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How do I change direction while in a turn?

12951 Views 43 Replies 29 Participants Last post by  chariton
Counter-steer. If you can't bring yourself to push more on the inside handlebar, pull on the outside. Bikes will safely lean over a lot farther than most inexperienced riders are willing to try.
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Agreed. As long as the pavement is dry and clean it is nearly impossible to lowside a bike in most streetriding situations. It will seem counterintuitive, and requires some practice, experience and concentration, but countersteer for all you are worth and hang on. Your bike will get you through. Watch the roadstripe though. Those things can be slippery enough to lowside you by themselves.

In the event that you do lowside (gravel, wet pavement, WAY too much cornering speed) that is usually better than the alternatives: highside going off the opposite shoulder at speed, etc. Experience and mileage will help season your judgement here.

One time I was riding a mountain road at a brisk pace on wet pavement and encountered a car (drunk driver) in my lane at the apex of a curve. I actually went wide and got around the car on it's passenger side, but I don't recommend this approach.

Best of luck to you.

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Jump on over to or whatever your favorite book store is and pickup / order Twist of the wrist II by Keith Code. Granted there are numerous other good books on the subject but this one helped me the most. Like the above post just push harder on the bar and lean over to where you think it could never go. Dont do anything abrupt like hit the brakes or slam shut the throttle. Especially if you touch your peg or something else down. If you let off or hit the brakes when something is scraping you change the balance of your suspension and cause your bike to bottom out even more. Also your "Freezing" is what Keith refers to as your SR's or survival reactions, they are not in your best interest 90% of the time. Rule number one though is not to ride over your head. Never ever ride fast on a new road, and never ride fast over a familar road for the first pass of the day. Gravel, oil, rocks you name it can be in your path when you least expect it. Ride safe...
Please don't take this the wrong way, but SLOW DOWN. Ride at a reduced pace, until you are more comfortable with and understanding of the dynamics of riding a motorcycle at speed. There are MANY things that effect the rate of turn of motorcycles, and MANY ways to change the rate of turn mid-corner. Countersteering is #1. It is something that you should practice (and then practice some more) Stated at its most simple level, "countersteering" is the act of turning the handlebars LEFT, to make the motorcycle lean/steer RIGHT and vice versa. For example: If you are leaned over to the left and need to lean farther/tighten your line, apply more pressure (pushing away from you) to the left handgrip. Other things that will help, are to Look through the corner and gently reduce throttle. (lets not discuss inducing oversteer via wheelspin in this lesson)
Luckily the driver was drunk and didnt do the normal reaction to swerve to the shoulder. You lucked out bigtime! But I hear ya, we all have been there at one time or another. The only thing that gets you through is quick reactions and the knowledge to do what is needed. Read all you can and slowly apply what you learn. Also dont take everything your riding buddies tell you as gospel, Ive heard some crazy things out there on the roads.
P.S. If you are Dead or Severely Injured, you will be quite a bit slower than you are now. Taking your time and not attempting to be a "hero" will make you a better, faster, happier rider in the long run.

P.P.S. If you're a new rider, trading your CBR in on a good Dual Purpose bike and spending some time on both the dirt and the pavement, will pay huge dividends.
While you are countersteering to tighten the turn, make sure you look away from the truck (or whereever you think you are going th crash) and look deep into the turn. It has been proven many times that the motorcycle will tend to follow your gaze as you steer it subconciosly towards where u are looking at.
Wow. Look well ahead into the turn & not just infront of the bike, this will help your balance & reduce your tendancy to go wide. Counter steer (ie pull on the outside bar, push on the inside) & get the bike leaned over. Keep the power coming on gradually, not too low a gear that will be too twichy, a gear that is appropiate for the exit, at which point your powering up will slowly stand the bike up for the coming straight. Never brake when committed to a hard turn, rear brake will slide & high side you, front will definetily slide out & your toast. Keep the bike balanced. You've got more rubber at the back so hence a little acceleration to keep a little more weight on the rear. Balance balance balance & smooth.

Most important if you panic, look well into the turn, add a little gas & lean the bike over. It will work. Trust me.

PS. I used to work at Akrotiri ever summer for a month. Great place & fab brandy sour.
Das da fact, Jack!

I wholeheartedly agree. I had been out of motorcycling for a while and wanted to get back in. I picked up a '96 Suzuki DR350 Dual Sport and dusted off my motorcycling skills. The DR felt fast to my old and rusty reflexes, but I adjusted. Now, my '02 R1100SBX feels fast to my new, reconditioned reflexes, but had I gotten it first, I probably wouldn't be here making this comment. Motorcycling is a learned skill which no one is born with. All skills fall under the use it or lose it rule. Take the time to develop your skills and practice, practice, practice.
Don't look!

Too true!

I've caught myself fixating on objects a few times and invariably I end up riding straight to them. My 1st (and only so far, knock on wood...) accident was caused by 1) going too fast into a left turn and 2) not countersteering enough because I was 3) fixating on the painted line that marks the right shoulder; that place where all the gravel ends up. I low-sided instantly when I went over the line and touched gravel.

I was lucky with only a couple bruises and some shredded gear. You are wearing gear, aren't you? Please say you're not riding in a t-shirt and shorts...
No argument at all but the rub is that inexperienced riders are not usually willing to lean further than what they think is already too much. It might be useful is to have beginning riders ride as a passenger with very competent rider.

One more thing. You have actually survived a rite of passage in motorcycling - that of scaring the bejesus out of yourself for the first time. It is an important part of the learning curve and unfortunately is usually unavoidable. You just hope that it works out your way when the time comes which, in your case, it did. The fact that you have the presence of mind to recognize that you hade an expreience you'd like not to repeat is a good sign. It appears to me that you have already profited from this experience.

I'd point out that a lot of the excellent suggestions I'm reading here are things that one can learn on a dirt bike with far less dire consequences should things go wrong (fixating on the wrong thing, overcooking a corner, loss of traction, highsides, lowsides, etc.). On the street, for instance, it is way more difficult to learn how to look where you want to go instead of where you don't want to go without a little dirtbike experience, IMHO.

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#1. Unfreeze. Essential for survival on a bike. Learn how to do this NOW. (It is a learned skill for most)

#2. Once unfrozen turn harder. You'll be surprized how much grip you have.

#3. Learn not to shut off the power and brake. I once watched someone nearly kill themselves on a easy 80mph corner while travelling at 30-40mph doing this exact thing. Landed on the front of a van. Instead, keep the power balanced.

If you do need to slow down during a corner, say you find a seriously tightening radius or a blocked route, use the rear brake to rub the speed off. It is a good idea to keep the power on a bit to balance the bike while you do it. (This is essential with many shaft driven bikes) Note that this will initially make the bike sit up a bit, so it's only really useful when you have a second before you have to tighten your turn still further.

As an aside, I used to race bicycles in Britain when I was younger and the there was a rule for corners in a big group of cyclists: If you try to get round a corner and crash bringing everyone down with you, no-one will blame you. However, if you bottle it and go straight on taking someone's front wheel out from under them --- you will later wish that you had crashed. You soon learn that you can turn MUCH tighter than you thought.... and that this hurts much, much less.
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Developing your riding skills is not a sprint

First off, I'm glad you are allright. 80MPH with a truck coming the other way (add his speed to calculate impact velocity) would not have been pretty. You escaped with your hide intact, so you focus on "learning your lesson" and make sure THAT YOU NEVER PUT YOURSELF IN THAT POSITION AGAIN.

I think a very small percentage of riders qualify as "naturals" (the Nicky Hayden's of the world). They just seem to have a natural ability to ride...that is how a 20 year old (how old IS Nicky, anyway) can win the Daytona 200. The rest us need to work at it. Learning how to ride a motorcycle well is not a is a long-distance endurance haul....literally.

Accept right now that you are probably not a natural (a mere mortal) and embrace the fact that if you truly love riding you are going to need to apply yourself and TAKE YOUR TIME at improving your skills. It may not seem this way now (you are probably very anxious and excited about being out on the road and riding), but for me, progressively building and developing my riding skills has been a VERY rewarding experience. Treat it as an ongoing challenge to improve yourself and you'll stay motivated to continue to improve, while at the same time accepting and being happy with your riding skills today. If you respectfully practice, the skills will come.

The sure-fire way to guarantee you'll never improve is to ride beyond your abilities...that "sprint" mentality has had dire consequences for far too many. Read everything you can about riding, take any available educational classes or tours, and practice all the time.

So my friend, straddle your bike with pride and take the journey...for the long haul.
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Re: Developing your riding skills is not a sprint

I have been riding 40 years. Recently my attention wondered and my bike wondered too. A friend of mine once said, "If you ever go out and think you have nothing to learn, sell the bike." The advice you are getting is a good reminder to all of us. By the way, I have a smile on my face. I just returned home to Ontario Canada after riding 2000 miles in the mountains and passes of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and northern Ar. Talk about having to stay focused. P.S. This area of the country is a must for every dedicated biker.
Just thought i'd add an amusing anecdote of my first high-side. I had just got a new (used) XJ600 Yamaha Radian standard-like bike in college. It was a beautiful sunny day out and I had just finished watching some GP racing. So, being the expert squid that I was, I put some Steely Dan on in my headphones, donned my helmet and jacket, and tore like hell out the apartment parking lot into an ajoining road which has a nice new asphalt S curve. I'm jamming along, much too fast for my own good, and then realize that the curve in front of me is coming up a lot faster than i'm used to. I try to lean the bike, but it's too late. I jump the curb, and go for an agricultural excursion into the flower garden, sending grass, mulch, and flowers everywhere, and planting my bike in the middle of the garden there. To top off the humiliation, i ruined a brand-new jacket, and had to replace the mirror on my bike. After this I learned to take it slow until I really knew how to control the bike.
As an aside, use only a little rear brake. If you hit it too hard you will lowside. The best advice is #2, turn harder (countersteering of course). With no MSF course, you may want to pick up Kieth Code's books, Twist of the Wrist, Volumes one and two. Good stuff there.

A highside to a Dan song. If you have to chuck it I reckon you ought to have some good music to fly by. Which song?
Re: Das da fact, Jack!

I did the same with a KLR 650 for a couple years then bought my K12rs... Dual sports other than being Dirt cheap (pun intended) are a blast to ride and very forgiving.
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