The correct Speed when cornering on a motorbike
Having the correct speed and gear is vitally important when negotiating a bend. There is a saying ‘slow in, fast out’. Once you understand the true meaning of the words slows in, fast out, you can really start to make some progress. The speed and gear phase starts early and is executed before you arrive at the start of the corner.
Many riders do not control their speed on approach and leave things to chance. Or they have issues during cornering and wonder how the hell they got around. Some riders brake mid coroner and the typical police statement is ‘ single vehicle accident’. This means only the rider was involved and probably ran wide and off the road.
How to prevent problems
Knowing what speed is required is not a dark art. The correct speed is one where you are comfortable and in full control, you must feel happy riding at your own speed and not succumb to peer pressure. Always ride your own ride and never ride faster than you are happy with.
There are winners and losers on the race track, one rider can go around the track faster than another rider. Take MotoGP as an example, the same person does not win every race, the same person does not win the championship forever.
There is more than one factor that allows people to ride faster on the day than someone else. It might be that the rider knows the track better, it might be that they are not feeling 100% and cannot compete on the day. The bike might not be working to its optimum performance. There are factors that make or break at the highest level when riding on the track.
One thing is certain though, track racers practice – a lot. The perfect how they ride, they learn the track and they go around the same piece of tarmac many many times to really focus on perfecting their ride and reducing lap times.
Understand the changes required
Speed and Gear are very much linked for many aspects of riding and overlap during the approach to a hazard.
One of the rules is, ‘You must be able to stop within the distance you can see to be clear, on your side of the road’. That doesn’t sound difficult but if you were riding too quickly in a bend and you were banked over, could you stop if you had to? Probably not!
Learn the rules and techniques and you will never get into trouble whilst cornering. You must first understand that you have three methods of braking on the motorbike, and they are:-
- Engine braking
- And rear brake
These three brakes can be used in isolation, together, or in combination depending on the situation. Using the brakes correctly helps to stabilise the motorcycle. A stable motorbike will feel far more comfortable to ride as you won’t feel like you are wrestling with it or having to manhandle it around the corner.
Throttle sense or acceleration sense
Using ‘throttle sense’ is an integral part of riding at the correct speed and if in the correct gear you will have immediate speed control by just using the throttle.
Throttle sense is also referred to as ‘acceleration sense’, it is the ability to use the correct gear to have direct machine and engine response. This means that the bike will speed up and slow down with the smallest of movements on the throttle.
One thing many riders get wrong is travelling in high gear. When they turn off the power the bike does not slow down proficiently and they need to use the brakes to continue slowing down to the desired speed. This sometimes happens to go into corners and it will upset both the rider and the motorcycle.
Always slow down on approach and don’t fall foul of braking, going into or when in the corner.
By using engine braking early you reduce the need to use the front or rear brakes, which results in the bike being smoother and more stable.
You should avoid using the engine as a brake, the example of this is changing down a gear to force the engine to slow the motorcycle down.
There is a common myth about braking. There are some organisations that are anti-brakes and advocate only using the engine to slow the bike in almost every situation. My answer to this is, to remove the brakes if they are not necessary. Manufacturers spend a lot of time, energy, and research on brakes and performance. If they weren’t needed, they wouldn’t be fitted. Even track racers have front and rear brakes to help them slow down, and they are at the top of their game.
Use the brakes
Both brakes should be used together when the bike is in an upright position and travelling in a straight line. The application of brakes should be more front than rear in dry conditions because of the characteristics of the bike. With a better grip in the dry, you can load more weight and pressure onto the front tyre.
Never snatch or be aggressive – Always use the brakes progressively and smooth
You could use the front brake only if you only want to lose a small amount of speed. The reason you may do this is to light up the rear brake light to inform road users behind that you are slowing down. In reality you are using the brake lever to trigger the front brake light sensor for the rear brake light to come on.
Use the rear brake to bring the bike to a final stop and when travelling slowly under 10-15 mph. If you are travelling too fast in a corner you should use the rear brake with engine braking to slow the speed down.
You should try to avoid using the brakes going into or whilst in the corner. Although you can use the brakes, it is advisable to prepare the bike properly on approach. This way there will not be a need for you to brake mid-corner. Trail braking is something that you hear about and is used on the track, there isn’t really a place to use it on the road as a regular braking technique.
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Gear selection is extremely important to the motorcycle’s stability. You must learn to ride in the appropriate gear for the situation you are riding in. At different times you may be traveling at the same speed but be in a totally different gear.
Let me explain, you could be traveling at 30 mph but be in one of 4 gears. The example here shows that you could be accelerating quite briskly and you’d be in second gear as you accelerate through that speed (the engine revs would be getting higher). It may be that you have just changed up into third gear as you accelerate and the revs would be a little lower. You could also be riding at the speed limit on a 30 mph road and be in fourth or fifth gear with low revs as you ride ahead with no hazards in front of you.
None of the above is right or wrong, it depends on the riding situation at the time. The lower gears are sometimes referred to as power gears and the higher gears are referred to as speed gears. This is because lower gears have a lot of torque and the engine revs increase quickly as you accelerate. The higher gears are less responsive.
The intermediate gears give good throttle sense and can be used to control the bike’s speed.
Throttle sense (or acceleration sense) is the ability to use the correct gear to have direct engine response. This means that by being in mid-range gear, you will be able to accelerate and decelerate in the same gear increasing and decreasing speed without the need to brake or gear change.
Practice makes perfect
Although it sounds easy to do this, the majority of riders commonly ride in too high a gear. In our experience, this is because we are taught to change gears on low revs in the car. When you translate this to the motorcycle, a car has roughly half the revs of a motorcycle.
Because the only experience is driving a car and changing gears at 2-3000 rpm, this process is taken to the motorcycle too. Also during learner training, the process is to use the lower revs to keep the bike smoother. It is also to ensure the learner rider has more control during the early stages of riding.
But practice really does make perfect, to make changes you should use the revs to control the speed. Practice staying in a mid-range gear when traveling on twisty roads, just practise being in one gear lower than normal to start with and take it from there.
Always take further training with a professional coach who knows how to deliver this lesson to you. I guarantee it will transform your riding.