How To Corner On A Motorcycle
Motorcycle riding is all about corners, well a lot of it is anyway. Anyone can go flying along in a straight line, but hit that first tight corner and you will quickly separate the men from the boys (or women from the girls). In this article on “How to corner on a motorcycle” we will discuss how to get your motorcycle around a corner and what you can do to improve your cornering techniques.
Firstly we will start off with the extremely simplistic answer which will be all that many people are after, then we will look into motorcycle cornering techniques in further detail for those who can already ride around a corner, however who want to enhance their methods.
If you are brand new and don’t yet know how to ride at all, then we suggest to start out with our beginner article on “How To Ride A Motorbike”.
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The very basic answer on how to corner on a motorcycle
For those who just want a quick answer before they leave, this answer is for you. When learning how to corner on a motorcycle all you do is “look where you want to go”. It sounds basic, because it is.
When you ride a motorcycle and want to go around a corner you look at the path where you want to ride and, if you are riding at the appropriate speed, the motorcycle will follow.
You don’t need to think about moving your bars or adjusting your body, as these automatically occur when you look where you want to go. Having said this, this is the most simple of the motorcycle cornering techniques that will get you around a corner at a slow to moderate speed.
If you are already a motorcycle rider and want to improve your motorcycle cornering skills for riding on public roads or on a racetrack then there are several motorcycle cornering tips that you should take into consideration, so read on.
The more advanced steps on how to corner on a motorcycle
Initial Assessment / Looking – When you are approaching a corner you should begin judging the possible length of the corner, how tight the corner is, any changes to the road elevation or road condition and if there have been any road markers placed by the friendly government to suggest what might be coming up. However, as a word of caution it is worth noting that road markers can quite often be incorrect and sometimes outright dangerous, so they should be used as one of the many factors that you need to take into account when you perform your initial assessment of the corner.
Planning – From the initial assessment that you have made you will need to think about your corner speed, gear selection, your road placement, body position and most importantly your riding line throughout the corner.
The Single Curve – When learning how to corner on a motorcycle you should be thinking of the corner as a single curve, even if the curve needs to tighten or loosen at certain points. It is important to not chop this curve up into smaller pieces and then need to adjust and re-plan when you make it through each individual section of the corner. There is an old military saying of “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”, which should be thought about here. Being smooth is one of the most important factors in motorcycle riding in general.
Slow In / Fast Out – In the perfect world all of your braking should be completed before you enter the corner. Every time that you use your brakes while you are cornering will affect the balance of the bike. It is much better to be in a corner and need some further throttle, than to be committed and finding out that you need to hit the front brakes else you will go off the side of the road into a ditch. Additional throttle too will cause the motorcycle to start pulling upright, so the best plan is to maintain a constant speed using light throttle until it is time to exit. As the exit becomes clear you can begin straightening up the bike and increasing the throttle.
Gear Selection – Following on from the slow in / fast out principles it is important that the selected gear will not cause unnecessary engine braking throughout the corner, however you will also want to be in a gear where you have sufficient power to accelerate out of the exit. Changing gears midway through a corner will shift the balance of the bike and your ability to maintain clean smooth lines and a decent speed.
Body Position – This will all depend on how aggressively you are taking the corner. Some slight body lean will get you around a corner at a moderate speed, however as you increase your speeds you will need to be taking your bum off the seat to provide the bike greater balance throughout the turn. The amount that you will need to shift your body is all going to depend on the speed that you are travelling. Practicing your body positioning, even when you are going slowly and it is not necessary for the particular corner, will help you out significantly when it comes time to play in the faster twisties.
Counter-Steering – People love to talk about counter-steering. All it means is pushing the bars in the opposite direction to where you want to go. This is a method to quickly shift the weight of your bike when you are preparing to enter a corner. You are probably already using some sort of counter-steering already without even knowing it.
Relax / The Bird Flap Technique – Tensing up is a very common scenario for many when learning how to corner on a motorcycle, however this is something that we want to train to avoid. One of the best techniques to practice to improve your ability to resist tensing up, and you may want to practice this when nobody else can see you, is to pretend that you are a bird and flap your wings while riding. You will quickly determine whether or not your arms and wrists are tense and this will help to loosen then instantly. It is all about being able to catch yourself tensing up in an effort to remind yourself to relax. If you have sore wrists at the end of a ride then you are putting too much pressure over the bars. The bars should not be supporting your body weight.
Traffic and Road Position – It is necessary to determine if it there is the chance of oncoming vehicles. If you are on a 2-way road then you must expect that they will be coming at you, possibly on your side of the center line. You are not on a racetrack, so you should not be riding like it is either. Plan your riding line so that you are away from the center line, as this will allow both room for your own error as well as that of any oncoming vehicles. Two motorcycles heading on the center line straight at each other is a very common scenario on many popular motorcycle riding roads.
Too Slow Is Better Than Too Fast – Hardly anyone will remember a corner that they rode around too slowly. All you will take from it is a mental note that the next time you hit that same corner you may be able to increase your road speed, maybe even a smart line or two from the rider who was stuck behind you. Taking a corner too fast on the other hand will leave you with a butt clenching moment as a best case scenario. If you are not on a racetrack then ride on the side of caution at all times, the road hurts.
Look Throughout The Corner – Looking is the most referenced of the motorcycle cornering tips for good reason and it is so easy to do. While you are riding you will want to keep your eyes looking ahead for oncoming dangers and possibly changes in the corner such as increased tightness or shifts in elevation. Also focus on the line that you plan on riding throughout the corner and as you have more practice your body positioning and all of the other factors that we have mentioned in this article will come together.
Spend some time riding alone – Riding alone will remove any pressure that is placed upon you by other riders in your pack. This will allow you to focus specifically on all elements of how to corner on a motorcycle without having to worry about keeping up or holding up others stuck behind you. Riding alone may also involve finding those quieter roads without other vehicles, or riding mid-week when others are at work. If this is not possible for you then try riding as the sweeper at the tail end of your group where you can practice your form at your own speed.
Practice – Nothing worthwhile in this world comes easy. Practice, practice and more practice is required. This doesn’t mean just putting more miles on your motorcycle either, as this should be practice where you are specifically entering corners thinking about all of the principles of how to corner on a motorcycle. Dedicate time to applying these methods and you will find that your techniques and speeds will improve.
Being able to corner on motorcycle is basically everything. Implement these motorcycle cornering techniques and you will soon find corners more enjoyable than ever. Remember the military saying, “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”.
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