Monday, October 29, 2007

Plan "B".

What's the difference between a racing line and a street line? A street line always leaves a rider a way out. I see a couple of things happening with regularity that aren't really good technique for the street.

One is the proliferation of sport bike riders. Most of these folks will never turn a wheel in anger on a race track. There's probably a little Walter Mitty in all of us. I can see how a rider on a powerful and agile sports bike wants to feel like they somehow match the mystique of the machine. In a blurring of realities track techniques are filtered into everyday riding. That's one scenario but not really the one I'm addressing here.

Another thing that happens is how human nature influences our riding without our being aware of it. If you think about it, a lot of the techniques required to survive on a bike are unnatural acts. In other words, our natural human reactions, if acted upon, can actually work to our detriment. Sometimes we're reacting to an emergency. Other times these things creep into our normal riding.

Take cornering, for instance. The vast majority of rider fatalities in Oregon are motorcycle riders failing to negotiate corners. These aren't multi-vehicle collisions, either. If another vehicle is involved, it's because the rider crossed the centerline and caused the impact. A lot of our efforts as trainers is in teaching riders the proper way to corner on a bike. As a result, I see hundreds of riders a year, from beginners to those who ride for a living. One of the natural reactions I see over and over is what we call "sweeping" or "painting" a corner.

What happens is that the rider follows the road instead of the proper bike line. They turn right to go left and vice versa. I wrote earlier about minimizing transitions, conserving traction, and so on. On top of all that, "Painting" a corner puts us in a bad spot because it takes away options when Plan A gets thwarted. In the world we ride in, there's often a need for Plan B. Once in a while I've even had to go to Plan C. Those times are memorialized in my "Pucker Moments Hall of Fame"!

Here's a drawing that will help illustrate what I'm talking about.

Ok, no grief about the road. Obviously the Highway Department went with low bid! I'm forced to ride there anyway. This only depicts our lane. We can have hazards coming from the right side of the lane. There's also traffic coming at us from the opposite direction.

At the bottom of the picture is a wide sweeper. We're coming up through here and headed for the turn at the top. The dashed line depicts where our line should be. The first turn's configuration and sight distance call for a late apex. Now we're headed for the next corner. Notice the difference between the dashed line and the solid line. The solid line depicts what I typically see from the majority of the riders that come through our courses. In this drawing it's the classic "turn right to go left" line.

What I'd encourage you to do is follow the solid line up into the corner. As the rider starts the turn look how close the bike gets to the right hand side of the road. Here's a photo I took on a recent ride. Look how close Sophie is to the edge of the road.

If a hazard appears there's not a lot of room to move. If Plan A goes awry the chances of successfully implementing Plan B are reduced. I came across a recent example in a conversation with someone who'd been riding in Southern California recently. It was just before the big fires. This rider was on an ST1300. There was a lot of wind. Gusts were reaching 35 to 40 mph. The guy was getting ready for a corner and did the classis painting thing. It put him pretty close to the right side of the road. There was a narrow gravel shoulder. On the other side of the shoulder the gravel sloped downhill . As the rider was getting ready to lean the bike a big gust hit the bike and moved it over. Right into the gravel. Because he didn't want to do anything drastic on the gravel, the rider tried gentle handlebar inputs. What happened is that he ended up riding down into the ditch that was several feet deep. Fortunately the bike stayed up on two but it could have been worse.

If his line hadn't been so far over the bike would probably have stayed on the blacktop.

Here's a picture of the bike in a better place. As you can see, there's places to go on both sides.

Looking ahead into the corner you can see that there's actually a lot of gravel strewn onto the road. It's not easily seen coming up to the corner. If the bike happens to move in the gravel a proper line is going to allow room for error.

I know the dashed line in the drawing looks pretty close to the other lane at the top corner. Just remember that we need to make sure all of us stays in our lane when we're leaning! We don't want little things like our heads and upper bodies hanging over the yellow lines, do we?

To avoid following the road and messing up a proper motorcycle line think of it this way. As you come out of a corner get your eyes up. Identify the proper entry to the next corner and ride right for it. Leave room for a Plan B, just in case!

Miles and smiles,



Mad said...

A timely post Irondad, I've been thinking about my lines a lot recently. Thanks :D

David said...

I always thought that dotted line was a racing line, if you consider your lane to be the entire track. Then again, everything I've learned about racing and riding I found in motorcycle magazines from the late seventies til now. I really need to take time next spring and come over for an advanced or track class with you, if you'll take a guy from Washington state on a V-Strom. Might surprise you how fast the old 'Strom will go. :) Then again, maybe not.

Keep up the great articles Dan. It gives me much to consider as I'm cruising down the road.

Dave T.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the educational post!

I would be interested in any tips you have for low speed manuvering. Back when I took my endorsement test, I got docked points for only this.

There were 2 other riders testing - a guy on a big cruiser, and a lady on a vespa. I was on a sportbike. The cruiser failed - I believe he put a foot down. Not only that, but the machine looked simply too big to weave between the cones at 1-2 mph. The vespa passed with 100% although the lady seemed very timid and some of the manuvers were "jerky".

I know the basics about low speed riding, ie. use rear brake to stabilize, counterbalance bike lean, use friction zone with clutch... But I was shocked at how SMALL the course was! (yes I was arrogant and didn't practice the actual manuver before that day) The tester mentioned that the course is supposed to be passable using any street-legal motorcycle.


irondad said...

It seems we're always thinking about lines, aren't we? That's what we live for!

If you watch the racers they use the whole track. Even the rumble strips. By not going clear to the outside we leave room to react to things not found on tracks. We can adjust the apex, too, depending on conditions.

Love to see you here! One of our instructors rides a 'Strom around the track. I've seen what it can do!

I'll do that in a post, soon.

krysta in milwaukee said...

"We don't want little things like our heads and upper bodies hanging over the yellow lines"

Added to my growing list of "I won't do that again"...

On our way to NC this June for one of the BMW nationals, we were taking some nice curvy 2-lane back roads. On one curve a pickup came 'round the bend the other way, wheels on the yellow.

While he swerved back into his lane, I leaned further, getting lower to dodge the mirror. It took Karl a little while to get his voice back (we have helmet radios). From his perspective, it was a much closer call than I could see.

On another note... Tell Katie she's going to have a couple of look-alikes in Wisconsin. Karl & I just ordered suits in high-vis (the new brighter color I call plutonium spill) w/ black ballistics. He must like me; he's bought me a motorcycle & a 'Stich!

Bryce said...

Yellow coloured solid lines, solid lines side by each, dotted lines;
solid single white lines on the verge (or edge).
And then there is the line we take when we discuss lineage.

On a motorcycle how one enters a
curve (did you say increasing or decreasing radius?), follows the
line round and exits says a lot about both the machine, the rider
and the environment upon which the two of them are riding.

Have found when I was younger and flexible could quite easily move my butt far enough off the seat to make the Goldwing go round the curve easily.
As I have aged and my body has aged even more found I don't hang the anatomy out as I once did.

I drive more in an upright sedate position if you wish. Yes there is some lean however I drive the bike
these days as opposed to ride the
bike with tilts into the corner.

And post surgery and now once again going into my second round of chemo
(not as frequent; once every three months versus once every three weeks)am seriously contemplating, do I ever want to ride again?

The control that was once there, isn't, and have even contemplated to purchasing a sidecar and driving with a sidecar, something
I did for ten years! Sure I liked
swinging and swaying through the curves; that was one big reason the sidecar was removed and sold. But now,
looking at Dan's curve lines am asking myself, is this the way to go?

And what do you do about the idiots coming the other way who always seem to cross the double line be they with two or four or more wheels on the asphalt?

When I do curves to the left, I have in the past
started on the outer (right) edge of the curve and then moved to the
centre to meet the curve as it approaches me, then exit the curve
on the outer edge to settle down in
the left of centre of the lane position. Assuming another curve is not then present.

Curves are all different and I guess
as we drive them we should be aware of deceased animals in our lanes, splits between the asphalt where
two lines of paving come together
and those holes and splits are too deep for the installation of tar (snakes), or as is often the case the reflective coating on the paint on the curve has splattered a bit and makes the curve that more difficult to follow especially in the wet. Ditto manhole covers in the darnedest places, even on so-called rural roads.

irondad said...

That sounds a little too close for my comfort, too!

Plutonium spill? Really like that one!

True love can't do more than that. :)

Look for the next post.

Take care,