Ask MO Anything: What's the Point Of The Leg Dangle?
If Rossi does it, then I should too. Right?
My buddies and I have been having this debate every time we watch a motorcycle race. That’s kind of our thing on a Sunday whenever MotoGP is on. Here goes: WTF are they all sticking their legs out that way for? What good does that do? We never did that. We all have our theories, and we take pride in telling each other why the other one is wrong, but to be honest… we really have no idea why these guys do it. Yes we Googled it, but we want to know what MO thinks.
Brad and Friends
Dear Brad (and Friends),
As you’ve clearly stated, you and your friends watch motorcycle roadracing and you’ve certainly seen at least one rider throw their leg out in the air when they hit the brakes. Apart from the crazy lean angles and scuffed up elbow sliders we’re seeing riders accomplish these days, the leg dangle might be the most dramatic evolution of riding styles since Kenny Roberts put his knee on the ground for the first time.
It all started in 2005, when Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau were battling for the race win during the Jerez round of the MotoGP championship. Entering the final corner on the last lap, Rossi dove to the inside of Gibernau and stuck his foot out briefly before the two made contact. Gibernau rode off into the dirt while Rossi won the race. Motorcycle road racing has never been the same since, as riders the world over are sticking their feet and legs out every chance they get.
So the question is: Why?
Personally, I don’t know why. I’ve tried it myself, and I’ve seen countless others try it as well. The only times I’ve stuck my foot out – and it made sense (to me anyway) – was in racing situations where I was braking as late as I dared and clicking off quick, successive downshifts with the reverse shift pattern of my race bike. I simply couldn’t get my left foot back on the peg fast enough, so I stuck it out in the air for a quick second before repositioning it on the peg for the corner. It wasn’t intentional, and it’s not something I do all the time. In fact, it’s very rare.
Other riders have their reasons, and it won’t take you long to search around and find people from all corners of the internet who claim they know. This, of course, is based on their extensive experience dominating the intermediate group of their local trackday organization.
The reasons range from having the leg act as an air brake to having it act as a physical barrier to block another rider from trying to pass you. Others claim it helps with weight distribution, while yet another subset will claim they do it but don’t know why. I tend to believe this last group the most.
Nonetheless, former World Superbike champion, current Suzuki MotoGP test rider, and budding Youtube sensation Sylvain Guintoli tackles this very subject in the video below. Yes, there are lots of videos from various riders breaking down the leg dangle, but with credentials like “Guinters,” he’s the most reputable source I’ve seen yet. Check it out:
- If you brake hard enough, your feet might slip off the peg.
- It lowers your center of gravity, which helps in braking stability.
- Shifts your weight a little rearward, again helping the bike remain slightly more stable.
- Dropping your leg gives you an increase in core strength, allowing you to better brace yourself for the braking forces with your arms and the outside leg.
- The leg adds air resistance to help you slow even more, and will help push your body weight off your arms a tiny bit.
The final takeaway is perhaps the most important: the gains from the leg dangle are very minuscule. Unless you’re chasing an outright lap record somewhere, or fighting to keep your MotoGP contract for next year, sticking your leg out really won’t net you anything. However, in MotoGP every little trick one can do to shave some time is worth considering. Bombing around at a trackday, miles off the pace? Not so much.
Direct your motorcycle-related questions to AskMoAnything@motorcycle.com, though some say we’re better at non-motorcycle-related ones…
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