How To Drag Your Knee: What Every Rider Should Know

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

Stop buying used knee pucks on eBay and scuff them the right way.

So you want to drag your knee, huh? We get it. Scraping your knee puck on the ground looks cool, and if you’re in the business of looking cool on motorcycles like we are, then it helps provide a little bit of job security. But putting your knee on the ground is not just a way to get more likes on the ‘gram, it can also be a useful tool to gauge how far over you’re leaning your motorcycle. In this tutorial, I’ll tell you how.

The Legal Stuff

If you’re going to try this, then you’re doing it at your own risk. Don’t blame us if anything goes wrong.

But first, a disclaimer. Learning and practicing any new motorcycle technique should be done in a controlled environment, like a big empty parking lot or a racetrack. Your local canyon road, or worse, your freeway on-ramp, is NOT the place to practice any motorcycle technique. Ensure your motorcycle is in proper operating condition – no leaky fluids, no bald tires, etc. – before beginning. And if we have to remind you to wear all your gear, especially knee pucks and/or protection in this case, then we highly advise you to stop reading now and not try this at all. Lastly, accepts ZERO responsibility for any harm, damage, or injury that may occur to you, your motorcycle, or other property. You, and you alone, are responsible for your actions.

Now, Let’s Begin

For the sake of this guide, we’ll assume you’re riding a sportbike or a sporty-type motorcycle. Basically, cruisers need not apply, though we’ve seen cruiser riders get their knee on the ground on occasion. Getting into the details of proper ergonomics and the placement of the controls on the motorcycle is out of the scope of this article, so we’ll save that discussion for another time.

Don’t resign yourself to thinking you have to ride a sportbike to drag a knee.

Like any new skill worth learning, picking it up means starting with the basics. A common misconception is the amount of speed needed to drag a knee. Contrary to popular belief, putting a knee on the ground can be done at low speeds under the right environment. In a large parking lot setting, all you need to reach is a speed where the bike is stable and not under threat of falling over. This low speed is a good place to start, since mistakes aren’t going to be met with disaster.

How do you know if your speed is right? Try riding in a circle at whatever speed is comfortable to you, at whatever body position you normally use. Don’t try sticking your knee out yet. Whatever that speed is, it’ll be enough to get your knee down. You may not realize it, but when you’re going round and round, maintaining a neutral throttle (not accelerating or decelerating, just staying constant) is what’s keeping you literally running around in circles. This will be important when it comes to knee dragging practice.

The easiest place to start learning a new riding technique is in a big, empty lot.

Now that you understand what the bike will be doing, let’s turn the attention to you and one of the most popular topics riders talk about – body position. We could easily go down a rabbit hole talking about body position, but the fundamental element here is scooting your butt off the seat to the side you intend on turning (move your butt off to the left if you’re turning left and vice versa). A good rule of thumb is to have the balls of your feet on the pegs and the edge of the seat “between your cheeks,” if you catch our drift. If you’re able to scoot even more off the seat, the easier getting a knee down will be – but only if you’re comfortable.

Once your lower body is set, your upper body will be “leading” you into the turn. The simple way to think about it is to pretend you’re kissing whichever mirror is on the side you’re turning while concurrently squaring your shoulders towards the turn. If you’re on a sportbike, and assuming your head is leading into the turn and your shoulders are square, being able to rest your outside arm across the gas tank is a good indicator your upper body is in the right place. Don’t worry if you can’t drape your arm over; different bikes place your arms in different positions and resting your arm on the tank isn’t always possible. But that’s the idea.

Notice how much of the rider’s backside is off the seat and how his head and shoulders are leading him into the turn.

Now The Fun Part

With a stable speed and your body in the right position, the next step is… sticking your knee out. From here maintain neutral throttle and gently initiate the turn. If your area allows, use an even bigger circle to start with to get more comfortable. From here, keep leaning steadily until you feel and hear that magic *scrape* sound. Remember to maintain your speed and neutral throttle. The first time you touch down will scare the bejesus out of you. That’s normal. Afterward, try some more until you’re able to tighten your circle, and definitely try it in both directions, even doing figure-eights if you feel ready.

Gradually keep leaning and/or tightening your radius until you hear that magic scraping sound. Then you’ll have graduated into the knee-dragging club!

What Not To Do

Congrats! You’ve successfully touched your knee to the ground. It’s a cool feeling, right? Now go practice some more. Before you get too excited, there’s one important thing to remember NOT to do.

First and foremost, don’t introduce any sudden inputs to the motorcycle. Everything you do should be smooth, controlled, and deliberate. Don’t stab the brakes, whack the throttle, or any other jerky motion. Remember, as you’re using the tire to lean, you’re incrementally taking away its ability to do other things like stop or go. Sudden inputs can overwhelm a tire. Slow, deliberate inputs do not.

There’s Way More To It Than That

Fast Freddie Spencer won multiple world championships without ever hanging off like Marq Marquez. Proof that there are several ways to get a knee down. However, note Spencer’s lower body is off the seat like the rest of the riders shown here.

Touching a knee to the ground isn’t the end-all, be-all of how to ride a motorcycle quickly. In fact, this is a good time to dispel a common myth: dragging your knee doesn’t automatically make you a faster or safer rider. There are plenty of great riders who never put a knee on the ground and racers who can go a whole season on the same set of knee pucks. Touching a knee down is simply a tool for judging lean angle – or for cool social media pictures.

In fact, if getting faster really is what you’re after, dragging knee isn’t the goal at all, but simply a byproduct of the process. There are more nuances to the art of dragging knee than are shared here, like how to use trail-braking to tighten your radius, and thus touch down. But the deeper we go into the weeds, the more complex and convoluted this discussion becomes.

We’ll save the lesson on elbow dragging for another time, but the basics are similar to getting a knee down.

This tutorial is meant for the rider who has never touched down before and is simply looking to do it for the first time. As they say, you never forget your first, so go to a large lot and give it a try.

Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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13 of 20 comments
  • Jon Jones Jon Jones on Mar 25, 2021

    I see many riders at track days working too hard on the theatrics rather than working on smoothness and speed.

  • Doctor117 Doctor117 on Mar 25, 2021

    Only ever seen one guy put knees down on a public road. Guy was on a Multistrada, dragging knee and ripping nooners as easy as breathing. I don't condone, especially on the road we were on since there's a lot of cyclists and casual drivers not paying attention, but it was fun as shit to watch him go.

    • See 10 previous
    • 12er 12er on Mar 29, 2021

      It may be pretty good 2 up (online seems to like it). Seat is long and pegs are relaxed. I have more room on the drivers seat than I had on my Buddies Strom. That deep seat really takes out the leg room. But definitely a try on is in order. I'll stop at that, good luck with whatever you find.