Why do you want to adjust your body position?
First up I would ask - do you feel you need to ‘adjust’ your body position (BP) or riding style? If so, why? I have this same view towards other areas in life - and that is that if something is working well for you, the worst thing you can do is change it. People often seem to be looking for ‘something better’ and will change something that is working well, just for the sake of it, without really understanding what they hope to gain, or considering if there even is anything to be gained. But - if you want to change your style as a means to add to your skillset, or increase your safety margin - then I’d say yes they are good reasons to do so.
Over the years I have conducted a bit of my own research, so I can tell you from personal experience what happens when the rear tyre of a motorcycle steps out a) when you’re hanging off (racer style) and b) sitting bolt upright centred on the seat. Hint - I only rode away from one of those incidents…
If hanging off is a new concept - where do you begin?
I started out by just riding along straight bits of road and shifting around in the seat (doing so without making the bike move around beneath you is a skill in itself), just working up to one cheek off the seat. Most people agree that one cheek off is about right, anything more is excessive (even for the track). You should probably start out bit by bit in the corners as well. Just remember to setup your body position well before the turn point, and don’t forget to lean your upper body towards the inside of the corner as you’re turning in (you don’t want to end up mid-corner with your head centred on the bike and your backside off the side of the seat, that would defeat the purpose). You might want to slow down a fair bit at the start and go at a pace where you don’t need to use the brakes. For me, braking while off the side of the seat & setup for the corner was one of the strangest sensations to get used to. But now it all feels completely normal and I hang off almost everywhere, especially tight corners. I just let my inside knee hang out (not pushing it out to try and get it down), depending on the corner I sometimes keep it in against the tank as well - whatever feels natural. (This applies whether I’m riding on the street, or the track.)
Are you against hanging off on the street?
I don’t understand why so many people are ‘anti-hanging-off’ on the street?? The ones against hanging off seem to be what I would call ‘mature’ or ‘sensible’ riders, and it seems that they associate ‘hanging off’ with ‘going hella fast’. I just need to make a point here - don’t confuse ‘hanging off’ with ‘knee down’… it is absolutely possible to hang off a motorcycle at any cornering speed, there’s no prerequisite that says you need to be going really fast. We are not talking about buying a set of WIZ sparkies to show off on the streets with, this is just about good body position and maximising the safety margin. And surely, the street of all places, is where you want to maximise your safety margin?
Correct body position (hanging off) reduces highside risk.
I read a forum comment that said you have less chance of saving a highside if you’re hanging off. I completely disagree. If you’re sitting in-line with the bike, your body will go with the bike when the rear steps out - this is likely to throw you out of the seat. The bike will stop sliding when the tyre grips again - but what stops your body from it’s new direction of travel? If you’re hanging off, it’s more likely that your body will keep the same position relative to the road, while the rear of the bike steps sideways. That particular comment also mentioned about countering the highsiding forces by throwing your body towards the inside of the corner - but if you’re hanging off, you’d already be there - one step ahead.
This is where my youthful follies are exposed and I tell you that I’ve tried to save highsides both while hanging off and while sitting centred on the seat…
I was playing around on the local mountain road back when I had a GSX-R600, I was testing out a set of Bridgestone 002’s. In the rain. Being as I was younger (and probably sillier. Probably…), I figured that since the tight 1st gear hairpins were uphill and fairly slow that it would be a good chance to see if I could drift. Well I was very impressed by the 002’s and ended up having to seriously provoke them into letting go. Good thing I was hanging off because let go it did, coming out of one hairpin the rear instantly stepped sideways about 50-60cm. Nope I didn’t crash, not close. I think what really saved me there was that I was also weighting the outside peg very heavily - when the rear let go I had almost zero weight on the seat, so my body didn’t get launched into orbit. What did happen was that my outside leg extended and went along with the bike, my body hanging off as it was maintained about the same relative position and the rear gripped again. Next thing I know the bike is back in line and I continued on my way (minus any further drifting attempts).
Funnily enough (if you can call it funny), when I traded up to my GSX-R1000 I tried the same thing the first time I rode it in the wet. Only this time I was exiting a nice big roundabout, sitting square in the middle of the seat, combined with what could only be described as a monumental brain fart (a 1000cc bike requires significantly less throttle input to achieve the same result as a 600cc bike), I was very quickly taken along for the ride, and just as quickly ejected from the seat - my first highside. Just as quickly as the rear stepped out on the GSX-R600, it stepped out on the 1000. Only this time I went from happily riding along, to seeing the handlebars at full lock and thinking that didn’t look quite right, to sliding on the road. There was zero time to react, the only thing that could have helped was advance preparation by using the correct body position.
Having experienced the rear stepping out, while hanging off as well as sitting square in the seat - there is no way that I would want the rear stepping out while I’m sitting centred on the seat. Low traction conditions automatically throw up a red flag for me - I’ll always be hanging off so that I can take advantage of that larger safety margin.