SECTION II - PRACTICE
1. Practice, Then Pracice Some More
Ride through the corner slowly
at first REGARDLESS of how well you know the corner - this applies to EVERYONE of EVERY ability. You never know what might have mysteriously appeared on the roadway since the last time you were there!
Before you hit the road, make sure to read the next few sections on body positioning, focus, Counter Steering etc.
When practicing your cornering, don't assume you'll be dragging knee at the end of the day just because you "have figured it out now" from something you've read or heard. Take it slow - good practice is methodical and time-consuming. It took me months before I ever touched down for the first time. After that, it was weeks before I did it again.
Don't be alarmed when you scrape your knee the first time either - it WILL surprise you as it does everyone. Enjoy the rush and don't forget that you're still in practice mode when you attempt it the next time.
2. Throttle / Speed Control - Be Smoooooooooth...
I think one of the biggest mistakes new riders make is that they lack good throttle / speed control. When taking a corner, you do NOT want to suddenly slam on the brakes, nor do you want to hamfist the throttle. Let me tell you a little secret that will help you remember...
GET YOUR SHIT DONE BEFORE YOU GET TO THE CURVE!!!
If you're going too fast before you hit the curve, BRAKE HARD and smooth it out before you start countersteering. Trust me, you do not want to attempt to slow yourself down while leaned over. You're alreay probably freaking out by this point, and will probably **** it up since you're not thinking straight. When I'm riding the twisties, I rarely use my brakes at all - I try to maintain my speed at a constant for each corner. This has helped me focus on other aspects of knee-dragging since I don't have to think about slowing down suddenly while leaned over.
3. Entry Speed
Don't be afraid of that corner! Obviously, you don't want to go into any corner too hot, but you'll never get your knee down if you ride like grandma on every curve. Get used to the feeling of your bike leaned over past the point where you think it's safe. The only thing that helps you overcome this fear is practice, so just keep at it. You'll get there eventually. It took me years to realize that when I thought I was really pushing my bike over, I still had TONS of angle left to lean.
It's not just entry speed, but knowing what CONSTANT speed is good for the curve. You just don't want to make corrections either way while your leaning it.
If you are afraid you're going too fast to make a corner, first RELAX, and don't freak out. Trust your tires, trust that you will not lowside, and just take the corner. I learned this fact early on, the hard way, so trust me that I know about it. You'd be amazed at how far you can push your bike through a curve and it will do just fine. You may be scared shitless afterwards, so learn from your mistake and don't let it happen again.
Make sure you keep your eyes focused on the road FAR ahead - not closer. Look as far through the curve as you can. This allows you to know what's coming up (especially cars / other bikers / obstructions, etc.) and helps to smooth out your cornering.
Take a look at this guy's eyes to see what I'm talking about. As a matter of fact, look at just about ANY of the pics taken at the Gap convention
and you'll see that most everyone has their focus way beyond the front of their bike.
5. Body position
This is the last part of the equation, and it's a tradeoff of course. "Hanging off" will allow you to drag knee easier, but it's going to compromise your control over your bike through the curve until you get used to this new position. At a minimum, slide over to the point where half your ass is on the seat, half is off. Keep your back hunched over, racing style, with your head looking "over" your rearview mirror. It should all feel natural, and if done correctly, is quite comfortable. Again, practice, practice, practice. Don't try to hang off like a monkey the first time you do this. You'll look silly, and may look like more of a monkey when you run your bike off the road cause you weren't ready for it.
Some people lean off more than others. I do not hang off very much which results in much greater lean angles for the same speed as others who hang off more. I've reached the point where I know that I need to get off the seat more to gain more corner speed - any faster will require a greater lean angle, and there just isn't any more left (see example next section).
So, which should you
do? You can drag knee using either method, but my suggestion would be to go ahead and get used to getting more of your body off the seat. Ultimately, it's safer for the beginner and does not require faster speeds to get your knee down.
6. Body Positioning (EXAMPLE)
Here's me and Kendall (RansomKJ) on the same corner, rear shot:
These two pics are almost identical in location, camera angle, etc. with the exception being our body positioning on the bike. Notice how two different body positions result in different lean angles. A more upright "stance" (mine) gets the bike leaned over farther than if you hang off more (Kendall). Remember, it's a tradeoff as far as knee-dragging is concerned. Kendall's knee may be closer to the ground in this pic, but his body position is more "unnatural" in that you have to move around more to obtain this stance. Either way will result in knee-dragging - do whatever is most comfortable to you starting out.
Here's the same corner, same two riders, looking at the front view:
Kendall = hangs off more, less bike lean, still gets the knee down
Skanky = hangs off less, more bike lean, still gets the knee down
I think this pic definitively shows that our R1's are way more capable of making the corner than we as riders are. Believe it or not, when this shot was taken, I was in no fear of lowsiding at all. The tires were sticking like glue that day. However, after reviewing the pics, I've decided to try to avoid these extreme low angles and hang off more to avoid the possibility of a slide. Again, KNOW THE ROAD before you do anything like this.