Motorcycle Knee Scraping (Knee Down): The Definitive Guide

Motorcycle rider with knee down

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

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

Knee down or knee scraping is usually seen in motorcycle races.

Switch on Moto-GP, you will see racers knee scraping for every damn turn they make.

So let’s deep dive into what knee down or knee scraping is and various aspects around it.

What is motorcycle knee scraping/down?

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

Knee scraping is also called knee down and knee dragging.

MotoGP rider with knee down while cornering

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

Knee scraping is popular with motorcycle racers and can be seen regularly in MotoGP or any race involving motorcycles.

You might have observed that almost every racer tends to tilt their bike and bend their knees outwards when they arrive at a corner.

These 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 MotoGP racers.

Bike rider knee scraping while cornering in a moto race

Knee scraping 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 maintain 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.

Motorcycle rider knee scraping

The time saved is often debatable. But let’s not go there.

Second, 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 scraping 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.

Over time, knee scraping in moto-racing has become more of a cultural phenomenon.

Moto racer knee scraping on race track

And as a result, most new riders on the track aspire to perform knee down while turning corners.

That does not mean 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 Scraping – 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 the corners quickly.

Later on, during a race at Ontario Motor Speedway in 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 on 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, Kenny Roberts 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 scraping has gone through many design advancements.

But, Kenny Roberts made it a cultural phenomenon.

Technical Aspects

Here are a few technical aspects you must keep in mind if you are going for knee scraping.

#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.

Motorcycle knee scraping

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 the 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.

A moto racer knee scraping

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.

Knee dragging on a motorcycle

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 dragging

When you reach a specific speed and lean angle, you can bend your knees outwards and scrape them on the tarmac if you have the required gear.

During the knee scraping, adjusting our feet on the foot pegs is essential.

A moto racer dragging his knee on track

There are different ways to place our feet on the pegs while knee dragging.

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 rider’s convenience.

#6: Head Position

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

Motorcycle knee scraping

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 motorcycle following the wrong path, and we might end up failing in the attempt.

#7: Exiting The Corner

The exit of the corner is also as important as its entry.

A moto racer with knee down while riding

As we arrive towards the end of a corner, we will have to slowly revert to our old position by giving a bit of acceleration and pulling ourselves back into the place we had while entering the corner.

#8: Tires

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

Since driving with a knee down in the corners will require a more lateral grip of the tire, it is better to opt for tires with rounded sides.

Such tires are the best for executing knee-scraping tactics. 


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 scraping in public?

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

A motorcycle rider is free to knee scraping on public roads.

However, while it is not illegal, knee scraping on 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 gear on.

Before you go…

Here are a few more related posts for you: