Dragging Parts

 by Dave Hansen


A few years ago, a couple that were riding behind me informally, after completion of a Chapter ride related to me a conversation they had.  I had been doing what my wife describes as “dancing” my bike.  What I was doing was enjoying riding & practicing my swerving skills.  The husband asked the wife why I was doing that.  Her response was “because he can.”  While I don’t bring these riding habits with me on chapter rides, when riding alone I can & do practice some of the control skills needed to react to riding hazards & unexpected situations.  I make no secret of this, as pointed out by the comments from this incident just described. 

However, one of the skills I have practiced when alone is exploring how far I can lean over my bikes before dragging parts, and how the bike handles when parts drag.  The reason I’ve not discussed this issue as a safety subject is because it’s a skill that is generally only needed if you’re trying to change your line in a corner & is generally related to entering a corner too fast.  It’s also a skill that increases your risks if you attempt to practice it. 

I’m discussing this today because many among us have modified our bikes to lower the seat height for better control of the bike when stopped.  While we gain control while stopped because we can plant our feet solidly on the ground, these modifications also affect the cornering characteristics of the bike.  Lean angles are reduced & parts drag sooner.

It is essential that riders know where this drag point is so that it doesn’t catch them off guard and how it changes the way the bike handles, so there is knowledge of how to react properly when dragging occurs. 

Usually, the parts that drag first are considered “soft parts”.  This are parts deliberately designed to contact first, but “give” a little by folding away.  They are meant to provide an audible warning that the bike’s lean angle is being used at its’ maximum, while not affecting the handling dramatically.  The parts make noise but fold away, allowing the tires to maintain contact with the road.  While this type of dragging sounds scary, it generally won’t get the rider in trouble unless it surprises & the rider reacts by straightening the bike & then runs wide on the corner, leading to a crash.

Sometimes, the dragging parts can be “hard parts” & this is when you’ll get in trouble if you don’t take corrective action.  Dragging too hard on “hard parts” will, depending upon what’s dragging & its’ relationship to the bike’s center of gravity lift either the rear or front tire off the ground.

Corrective actions when parts drag can be confusing, but there are basically 3 actions that can be taken:

  1. Straighten the bike – this changes & lengthens the turning circle/radius
  2. Shift the bike’s center of gravity by shifting you body to the inside of the turn – this can affect the rider’s control of the bike
  3. Roll on more throttle – this tends to raise or “unload” the bike’s suspension, essentially adding more ground clearance

What action may best work for you during an unexpected dragging of parts can change depending upon the circumstances of each individual incident, but none of them will work without reaction from the rider.  Cruiser Magazine columnist Art Freidman authored an article on this subject back in 1996 & has since noted positive feedback from readers that heeded his advice on this subject.  You can read this article here.

Ride Safe!