Cornering

To really enjoy your riding you need to get your cornering right. Next to overtaking this is the one discipline that so many riders get wrong.

Get it wrong and at best you will end up exploring the wildlife in the hedgerows, at worst you may not live to explore anything ever again.

In many cases the rider carries too much speed into the curve only to find that it is very difficult to slow down once committed to taking the bend.

You need to slow things down in order to get the framework in place to develop this very important skill.

How many times out of 10 do you negotiate a bend and feel uncomfortable on the approach or during the exit from it?

Look ahead

Look ahead, as far you can see. Follow the line of the road ahead and then look to both sides of the road. The hedgerows and tree lines will often provide clues as to where the road is going and help to assess the severity of the curve.

Look for available cross views to link in with what is immediately available to your view. Start fitting the various pieces of the puzzle together. Don’t forget to look behind, using your mirrors.

Assessing the vanishing or limit point

Find a good bend, it doesn’t matter if it is to the right or to the left, and look for the point where the two verges appear to meet. This is the vanishing, or limit point. If you enter a curve and you seem to be catching up to this point then you are travelling too fast. If your speed leaves you feeling that you are remaining the same distance from the vanishing point then you are at the right speed for the curve.

Your trainer will be more than happy to explain the principles involved in assessing the vanishing point.

If you carry too much speed into the curve you can be faced with some very serious problems. Most riders will try to sit the bike up and brake and in doing so, lose control of it. If you do manage to steer the machine, the excess speed will mean that you cannot lean the bike sufficiently to complete the curve, and you may well find yourself rapidly leaving the road.

Always lose your speed on the approach and build time into the process. Practise this discipline until you have perfected the technique, and this can only be done at speeds you can manage, so keep a large safety margin in the early stages of development.

What is excess speed?

Excess speed isn’t just about breaking the speed limit. Excess speed is when you are travelling too fast for a manoeuvre. It can be as little as 2mph, because too fast is too fast.

Gear

The stability of the motorcycle through a corner will depend very much on the correct choice of gear. You need to choose a gear that will maintain the balance of the motorcycle and deliver the right amount of flexibility to accelerate or decelerate with accurate use of the throttle.

Listen to and feel the engine respond to the chosen gear. Is it straining or laboring in the current gear? If so, change it. Very often, changing down just one gear will instantly improve the stability of the motorcycle.

Acceleration

Keep it smooth because acceleration alters the distribution of weight between the wheels of the motorcycle.

Look to the exit of the bend and apply the right amount of acceleration as the view opens.

Bend lines

The lines to be adopted along either a nearside or offside bend are well documented in Roadcraft (available from book shops, ISBN: 011341143X) as are the advantages of an earlier view and improved safety margins.

By adopting the correct line for the bend, the motorcycle will be travelling towards the crown of the road on the exit side, rather than towards the road edge, which is what happens when a more shallow line is adopted.

Training

If cornering still presents a problem for you, then consider a short period of training. A small input can offer dramatic improvements to your skills. There is no need to keep getting into problems. Talk to your trainer and get them to explain the principles.

Don’t be shy – we’ve all had to do it.

Skills Check

If you haven’t taken your bike out over the winter months, hopefully your bike won’t be rusty, but you might be, after a long break from riding.

Top riders strive to improve their performance through education and training all year round. But many, more casual riders will dust their bikes off after several months in the garage, expecting to carry on exactly where they left off.

As you check the bike over to make sure it is in top condition to ride, stop and think about whether you need an overhaul as well.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • How many near misses did you have last season?
  • How many bends felt wrong as you were going through them?
  • How many overtakes did you make when you were suddenly confronted by an oncoming car that wasn’t there when you started?
  • When was the last time you seriously considered your riding skills?
  • What are you going to do to prevent a collision this season?

Consider your loved ones and the genuine concern they may feel every time you take your bike out.

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