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Everybody has heard the term Center of Gravity or COG. It's a fairly basic, yet complex concept. A formal definition is: "the point within something at which gravity can be considered to act; in uniform gravity it is equal to the center of mass"
So why are we talking about COG or Center of Mass? It is a critical element in riding a motorcycle, particularly an off-road motorcycle. The lower we can get this COG the more stable the bike will be, or at least to a degree. There are a lot of intricacies involved, but we'll stick to the basics.
You hear experienced off-road riders talking about "standing up" or "getting on the pegs". When you watch many of them ride, you'll see them standing through the stuff that you would normally want to paddle your way through. Why is this?
By standing on the pegs, you are effectively moving your COG (or you and the bike combined) lower. When your sitting on the seat, your mass is located high on the bike. When you stand, although your body's COG is higher, your weight is now centered on the pegs, lowering your combined COG.
There are a few other items that create this added stability that standing on the pegs does. Motorcycle designers place footpegs very strategically. They're really not just tacked on where it "looks good". This is a central location on the bike from the front to back. As the wheels contact bumps and humps, the suspension moves up and down, but so does the remainder of the bike. I could get into why, but won't. So we know and accept this motion of the bike. The pegs are generally located at the virtual pivot point, front to rear and up and down on the bike.
Now, sitting on the seat you're perched up well above the wheels and this pivot location. When you hit large bumps, you are pitched as if on the seat of a teeter totter. Standing on the pegs is like standing at the fulcrum or pivot point of that same teeter totter. You body doesn't get pitched, which means your balance isn't effected nearly as much, which again adds stability. Getting the picture?
When standing, your weight should always be focused on the pegs, with little or no weight on the bars. You want to strive for this position at all times when standing as it will give you the maximum stability possible. Bend at the waist and the knees to achieve and maintain this balance on the pegs. When riding in rough technical conditions, allow the bike to move freely under you and between your knees, both fore and aft, but also side to side.
As an added bonus, you get an extra 12"+ of free suspension, all with the ultimate "variable rate" damping.
Steering should also be done by weighting the pegs to lean the bike. This will also help to firm up the feeling of the front end, greatly minimizing the "washout" sensation that every off road rider is familiar with.
Gripping the bike with your knees when standing will help you hold on to the bike without pulling so hard with your arms and shoulders. This also helps with the dreaded arm pump, as you can relax your grip on the bars some, as you're holding more with your legs.
The common misconception is that you can't put a foot down if you slide out while standing. While this is somewhat true at higher speeds, during slow technical sections, this does not apply. You simply step off the peg to the ground.
You need to practice standing to get confident and comfortable with it. Once you realize that you can still put a foot down if needed, you'll experience the advantages and see no reason to sit.
You only need to sit when accelerating HARD. As a well respected MX instructor once said, "if your butts on the seat, the throttle had better be pinned!"…all other times you should be standing.
Feet up and butt off the seat!
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