Most bikers think they’re the dogs nuts when out riding with mates and many talk the talk but can’t deliver the goods. The phenomenon of taking corners and being faster than your mates has always niggled many of us Alpha males and we end up either embracing a tree or bush, or just looking plain stupid as we near miss that vehicle coming around the bend on the opposite side of the road.
So how do they do it and how can you keep up with them as they smoothly negotiate hairpins and long sweeping bends at seemingly break neck speeds?
I make it clear from the outset that I don’t proclaim to be an expert, despite riding over 30,000 miles a year and being a RoSPA Advanced Motorcycle Instructor there is still plenty to learn. So take this advice as that, it’s just advice and not a technique that you should go out and adopt the next time you throw your leg over your bike, if you did, it’ll most likely end in tears. Start small and work your way up, these things take time and patience and they will come to you eventually, so be patient and practice makes perfect!
Most advanced riders use a lot of preparation in their riding, on approach to hazards or bends they will already be processing information, this, after time, comes naturally and becomes a subconscious act rather than something you have to strain over. As you approach a bend you should be considering what gear to be in, what speed you should be entering the bend at and ALWAYS looking way ahead, so far ahead that all you see is the “vanishing point”, this is the point that the road disappears from view. This is key information and as such is covered in more detail in the next section.
The vanishing point is not the area you disappear off the side of the road! It is a crucial element in getting you round corners quicker, smoother, safer. Many riders make the mistake of looking everywhere but the vanishing point. They will look down at the road, at the car or bike in front, at the other side of the road and at the gorgeous blonde lady wearing a bikini. Wherever you look, is where you will head towards. Our brains contain fluid and as you turn your head strange things inside your brain will make you act accordingly to this movement. Keeping focused on the exit of the bend for example will keep your stance nice and tight, you will be far more stable and suddenly begin to realise you can negotiate a fast bend without even realising it.
Once you have mastered focusing on the “vanishing point”, such as leaning on the bend will fall into place. Just keep a steady grip on the throttle but don’t accelerate until the bike begins to “lift”, by that I mean as you exit the bend the bike will want to naturally right itself, it’s at this point you can apply gradual increase on the throttle but not too much!
On approach to the bend you should be considering what gear you need to be in. It’s no use dropping a couple of gears and slamming yourself into the tank or over the handlebars, this will lose you momentum but also make it less smooth now that you have a jerky response on the throttle. Ideally you need to be in a gear that allows you a steady and progressive speed with enough torque to pull you upright and out of the bend but not so much that you spin out the rear wheel and end up spinning around or high siding.
Let’s use a left hand bend as an example
As you approach the bend you should be just inside the central white line, this gives you a far clearer view of what’s around the bend and of course that all important “vanishing point”. If you are riding in an area populated by trees, the vanishing point will be the at the point the trees on the opposite side of the road meet the trees on your side of the road. Make sure you always ride at a speed that still allows you to avoid any oncoming traffic that may be feeling greedy and is taking up more road than they need!
The manoeuvre should be smooth, swift and carried out with etiquette. If you have a vehicle on front of you, don’t be tempted to focus on it, maintain your focus on the vanishing point but keep the vehicle in front in your peripheral vision in case they decide to panic and brake.
NEVER overtake on a bend. I won’t even explain why but if you need someone to explain that one then you need to join a special club for mad people!
To sum it up, make sure you practice, practice, practice, as you do you will become faster, smoother and more progressive. Keep focus on the vanishing point and make sure you’re in the right gear. All you need to do whilst on the bend, if you have everything right, is to hold the throttle steady and keep looking as far as you can see, the bike will not fall over unless you are going too slow. If you’re going too fast it may slide out, remember, there’s a limit to how much your tyres can take and the only way you’ll know is when that little turtle pops his head out your rear and you realise you’re still upright!
Ride steady, stay safe