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?
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.