Bryce left a comment on the last post that got me to thinking I should add a little more to the subject of lines and apexes. He mentioned setting up to the outside, coming closer towards the middle, then exiting near the center of the road. There was also that question of what to do with those folks coming the other way who are over the yellow line and such similar things. I figured it was worth some more discussion.
The classic line through a corner is Outside-Inside-Outside. The picture below shows it for us.
I've written about this before but a short refresher is in order. Especially in light of looking out for bogies coming the other direction. Setting up outside allows a greater sight distance coming into the corner. We should be looking as far through the corner as we possibly can see. The outside entry position also increases the radius of the turn. In other words, there's less cornering forces exerted on the bike. Which, in turn, helps us keep ground clearance and traction in the bank. Just in case.
Going back to the visual aspect, I'm sure we all agree it's important to have as much information available to us as possible. It's the old "Forewarned is forearmed" thing. Just note that "outside" doesn't mean all the way to the edge of the road. A wise rider will leave a little room to move in response to something unexpected.
Now we move on tonthe part of the corner called "The Apex". Sounds exciting, doesn't it? We all love apexing. I think we like talking about it with other riders even more. The trouble is that there's a lot of riders who don't know fur sure what the apex really is. Take a second and see if you can describe it exactly.
You might be greatly surprised how many so called experienced riders tell me it's the center of the turn. Sometimes it is but mostly it's not in the center. Knowing what an apex is helps us to use it to our advantage. Bear in mind that this is motorcycling, not engineering or physics. I have these kind of folks in my classes who want to tell me it's something like the farthest part of an apogee or something. Maybe in their worlds, but certainly not in mine!
Simply put, the apex is the point where we're the closest to the inside of the curve.
This can happen early ( although it seldom does, at least not on purpose, as it can throw the rider way too wide ), in the middle, or late. In the real world late apexes will be the norm. Or should be as we'll see soon.
As we approach a curve we set up to the outside for maximum visibility. As a parallel thought, it also helps oncoming traffic see us better. If we see debris, tar snakes, gravel, or another vehicle close to the center line we simply change where we apex. I recently saw a guy in a track based cornering class have one of those "lightbulb over the head" moments. When I drew a picture and explained that a middle of the curve apex wasn't written in stone, the light suddenly went on. I could see a whole new understanding light up his face. It seems so simple a concept to just delay the apex as needed. Yet for this guy it suddenly explained why he'd had some previous problems and close calls.
Now that we've established that we're in charge of our own riding lines, lets explore a little more along the lines of when we should commit to our apex.
Here's a drawing of a classic situation. It's a decreasing radius curve.
Notice how the apex comes way late in the curve. One reason is that it makes for far fewer transitions. Staying wide makes for one smooth turn instead of a bunch of little ones. A rider's eyes should be on the exit of the turn. Just for fun, imagine that this curve wraps around a hill covered in brush and trees. If the exit's not visible, we should be looking as far as we can see. It's obviously important to be smooth but there's a much bigger issue involved when deciding when to apex.
Here's another question to ponder: When should you commit to the apex?
Think about it. The apex of the corner is when we're using the most ground clearance because of the lean angle. It's also the point where we're using the most traction. If you want to be scientific about it, a lot of centripetal force is being used to fight centrifugal force. Simply put, physics makes the bike want to go toward the outside of the turn but we need the bike to turn towards the inside of the turn. Either way you look at it, that's when we're the most vulnerable. The apex is when there's the least amount of resources available for any sudden adjustments.
So when do we commit ourselves to becoming this vulnerable?
It's when we can see the exit of the corner. How can we commit without having all the available information? If we can't see the exit we need to stay towards the outside until the exit does become visible. Only then do we have all the information. Too many riders pay a high price for pulling the trigger before they can see the target. How many corners in the real world actually have clear visibility all the way through to the exit? You can see why I stated that late apexes will probably become the norm for us.
Keeping our eyes up and getting all the information before we make the decision to apex also helps link corners smoothly. Take a look at this drawing.
Notice how the apex of the first corner is late. The curve itself didn't require a late apex. It could have happened in the middle of the curve. If the rider had apexed there, though, the bike would have been way out of position to enter the second corner correctly. Our rider would have had to make a quick dart to the outside again to get ready for the next curve. Too many transitions and wasted traction would be the result. Besides looking way un-cool!
Instead, the rider kept their eyes up and saw the corner ahead. In order to be smooth, they chose to apex late in order to be in the proper position to enter the second curve. The goal is to make the exit of the first curve the entrance to the second curve. One smooth line. What I tell riders is to stay wide until you see the entrance of the next corner and then ride right for it.
The good news for those who might think being "safe" means not having fun is that the opposite is true. A safe line is also the fastest as far as street riding goes. It's the difference between carving corners and doing the slice and dice thing.
Hope this helps put the whole picture together. Cornering on a bike is so much fun. It's also the number one place that fatalities and injuries happen in our state. Riders are doing it to themselves without the help of other vehicles. It's critical to get cornering technique right.
Miles and smiles,