These tips were condensed from the following sources:
- Sport Riding Techniques: How to Develop real world Skills for Speed, Safety and Confidence on the Street and Track, by Nick Ienatsch.
- Total Control, by Lee Parks
- Motorcycling the Right Way, by Ken Condon
- Riding in the Zone, by Ken Condon
- Twist of the Wrist by Keith Code.
- Twist of the Wrist 2 by Keith Code.
- Proficient Motorcycling, by David L. Hough
- Many motorcycle magazine articles.
Turning the Bike
The following tips refer to medium and fast speed turns. Slow, parking lot turns are a different animal and have their own section below. These tips are geared toward bikes with mid to rear peg positions, but many tips will work with front pegs or floorboards.
- Relax – Keep your hands, arms, and torso relaxed.
- Slow down to the proper entry speed for the turn. You do not want to brake or shift during the turn unless you are trail braking which is an advanced technique.
- Pick a turn-in spot.
- Look through the turn
- When you reach your turn-in spot, use countersteering to initiate the turn. Push the left grip to go left, push the right grip to go right.
- Keep looking through your turn.
- After initiating the turn, gently roll on the throttle all the way through the exit.
- The basics should get a rider through most turns as long as the turn is not entered too fast.
- Relax – Keep you hands, arms, and torso relaxed
- Slow to the proper entry speed for the turn. Pick an entrance speed that allows you to slowly roll on the throttle throughout the turn.
- Pre-position your body. Move your centerline inside the bike centerline before the turn. Move your weight onto inside peg (the peg that will be on the inside of the turn – right peg for right turn) and move slightly forward toward the gas tank. Since you are moving your weight to the inside peg, you must push on the outside grip to keep the bike from turning yet. All movements should be done with your legs – relax your grip on the handlebars.
- Locate your turn point. Make a wide, deep entrance and get the turn over quickly. Look as far through the turn as possible until you can see the exit.
- Push on inside grip as you relax pressure on the outside grip and unweight the outside peg. Do this quickly and smoothly– don’t throw the bike into the corner. Once you reach your desired lean angle, use only your inside arm for all steering corrections. Your outside elbow should be pointed down & shoulder muscles should be completely relaxed.
- Gently roll on the throttle once the bike has settled into the turn. This “maintenance throttle” helps stabilize the suspension and improves ground clearance during the turn.
- A good line features a late apex. You want maximum lean at or just before the apex. At the apex of a corner, you should be able to see the exit. Your eyes should find the point of maximum exit radius (road edge in left hand turn, centerline in right hand turn.
- Once you pass the apex and can see the turn’s exit, roll on the throttle and weight the outside peg to help the bike straighten up.
- When the bike is vertical, move back to a neutral body position.
The most important way of turning your bike is countersteering. There are other turning methods that can be used to make your turns crisper and smoother. However, the rider must relax at the handlebar to allow these other steering methods. In fact, the rider should try to relax his arms, shoulders and torso as well. The bike will turn well if you let it!
Sit on the bike in a position that allows bent elbows and a slightly curved back. If you sit too far back, your arms will straighten and the bike will be harder to steer. If you sit too far forward, your back will straighten and the bike will be harder to steer. After your tires are warmed up, try doing some swerves to make sure that your hands, arms, shoulders, and torso are relaxed. Your hands should feel loose, your elbows should be bent and pointing down at your sides, and your lower back and abdomen should feel loose. Do not lean on the handlebars or grip them tightly.
- Countersteering – Push the left grip to go left, push the right grip to go right.
- Throttle Steering – The bike will fall into a corner when you gently roll off the throttle. Conversely, the bike will stand up out of a corner when the throttle is rolled open. The bike will hold a lean angle when the throttle is held slightly open (maintenance throttle.) Enter the corner off the throttle and initiate the turn. As you reach the lean angle necessary to reach the apex, crack open the throttle slightly to maintain your lean angle. When you see the exit, roll on the throttle to help stand the bike up.
- Leg pressure – Place the inside of your knee and thigh against the gas tank and apply pressure to help initiate leaning the bike into a corner. This focuses efforts on the legs, not the hands. This relaxes the hands and reduces weight on the handlebars. This relaxed grip makes the ride smoother.
- Weight the footpegs – Move your head and shoulders toward the inside of the turn. Lead the bike into the corner with your chin and to a lesser extent with the center zipper of your jacket. Make sure that the zipper is either centered over the middle of the fuel tank or slightly to the inside. Slide your butt towards the inside of the corner. Take advantage of an inch or two of butt movement to help the bike steer. Don’t tug on the handlebar during the weight shift. Use your thighs to help move your weight across the seat. Use the balls of your feet on the footpegs. Rise up just enough so that your butt slides easily. You can move all over the bike without it turning as long as you maintain even weight on the footpegs.
Slow speed U turns
- Weight the outside peg (left peg for right turn) and unweight the inside peg to help maintain balance during the turn. Shift your body weight as far to the outside as your inside arm will allow (counterweighting.) You should almost feel as if you are sitting on the side of the seat during a sharp, slow turn. Move your crotch up toward the gas tank.
- Pick a turn-in point on the pavement.
- Look over your turning shoulder and down toward the ground.
- When you reach the turn-in point, turn the handlebars in the direction of the turn and allow the bike to lean into the turn. Do not lean with the bike. Keep your torso and your head vertical with your weight on the outside peg and your butt up on the side of the seat.
- Continue looking through the turn to the exit. Roll on the throttle to help straighten the bike at the end of the turn.
- Grip the brake lever progressively. Pull gently for 1 count before braking hard. Progressive braking allows weight to shift toward the front wheel for maximum stopping power. Hard braking before this weight shift could cause the front wheel to skid.
- If the front wheel begins to skid, release the brake handle immediately (the smoother the better.) If the rear wheel begins to skid, continue to hold the rear brake pedal down and steer the front wheel until the bike stops. Alternatively, you can try to quickly and smoothly release the rear brake until the rear tire regains traction and then immediately re-apply the rear brake. Releasing the rear brake during a skid can be dangerous, because a sudden regain of traction can throw the rider into a high-side crash. If you have not practiced quick stops, it is probably safer to just press and hold the rear brake during a rear tire skid.
- Keep your head up with eyes looking straight ahead while braking.
- Practice repeatable stops at the threshold of front and rear tire lockup. Start at slower speeds and work up to the maximum speed that you like to ride. Try not to lock either wheel. The front wheel may start to howl when it nears lockup – back off smoothly! The rear tire may also howl and feel squirrelly before lockup-again back off the brake smoothly.
- Rest your fingers on the brake handle when approaching intersections. In the one second that it takes to react and grab the brake handle, a bike traveling 40 mph travels 58 feet! Watch the top of the front wheel of a car stopped at a cross street (or alley/ driveway.) You will detect movement faster at the wheel than at the bumper. Watch the front left tire of a car waiting to make a left turn in front of you. If you see the tire begin to turn, prepare to stop.
- Always stop in first gear so that you can escape before a rear-end collision.
A key to a smooth upshift is shifting quickly before the engine rpm drops too much. Shifting requires disengaging and re-engaging power through the use of the clutch. The power interruption can create deceleration and acceleration forces that can affect the bike and the passengers. Slow shifting allows the engine rpm to drop below that necessary for road speed when the clutch is re-engaged. Roll off the throttle just enough to keep rpms up while squeezing the clutch just enough to disengage power to the rear wheel. The throttle wrist should barely move and the clutch should be squeezed in only an inch or so.
- Hold the clutch lever toward the fingertips for maximum sensitivity.
- Preload the shift pedal by lifting it with your instep until all the slack is removed from the linkages.
- Roll off the throttle 25% or so.
- Pull in the clutch just enough to remove power from the rear wheel – don’t pull the clutch all the way to the handlebar. Some bikes will need only a slight jab of the clutch to shift after preloading the shifter and rolling off the throttle. At full throttle, some bikes need no clutch!
- With the shift lever preloaded, it should now slip into the new gear. Some bikes may need the shift lever lifted with a deliberate movement to complete the shift.
- Release the clutch handle quicky and smoothly while rolling on some throttle to complete the shift.
Downshifting is to put the engine in the proper rpm range for the future, whether it is the upcoming corner exit, hill, or pass. When you downshift, the engine rpm will jump in the new lower gear. Unfortunately, most riders allow the engine rpm to drop during a downshift. When these riders release the clutch, the bike and passengers will experience sudden deceleration forces (rider and passenger often clunking helmets.) If you hear the rear tire chirp when you release the clutch after a downshift it is a sign that the rpm was not correctly matched and that the spinning tire locked momentarily as it dragged the engine up to speed.
Blip the throttle during downshifts to bring the engine to the proper rpm for the new lower gear. Blipping is a quick twist on and off of the throttle to about 50% of its twisting travel at the instant the clutch is disengaged. It is possible to over blip, but not likely. Most riders do not blip enough. Blipping smooths downshifts by increasing engine rpm close to where it will be once the downshift is completed. The point is to get the engine rpm matched to the lower gear before you release the clutch. Watch the tach to see how much it drops when upshifting from one gear to the next. Blip the throttle the same amount when downshifting.
The whole downshift should take less than one second.
- Roll off the throttle slightly
- Squeeze the clutch just enough to disengage power to the rear wheel.
- Blip the throttle about 50% of its twisting travel.
- Press the shift lever to shift the bike into the new lower gear.
- Ease the clutch out quickly and smoothly while rolling on some throttle.
Downshifting has the complication of engine braking. Use engine braking only for minor speed adjustments, otherwise use the brakes. If engine braking in a group, lightly press your brake lever to alert those behind you that you are slowing.
Blipping and braking together is a tough skill to master. Use the thumb and 2 outside fingers and apply brake with the middle and index fingers. Keep braking fingers slightly arched to insulate them from the throttle grip movements. A relaxed upper body will help control unwanted brake lever inputs.