Linking Bends When Cornering On a Motorcycle
Linking bends is one of the things that riders get wrong time and time again. This is usually down to riding faster than their own ability. Riders must learn how to read the road, adopt the correct speed for their ability and position correctly on the approach. Once these things are understood and applied, cornering becomes an enjoyable experience.
Have you ever gone into a corner and drifted wide? Chances are that you have and most riders have done exactly the same thing. This is usually riding too fast your own skill level, or trying to keep up with a faster rider in front. Peer pressure plays a huge part in being sucked in to riding quicker than you are comfortable with.
The danger is just one second away
These problems always result in the corner being compromised as you turn off the power and fight the bike around the bend, away from the kerb or from the white line.
Target fixation is always present too. To make you feel better most riders have encountered target fixation, stiffening up on the bike, and going rigid in the arms which prevents you from steering properly through the corner. You are not alone, this is a common fault.
You must first know your capabilities, and know what does and does not feel safe. You have to know what 80% of your natural ability is and if you want to improve quickly, stay within that figure while you are practising new skills.
Once you perfect the skill and eliminate the error, the speed will come back without even trying to ride faster.
Correct Speed and Gear
Once the Vision and Planning are sorted out, you can then progress onto adopting the correct Speed and Gear for the bend. You will need to learn how to slow the motorcycle down correctly by the correct use of the brakes prior to reaching the turning point.
A huge thing I have personally seen during my 30+ years as a trainer is riders’ lack of understanding of Counter Steering. This is taught in many different ways, pushing, pulling, leaning, weighting the pegs, gripping the tank, forcing the knee into the tank etc.
This list goes on and other riders are happy to tell you what you are doing wrong. They don’t actually do it correctly themselves but are happy to give you their advice to either make themselves feel better than they actually are or they genuinely want to help but lack the skills and knowledge to give you feedback.
Don’t believe everything you hear!
Feedback is imperative in a learning environment. Just being told a snippet of information by a helpful person and then going off to do it, does not paint the whole picture to you.
I have heard experienced trainers tell a frightened trainee to point the elbow and tip into the corner. I mean, what kind of advice is this to give to a frightened rider with very little skill, to take an advanced technique at a low level of experience, skill, and ability?
The mind boggles, and this type of instruction is poor and certainly not what was required to elevate ability or to get the student onside with confidence in what was being taught. In my opinion, when an Instructor starts to give tips and advice like this, it means they have run out of ability themselves!
Helpful tips outside a rider’s ability is the quickest way to destroy confidence. If you are not given all the information you will most certainly get it wrong, and that will be costly.
Use a methodical system
Use a methodical approach and apply the IPSGA sequence properly and you will be able to corner correctly into the bend.
The following list should be executed with something left in reserve for any unexpected hazards:-
- Have a good forward vision on approach
- Gather all the information to plan your move
- Decide on the severity of the bend for the speed required
- Position correctly for view and safety
- Slow down correctly before the bend
- Change down to an appropriate gear
- Counter-steer into the first part of the corner
GET Regular RIDING TIPS
Sign up to get Riding Tips and advice directly to your inbox
Sacrifice position for safety
It doesn’t matter what level you ride to, the road position you adopt is key to your safety. If you have just started out and are still learning, or are a new rider who has recently passed your test. The centre of the lane is a comfortable place to ride, however, you still might have to move position for safety. So don’t think you are safe just because you are in the middle of your lane.
Likewise, if you are starting your journey into advanced riding, have been on an advanced training course or are trying to improve on your own. You must adopt a position for safety at all times.
Positioning for a view is the best thing to do as you can see further around the bend, this will help you to see where the road is going after the bend you are in. The position is relevant but to really see big improvements, the vision has to be improved whilst you are cornering.
Your eyes cannot be down looking at the floor in front of the bike, you must be actively looking ahead for the Vanishing/Limit Point to know where the exit is and then start looking for which way the road goes next.
Not set in stone
As a rule of thumb, a right-hand bend goes into a left-hand bend and vice versa. However, do not get caught out, this is just a guide but good vision and planning will help you see and plan for what is actually happening ahead regarding bend direction and other hazards.
Be flexible with your chosen road position, and make changes for your own safety. The hazards are varied and you must ride at 80% of your ability to be able to move position. There could be debris on the road surface, on oncoming vehicles drifting into your lane or a cyclist just around the bend that you hadn’t seen on approach.
The road surface is also your braking surface, so you must get into the best position for available road surface grip. There is a common saying too, that stipulates that “you must be able to stop, in the distance you can see to be clear on your side of the road”. Ride with this in mind at all times and you will reduce risk significantly.
Once you have committed to counter-steer and turning into the bend, you shouldn’t need to reduce the speed at this stage. If this is done correctly, your throttle will be maintained to keep the bike moving at a constant speed. This is referred to as a positive throttle.
If you get this wrong on an approach you may enter the bend too quickly and need to reduce speed. The problem with entering too quickly is the feeling that you need to lose speed by using the front brake, this is the last thing you should do if you go into the bend too quickly but it is the most common automatic reaction.
It is far better to go into the corner slower than your ability and thinking afterward, I could have gone a little bit quicker through that corner, but of course, if you are only riding at 80% you should always feel like that anyway.
Finding the apex
The apex is the point in the bend where the lean angle is at its greatest. You must locate this position as it is necessary to be able to put the bike there in order to position for the next corner.
Your vision must be good and you have to understand how to position correctly so that you do not over or understeer. This takes time and practice to be able to use the correct amount of counter steering when you turn.
You should aim for just one steering movement for the corner. Many riders get this wrong and have to correct their mistakes throughout the corner, sometimes more than one input is required.
This is commonly known as fifty pence piecing around the corner. Once you have reached the apex of the corner, you can then apply throttle to increase speed. Accelerating too early will result in the bike running wider than required.
Exit one bend and prepare for the next
Having a good forward vision will help you locate the next bend but will also help you decide on the severity of the corner once it comes into view.
You should refrain from accelerating too early, in case the bend tightens up. If you ride too quickly towards the next bend, you may find yourself riding too quickly for the corner or your own ability.
Good forward planning is key to linking the bends together. If the bend is going the opposite way to the bend you are leaving, you should aim to position on the opposite side of the lane to the last bend. This will open up the view which allows more vision and if everything is correct, you can carry more speed.
The next bend
There are always clues as to the direction of the next bend. Some people use the Vanishing/Limit Point whilst others use the hedge or tree line.
Looking down at the floor will not allow you to position correctly and as a result the speed will be wrong for the corner. Planning the exit from one bend to the entrance of the next bend takes time to perfect, good coaching will speed up your knowledge and understanding.
Once you know what to do and how to adjust speed accordingly whilst linking bends, you must practise this technique in order to set the skill.
If there are a series of bends it may well be sign-posted before the start of the corners. You can look for more clues, like the amount of paint on the road surface, the sharp deviation signs, cars braking ahead before they go into the corner.
All these clues will help you to work out whether there are any more bends in the road and what speed is required to negotiate them. You should never ride faster than you are comfortable and never get sucked in to playing catch up or keeping up with quicker riders. It will almost certainly end in tears.
Written by Simon Hayes