I bet I’m not alone when I say that realising you’ve gone into a bend too quick when you’re already halfway round is one of the worst feelings as a biker. I’ve been to an awful lot of crashes when this has happened to riders who have then panicked, grabbed a handful of front brake and wondered why they’ve ended up in the scenery.
The fact is that cornering is one of the hardest parts of riding to get right but it’s a great feeling when you do; it can’t be put down to luck rather than judgement either so having a plan is really important. It’s far better to know how to approach and enter a bend properly than rely on untrained human instinct at the point of no return.
We keep going on about riding to a system and that’s because it seems to work! The most important part of this is the information phase which should focus a rider on looking for all the different clues on approach to a bend.
A general rule of thumb can be applied that in the interests of reducing budgets, local authorities do not want to spend money on paint, standard road signs, flashing warning signs, reflective posts etc, without good reason. Assume that the more effort that has been put in to highlight what is going on ahead, the worse the hazard is likely to be.
There’s no point putting all the clues on the road though unless riders are looking out for them and prepared to do something about it. The beauty of being on a bike is that you can move it around in your lane to get a better view, far more than you can in a car. Where you put your bike going into a corner is important; if you hug the inside of the bend, not only is the view likely to be worse but the bend is going to be tighter. If you go in too hot, you are likely to be worrying more about losing speed and whether or not you’re going to make it round than you are looking at the exit of the bend and accelerating out. If you go into most bends in 6th you wont have as much control of the bike or the ability to accelerate out of the bend as if you were in a more flexible and responsive gear.
The truth is that there are loads of different cornering techniques, some of which will work for you and some won’t. Whatever you use, be aware of the capabilities of what you’re asking your machine to do. A motorbike is most stable when the weight is distributed evenly, its engine is just pulling and it’s travelling in a straight line. Many riders who haven’t planned bends properly go in too quick and expect the tyres to grip when leaning over, steering and braking. Throw in a wet road, drainage cover, diesel or leaves (I could go on) and the odds of getting round are stacked against you.
The most important point about cornering is this though…always ask yourself the question, “In an emergency, could I stop the bike on my side of the road in the section of road I can see?” if the answer is “no”, you’re going too fast!
Depending on your level of riding, this may seem like a lot to take on but we talk about a system of riding throughout our BikeSafe courses and, helpfully, the same system is used by accredited post-test trainers.
Book on to a BikeSafe course, we can literally talk about this stuff all day!
Sgt Gabe Snuggs – Hampshire Constabulary