesn't seem logic to my simple mind.

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Thumper748    0

Is there a right and wrong here?

I got my knee down at my local track the last ride day and don't know how I did it! haha

My lap times were significantly quicker too, but I think that was due to getting on the throttle earlier and riding a less powerful bike than I normally do. Funny that.

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ozfireblade    0

Is there a right and wrong here?

I got my knee down at my local track the last ride day and don't know how I did it! haha

My lap times were significantly quicker too, but I think that was due to getting on the throttle earlier and riding a less powerful bike than I normally do. Funny that.

 

 

Congrats, you probably werent trying to do it

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Thumper748    0

Is there a right and wrong here?

I got my knee down at my local track the last ride day and don't know how I did it! haha

My lap times were significantly quicker too, but I think that was due to getting on the throttle earlier and riding a less powerful bike than I normally do. Funny that.

 

 

Congrats, you probably werent trying to do it

 

That's right!

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Grip    0

I can get my left knee down more often than my right knee (50% less) is this due to Aussies riders riding on the left hand side of the road? Or is it an unspoken riders rule that I shouldn't get my knee down on twisties road (rural public roads)??

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Jerm25    0

I'm the same as Grip - left knee goes down no worries. Right knee - not so much... My personal view is that I prefer left hand corners because the throttle is on the "high" side of the bars and I feel more confident than when the throttle is on the low side, in right handers. It's something I need to work on, 'cos it's just in my head (like the voices...)

 

Another thing I've found is that when I get my knee down I kinda feel I'm cranked over and going as fast as I can - WRONG! I've been trying to increase my corner speeds gradually and allow my knee to come up to the tank once it's down...

 

It is a very cool feeling getting your knee down though - it's just something you can't do when you're driving a car, no matter how fast you're going! So, no matter whether you're fast or slow, I recommend giving it a go (and your sliders look better scuffed up too).

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Shakespear    0

It'll be one fine day when I hear the sound of my knee on the track. Hope I can get the Busa back up. Just kidding (sort of). I'm pretty afraid of getting the knee down but I know as long as I follow the process it should be natural as breathing.

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ThomasDark    0

Shakabusa,

 

As a rider that first put his knee down aboard a CBR 1100XX I can say that the "hyperbikes" are hard(er) to do it on. I found that as long as I was focused on touching my knee down it seemed soooo hard. Once I started to focus on my line, body position, and looking through the corner to the exit all of the sudden the knee was down. All this was before my introduction to any CSS classes. As I took Level 2 last year on my 954rr I found I was so occupied with body position, RP's (all 3 of them), and throttle control I found my knee just did it's own thing and a few times I even was surprised that my knee was already on the ground in corners with no attempt to "stretch" my knee away from the bike to find the ground.

 

It's a good feeling to drag a knee as long as you havn't put yourself in a bad situation as far as body position to get there. At this point I move on cheek of the seat and push my elbow what I feel is "toward the ground" and then just ride like Level 1 and 2 taught me and the rest works itself out.

 

Good luck, and don't worry about the size of your bike... you can do it easily if all other aspects are properly aligned.

 

I did enjoy Keith's article up top of this thread quite a bit. Good thing you commented on it so it came to the top of the queue.

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Shakespear    0

Thomas,

Thank you for the straight forward help. It will definitely give me more confidence.

All the Best,

Nic aka Shakabusa

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Shakespear    0

As an add to my previous response I realize now that the most important part of leaning is not how far you can lean but how fast you get through the turn. Leaning is only as good as its an aide to this goal. Thanks again Keith.

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rchase    5

What's interesting as well is the way that the bikes have changed shape over the years to support the evolution of riding style. Modern bikes have large fuel tanks with plenty of area to grab onto with the legs and areas to rest the body on while hanging off. The older bikes lack some of these ergonomic helpers.

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