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Cornering - Head Position


Marty675
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Hi Guys,

I'm a long time lurker, first time poster on these forums.

 

I've got a question regarding riding position, specifically head placement. What made me realize this was recently I mounted my camera on my helmet for a run through the mountains. I asked my mate to adjust the vertical position to where he thought. He set it too high so basically in the video you can't see the motorbike at all, only the road ahead. Watching this video (without the bike in frame to distract me), it was incredibly obvious that I keep my head dead level, the only time it moves is when I'm shifting to the other side of the seat. It's like watching a gyroscopic cam.

 

I don't ride like this by accident, I "read somewhere" when I first got into sports bike riding that keeping your head level is what you want to do, because it gives you an unskewed view of the road ahead. This might but true but is it nessesary? The reason I ask is that I don't see people doing it, especially pro racers.. Wouldn't it be better for weight distribution to have my head out (in line with the bike) rather than holding it up level? When I look at pics from the track I find that it forces me to keep my shoulders up higher and looks slightly twisted.

 

I only came to this realization the other day so I haven't had the chance to get out to the mountains and try playing around with my head position yet. I know people will write back saying its up to personal preference etc but I'm a strong believer in fact (which is why I'm a big fan of KC), I would rather know what the technically best approach is and strive for that. If I find that I personally prefer to do it a different way I'd rather atleast acknowledge that and understand why I prefer it this way and maybe have another try and the "right way" down the track.

 

Here's a pic from the track (Eastern Creek, Australia)

 

Cheers

Marty

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Hi Marty,

 

Glad you came out of the closet mate! (Lurking that is :)).

 

Good observation you have made. Keeping the head level, might work to a certain point of lean angle, but with modern bikes it can really twist the rider up when he tries to keep the head level, and the shoulders can stay up, and that does cause the rider to twist. This will cause excess lean angle, as well as other problems.

 

If you are Down Under, see if you can make it to the CSS school, or maybe a place where they can run you through the Steering Drill. This will give a good start on sorting this out. It takes an experienced eye to fix this in many cases, and continue to make adjustments to the rider till he gets it right. We actually don't even let our novice coaches train students on this, until they are pretty experienced and apprenticed.

 

Best,

Cobie

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Marty,

Head position is very, very important. I don't know of to many sports where head position isn't an integral part. To corner effectively, you must lead with your head. CSS has a different name for it but if you look at the AMA guys, WSB, BSB, MotoGP they are looking through the corner turning their head where they want to go. An example would be turn 14A-14B at Barber...a decreasing radius right hand turn. lets say that I am sitting straight up on the bike with my head looking forward and you can draw a straight line splitting the bike and me in half. This is not the case because of turn 13 and I am already off the bike but lets just say for example I am in perfect alignment over the bike. When I initiate this turn my body is turned as for to the right as I can get it with my head looking past the turn to the short straight, the ball of my right foot is pivoted on the foot peg, my right knee is pointed in to the apex. I would say the line from me being over the bike to where my head is looking is 70 degrees. This opens the right side and helps to set your left side into the bike. The left forearm in the tank, left thigh into the tank, left heel into the rear set. The weight is on the right side and your head is down below the top of your wind screen. It helps you from pulling on the bars.....you can't do this with out having good head position.

Look at my avatar...I am not at all proud of this body position so maybe I will remove it but I am an old man and I was getting tired. I raced an endurance race the day before and this was the second race the next day. The guy in back of me 33 was getting closer in the turns because he was off the bike more, he was also 20 years younger. Thankfully this was the last lap and I still whipped him!

 

Disclaimer: I got a great foundation from CSS. I don't claim to be an expert at this although I am an expert racer...paradoxical isn't it :)

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Unlike KC and many others here, I still maintain that that keeping your eyes fairly close to that of the horizon is vital - at least on the road. The reason is to avoid confusing your brain with two hoizons; the real and the observed/how your eyes line up. Under stress, this can cause an accident because your brain will not know what's up and what's kilted and what to do. This may not have to be an issue in a fully known environment like a road race track.

 

Most racers will IMO at least reduce some of the lean with their heads, even if it may not be neccessary while track riding. Also, as clearly evidenced by fossilfuel's avatar, the way racers look way into the corner actually puts the sight of vision pretty much level with the road. Not by tilting the head, but by twisting it. And if you look at the avatar closely, his head is cocked a bit in additioned to turned. I think it's a natural thing to do.

 

Still, there is no denying that few can cock their heads 65 degrees to the side, so a combination of cocking the head a bit and turning it drastically into/around the corner is what seems to bring the eyes somewhat close to the Earth's horizon.

 

I'm sure many will protest my conclusions, but I'll stick with them nonetheless :P

 

 

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JackPfiefer.jpg

Jack Pfiefer was racing in AMA in the early 2000's.To bad he couldn't get a factory ride. This is what I was refering to. He is telling the bike "I want you to go here."

A funny side note: This bike is a 2002 GXSR 600 and is still being ridden at track days today.

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Everyone's right, to some extent. Stu gave an answer to the same question some time ago, and it was the best answer I've ever heard, but I'll be darned if I can find it.

 

Marty, I know you don't want to hear this, but it is ultimately preference. You can't, as you do in your photo, tweak your body as much as you have to keep it even with the horizon. That amount of crossedupdedness (it's my new word) is definitely causing you to put pressure on the bars.

 

Fossil is right in saying that keeping your head into the corner is undoubtedly the most important thing about head position. There is no close second to this.

 

Eirik mentioned that keeping your head to the horizon is the best way for a human to function properly and gauge lean angle, rate of tilt, and keeps the body from freaking out and thinking it's falling over, making it respond by trying to cause a catching response. Your brain will make your body respond in ways not conducive to you getting a motorcycle through a corner. It's human nature.

 

Cobie said there is a limit to how far you can twist and turn your head. Can't argue with that either. Well, you can, but...

 

So, how do you keep even with the horizon AND twist your head? Easy. Your brain will adjust to you not doing so, as it does so many other things it has to get used to while we drop into a corner quickly or break the 45 degree lean barrier and the shift of gravities effects. It does have plenty of time, after all. As evidenced by Fossil's photo and the one he posted, you can get very far over and keep your head even with the horizon.

 

I think the bottom line is that you're attributing your tweaked body to you keeping your head straight. I'm not sure that's exactly right. If you're consciously doing this, you've got yourself a bad habit there. I think focusing on not crossing up so much by properly aligning your body to the bike will get you where you need to be. And your head will stay even with the horizon, for the most part, and to a certain point.

 

I always get people to start adjusting this by telling them to get their outside shoulder over the gas cap in a corner (if it's centered on the tank). If you can, lay it ON the cap. You can adjust from there, but it's a good start that will allow you to straighten out your shoulders, align yourself with the bike, and to relax your shoulders.

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Pay specific attention to their head position and amount of lean. Then look where their shoulder is in relation to the gas cap. This has everything from Bautista dragging his arm to local riders and pictures.

 

 

BAUTISTA.jpg

 

 

Gio5.jpg

 

 

Inde16-1.jpg

 

 

Pedrosaexit.jpg

 

 

CCSrace4.jpg

 

 

This pic is what came of me (years ago) trying to get my face where my mirror is. How can you gauge the effectiveness of this while you're riding? You can't. Not until they post the photos of you from your trackday.

 

 

1624-1.jpg

 

 

This photo of me is from the first time, on the first lap, of me testing my outside shoulder on the tank technique. Shoulders much more in line, head still even, and I just look comfortable. I was. It was like buying a memory foam mattress after sleeping on rocks for a decade. Don't forget to be looking at where my head is, and whether or not it's even with the horizon.

 

 

Pic6-2.jpg

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I'm liking a lot of what you're saying Jasozilla. If you read between the lines much of the time it's simply a lack of core body strength that causes this problem. Even today when I start to get tired I have a tendancy to hold on to the bars but I know the signs now. This is usually not a problem in racing but rears it't ugly head during the later stages of a track weekend and I know it when I start running wide in corners. When I have been a control rider I have noticed that the rider simply doesn't have the strength to hang off and resorts to this out of whack semi slide over. This may not be the case here but the tendancy decreases the more those muscles needed to hang off are trained.....

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<snip> I always get people to start adjusting this by telling them to get their outside shoulder over the gas cap in a corner ...

 

Yep, I like that way of putting it, Jason. And your 'Before and After' photos makes it very clear.

 

Very good - thanks!

 

Craig

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Hey thanks guys, you've confirmed my suspicions. The frustrating part is that I trained myself to do this early on (before I was even hanging off) based on advice. The advice was probably ok for my skill level at the time but I followed it now its burnt into my mind. I understand the 2 horizontal planes concept, but I'm sure my brain will be able to correct for it.

 

Now I need to actively try and change my head position which shouldn't be too hard providing that I focus on it. What annoys me is that it only dawned on me that it was a problem the other day (a good reason to do CSS!). I am planning on doing CSS L1 @ Eastern Creek soon, I'd like to at least be on my way to fixing the problem before I do CSS that way they can fine tune my position on the day.

 

Here's another pic on my 600 - 600 Eastern Creek

 

Cheers

Marty

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I don't think your positioning will come into play at all during level 1 (unless it's absolutely awful and affecting your riding, which looking at your photo doesn't look like a problem you'll suffer from). It will get touched on loosely during level 2 with the off-track drill and doesn't really get highlighted until level 3. The general feeling I got from talking to coaches is that riders often place far too much emphasis on their body position and neglect the basics like good throttle control and steering inputs. Body position being more the icing on the cake.

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  • 2 weeks later...

You can see why Lawson was a multi-world-champion, but also head position of him and Spencer is interesting, if for nothing else but compare with present standards.

 

Lawson-Pocono-80-sm.jpg

 

http://www.theriderfiles.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Lawson-Pocono-80-sm.jpg

 

146_9910_10zoom+kawasaki_zrx1100+rivalry.jpg

http://image.sportrider.com/f/8864263+w750+st0/146_9910_10zoom+kawasaki_zrx1100+rivalry.jpg

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I don't think your positioning will come into play at all during level 1 (unless it's absolutely awful and affecting your riding, which looking at your photo doesn't look like a problem you'll suffer from). It will get touched on loosely during level 2 with the off-track drill and doesn't really get highlighted until level 3. The general feeling I got from talking to coaches is that riders often place far too much emphasis on their body position and neglect the basics like good throttle control and steering inputs. Body position being more the icing on the cake.

 

Steve's totally right, and sitting through CSS Level 1 really highlights this, both for yourself and by watching other peoples' reactions. I'm as guilty as anyone of thinking that the right BP and lines will do the trick when in reality they're just the external "proof" that you're doing all the other million things right.

 

Excellent gas cap tip Jason, I'll have to try that. I think you're right about the OP's BP as well, the head position may be the symptom not the problem although we are all different shapes and sizes.

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I always get people... to get their outside shoulder over the gas cap in a corner (if it's centered on the tank). If you can, lay it ON the cap. You can adjust from there, but it's a good start that will allow you to straighten out your shoulders, align yourself with the bike, and to relax your shoulders.

I had not heard this suggestion before, but even just playing with this in the garage I can tell a huge difference. I had heard the 'put your face to the mirror' or something like that, but it wasn't anywhere near as helpful to be honest. Changing up to think of putting the shoulder on the gas cap I can see how this fixes a bunch of minor things - I can't wait to try it when I'm riding again.

 

My neck still is my limiting factor and I'm working on changing my bikes ergos to get my body more upright - I just may change bikes (again), and that Triumph Street Triple R is looking more inviting every day. I doubt I'll ever spend time in the racing tuck again unless it simply can't be helped.

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