Timing is everything.
It's a perfect Sunday morning. Ambient temperature is close to 70 degrees. It's been dry for days. There's just enough moisture in the air to make the breeze blowing into my jacket and helmet feel refreshingly cool. Morning sunshine warms the pavement. There's enough heat to make the road want to embrace my tires. Not enough heat to make the tar snakes move out from underneath me.
Miles of curvy road await me. When I reach the end I turn around and do it all over again in the other direction. Running this stretch North to South is so different than South to North. It's like being on two different roads. I love the way each direction requires a different approach.
Coming into this curve I roll off the throttle. Third gear works perfectly for this stretch. I never have to touch the brakes. I can lean and lift the bike with just a movement of my right hand. Having set my speed I move to the right for this left-hander. I turn my head and find my target at the exit of the curve. A gentle roll of the throttle is followed by a slight press on the left handgrip. This corner takes a late apex to set up for the next curve. I hit my spot. Swoosh!!
I am worshipping at the Alter of The Perfect Corner. While it is almost a religious experience, I am not yet prepared to meet my Maker. Nor do I wish to suffer mortal pain in pursuit of enlightment.
Yet all too many riders are doing just that. Failure to negotiate corners is the biggest cause of single vehicle accidents. ( as in motorcycles ) Police reports will often attribute it to "failure to negotiate due to excessive speed". It's not that riders are going too fast for their bikes. Most bikes are far more capable than their riders. No, the riders are going too fast for where they're looking. We know that because the crash happens in the last third of the corner. Either they run wide and leave the roadway or they cross over into oncoming traffic.
Cornering can be the sweetest fun you've ever had on a bike. It can also be the most hazardous. Like many females in literature, cornering can be both beautiful and deadly. Let's see if we can improve your chances of success.
I'm talking about street riding here, not racetracks. I've done a lot of both and they're two different worlds. This is a commuter blog. Let's stick to the environment we're going to spend a lot of time in. So forget about any "Ricky Racer" tips you read about. Things like trail braking, using two fingers on the throttle so two fingers can use brakes, and so on. At some point a rider might want to add subtle little things. Like Arnold, the Governor of California, and former Mr. Olympia said, "You can't define bone". In other words, you first need big muscles, then you can go for that defined look. Same way, here. First we get good, THEN we get fast. Not many riders actually have good technique in the first place.
As they say in life, "Timing is eveything".
The same is certainly true in successful cornering on a bike. In order to get the timing correct, think of it in this order:
Slow- before the corner
Look- look as far through the corner as you can see
Roll- a gentle roll on of the throttle
Press- a press on the handlebar in the direction of the turn to lean the bike.
( here's a hint: all the transitions happen while the bike is still straight up and down. ALL of them. )
Ok, I can hear you thinking. "That sound so simple, why even write about it?" Truth is, it's a case of "easier said than done". If it's so simple and easy why do so many riders get it wrong and pay the price?
Do this for me. Check out your own cornering. Be honest with Yourself. If you lie to Yourself you will get caught. You live with Yourself and the truth will become known. I would bet that there's a good chance you'll find yourself still braking while leaning the bike. Check out the form of people you ride with.
Remember the homework assignment I suggested in June? Note how far you really look through a corner. How good are you at target acquisition? Finding a target and STAYING on it.
The process I listed above is only the start. There's a lot more involved and with some pretty interesting dynamics involved. In the next post we'll finish the discussion and tell you why all these things make such a critical difference.
Miles and smiles,