Body Positioning on a Sportbike – Riding Tip

  • Body positioning on a motorcycle affects its handling.

  • It also affects the rider’s comfort.

  • Always remember to keep the arms and upper body relaxed.

We loved the Yamaha YZF-R15 when we reviewed the lightweight sportbike, only to hear that there were complaints that “it’s not comfortable” due to its riding position.

We were truly surprised by the remark as the R15’s clip-on handlebars are actually quite high up, comparing to those on larger-capacity sportbikes such as the Yamaha YZF-R1, and even more extreme Ducati Panigale.

Truth is, we discovered that many have been riding sportbikes with their arms straight out from the shoulders to the handlebars. On top of that, they have their knees splayed wide open. We’re not criticizing anyone, but this is wrong on many levels.

For one, how one sits and holds the handlebars on the motorcycle affects his machine’s handling, moreover his comfort.

We recently wrote another article about target fixation in which we also highlighted the dangers of not being able to steer. Please click on this link to watch the video.

Why is it wrong to ride with stiff arms and upper body?
  • Riding with straight arms locks the wrists, elbows and shoulders.
  • Along with the knees wide open, it results in a stiff upper body.
  • Stiff arms let the bike’s chassis transfer all the bump forces into the arms and upper body.
  • Consequently, the wrists, arms, neck and shoulder blades hurt.
  • The lower back will also suffer because all the upper body weight and forces from the road are pushing on it.
Why is it wrong? – Compromised braking
  • Remember the older video we shared? The rider had his arms locked and the bike just went straight into the fallen rider anyway. He couldn’t steer.
  • Braking performance will be compromised.
  • When you brake, the bike’s weight and your weight combined will be transferred forward.
  • If you support with your arms only, your senses will be overwhelmed by the forces.
  • Consequently, you will think you’ve reached the limits of braking, although there is much more to go.
  • Ultimately, you don’t brake enough.
Why is it wrong? – Ineffective steering
  • Being stiff means you can’t steer the bike effectively.
  • Keyword here is “effectively.”
  • You can steer to some degree but not the bike’s full potential.

The correct method

Body positioning when riding straight
  • Grip the fuel tank with your inner thighs and knees.
  • Just give the tank a soft but solid grip, that’s what the knee cutouts on the fuel tank are for.
  • Support your upper body using your core muscles.
  • Now lean forward and grab the handlebars.
  • Lean downwards a little bit more until the forearms are about parallel to the top of the fuel tank.
  • Grip the handlebars firmly but not squeeze them like you are trying to crush them.
Body positioning when braking
  • Clamp the tank hard with your inner thighs. That’s why some riders fit grippy pads to the tank.
  • Lift your torso up with your core muscles to move some of your bodyweight onto the rear tyre.
  • Keep your upper body and arms relaxed.
  • Doing so will remove some weight off the front suspension and tyre.
  • Consequently, you can use the rear brake more effectively.
  • More braking force can be channeled to the front wheel without locking it up.
  • Some weight will be transferred to your palms, but a whole lot less than if the arms were locked.
  • With loose torso and arms, you can still steer the bike while still braking.


It may feel a little weird at first, but your body will get used to it over time. Keep practicing everytime you ride until it becomes natural.

We’d like to add that this technique applies to all types of motorcycles. However, it becomes especially critical when you’re riding a sportbike since the handlebars are placed lower down.

The benefits are you will feel a lot more relaxed and less tired; you can steer the bike a whole lot better; you can carry more cornering lean angles; and brake much, much better.

Good luck!

Wahid's lust for motorcycles was spurred on by his late-Dad's love for his Lambretta on which he courted, married his mother, and took baby Wahid riding on it. He has since worked in the motorcycle and automotive industry for many years, before taking up riding courses and testing many, many motorcycles since becoming a motojournalist. Wahid likes to see things differently. What can you say about a guy who sees a road safety message in AC/DC's "Highway to Hell."

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