THE LEG AS A BALANCING POLE
If you didn’t lean hard enough on the entry to a turn
and are starting to high-side, hanging your leg out at a
90-degree angle from your body (to the inside of the turn)
will move the bike’s center of gravity in that direction. This
is the most basic of all fixes. You lean inward, throw your
leg out and hopefully stop the upward lift of your bike. It’s
not pretty, but it’s effective.
LEG WEIGHT AND
As your bike is accelerating over a slippery surface at an
exaggerated lean angle, it will usually want to powerslide,
where the rear wheel steps out of line. This situation typ-
ically occurs on fast sweepers or slick off-camber sections.
Most riders are afraid to lean the bike into the corner far
enough to find the proper G-force centerline for the speed
at which they are cornering (dirt trackers, on the other
hand, have no fear of pitching it in). To feel safe, and to
prevent an unwanted slide, motocross racers will hang a
leg out to the inside to (1) compensate for the conservative
lean angle or ( 2) get their inside foot in position to save
their bacon if the rear tire breaks loose and the bike tries
THE ROLE OF THE LEG IN
THE CLASSIC BERM SHOT
You’ve seen the posters of the classic berm shot. A
racer is leaned over to the point where he is dragging the
handlebars, full throttle, roost boiling off the rear tire and
his boot skipping through the loam, only inches away from
his front tire.
Why is the rider’s foot leading the way? There are three
(1) Counterbalance: When you are in the banked
section of a turn, your lean angle is greatly exaggerated.
As the radius of the turn changes, power fluctuates (with
traction) and steering input varies (also with traction).
Your leg acts as a counterbalance to these fluctuating
conditions. Hanging your leg forward and slightly above
the track surface weights the front tire to keep it biting.
It also shifts your weight well to the inside of the turn,
pulls you forward on the seat and, in a pinch, acts as a
tripod to momentarily save you from augering in (although
touching the ground with your foot is a no-no, except when
unavoidable). With your leg out and forward, you don’t
have to lean as much to rail the berm. And, when you
transition out of the turn onto flat ground, you only need
to move your foot back to the peg to properly readjust for
the change in G-force angle (from leaned to vertical).
( 2) Self preservation: In the classic berm shot, the low
side of your bike is leaned so far over in relation to the
ground that you wouldn’t have enough time to pull your
inside foot to safety if your bike slid out from under you.
This holds true for any situation where your lean angle
is exaggerated by track conditions. Sure, you could rip
around feet up, but at what price comes failure?
( 3) The caveat: The most stylish berm-shot photos
show the rider with his foot plowing the earth and his
knee perfectly straight. Wrong! That’s very dangerous!
And, from a physics point of view, a big mistake. It may
appear stylish to straighten out your leg, but it is best to
keep your knee bent. A straight leg locks the rider’s knee,
and should the rider’s boot hook on the ground—and
someday it will—or the bike fall on his leg, ripping and
tearing noises will emanate from the medial collateral and
anterior cruciate ligaments.
DABBING AND DRAGGING
Although we have warned you not to touch the ground
with your foot, it is obvious that every rider does take the
occasional dab in corners. In truth, there are a few times
when it makes sense to drag or dab a boot. Typically, in
slow, flat turns that don’t have berms, the fastest line is
to square off the turn and accelerate out flat-track-style.
On this type of turn, almost every rider will dab his foot
near the apex of this corner. Ever wonder why?
These tight, flat and sharp turns require lots of braking,
probably with the clutch pulled in and the rear wheel
locked up. The effects of this kind of corner on the
physics of a motorcycle are complex. Three things
happen: (1) Dragging the brakes into a turn causes the
bike to want to high-side. ( 2) Hard braking on flat ground
makes the front tire want to push. ( 3) To make matters
worse, the instant the brakes are released, the bike wants
to fall to the inside of the corner.