Destroying corners one after another, while being in total control is a skill every motorcycling enthusiast wants to master. Very often, however, we see riders committing some very basic mistakes which slow them down around corners significantly. Riding fast and being in control, especially around those tricky turns does take some time to master, and there really isn’t a substitute for those gruelling hours spent on the saddle. That said, however, there are some basics which you can implement in your riding style, and it would start reflecting in the way you ride rather instantly. Equipped with these basic techniques, you can then hone your control over the motorcycle to slice through those bends even faster. To give you the required confidence, here are five very simple yet effective riding techniques which will help you go faster around corners on a motorcycle and make you a more confident rider.
1. Look ahead, and look where you want to be
It’s such a simple thing, it almost sounds stupid to even state, doesn’t it? Yet, that’s the most basic mistake most novices, or even riders with middling skills commit almost all the time. Looking ahead doesn’t mean looking a few meters ahead of your motorcycle’s front wheel though. You really have to look reasonably far ahead, and look really where you wish to place your motorcycle. And this process of looking and scanning far ahead has to be constant, in tune with the speed of your motorcycle. It’s one of the very basic principles of motorcycle riding.
In its own mysterious ways, your body follows the direction of your eyes, and manages to place the bike where you are looking. It may sound weird to some, but it’s an incredibly effective technique and seasoned riders would absolutely attest to it. So if you are not used to looking far ahead on the road where you wish to place your motorcycle, especially around corners, start doing it right away, and you’d instantly realize how much more effortless it is to negotiate a corner, and how much faster you are. This is also the reason why you are advised against looking at an obstruction, or a surprise on the road that you wish to avoid. It’s termed as target fixation – if you look at the obstruction that you wish to avoid, most of the times you’d end up crashing into the very same object. We cannot stress enough on the fact that while this technique sounds like the ‘obvious and only way’ a surprisingly large number of riders just don’t follow it. Start looking far where you wish to place the motorcycle on the road, and you’d suddenly realize that you’ve added a tremendously effective skill-set to your riding.
2. Push the inner bar
Yes, you heard that right. Push the side of the handlebar where you wish to turn the bike. So if you are taking a left hander, push the left handlebar while leaned over; ditto for right. Sounds stupid, right? Not without reason is counter-steering such a mystifying concept. While going around corners at medium to fast speeds, your bike’s wheel is actually turned very minutely in a direction opposite of the turn. By pushing the inner handlebar you actually make the bike take a corner while traversing a tighter arc. So in effect, you’ll be able to go around a bend faster even if it’s tighter. If you’ve not been using this technique, you need to start practicing it right away, and you’d instantly realize how effective it is.
3. Stay loose, stay easy
While being on a motorcycle, you need to be fluid and flexible, and move your weight around it without any jerky movements. Your speed around bends is also a function of how smoothly you transfer your weight from side to side, without unsettling the motorcycle. Talking specifically of body parts, you should try and keep your hands as stress-free and light as possible. Locking your elbows or stiffening up your shoulders at the arm-joints is a no-no. Generally speaking, it’s a skill that comes to you naturally as you log several thousand miles on that saddle. However, if you consciously try and keep yourself light and loose at the handlebars and pay attention to the smoothness of your body movements as you shift you body weight while going around bends, you’ll realize that it becomes second nature pretty quickly. Pay attention to being fluid while being on the saddle and you’d have taken bike control up several notches.
4. Brake, gear and throttle
Another aspect of being smooth is your hygiene with the throttle position, braking and gearshifts when you go around bends. Sure, while being on the street you don’t know the exact curvature of the bend ahead when you are out on a longish ride. So a good idea is to practice this skill on roads and corners that you are very familiar with. For negotiating a corner in the smoothest manner possible, the ideal way is to finish your braking, and gearshifts before you enter the corner. Once you dip the motorcycle in, with a constantly smooth throttle input, only very slightly modulated should take you to the apex, and thereon you start cracking open the throttle to power out. Now, how late you can brake, what speed and gear you carry into the corner, and how well your body controls the direction of the bike through a corner are a few things that’ll carry you through faster. So learn to brake late, understand the optimum gears for your bike at specific speeds – once you start taking note of all these things, you’d realize that you’ll be smoother, and thus faster through the corners. Advanced level riders can actually carry their front braking into a corner, specifically on a racetrack. Those skills are applied at a different level though, and for the basic techniques that we are discussing here, the points mentioned above should help you significantly.
5. Practice the ideal position of knees and balls of your feet
Weight transfer on a motorcycle, as mentioned above, should be done in a fluid, smooth manner. To facilitate this, you should practice foot positioning on the bike so that it’s easy for you to lift yourself up and move from side to side without unsettling the motorcycle. Don’t use the handlebars for weight transfer; use the foot-pegs and leverage your legs to shift your weight. Putting the balls of your toes on the foot-pegs is a good idea, and suits a majority of the riders though you should keep practicing and find your own sweet spot. Secondly, the stress on your arms and hands should be minimal, as stated before. However, during heavy braking, as you’d imagine, it’s difficult to not let your hands get stressed. The remedy here is to grip the tank tightly with your knees to brace for the severe deceleration. Your knees also help you keep latched on to the bike with reassurance as you lean off it. Press your outer thigh towards the fuel tank to make a study contact. The knee recesses on sport bikes are meant specifically for this purpose.
Sure, there are more advanced techniques which can help you go even faster around bends. However, for those of you who are at beginner to moderate riding skills level, these five tips will go a long way in making you a more skilled rider who goes around corners with speed and authority. Do share your thoughts on the article as well the techniques that you follow for higher speed and more control around bends through the comments section below. Do share this article with your friends who might find it useful. Ride safe!