The first hurdle most motorcyclists face, once they find their balance, is tackling curves. There is that innate fear of falling off the bike. Many find it so unnerving that they suddenly find themselves forgetting the very basics such as which side the brake lever is on and which side the gear lever is. The truth of the matter though is that few experiences are as enjoyable and fulfilling as going around a curve on a motorcycle. It can seem a bit difficult at first but with time it will become like second nature and you can be as relaxed around a corner as you would on a straight road. Today, we will demystify the different aspects of cornering to make it as straightforward for you as it is for a pro.
Types of curves:
- Slow speed curves: As the name suggests, these are curves that have to be negotiated at slow speeds. The best way to identify such curves are by looking at how sharp the turn is. If it is more like an angle rather than a curve, then it is a low speed curve. In short, if the road changes direction very suddenly then it is a low speed curve. The reason behind low speeds being required here is because of what is known as momentum in physics. The motorcycle will always want to go in a straight line. This tendency will increase as the speed increases. Since the direction changes very rapidly in these curves, it is important that the motorcycle be sufficiently slowed down to reduce its momentum, which in turn will allow the motorcycle to be steered almost effortlessly. The obvious question is “How slow?”. There is no single answer to this as it all depends on the curve. So, it is always a good practice to slow down considerably during the learning phase. Eventually, you will get an idea of how to judge the safe speed. Many curves will have signs before them indicating the safe speed around it and it is a good idea to stay below this limit.
- High speed curves: These are curves that can be negotiated at a much faster speed. These curves can be recognized by being a lot more circular and gradual in nature. These are sweeping curves. They can, and in some cases must, be taken at higher speeds. As a complete beginner, it is best to avoid such corners but once you are confident, you can begin tackling these as well. Again, it is very important to know your limits and stay within them. Avoid the temptation to go fast just because your motorcycle can. Instead try to hone your instincts first. Learn how to counter steer as that is the only way to steer the motorcycle at higher speeds. Learn how to adjust your weight in the corner and avoid the urge to fight the motorcycle. Instead, try to read the different ways in which the motorcycle moves.
Let’s now look at the various stages of going around a curve to understand the mechanics and the techniques involved.
- Corner entry: This is the first stage of going around a curve. It is important to judge the distance and the curvature of the turn to get an idea of the safe speed you can take around it. Begin braking gradually well before the turn begins. It is very important to brake in a straight line. As you reach the curve at the desired speed, lean into the curve by slightly shifting your weight towards the corner. This will automatically make the motorcycle to begin turning. Another thing to be noted is to keep the throttle rolled off completely so as not to unsettle the motorcycle.
- Mid corner: This is the curviest part of the corner. This is where your speed must be the lowest. You will also be leaning the most at this point and it is important not to panic and brake or accelerate as either action can unsettle the motorcycle and lead to a crash. It is mid corner that you will start feeling the corner beginning to straighten.
- Corner exit: By this point you will already be able to see the end of the curve. The first order of business is to begin shifting your weight back to the center of the motorcycle. This will straighten the motorcycle. Once you are almost at the end of the curve, begin opening the throttle. You should be back up to the same speed at the corner exit as it was during the corner entry.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Wear the right kind of clothes: While cornering is one of the coolest aspects of motorcycling, dressing correctly can make it even cooler. It can also double up as a layer of defense that can protect your skin from getting nasty road burns in case of a crash. Open Road Girl’s line of jackets and shoes are perfect for that.
- Always brake in a straight line: The primary reason behind this is the stability of the motorcycle. Braking in a straight line will ensure that the bike does not start moving around and affords you plenty of time to react to any untoward movement.
- Lean and look into the corner: It is indeed true that the motorcycle will tend to go in the direction you are looking towards. So, looking straight ahead will not make the motorcycle turn. Always look into the corner and that way you can guide the bike around the bend. The leaning helps with the stability of the motorcycle as well as getting it to turn. It might seem unnatural at first but eventually you will realize that leaning towards the curve only makes cornering that much easier.
There are many who have given up riding a motorcycle just because going around a curve seemed a bit too daunting. That doesn’t have to be the case. You can take it slowly, follow the steps we have mentioned and ride like a pro irrespective of whether you are riding on a straight road or around a curve.