The Early Days of Hanging Off with Your Knee Out


Have you ever wondered, when, exactly, motorcycle racers began hanging off of their bikes with their knees out when rounding a turn? It wasn’t that long ago, riders remained firmly seated with knees in place, but now riders drag their knees and sometimes even their elbows. Who was the guy in that past road race who wondered if there might be a better way and began the experiment?

Far be it from me to even dream of having the last word on this subject, but while doing a little research in “The Kneeslider” reference library, I came across some photos in Cycle World of road racers at Brands Hatch and their technique appears to be one of those evolutionary “missing link” positions between the old and new, a little off their seats with inside knees out, but still a long way from touching the asphalt. It was unusual enough that the writer of the article, a certain B.R. Nicholls, made comments about it.

“Phil Read (Yamaha) took the 250 race despite a challenge from similarly mounted Paul Smart, who leans so far off the bike when cornering it seems he must fall off. But he doesn’t, and he is fast becoming a top favorite with the crowd.”


Notice the photo caption commenting on Paul Smart in his “ridiculous” leaning knee out position

Even the photo caption calls his position “ridiculous.” I wonder what he would have said if he had looked into the future and saw what passes for normal today? The photo at the top shows all three riders in pretty much the same position, but Paul Smart is just a bit lower and farther inside the turn, I guess that goofy idea worked pretty well, but was Paul Smart the instigator or did someone else precede him?

The article appeared in the September 1970 issue of Cycle World. How far we’ve come.

Does anyone have any earlier photos or articles mentioning this new and ridiculous technique? Has anyone made some definitive claim elsewhere about the beginnings of modern racing turns? Inquiring minds want to know.

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