Bret Tkacs demonstrates the right and the wrong ways to do it.

Ever since I began my own journey into dirt riding I've struggled with one of the most fundamental skills: standing up. Every time I run into the rough stuff, I get scared of falling over and sit back down. According to Bret Tkacs, these times when I want to sit are the times I need to be standing the most. Likewise, if I'm having an easy time standing on a smooth section, that's a good time to sit down.

Over and over, I've heard that the primary advantage of standing up on a dual-sport motorcycle is that doing so lowers your center of gravity to the footpegs. This never sat right with me (pun fully intended). By definition, standing raises the mass of your body rather than lowering it. The true benefit of standing is that doing so correctly disconnects your body weight from the top of the bike. It allows the bike to bounce around beneath you while your arms and legs act as additional shock absorbers, like a horse jockey. It still supports your weight on the footpegs, but managing your weight yourself makes the bike's job easier.

Note that I haven't mentioned the handlebars. They should have nothing to do with supporting your body. They don't support you when you're sitting, and standing should be no different. Tkacs says that you should be able to take your hands off the bars anytime while you're standing, supporting yourself with your feet and your knees pressed against the gas tank. This is likely where I've been going wrong since I still haven't found the right position for my handlebars. Since I now have an excuse to replace them after bending them in my crash, I have an opportunity to get some that are a better fit for me.

So far I've only mentioned the performance advantages of standing up, but there's another big one: vision. In the same way that many drivers prefer tall trucks and SUVs over low-slung cars, standing up gives you a better view of the road or trail ahead of you. While my early KLR 650 has very little bodywork, many bikes, particularly adventure bikes, have fairings, windscreens, and other parts of the bike that can partially block your view while seated. Even without bodywork, the higher perspective enables you to read the terrain much better than looking at it from the side.

What I appreciate most about this video is the wide shot of Tkacs and his bike as he demonstrates all of the correct, and incorrect, body positions he talks about. By comparing his positions to my own, I know I'm leaning on the handlebars, which takes control away and also wears me out faster. Once I'm back on my bike I plan to do some experimentation to try and find a better way to stand up.