Many riders have adequate skill when it comes to jumping on a motorcycle and turning the throttle. The difficulty comes when they are required to actually turn at slow speed. The Police Motorcycle Course dedicates a week to this technique so that riders can effectively turn a 300kg motorcycle on any angle and in all conditions.
Here are some key points.
Posture and Balance
To effectively be able to manoeuvre a motorcycle at slow speed, you first need to be comfortable on the motorcycle. Ensure that you are forward on the seat and close to the tank. (Without crushing vital organs.) Remember that you have a spine and that spine is, in most people, very flexible.
The stiffer you are on the bike the harder it will be to let the bike roll onto the side of the tyres and turn. If you are stiff you will find that when you come to turn you will fight the lean of the bike and therefore be rough with the throttle and rear brake.
The waist is where we bend when turning at slow speed. Try and keep your arms bent slightly and relaxed. If for example you are performing a tight turn to the left you will need to counter-balance to the right. This is achieved by moving your waist to the right but trying to maintain a spine that is still vertical. It will be a reverse of the process for a right hand turn.
What you are trying to achieve is to keep the centre of gravity running down into the wheels. You will need to shift your weight to obtain this. Taller or heavier set riders will need to move less on the motorcycle than a smaller rider.
Throttle and Brake Control
The most efficient way of turning a motorcycle smoothly at slow speed is holding a constant and controlled throttle and then adjusting the speed of the motorcycle with the rear brake. This will allow smooth action of the motorcycle and will avoid uneven engine revs, unsettling of the motorcycle and give more controllability.
When the rear brake is not needed then release pressure to avoid over heating of the pads and disc.
The motorcycle can also be turned effectively by using the clutch. This method is normally used when doing a very tight turn from a stationary position. The clutch is ‘feathered’ so that it is just engaging and the turn is then executed. The down side of this method is that if you misjudge the turn the chances are you will pull the clutch in and in doing so you will lose revs to the engine and the motorcycle has then lost the gyroscopic effect and falls over.
The predominate method that is taught is the method of combined throttle and rear brake. NOTE the front brake is NOT used in slow speed turns.
Look To Where You Want To Go
When doing anything in life we need to look to where we want to go. Sound Obvious? Unfortunately when driving vehicles and more commonly when riding Motorcycles we don’t look to the positive we look to the negative. We then ride to the negative. We have too! That’s the only place we are looking so the brain has no other option. Our eyes can get us into and out of trouble.
It is a common human reaction to look at what may hurt us. TRAINING teaches us - Okay now I have seen it, where can I go to avoid it.
Why has it gone wrong for the rider above? He is looking at the negative. As he has turned he has looked at the gutter than probably said “Gee I don’t want to hit the gutter“. He has then ridden directly towards it and is now trying to turn away, BUT he is still focused on the negative. Note that the front wheel is no where near the gutter but he has lost all perspective. Had he turned his head and looked away from the gutter than the bike would have remained on a stable path.
What’s the difference here? The rider is looking to where he wants to go. He knows the gutter is there, he saw it at some part of his initial turn, but he is more focused on looking ahead and turning the bike.
NOTE : If you are going to practice slow speed turns, find yourself a safe environment and start with wide turns and then try and slowly tighten those turns. REMEMBER Eyes Up, Stay Relaxed and Look to where you want to go.
Sgt Bradyn MURPHY
Gold Coast Traffic Branch
291 Scottsdale Drive