Cornering

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Over the years I have heard, read, and used many explanations when it comes to negotiating corners safely and succesfully. When it comes to a  a clear, concise and helpful explanation, I think Paul Riley, from Skill Master Motorcycle Services has one of the best.

Not everyone is riding to race, or reduce lap times. A lot of us need to get it right on the road only.

Yet we all love that feeling of getting a corner just right. So whether you are riding your favourite piece of black stuff or commuting to work, there are practices you can apply that will help you get into the habit of approaching corners in a consistent manner (As it is so difficult to observe each individual’s actual approach to cornering, be aware that the following is a considered approach and requires active participation in order to be effective).

You’re riding along through the Kiama bends. Part of a line of mates on similar bikes and you’ve been here so many times you relish this part of the trip. You know what your approach speed is to be (80km/h, right!) because you’ve done this so often. But what about those corners where you approach but can only see a sign post suggesting a particular speed?

This question is often asked by participants in Skill Master training courses. It is probably not too far a stretch to see many motorcyclists wanting to know a more consistent way of cornering. A large number of people who fall off their bikes will tell paramedics what happened to them in a crash (different story with the Police though). As an anecdotal comment on this, it would be fair to say most underestimated the corner or their speed.

So, what to do?

As you approach the corner, look as far through the corner as possible. With trees in the way (on the inside of the corner), this may be only a short distance. This should immediately tell you to be a bit more cautious. It should be noted at this point that a lot of work goes into providing the estimated speed signs for corners. Engineers don’t just guess, there are a lot of factors which contribute and this can include the ’camber’ of the road and radius of the corner. (For some, these signs represent a challenge to cut the corner at double the speed, multiplied by the size of your bike’s engine, then divided by pi!)

So you have been informed the speed advised is 45km/h. You can’t see far through the corner, so you know there’s a chance the corner could be tight. Your approach speed should be sufficient to allow you to slow to the advised speed through the corner if need be, i.e. if there is water or some other hazard on the road. Therefore, you will need to ensure your bike can slow or accelerate through the corner without the need to change gears mid-corner. This can be done by changing down to have the engine spinning at around 30% of maximum revs. So an engine capable of 9000RPM would be spinning at around 3000RPM as you get to the corner. This ensures sufficient engine flexibility to allow the bike to slow and still have enough to get you out of trouble if required.

You commenced looking as far through the corner as possible when you approached, and this doesn’t change. Look at the road where the outside and inside edge of the road appear to meet. This is sometimes a difficult thing to do as you naturally want to look down (It is this particular skill which is a key focus of Skill Master courses). Looking ahead like this will ensure your bike will stay on track and allow you to see through the corner so your brain gets the appropriate information as quickly as possible. The line you choose should always be one that allows for a buffer between you and the biggest threat to you but you can choose this more easily once you can see through the corner.

By keeping your focus well ahead, and not being tempted to look immediately in front of you, your line through the corner will be smoother and you will see sufficiently far enough ahead at all times to provide your brain the time to make decisions. In print, this sounds a lot to absorb. In practice, it means looking ahead and being ready to slow or accelerate as you can see far enough ahead. Choosing the exact speed will then depend on taking all those pieces into your computer mind and referencing them against the same sort of conditions as those previously. This is probably why so many people come to grief on corners they are familiar with, they assume too much and don’t look ahead.

Paul Riley

Skill Master Motorcycle Services

© Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist, 2012 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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5 responses to “Cornering

  1. The Engineers might know what the estimated speed for a corner but it is a shame they are not the ones who put the signs up… on a given road they can vary greatly.

    Another issue is that people look at the center line for guidance (especially on right hand corners) and even if they look far ahead, end up putting their body on or near it. Look at the center of the lane you are in and focus on that rather than the line. That will keep you away from the danger zone. You will also be smoother as you are not trying to ride a narrow line.

  2. One of the considerations I take into account when cornering is to glance at the road surface to ensure leaves and/or gravel haven’t been left. Viewing ahead doesn’t give me a look at this hazard, especially in shadow.

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