In our last issue's RSS, Miguel Duhamel, Mat Mladin and Ben Spies talked about their riding styles. This month, it's Jamie Hacking's turn.
Body position is a somewhat subjective topic that has much to do with the physiology, personal preference and confidence level of the individual rider. Look at the top riders in the AMA Pro Racing series and you'll see that there's more than one way to sit on a motorcycle. It's interesting to note that in the higher-traction environs of MotoGP's stickier tracks and tires, riding styles seem to be converging toward something similar to this column's featured rider, Jamie Hacking, who at press time had just swept his third straight perfect double-race weekend, winning both the AMA Supersport and Superstock events.
But it hasn't always been that way. In his first-ever AMA event 10 years ago, Hacking put his factory-supported Kinko's Kawasaki on the pole position at Phoenix International Raceway in what was one of the most fiercely contested 600 Supersport seasons ever. He led the race early on, but burned up his front tire on PIR's punishing banking and dropped back to finish seventh.
I know my riding has come [a long way] since when I first got thrown into this whole deal," explains Hacking of his sudden career climb. "I came into this with [almost] no experience at all and [then] I was thrown into a factory deal and I had no clue on set-up or anything like that...it really hurt me when I was riding Superbike."
The advantages of Hacking's radically hung-off upper body are indisputable laws of physics. The farther the rider's weight is offset to the inside of the bike, the farther the center of gravity of the combined rider/bike package is shifted inward, allowing the bike to carry less lean angle for a given corner speed or more corner speed at a given lean angle.
Initially, Hacking says he doesn't feel there's any advantage to his riding style. But when pressed further about the midcorner speed he'd shown at Road America's famous Carousel, something clicks. "Yeah," he admits, "I've always had really high midcorner speed, you know. Maybe the counterbalance of me off the motorcycle is allowing me to feel like I've got more control in the middle of the corner with more speed like that. You know, Spies, he has a lot of corner speed too, and a somewhat similar riding style. He has the same off-the-bike position."
With Hacking's radically hung-off riding style, however, comes an Achilles' heel. "I definitely depend on my front end a lot," he confesses. "That's the main thing, that with setup every weekend, that's the main goal. I've got to have a sturdy front end underneath me, just because I guess with the riding position that I have, you know, very over the tank, head way over the front of the handlebar, a lot of forward position, I have to have a good front that's up underneath me. If I don't have a good front end, it's a pretty tough weekend.
Hacking, with his slight roadracer's stature, is also sensitive to bike ergonomics. "The Suzuki was definitely too big a motorcycle for me," says Hacking of his several years spent on the Yoshimura squad. "Back then it was a lot bigger than it is now. The Yamaha, with it being so thin, it just sits me real low, you know. I don't feel like I have to tug on the bike a lot. And when I do hang off of it, I don't feel like I'm overwhelmed with a big gas tank and frame." Then he adds a factor that mere a production-bike tester like myself seldom considers. "I like my seat angles," he says. "I like the top part real flattish. I brake so hard that I have a lot of lean over the front, so I don't like my seat to be tilted so that it feels like it's pushing me over the front of the bike."
But like anyone who wants to stay at the top, Hacking's body position is always evolving, "It has, this year with the 600 [the new-generation R6], with it being so nimble and small, I'm having to be a little bit more gentle with it," he says. "I've seen in some of the pictures that it's changed my riding style a little bit; my shoulders are [positioned] a little bit different on the motorcycle. You've just got to be a little bit more gentle with it. But on the Superstock bike, you know, I have to change my riding styles for both bikes."