What are the four steps to turning a motorcycle?
New rider skills: How to corner on a motorcycle?
BikeSocial Publisher since January 2017. Riding for 40 years, writing about motorcycles professionally for 27 of them and has written for, edited or published most of the UK’s best known bike magazines. Ridden and reviewed pretty much every significant roadgoing motorcycle of the last 40 years, owned more than 100 bikes (currently has four in the garage), is addicted to motorcycle classifieds and appears to be a walking Glass’s Guide for motorcycle pricing. Cried when Bike Trader stopped publishing a weekly publication.
Strangely attracted to riding high miles in all weathers, Steve sees motorcycles as putting the fun into functional, finds track days ‘confusing’ and describes the secret to better riding as ‘being invincible’.
Posted 27/04/2018 10:05 UK
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Cornering | Lesson one
Cornering on a motorcycle is as about as exciting as life gets. Imagine the best fairground ride of your life but after you have pressed the big, red ‘Turbo – do not press’ button — that’s about it.
For now though let’s just get round the first one. There are four main phases; approach, assess, steer and exit.
When you see the corner approaching, brake to a sensible speed – slower than you think you need to. Change down the gearbox to where the engine is working in the middle of the rev range.
Try to look ahead of you into and around the corner. Keep your head up, try not to stare just in front of your wheel. Looking far ahead lets you see further around the corner, check for potholes or manhole covers and see any unfolding incidents (car coming the other way on your side of the road maybe?) in plenty of time.
As you approach the corner, counter steer by giving the inside handlebar (right bar for a right hand bend, left bar for a left hander) a gentle nudge. See how confident that feels? If you find yourself running wide or cutting the corner, lift your head and look at the exit of the turn. Motorbikes tend to go exactly where you look, which is why it’s important to look a long way ahead, so your eyes pick out the perfect route.
Don’t grip the bars too hard – the more relaxed you are, the easier the bike steers.
As you pass the tightest part of the bend (the apex), give a little nudge to the outside handlebar at the same time as you open the throttle slightly. These two things will lift the bike upright again. Well done.
When motorcycles are upright you can ride over potholes, manhole covers, wet leaves, spilt diesel or snow and ice with impunity.
Try this while leaning over and you’ll soon be needing a lift and a recovery truck. Spotting hazards is essential because steering round one from 300 feet away is a lot easier than when it’s under your nose.
Some riders manage this by giving themselves a running commentary as they ride. Telling themselves what they can see at any moment.
Spotting a hazard in time makes it easy to shift your gaze to the safe path around it. Spotting a hazard six-feet away brings target fixation and sour-faced relatives saying ‘We told you it was dangerous.’.
None of this matters in a car because cars don’t fall over. But on a bike it’s essential.
Now you can steer and spot the hazards, the next question is ‘when to turn?’ Too early and you’ll cross the white line into oncoming traffic, too late and you won’t make the corner.
As you approach the turn move to the part of the road that gives the most visibility. For a left hand bend that means moving towards the right side of your lane – which lets you see round the corner sooner than staying left. For right hand turns move to the left side of the road about a foot from the kerb.
You can do this on a bike because you are so narrow. Cars can’t do this because they are as wide as the lane they drive in.
Approaching a right hand corner, position yourself on the left side of the road and slow to a sensible speed Change down a f gear or two and look ahead. There’s a point in the distance where the two kerbs converge. This is called the ‘limit point’ (because it is the limit of your vision) When you can see the two kerbs start to move apart, it means the corner is opening out. Now is the time to start turning.
This gives two advantages. You can see what’s coming around the corner before you commit to the turn and are much less likely now to cut the corner and run into the path of the oncoming traffic you hadn’t seen in the first place.
Motorcycle cornering for beginners
How to corner on a motorcycle
There are so many variables in any corner, from their angle, to the condition of the road and many other potential dangers but, get the basics right and you can apply them in all situations.
Turning and cornering
Below are the steps I use when cornering, they are assembled from my experience and what I’ve been taught.
1) As best you can, survey the turn
Depending on your surroundings, the tightness of the turn, etc, you may be able to see through it and detect and potential hazards in the turn itself. You should also try to gauge the speed you need to take through it. Remember to look for the yellow roadsigns with chevrons, these indicate a turn that tightens or is exceptionally tight given the characteristics of the rest of the road and speed limit. Look for any oncoming traffic in the other lane to gauge how close you can cut to the center line.
Slow approaching the turn
Slowing into a turn can often be accomplished by just rolling of the throttle and letting the engine friction slow you down, you may also touch on the brakes if needed. If you need to slow significantly, gently press on the brakes and slowly firmly apply more pressure as the bike leans forward, apply about 75% brake in the front and 25% in the back.
Turning at higher speeds and countersteering (>20 Mph)
For those that have never ridden a motorcycle, the next bit of information will sound strange, almost unbelievable. Once you get over 20 Mph or so, if you want to turn in one direction, you actually steer in the opposite direction. This is call “Countersteering”. What it does, is it initiates the lean a two wheel vehicle needs to progress through a turn. If I’m coming up on a right turn and push on the right handlebar, turning the front wheel to the left, the bike will lean to the right and I’ll go through the turn. If you’ve been riding a while, managing fine without using this technique, chances are you are doing it a bit unconsciously, but becoming conscious of it will definitely improve your cornering abilities.
Turning a motorcycle involves four primary steps: slow, look, press and
roll. Although in reality these may not be distinct steps, they make a good starting point for learning to ride smoothly and safely through turns, corners and curves. Making good turns takes proper judgment and good timing.
Slow: Reduce speed as needed before entering a turn. This is accomplished by rolling off the throttle and/or using the brakes. Sometimes downshifting to a lower gear is necessary. The important point is to set up for the turn by establishing a good entry speed, which is a speed that won’t require you to slow while in the turn.
Look: Search through the entire turn and keep your eyes moving. Evaluate the entire turn as soon as possible — surface characteristics, sharpness of the turn, and overall traffic conditions — so you have time to make decisions about speed and position. Sometimes turning your head in the direction of the turn helps in keeping a good visual picture.
Press: To initiate motorcycle lean, press forward on the handgrip in the direction of the turn. This is referred to as countersteering (the front wheel briefly points in the opposite direction of the turn). Press left handgrip, lean left, go left. Press right handgrip, lean right, go right.
Roll: Roll on the throttle to keep from losing speed, unless you identify trouble or entered the turn with too much speed. Maintaining or slightly increasing throttle will help you stabilize the motorcycle’s suspension. Try to avoid rapid acceleration or deceleration when in a turn.
In most situations, you and the motorcycle should lean together. However, for slow, tight turns like a U-turn in a parking lot, use a counterweight technique by leaning your upper body toward the outside of the turn. Putting more pressure on the outside footrest can help too. Turn your head and look where you want to go. Turn the handlebars more in the direction you want to go for slower, tighter turns.
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