Tips & tricks | 25 Aug 2022

How To Get Your Knee Down On A Motorcycle

Motorcycling is not just therapeutic, but also exciting. While most of us look at satisfying our cravings for riding two-wheels on straight highways and streets, there are people who get an extra kick out of riding through a set of twisties. For beginners, it is nothing but a wonder as to what it would be like to ride a motorcycle on a hard corner leaning down aggressively as the motorcycle turned without much effort. Not to mention, how on earth did the rider manage to make their knee touch the ground. Now, watching all the action is one thing, but trying to do it yourself provides a different level of adrenaline rush. The amount of satisfaction going down on one knee with a motorcycle is profound.

While most of us are lured by getting on our first knee down around a corner, the fear of falling off the motorcycle might keep us from even trying. Leaning and almost touching the fast-passing road might not seem natural because you are not used to the body position you require to achieve that lean angle. Most of us who ride a motorcycle are not that far away from getting the knee down properly, as it comes as an instinct after having ridden the motorcycle for a while. However, since we have not learnt and tried it practically, we tend to shy away from executing a knee down as we are unsure of what the result might be. In this article, you will learn a step-by-step method to perform a knee down turn properly and safely. Before getting to the step-by-step guide, it is important to have the right setting for such rides, let’s go over that first.

The playground

Going knee down requires you to take the motorcycle across a corner at higher speeds than you would normally be at while taking a turn. It is important to choose the right environment and the right road when you are honing your skills at the act. Do not do this on public streets. The riding environment on the streets is highly uncontrolled and there are too many factors that work against your own and other road users’ safety. You need to be in a controlled environment for your knee downs.

The best recommendation is going to a racetrack. Quite a few motorcycle companies, and some other organisations too, have track days which you can be a part of for a nominal fee. The environment on the track is safer, controlled and you don’t have to worry about variables like oncoming traffic, potholes, inconsistent road surface, stray animals, or unpredictable pedestrians. If you absolutely cannot go to a track, you can attempt your first knee down on an open parking lot or an open space where there is no traffic or pedestrian movement. Do not attempt knee downs on the ghat roads either. Also, this goes out even for seasoned riders - never get too adventurous with high-speed corners, as on public roads, there are factors at play which are beyond your control, and there’s a high chance of an accident if you try going too fast. We would highly recommend that you keep the knee down riding exclusively for the racetrack.

The gear

Safety is of utmost importance. While you cannot control a lot of variables while riding, what you can control is choosing to be fully protected with the right gear. It goes without saying, a good, certified helmet with a double D ring closure is a must. You would also need to invest in a good quality riding suit. These are different from your regular riding gear and are single piece jumpsuits and are made of leather. They also come with knee guards that protect your knees if you decide to scrape them while taking on those hard corners. A good pair of gloves is also important. In a fall, we tend to take support with our hands and instinctively use them to break the fall. Gloves protect your hands from scraping and avoid bigger injuries. Riding shoes are also a must as they protect your feet and ankles in case of a fall or scraping while on a corner. You might think that all this is going to be a heavy investment. However, if you are passionate about biking, all this investment will pay itself off in the longer run. Also, what’s more valuable than your dear life? Motorcycling is an expensive sport, and you should be willing to invest in your safety. If you absolutely don’t want to invest in the gear, we would again urge that you carry out this activity on a track. Most racetracks provide suits and gear that you can rent for a day at a very reasonable price.

The tool

Not all motorcycles are designed for hard cornering. A motorcycle with a relatively shorter wheelbase and lighter weight will be the most effective while going knee down. Cruisers, adventure motorcycles and off roading motorcycles are to be avoided. These are very heavy and cannot be controlled while leaning fully. Some of these motorcycles also have foot pegs or exhaust pipes that stick out. These parts can scrape the ground and cause a fall much like an engaged side stand would. We would not recommend you attempting knee downs with commuter motorcycles as they have skinnier tyres and you need wider rubber to give you that extra grip while leaning the motorcycle. Most modern motorcycles in the 150 cc to 250 cc category have good wide tyres, with manageable power for newbies. Street fighters and faired sports bikes are most well-suited for hard cornering. Street fighters are naturally light in weight and are often equipped with wide rear tyres. They are also very agile and easy to manoeuvre thus, making them easy to control. Sports bikes are natural at cornering, as they are meant to be taken into corners and have all the right equipment to make leaning down a safe and fun experience.

The capacity of the motorcycle does not matter if they have good acceleration and brakes. You can perform knee down turns even on 125 cc bikes with the right technique. However, the higher the capacity, the more fun you will have. But remember, like Uncle Ben would say, “With great power comes great responsibility”, so ride responsibly when riding a higher capacity motorcycle, especially if you are working on improving your skill level. For a beginner, the sweet spot would be somewhere in the 200 cc to 400 cc capacity. These motorcycles have enough power to have fun and are easy to control to be safe.

Finally, the guide

Now that you know what the right playground should be, what gear you should be wearing and what motorcycle you should be riding, let's get to the most important part of getting your knee down on that corner. It is a little technical so let’s break it down in steps for better understanding.

Step 1 - Getting your feet right

While taking a corner, both your feet would be working together, however, they will serve different functions. For better understanding, let's call the leg that you would go down on, the inner leg, and the one that you are not using to go down on, the outer leg. Now, your feet should be positioned in a way that they provide a stable base for your body to rest on. One of the best ways to position your feet is by having the feet right on the pegs so that you have ample leverage to prop yourself up whenever needed. This will give you the flexibility to raise the calf of your outer leg to grip the tank. While your outer leg is raised, the heel of your inner leg should be turned towards the motorcycle. Some motorcycles come equipped with a heel plate and you can rest your foot on it. Mind you, this is not the only position to ride in, however, this will help you to get a good start and you can find your own foot placement that is comfortable when you practise leaning and cornering over a period of time.

Step 2 - Holding yourself on the motorcycle

This might sound strange to you, but it is your legs that will keep you held on to the motorcycle, not your hands. The outer leg needs to be locked into the tank scoop so that it acts like a hook and holds you while you drop yourself on the other side while leaning. Your inner leg should be stretching out the knee. This will be easy when you turn the inner heel towards the motorcycle, inwards. Remember to stretch the knee as far as you can without any strain, it should be as natural as possible.

Step 3 - Posterior position

Now that your feet and legs are set, the position of your backside also has an important role in taking the knee down. Firstly, you need to be riding with your butt positioned away from the tank. Scoot some way back from the tank. If your motorcycle has a split seat, your butt should be touching the back rest formed by the beginning of the pillion seat. This position will also make it easier for you to stretch out your inner knee as far as possible without straining your hamstrings. While leaning into the corner, you will need to get your butt cheek off the seat, sliding towards the inner side. What remains to be determined is what amount of the cheek should be sliding off, half a cheek, full, or the whole backside. Well, this we leave for you to figure out as not all riders will have the same comfortable butt position, but half a butt cheek is a good point to start off. The point to note however, is that you should not be hanging by the handle. Start with sliding one cheek off the seat and then adjust to your most comfortable position.

Step 4 - Get your head in line

When we say get your head in line, it's not to get it in line with the centre of the motorcycle but to get it in line with your body when you are leaning in. If you follow steps 1 to 3, your head would naturally be in a position where it is facing the mirror of the inner side. This body position is also often known as ‘kissing the mirror’, as your head and neck is really close to the bike’s ORVMs in this position. When you are sliding, your whole torso and shoulders should also be coming out of the motorcycle, and you should be in a position where a straight line can be drawn starting from the head going through the spine all the way to the tailbone. This will not only give you a good grip and position, but also a good visibility of where you are going.

Step 5 - Need for speed

Leaning in and getting the knee down is a skill used to turn into tight corners really fast. If you attempt to do the same at slower speeds, it might slow you down rather than helping you go faster. While you don’t have to be doing very high speeds, you should be at a decent level to get through the corner. You will find yourself slowing down when you are dipped into the corner but also remember to gradually speed up while getting out of bend. We cannot tell you what the ideal speed, gear, throttle position or engine speed should be as all turns are different and will have different lean angles, you will have to try for yourself what speeds are most comfortable for you and gives you the confidence to take your knee down. Looking far ahead through a corner, not a few metres away from your bike is a critical technique to enhance your vision, confidence, and body position. It might look like a simple tip but works wonders in enhancing your speed through the corner, and in turn, your capability to lean the bike harder, and get your first knee down more quickly.

Practice! Practice!

By now you must be excited to get into your first knee down but remember to practice before you start. Park your bike on the side stand and practice steps 1 to 4. This will help you get the right position and determine lean angles and that is a good part of the work done. Once you have your position right, speed is something that will come naturally to you. Also, the fitter you are, the easier it will be for you to lean into corners. Your core body strength and thigh muscles will play a vital role as you anchor yourself on the motorcycle while leaning, so do keep a check on your fitness as well.

To conclude, getting your knee down on your motorcycle will get easy as you keep doing it often. Ride safe!

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21 Oct 2022

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