Sit or Stand when Riding

This is an old issue, overkilled by many adventure riders where they end up standing just for the hell of it, and a style feared by the novice who chooses to avoid the “Meerkat” issue to their own downfall. No pun intended.

Your posture is justified by the conditions you ride in.

In other words, you would sit during normal road conditions, smooth and solid surface. But you will need to stand when hitting uneven and unpredictable road surfaces, for these obvious reasons:

  1. Increased visibility
  2. The bike is more manoeuvrable in technical situations
  3. Legs absorb most of the bumps

Here’s why you should stand:
Standing allows your body a wide range of motion to aid in balancing the motorcycle. Keeping your legs slightly bent will act like suspension as you cross ruts, and other uneven road surfaces, saving your back from injuries resulting from the jolting. While standing, you will be able to quickly shift your weight forwards and backward as needed to maintain traction, and side to side as needed for balance. Standing allows you to easily weight and de-weight (compressing and decompressing the suspension), a necessary technique for crossing larger obstacles.

The majority of the time while standing you will want your knees to be loose and away from the tank of the motorcycle. This will allow the motorcycle and your body to move independently. In certain circumstances, like hard acceleration or braking or descending steep hills, you may grip the tank with your knees to keep your body in position on the motorcycle and reduce fatigue in your arms.

You will find that while standing you will have more control in technical terrain, allowing the motorcycle to work (move) under you.

But it doesn’t end there. Your bike needs to be setup properly or it will prevent you from enjoying the experience.

Here are a few pointers on Bike Setup:
First and foremost, it is important to set up your motorcycle so that it is comfortable to ride whether you’re standing or sitting. This usually takes a little adjusting. Typically, folks will need to move their gear shifter and rear brake lever up slightly and their clutch and front brake levers down slightly. The handlebar should be in line with the front forks and risers should not be considered unless the length from the foot pegs to the end of the handlebar is less than half the length of your height.

You should stand with the balls of your feet on or near the foot pegs, knees somewhat bent, and your body leaning slightly forwards towards the handlebar. Be sure to keep a slight bend in your arms, your elbows up, only two fingers on the clutch and one finger on the front brake. Keep your head and eyes up and looking in the direction you want to go.

Moving your feet further forward on the pegs places your toes closer to the controls and will make it easier to reach the gear shift lever and rear brake while standing, but will give you slightly less balance and control through technical terrain.

Many new off-road riders have trouble with unwanted throttle and steering input while standing. This is largely due to improper bike setup and can be solved by analysing your riding posture and controls. It is important to note that if you cannot comfortably use the controls, you will not feel comfortable standing and riding. It might take a little trial and error to find the adjustment that is right for you.

Still Deciding?
It all really comes down to the rider to practice sitting and standing in varying surface conditions to determine what works the best. I have found that for the most part, sitting in the smoother sections, standing through the technical sections, and duck-walking through the very technical sections will be the best thing to do for you and your bike.

Put your bike on the main/center stand, then try the suggestions above; get comfortable with this, and try it out in an open parking lot or solid grassy before heading out with the guys.

When you get to the point where you can ride any surface while sitting or standing, then you can decide how to get through each section as quickly and safely as possible. Being able to swap seamlessly between each technique to maximize traction and control will greatly increase your speed and have you leaving your riding buddies in the dust!

Hein Jonker

Founder of the Motorcycle Safety Institute of South Africa Editor in Chief of Bike Talk South Africa Chief Instructor of Bike Talk Motorcycle Rider Academy Motorcycle Safety & Skills Expert for Arrive Alive South Africa

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