How Do Your Feet Touch The Ground?

Japanese motorcyclists and the importance of the "dangle angle"

[ Look, Mom! No feet!

There are so many things about Japanese motorcycle culture I will never understand. One of Japan’s most popular apparel brands is named “Yellow Corn.” You can buy any Arai full-face helmet with Hello Kitty graphics. Parking-lot gymkhana is more popular than track days; as for racing, something called “grass-tracking” rules. And Tokyo hipsters bling out scooters—not Hayabusas—with chrome, stretched swingarms, and megawatt stereos.

I was thinking about this recently at the Ducati Hypermotard press launch in Spain, watching the contingent of Japanese journalists participate in the most bizarre photo shoot. While a Ducati minder straddled the front wheel and held a Hypermotard upright, each Japanese journalist climbed up onto the tall, 34-inch saddle and had his photo taken from behind, showing how his feet touched—or in most cases, didn’t touch—the ground.

In the course of doing this job for over a decade I've seen photos taken from pretty much every angle, but I've never even considered a static shot from the rear, showing my feet dangling above the ground. This made no sense until I opened my mailbox yesterday. I recently got a subscription to Japan's Motorcyclist magazine, and this month's issue is a special one dedicated to, as the cover line reads, "How Your Feet Touch The Ground." Seriously.

That cover line tells you everything you need to know. Inside are 84 full-color pages detailing how the feet of a Japanese woman named Natsumi, standing 5’4” tall, touch the ground on a huge diversity of motorcycles, including sportbikes, baggers, naked bikes, megascooters, even enduros. Not only does each page feature a picture of Natsumi’s feet touching—or not touching—the ground, but also has inset shots showing her heel next to a graduated scale, and a segmented footprint showing exactly what percentage of her boot sole touches the ground. We thought our ergonomic charts here at the American _Motorcyclist _were reasonably complete, but we’ve got nothing on our colleagues in Japan.

Like so many things Japanese, I find this utterly baffling. I’m not tall (just 5’7”) and there are plenty of bikes I can’t touch the ground on (including the Hypermotard), but I don’t give the issue too much thought.  While I’m sure standover height is a concern to many of our readers, and the seat height measurement on our spec sheets is frequently consulted, is it really worth an entire issue dedicated to this single aspect?

[ Natsumi's facial expression says it all: Husqvarna's Nuda is too tall!

I don’t think we’ll start running photos showing foot dangle angle anytime soon, but at least I’ll know what’s up next time the Japanese journos are doing their fire-drill-like photoshoot. Though I’ll remain mostly baffled by the rest of Japanese motorcycle culture. Especially that Yellow Corn brand.