Why do MotoGP riders stick their knee out?

Body positioning is vital in MotoGP. Riders often use a special move where they stick out a knee. MotoGP knee down technique became famous thanks to Valentino Rossi in 2005. He did it during an epic pass on Sete Gibernau at Jerez.

The main point of this move is to slow down faster when braking. By sticking their knee out, racers make their body catch more air. This slows them down like a parachute, making turns more exact.

Sticking out a knee also changes how the bike balances. Each leg holds about 20% of a rider’s weight. By leaning the bike this way, they can turn harder and faster. This is all about managing the bike’s weight better with motorcycle racing body positioning.

But there’s more to it than just going faster. Sticking out a knee can keep other racers from passing. It blocks the way, showing other riders you’re holding your ground. This makes it harder for someone to sneak past you.

Today, almost every MotoGP rider uses this move. It shows how important this technique is in today’s racing.

The Evolution of MotoGP Riding Techniques

In the world of MotoGP, riding styles have changed a lot over time. These changes happened along with new advancements in bikes and gear. In the past, racers stayed in one lean position, moving very little. But now, they use a much more active style. This new way includes leaning the bike over a lot, with the riders’ knees hanging out. This change has made turning corners much better in MotoGP.

Historical Changes in Body Positioning

In the beginning, MotoGP riders stood very still on their bikes. They did this to help the bike move through the air better. Then, in the late 1970s, Kenny Roberts started a big change. He was inspired by a Finnish rider named Jarno Saarinen. Saarinen’s different approach made Roberts think. Soon, leaning the bike on the rider’s knee became a key skill. This made it easier to control the bikes in sharp turns.

Introduction of the Knee Out Technique

The year 2005 was special because of a move at the Jerez race. Valentino Rossi amazed fans with a last-minute overtake using his knee to slide out. This move not only made people gasp but also changed how riders lean in curves. By moving their body towards where the turn ends, riders make the bike turn faster but with less tilt. This shows a big step in how to race well in MotoGP.

Moreover, using their knees helps slow the bike. This trick is great because it lets riders feel where they are on the track when braking. This makes riders more certain and better at racing. The way riders use their knees shows how much trial and error has led to a key skill in racing today.

Aerodynamic Benefits

It’s important to know how MotoGP riders use aerodynamics to win races. They stick their knee out, but it’s not just for style. This move helps them control their bikes better.

Creating Aerodynamic Drag

In MotoGP, riders go fast and use unique techniques to slow down. They stick out their knees like a small parachute. This creates a huge drag force, slowing the bike as it heads into a turn.

When reaching speeds like 300km/h, the drag force becomes ten times stronger. This is very useful to slow down quickly before a turn, acting like an airbrake. It makes entering corners more stable and controlled.

Impact on Speed and Control

Sticking the knee out not only stops the bike but also helps in turning. It moves the bike’s balance inside, aiding control. This way, they can keep the bike straighter, putting more weight on the front tire for better grip.

This technique started with Kenny Roberts and has become a key skill in MotoGP. It helps riders control their bikes, be faster, and make quick changes if needed. It’s all about staying as safe and fast as possible on the track.

Enhancing Cornering Dynamics

The knee-out technique stood out as a key skill in MotoGP, enhancing cornering dynamics on motorcycles. It involves shifting the center of gravity, adjusting lean angles, and dealing with centrifugal force. These aspects are crucial for riders to handle corners with precision.

Shift in Center of Gravity

The knee-out method allows for a crucial weight shift. By moving the center of gravity towards the turn’s inside, riders resist being pushed outward by centrifugal force. This shift is powered by the leg, making the rider and bike more stable through turns.

Improvement in Lean Angle

Building on lean angle is key in MotoGP’s fast corners. Techniques like the leg wave aid in this. They shift the rider’s mass inside and towards the front, keeping the bike more upright for better grip. A side effect of this is a reduced frontal drag, letting the bike lean more easily.

Interaction with Centrifugal Force

Centrifugal force control is a critical skill in handling MotoGP’s corners. This force pushes riders outwards. To counter this, body weight is strategically shifted to maintain traction. By using techniques like the leg wave, riders add forces that help maintain control and traction, making cornering smoother.

Preventing Inside Overtakes

In MotoGP, riders need every advantage in the intense mix of speed and tactics. Preventing inside overtakes is key. This strategy became well-known thanks to Valentino Rossi at the 2005 Jerez event. Rossi showed how sticking a leg out can keep opponents at bay.

Psychological Impact on Rivals

The move serves both a physical and mental role. Riders like Rossi scare off competitors by using this aggressive technique. It shows they are fierce about not letting anyone get ahead. This smart play with psychological strategies in motorcycle racing makes overtaking more difficult for competitors.

Physical Barrier and Space Reduction

Putting a leg out before a turn does more than intimidate. It makes the rider harder to pass on the inside. The extra defensive space makes it tougher for opponents to sneak past. This shifts 20% of the rider’s weight, which has a big impact on how the bike handles corners. So, not only does it shore up stability, it’s also crucial for keeping competitors behind.

The Influence of Valentino Rossi

Valentino Rossi changed MotoGP when he started dragging his knee in 2005 at Jerez. This move showed how a rider’s leg can improve how fast bikes slow down and turn. It quickly became a big part of how riders tackle corners in MotoGP today.

Introduction at Jerez 2005

At the 2005 Jerez race, Rossi began using the knee dragging technique. He pushed out his leg under braking. This made the bike slow down faster as they neared corners.

A leg’s weight makes up 20% of the rider’s total weight. This change in a rider’s position affects the bike’s balance and helps them turn sharply. This wasn’t just about looking cool; it was a bold move to tackle corners better than anyone else.

Adoption by Other Riders

After Rossi, almost every MotoGP rider started to drag their knee. This style became a trademark of MotoGP, loved by fans and the community. It’s more than just a cool trick. It helps control the bike better by creating a huge amount of drag at high speeds.

This method influences others in the sport to come up with new innovations. It’s not just about winning; it’s about pushing the limits of the sport. Rossi’s technique has deeply affected how we see MotoGP today.


The knee-out technique is a key part of modern motorcycle racing. It changes how riders handle their bikes in turns and defends their positions. Thanks to Valentino Rossi, this way of riding has spread widely. It helps slow bikes in sharp turns and makes cornering sharper by changing the rider’s balance. This results in better control through curves.

Learning the knee-out method is crucial for staying ahead, especially in avoiding being passed. It acts as a barrier and warns off others, proven by Rossi’s move in 2005 at Jerez. These body tactics show the deep skill and cleverness in MotoGP.

MotoGP is always improving, including its techniques. The knee-out is one example of pushing for faster, safer, and better racing. Masters of these methods help keep the sport exciting and competitive. This shows how MotoGP continues to be an ever-changing showcase of the best in motorcycle sport.

Image courtesy Deposit Photos.

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