The knee-slider inhabits an almost sacred place in the wardrobe of many motorcyclists. It's the plastic equivalent of a mission statement: 'I'm a sportsbike rider, and I ride fast'. Equally, leather trews devoid of sliders unavoidably imply the opposite: 'I'm a sensible road rider, and my knees will be getting nowhere near the Tarmac, thanks very much'. Come on, admit it, there's covert politics at work. Fashion-conscious women judge each other by jeans size or brand of handbag; we motorcyclists judge each other by the state of our kit and our kneesliders. You'd better get used to it – and make the right choice for your sliders.
Did you get your knee down? Your friends are bound to ask. And, like everything, your sliders don't lie. If you're the kind of rider who doesn't attack corners with knee-cocked intent, then you're better off riding 'sliderless'. A pair of perennially unscuffed sliders will attract more taunts down the track than a few girls in hot pants.
There're ways to cheat, like using sanding machine or getting angry with a rasp, but cheats always get found out in the end. If you want to wear sliders with credibility, you need to get your knee down for real. Getting you knee down for the first time, and using a knee-slider for the first time, is a rite of passage. That magical instant of touch-down, with its glorious scraping 'Scccrrr' theme-tune, is a moment you'll never forget. And the critical upshot is scraped sliders, hopefully ragged with the frayed threads of melted plastic. Priceless. Unlike any other product, this is the one you want to get damaged, scratched, scraped and ruined. In other words, we write this article aware of a certain irony: No matter what sliders you wear, they're only as good as their battle scars.
We've established that it's cool, not to mention fun, to deck your knee at every available opportunity, but is it actually necessary? In realistic terms, what's the point? The cynical answer I, not much point at all, except to look like a racer and earn the related image-points. In the act of touching your knee down on a corner, for instance, you may feel as though you're Valentino Rossi riding a MotoGP racebike, and the forces at work on your tires and chassis are similar, but, well, a bit different.
Racers started getting their knees down in the '80s, when tire technology improved and they could finally get decent lean-angles. AT first, riders improvised by using bits of helmet visor taped in place. These days, things are more sophisticated. Racers get their knees down in order to judge lean-angle. They need to know because the aim is to get as close as possible to the limit of adhesion, lap after lap. That's clearly not your aim on the road (and probably not on the race track, either). What's more, on-the-limit racers may occasionally exert pressure on a knee in order to save a front-end slide. Reckon you can do that on the road? Yeah, right....
On the race track, there are some advantages of sliders, even if you're not super-quick, helping you judge how far over you're leaning the motorcycle (by the time a footpeg hits the deck, it may be too late). On the road there's less real need; sliders are mainly a question of style.