Motorcycle Knee Down (Knee Scraping): The Definitive Guide

Motorcycle rider with knee down

You must have noticed umpteen number of times in moto racing where the riders have their knee down while turning corners.

So, what exactly is a motorcycle knee down? When the motorcycle rider leans his bike while turning corners to the point where his/her knees almost touch the ground is referred as knee down.

Knee down is usually seen in motorcycle races. Switch on moto-GP, you will see racers knee down for every damn turn they make.

So let’s deep dive into what kneed down is and various aspects wound knee down.

What Is Motorcycle Knee Down?

Motorcycle knee down, as the name suggests, is when the bike racer lowers his knee to the ground by leaning his/her racing motorcycle.

When you are knee scraping (knee down), make sure to have a goof body posture and have sufficient speed and lean angle in your motorcycle.

Knee down is popular with motorcycle racers and can be seen regularly in moto GP or any race involving motorcycles.

You might have observed that almost every racer tends to tilt their bike and bend knees outwards when they arrive at a corner. The racers use this technique very prominently to decrease the time to enter and exit a corner.

A word of caution though, there is a reason why you see knee scraping mostly with moto GP racers. Knee down is difficult and can be dangerous to a rider who is not used to it. Your motorcycle will be running at a good speed and there is a chance that you can fall off or cause damage to your knee outright.

Why Do Motorcycle Racers Put Their Knee Down?

Motorcycle racers put their knee down to turn a corner without having to lower the motorcycle speed. This will help them in maintaining their speed and save some time in their race.

The racers use this technique very prominently to decrease the time to enter and exit a corner.

Secondly, this is something that is so prevalent in the racing community that the bike racer knees down to conform to the motorcycle racing practices.

In fact, most riders know that getting your knee down will not have significant impact on speed and your competence as a rider.

But, since knee down is prevalent and popular, any new rider coming to the track will have knee scraping as a very real goal to achieve, even for just the sake of it.

Is Knee Down (Knee Scraping) Necessary?

Knee down or knee scraping is not at all necessary.

Overtime, knee down in moto-racing has become more of a cultural phenomenon and as a result, most new riders on the track aspire to perform knee down while turning corners.

That does not many every bike rider out there must perform this stunt.

One can easily turn corners without having to scrape their knee and still have a smooth ride and a far safer ride.

Knee Down – A Brief History 

Before 1949, bike races were all about tucking yourself as close as possible to the motorcycle to increase the aerodynamics as these bikes didn’t have enough horsepower.

So, riders were dependent on aerodynamics most of the time. After a few years, John Cooper started sticking his leg out to change his center of gravity and move through corners quickly.

Later on, during a race in Ontario Motor Speedway 1972, Kenny Roberts was having difficulty keeping the bike stable in corners. So, he observed Jarno Saarinen, who was not only sticking his leg out but also leaning the bike.

After that, Kenny himself started implementing this technique. It made him more stable in the corners.

But, King Kenny thought to move his step a bit more. So, he started scraping his knees on the tarmac. At first, he used duck tapes to protect the leather on his knees, but as time passed, knee guards developed for this purpose, and today, they are ubiquitous.

As time passed, almost every rider started applying this technique. Knee down has gone through many design advancements. But, Kenny Roberts made it a cultural phenomenon.

Technical Aspects

#1: Safety Gears 

Before we start getting our knees down on the corners to save time or to enjoy the feel of it. The most important thing we will need is a high-quality leather riding jacket and pants accompanied by riding boots.

Riders will also need a pair of gloves, a helmet and a nice pair of sliders can protect their knees from sustaining any damage while scraping it in the corners.

All these riding gears will not enhance the performance but will increase confidence and protection of the rider if any mishaps occur. 

#2: Entering Speed

Whenever someone rides on a race track, the essential factor is maintaining a high speed throughout the lap/race. But, when it comes to scraping knees in the corners, the speed factor is significant.

Even if we want to maintain a high speed, we will have to decrease the rate when entering a corner to execute a safe knee. The rate is reduced by applying brakes and also by letting the leg of the side on which we will be leaning hang off a bit away from the bike. That will not only decrease the speed due to drag but also help in maintaining a stable position of the motorcycle while applying brakes.

#3: Entering Corner 

After we enter the corner successfully, we will have to tilt the bike, in which direction we want to go. We can lean our bike towards the direction by placing half of our butt cheeks away from the seat and let it hang in the air till the corner isn’t complete.

This posture is essential as it ensures that the center of gravity is in the right place to not fall off our bikes. In other words, you have to lean forward, and your legs should be leaning in the direction you want to perform Knee down.

#4: Handling

When we enter the corner, we will have to apply only minimal pressure on the handlebars and let our body weight and posture do the work. If your motorcycle has a high handlebar, make sure you are extra cautious.

As the center of gravity will take complete control of the Knee down, any unwanted pressure or movement on the handlebars will result in a fatal crash. 

#5: Knee Scraping

When we reach a specific speed and lean angle, the stage offers us to bend our knees outwards and scrape them on the tarmac if we have the required gear.

During the Knee down, it is also essential to adjust our feet on the foot pegs. There are different ways to place our feet on the pegs during Knee down.

Some prefer to let it point towards the front, and others try to put their feet in the middle of foot pegs and point it outwards in the direction of their knees. The feet can be adjusted as per riders’ convenience.

#6: Head Position

The position of our head also helps to maintain the direction in which we want to go.

During the Knee down, our head will also be a bit away from the center of the bike, but at all times, it should be pointing towards the direction we want to go; otherwise, it would result in the cycle following the wrong path, and we will end up failing in the attempt.

#7: Exiting The Corner

The exit of the corner is also as important as its entry. As we arrive towards the end of a corner, we will have to slowly start to revert to our old position by giving a bit of acceleration and pulling ourselves back into the place we had while entering the corner.This will mark the successful completion of our Knee down technique. 

#8: Tires

The tire size will be playing a great role in determining the angle to which our bike can lean.

Since driving Knee down in the corners will require more lateral grip of the tire, it is better to opt for tires with rounded sides. Such tires are the best for executing Knee down tactics. 

#9: Compound

There is a large variety of tires available in the market. But when it comes to performing Knee down, it is better to avoid using tires designed to last a long time as the compound used increases their life but decreases their traction.

The tires with the best grip often come with a short life cycle as it starts to lose its grooves faster because of the high grip it provides. But if you want to ensure safe execution of Knee Down, try to go for the tires with maximum grip only.

#10: Temperature

Do you think Temperature is an essential factor when you’re performing Knees down? Yes, Temperature plays a very crucial role when doing Knee down on the tarmac.

If your bike is an athlete, tires are its legs, just like any other athletes. They first need to warm up to provide a proper grip with the road. Tires that are made for Knee down purposes consist of a compound that provides an excellent grasp on the tarmac once heated. Using tire warmers or riding your bike for a while is a perfect way to accomplish this. 

Related Questions

Can I use thin tires for performing Knee down?

One can use thin tires to perform knee down, however, since there will be minimal side grip, the lean and knee down angle will also be minimal.

It is best to go for a more thicker size and rounded sides. But, you can still opt for thin tires and perform knee down.

Is it illegal to perform knee down in public?

There is no such law that terms knee down as illegal in public.

A motorcycle rider is free to knee down in public roads.

However, while it is not illegal, knee down in public roads can be less safe when compared to racing tracks.

Is it necessary to scrape knees while executing knees down?

There is no such rule that you have to scrap your knees during knee down. It’s purely the rider’s choice.

Although knee down and knee scraping are often used interchangeably, the rider does not have to scrape his/her knees while performing knee down.

Can you perform Knee down in regular clothes?

Performing knee down on regular clothes is NOT advisable.

When you bend yourself in a particular direction, your Knee will face friction when it comes in contact with the road. This can harm your legs.

It is always advised to knee down when you have the proper safety gears on.