Aside from being there to apply the throttle/brakes and turn the bars, you must also change your body position in order to help the bike - not doing so is akin to not helping in a three legged race.
For a lot of people body position and hanging off have come to mean the same thing - they're not. Body position is where your body is positioned (duh) at any point on the track - not just mid-corner, which is the body position that hanging off refers to.
Unfortunately, when talking about body position, most people compromise by explaining one position - mid-corner - and leave you to fill in the blanks.
I like to describe body position as two static positions and two transitions between them - no blanks.
In this article I'll talk about the two static body positions: mid-corner and straights.
In the next article I'll talk about the two transitions: corner entry and corner exit.
Your body position must not negatively affect your ability to ride relaxed and loose.
Riding loose has loads of benefits: the suspension will work correctly, the tyres will track the road better, it'll get less head shake, you'll be able to feel what the bikes doing, you'll fatigue/ache less and much more.
Essentially , it'll feel more stable and handle much much better.
Watch any on board lap from the IOMTT - the bike wriggles around like nobody's business, but the rider doesn't.
It's an extreme but valid example of the importance of having a stable lower body and a relaxed upper body.
I imagine trying holding on to those bars tightly. You'd die before Bray Hill.
Think of your body as two halves: lower and upper body.
Your lower body (feet, legs, hips and butt) has one job - to provide stability.
Stability - Locking your lower body into the bike provides a solid foundation for your upper body - allowing you to relax and loosen up on the bars.
n.b. Because your lower body plays such a massive role with maintaining the stability of you and your bike, be very aware that the movement of it should be carefully timed and executed quickly and smoothly - more on this in the next article when I talk about transitions.
Your upper body (head, torso, arms and hands) has two jobs - to provide steering inputs and fine-tuned weight changes.
Steering inputs - With a relaxed upper body and loose grip on the bars, you'll be able to feel what the bike is doing, make very fine steering inputs and fatigue less.
Fine-tuned weight changes - Moving to your upper body does not affect the stability of the bike, providing you can do so without making additional, unwanted inputs through the bars (even unconsciously or by mistake) - as before though, more on this in the next article when I talk about movement.
The body position you've likely heard the most about is mid-corner - hanging off - knee down territory.
Contrary to popular belief: we hang off the bike to lean the bike less at a given speed.
Hanging off the bike at the same speed will reduce lean angle - standing the bike up on fat part of the tyre is much safer.
Hanging off the bike at the same lean angle will allow you to go faster for the same level of, for lack of a better word, "risk".
Stand on the pegs with the balls of your feet. Amongst other things it makes moving around easier, increases ground clearance, prevents accidental gear/brake inputs and simplifies chicanes.
While you can, and will, experiment with positioning the peg further in front of ball of your foot, towards the toes. I'd suggest airing on the side of caution at first with on or just behind the ball of your foot - scraping your toe is less risky than scraping a peg.
Sit as far back in the seat as it takes to get your outside knee into the recess of the tank.
Move your inside ass cheek off the seat until the majority of your outside thigh is making contact with the tank - this will likely be 1 whole cheek.
As you improve and refine your style, you might start moving back up the seat and sitting further forward.
Stick out your inside leg, opening up at the hips and rotating your inside foot on the peg at roughly 45˚ - enough to point it through the corner likely getting your heel to touch the swingarm.
Dig your outside knee into the tank - this should support most of, if not all of your body weight.
You should be able to hang off the bike no-handed.
If your inside leg burns/hurts within a couple of seconds, or you feel like you're putting too much weight on it, try my achilles trick:
Locking yourself into the bike was something I struggled with a lot. For years it was my biggest limiting factor.
I found that by really pressing my foot onto the outside peg, it drives my knee incredibly hard into the tank. It feels like you're using your achilles to do this, and takes virtually not effort.
At first I consciously did this around every corner - these days I don't really think about it.
Lead with your head, and your upper body will follow. It should feel almost as if your head is dragging your body and the bike around.
It's hard to say exactly where your head should be because it varies so much with style - some suggest putting it where the inside mirror would be, others suggest getting your ear on the end of the bar.
Personally, I try and make my head the thing that's the furthest off the inside of the bike with my outside arm draped across the tank.
Often overlooked: your body position down the straights.
There's absolutely no point in spending
hundreds thousands of pounds on your bike if you're just going to sit up like a sail - aerodynamics are everything.
Even if you're not chasing every last mph down the straights (which you should): getting out of the wind gives you time to rest.
At the very least, get it behind the screen. Ideally, rest your chin on the tank - most sports bikes have recesses on the tank for exactly this purpose.
Scoot your ass all the way back to the seat bump. This will give you the slipperiest silhouette possible.
Safety reasons aside, I love wearing a chest protector for this reason - it makes it so much more comfortable to get cosy with the tank.
Arms, legs, feet - tuck it in!
Practice the steps in this article with your bike on the stand - paddock or side. It's arguably harder thanks to the lack of centripetal forces. Master it here and it'll be a breeze on track.
These body positions will feel more exaggerated than they actually are - especially at first.
When you eventually do venture out on track, film yourself or look at photos to see if you're actually hanging off or tucked in as much as you think you are.
The transitions and movement article is now up.