I tend to chuckle when I ask people what they want to learn at Motovation Track Days and mostly the answer is ‘I want to get my knee down’. To me it is hilarious that this is a concern for so many riders out there.
Let me say this first, getting your knee down is not an art, all you need to do is try some atrociously bad riding technique and you will be able to scrape your knee pucks all day long, even when you aren’t in a corner. See what I did there. No??? Let me make it clear- Getting your knee down in no way makes you a better, faster or safer rider. Wait- you scream- but MotoGP riders get their knee down on every corner and their elbow down on every other corner. Yes they do and you need to remember that they are riding motorcycle that were designed to go at insane speeds in the corners and they’ve got tires to match. A set of their tires would most probably mean that you would have to sell your motorcycle, a kidney and donate some plasma while you are at it.
The faster you get, the greater will be your lean angle in a corner and the greater your lean angle in a corner, the easier it will be for you to get your knee to scrape. If you have already begun to lean your bike over to the extent where you’re running very close to the tire wall a.k.a “No Chicken Strips”. You need to move on to the next part where you move your body to the inside of the bike in a corner to reduce your lean angle. This in turn will allow you to increase your corner speed since you now have even more traction & tread to play with. You can keep moving your weight off the bike until the lean angle is such that just sticking your knee out a little will allow it to scrape the ground.
If you look at riders who are fast around the tracks, you won’t see them dragging their knee as they go into a corner, in fact you will see them try to tuck their knee in so that they can increase corner clearance. I know half of you will be giving me disapproving looks and the other half will have all of this going over their head but let’s face it other than tiring you out and making you run out of knee sliders, dragging your knee serves no purpose.
There are a lot of things we can only learn through experience and if you think that you need some physical gauge to know how deep your lean angle is, you’re doing it wrong. If you are a good experienced rider you should know how far your lean is and how much more you can lean over before you eat a face full of tarmac. I am not going to lie and tell you that I have never scrapped foot pegs or that I haven’t lost my rear in a corner. I have and I have learned from them. Everyone will eventually need to start moving their butt off the seat to help make their cornering easier but not all of us may be able to get our knee down but this should be the least of your concern. The pressing question you need to ask yourself is this – Am I getting faster, has my lean angle reduced so that I have more tread to play with, has my cornering confidence improved?
Dropping your body low, is an easy way to get your knee to scrape and corner harder but it isn’t a technique you should be relying on because as you start buying bigger and more powerful motorcycles you will eventually land yourself in a highside while wrecking your ride. As you drop your motorcycle and your body lower, you will begin to feel the rear slide out, you are going to end up in big trouble very quickly if you have your knee scraping, unless you decide to pull your knee in and get your shoulder out further effectively pushing the bike away from you and thereby reducing lean angle. When you start using this technique you will find that your bike is more willing to turn in unless you entered the corner way too fast and cannot effectively shed speed to match your lean angle.
The worst thing to do in a corner is drop your body and knee lower and lower trying to tighten the corner, what will eventually happen is that you will reach a point of no return, your rear will slip out from under you and you will low side or even worse the rear could start sliding and then grip again which will throw you off the bike, breaking your wrists and collar bone or maybe even more. Instead you should be using your front brakes to shed speed.
I keep seeing folks come down to our track at Motovation Track Days and be adamant about scraping their knees until they run out of knee sliders. I agree, it looks cool. I am guilty of scraping my knee whenever I see a camera nearby but most of the time I never stick my knee out further than my shoulder. I like going fast when I am on the track, there is a reason they call me The Fat Flash and dragging my knee in a corner is never going to make me faster, so I just prefer not to do it. My advice to you, if you want to get your knee down because all the cool kids do it and you want to experience it as well, go do it and get it out of the way. Once you’ve done that and gotten it out of your system, concentrate on the more important aspects of riding- Vision, Braking, Cornering & Body Position – You will end up faster and safer. Remember the goal is not to look cool while riding a motorcycle but to enjoy the experience of riding one.
Ride hard. Ride Safe