Words: Aninda Sardar
Photography: Gaurav S Thombre
You never forget your first time. That slightly unsettling sensation of the slider on your race suit kissing the black top. That heart-stopping moment when you think you are going to fall off, followed by the exhilaration of the realisation that you’ve just docked your first ever knee down. That manic grin that makes the helmet feel delightfully snugger than it really is. That insane desire to punch the air and let out your happiest whoop. You never forget your first time.
We all remember stretching our knees outwards till our thighs hurt, because let’s face it, getting a knee down on a corner looks like a million bucks. And who doesn’t like a million bucks? But how does one do it right? Here are some handy steps from our in-house stunt expert Hrishi as he demonstrates to us how to get that perfect knee down in the perfectly controlled environment of Bajaj’s test track in Chakan.
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1) Relax: Strange as this may sound, the start point of getting your knee down is to be able to relax. Tense up too much and you’re looking at more than kissing the tarmac with your knees. Your body needs to be able to hang off comfortably without unsettling the bike in the middle of the turn.
2) Stay on the ball: Most riders ride with the arch of their foot on the pegs. Instead try putting the ball of your feet on the pegs. This will allow you to put pressure on the pegs and will also ensure better leverage for a smoother transition from being in the saddle to off it as you approach that turn in your life.
3) Sit right: Most amateurs who try to get their knees down without any coaching or guidance tend to use the petrol tank as a sort of fulcrum. They then pivot around the tank to go from one side of the bike to the other. Although it may not seem so but this can unsettle the bike, especially if you’re changing directions. Instead sit a little away from the petrol tank and then try moving from side to side. It feels far more stable.
4) Slide, don’t lift: One of the most common rookie mistakes that bikers on the hunt for a knee down make. They physically lift their bum off the seat and hang off. When you do that, you load up your arms, which means you inadvertently put in steering inputs. This unsettles the bike. Instead, try sliding off the seat without really lifting that bum.
5) Don’t stretch too much: Sometimes, in a bid to find the tarmac under the slider, riders will outstretch the knee a shade too far. As a result, they end up hanging off the bike, which continues to be quite vertical. Apart from serving no useful purpose, it looks ridiculous and unnatural.
6) Don’t get crossed up: Motorcycle riding techniques have evolved. If Mick Doohan’s head on the tank, bum off the seat stance was once what everyone aspired to, now every good trainer – Hrishi included – will tell you to place your upper body off the bike in a manner such that your face is somewhere near the mirror that is on the inside of the turn.
7) Stay low: Stay low on the bike as you hang off instead of sitting bolt upright as some riders do. Staying semi-crouched loads up the front wheel and increases grip at the front end. If you sit straight up then the weight remains at the rear.
8) Countersteer: To get the bike to tip into the corner you will need to countersteer. There is no other way to do this. If you are headed into a left turn, push on the left handlebar and right, if you’re going into a right turn. The bike will change directions and it will lean in.
9) Don’t panic: The first time your knee touches the tarmac can be unnerving. Although you’ve wanted it all your motorcycle riding life, the brain is still not quite wired to accept that a part of your body is actually touching the black top while you’re still riding. The trick is to calm yourself until after the moment has passed otherwise you risk a panic reaction that might unsettle the bike and throw you off.
10) Be smooth: Once you’ve got the knee down, roll the throttle open smoothly and continuously for the rest of the turn. Keep practicing this regularly and watch yourself become a pro at getting your knee down.
If you can’t figure out how far away you should stay from the petrol tank, shove your gloved fist between your crotch and the petrol tank and you’ll have the measure of things.
Some people hang off their motorcycles completely. This is quite unnecessary. All you need is half a bum cheek off the seat.
You’ll be an idiot if you practice this on public roads. Getting a knee down is only for use on the race track. Doing it on a public road is sheer stupidity since you obviously have less control of the bike when you’re off it.