If you're new to riding a motorcycle, going around a sharp curve can seem like an intimidating experience. However, more advanced riders agree that cornering stability is a skill that constantly improves as the motorcycle is ridden. You just need some mechanical knowledge and a little practice to start tackling increasingly narrow corners in spectacular fashion.
Part 1 of 2: Going Through Normal Curves on the Motorcycle
Step 1. Evaluate the curve from a considerable distance
The more information you get about the curve beforehand, the safer it will be to traverse it. Sharp turns often have a vanishing point where you cannot perceive what lies beyond the curve. You must take this detail into account and be prepared for any eventuality as you approach. In addition, you have to calibrate the angle of the curve so that you can achieve it easily and smoothly.
- Some curves close or widen in a surprising way (especially towards the end). You may find it difficult to predict the end of a curve because vegetation, the vanishing point, or other features (such as traffic) block much of the curve. Also, you will likely have to make minor corrections at the end of the curve when taking this detail into account.
- You should get as far out of the curve as possible as you get closer. Keep your eyes on the approaching road and (if possible) look through the foliage and obstacles to give you a better idea of what is on the other side of the curve. However, you should not get too carried away. If you strain to see through the foliage, you can miss what is right in front of your eyes.
- You can use the characteristics of the road to help you measure the angle of the curve. Observe the angle of light poles, retaining fences, security walls, road signs, etc. to more accurately predict the angle you cannot perceive. If you notice that the characteristics of the road begin to close inwards, it is likely that the curve will also close in the same way.
Step 2. Slow down as you approach the curve
Release the accelerator to slow down and gently press the brake (if necessary). Before entering the curve, you should go at an appropriate speed or low enough that you feel comfortable with. If the curve comes faster than you expected, you may need to press the front and rear brakes at the same time to slow down enough.
- If you are a beginner learning, you need to slow down much more than an expert motorcyclist. You should practice on roads with little traffic. Make sure to slow down if you need to do it at any point. The correct gear to enter the curve will be one that allows you to go through it effortlessly and accelerate easily out of it.
- To give you a better idea of the specific gear you should use, you should choose a section with little traffic and curves that you know well. When the road is clear, you should approach the curve and slow the motorcycle so that it shifts to a slower gear than you normally use. Then you should repeat this exercise with a higher gear than you normally use. While you're in that change, you will likely find it more difficult to accelerate out of the curve.
Step 3. Check the traffic conditions as you approach the curve
Motorcycles are usually much smaller than most vehicles on the road, so it is easier for them to hide between cars. You must ensure that the space around you (including your blind spot) is clear of traffic, as this could pose a hazard to you as you turn. You should watch all cars that drive erratically or accelerate dangerously. You can let these cars pass you by or allow a certain safe distance between the motorcycle and potentially dangerous vehicles.
- Don't make the mistake of relying solely on mirrors. The side mirrors are likely at least partially blocked by your elbows or the sirens. This means that the mirrors will not give you the full view of the environment you need to safely enter the curve.
- You must be very careful when turning your head to check your blind spot. If you turn your head too far to look over your shoulder at the traffic behind you, you may end up turning the handlebars as well. In this way, you run the risk of becoming unbalanced as you approach the curve.
Step 4. Shift your weight and lean into the curve
Many motorcyclists know this maneuver as "counter-rotating driving." This denomination is somewhat imprecise, since you do not need to turn the handlebar of the motorcycle at all. When entering the curve, you should press the motorcycle with half of your body on the outer side of the curve. For example, when turning right, you should press the motorcycle with your left buttock and leg so that it leans into the curve. You may also find it helpful to apply pressure on the inner handlebar downward. You will not be using the handlebars for driving, just to help distribute your weight as you lean around the curve.
- You should perceive this movement as downward pressure as the momentum of the motorcycle causes your weight to shift fully into the curve. As soon as you exit the curve, you should be careful not to sit up straight immediately, as you could end up losing your balance and control of the motorcycle.
- You should avoid holding onto the handlebars too tightly. For beginners, it can be uncomfortable to lean so deeply in the middle of a curve. Out of fear, you could end up desperately hanging onto the handlebars. However, this procedure will make it more difficult for you to put pressure on the inner handlebar. The lower part of your body should be enough to keep you attached to the motorcycle.
Step 5. Focus your gaze on the approaching road
Your eyes should stay level so you can focus on the farthest visible point on the curve. This way, if unforeseen problems arise, you will have due caution. However, you should not focus too much, as you could lose awareness of other objects within your peripheral vision. Cars may not perceive the motorcycle in tight corners (where it naturally leans deeper). In this case, your peripheral vision can save your life.
Your vision is limited due to the lean of the motorcycle, the narrow curve and other characteristics of the road (for example, trees and tall grass). This means that your line of sight will be shortened even more than normal while on the curve, creating a vital need for you to pay attention to the oncoming road
Step 6. Increase acceleration at the midpoint or last third of the curve
In this way, you help the motorcycle to stand upright when exiting the curve. You should allow your weight to return to normal once you exit the turn and release the pressure from the inner handlebar. Now that you have finished traversing the curve, you can continue your journey on the road as you normally do.
You should avoid supporting your weight to one side or the other as the forces acting on the motorcycle cause it to return to an upright position. This procedure can cause the motorcycle to lose stability, causing an unnecessary accident
Part 2 of 2: Troubleshooting Turning with a Motorcycle
Step 1. Keep in mind that the goal is not to fully accelerate into a curve
You may find it exciting to accelerate to full throttle to blast through the curve like a bullet, but this can be very dangerous for other motorcyclists and vehicles. When driving in normal traffic, your goal should never be to go around a curve at a specific speed, but rather to drive in a clean, controlled, and safe manner (with minimal speed or angle corrections).
As you get more experience riding the motorcycle, you will feel more comfortable going through curves. Naturally, this procedure will lead to more acceleration over time. However, as you improve your skills, you should go through curves safely as when you do at lower speeds. You should keep your eyes on the approaching road conditions and angle of turn as if it were an unbroken arc
Step 2. Determine the times when you are moving too fast and make the corresponding corrections
If you feel an irresistible urge to brake when entering a curve, you should slow down or go past the curve to avoid going through it, as you are probably going faster than you should. If you feel safe and comfortable on the motorcycle, it is because you have reached the correct speed to go through the curve. The speed at which you must enter a curve will depend on the motorcycle, your height, the road conditions, among other factors, which means that the "correct speed" can vary considerably from person to person.
- You must maintain a constant speed. It is not recommended that you let go of the accelerator. If you do this, it is a strong indication that you have tackled the curve at too high a speed. You should press the rear brake lightly. This will move the motorcycle into the curve more fully without straightening.
- If you are in an emergency situation where an unforeseen obstacle appears in the road (for example, a child or a tree branch) and you need to stop immediately, you should pull the clutch and press the front brake. You need to keep pushing the motorcycle into the curve to avoid losing control. For most people, this procedure involves pressing with the knee and buttocks toward the outside of the curve.
Step 3. Stay calm around unexpected curves and carry out modifications accordingly
Some curves are so tight (or their natural features are too thick) that you won't have a chance to see what comes next until you are inside them. This means that you may be in for a nasty surprise in the form of an obstacle or a change in angle later on. When this happens, you need to make slight corrections by turning to the outside (in the opposite direction) of the curve. Then you need to re-adjust the angle a bit to lean the motorcycle into the curve. If you go through large or uneven curves, you may need to make several of these corrections.
- When riding your motorcycle around a curve, you should always think ahead. You must anticipate how you will react in the worst case. This may require you to ride the motorcycle onto the shoulder or onto safe ground alongside the road to avoid a pedestrian. Even on curves that you know well, you should be prepared to make adjustments in case something unexpected happens.
- In case the motorcycle travels too far along the inside or outside of the road, you should not panic. If you open (or close) too far around a curve, you run the risk of colliding with oncoming traffic or obstacles (for example, a retaining fence or safety wall). You must analyze the angle of the curve and keep your eyes fixed on the road. In this way, you will be ready to execute the corresponding corrections the moment you detect the need.
- If you have a passenger with you, you should not lean the motorcycle too much when turning. The rear wheel can lose contact and skid causing a fall.
- You should always wear a helmet while riding the motorcycle.
- Often times, you are required to take a motorcycle training course before obtaining your driver's license.
- If the road is wet, the curves become more difficult to navigate. You have to slow down even more than normal when the terrain you are driving on is slippery.
- Loose gravel or poor roads can cause the motorcycle to lose traction while cornering. You should keep your eyes clear to detect loose materials on the road and try to avoid them (if possible). If you find yourself in need of driving on loose materials, you should slow down.