Two of the biggest factors in street crashes are the inability to slow down for a turn (or in a turn) and getting hit by “cagers”.
The latter may never be fully cured but there are a few theoretically simple ways to mitigate this risk. 1. Pay attention and turn on your brain (especially when you enter a busy area) 2. Keep a finger, or two, resting on the brake lever either at-all-times or at least when you enter a busy area. 3. Help your local and state government with motorcycle awareness programs for “cagers”, especially anti- texting laws.
The former is the subject of this mid-summer newsletter. It’s canyon carving season in the US and we’re still losing too many riders to a problem that is very much curable.
We’re daring to say “curable” because we’re referring to the skill portion of the problem: the inability to slow down for a corner. This is 100% curable.
There is only one pre-requisite for the skill that is needed to be able to slow down in a corner (or at ANY point) and that is smoothness or lack-of-abruptness with the brake lever and brake pedal. To work on getting rid of abruptness, remember that the first 5% and the last 5% of brake pressure are the most important parts of your braking. Work on applying the brakes and releasing the brakes as smoothly as you possibly can, because this initial and final 5% is the tire loading and unloading. Work on this every single time you ride and every single time you apply the brakes. Practice makes permanent. Practice being smooth!
We start every class with some simple math: There are 100 (percentage) points of grip to work with on any given ride on every single motorcycle. That 100 points is divisible between lean angle and brake pressure points on your front tire and lean angle and brake pressure or throttle in the rear. Grip = LA/BP In the front, if you have 50% taken up by lean angle, you still have 50% available for braking. 75% lean angle, 25 available for brakes and so on. What really counts is the smoothness with which you approach the limits of grip (100 points). Live by this rule and you’re 50% there (pun intended).
The second math equation is Radius = MPH. The faster the turn, the higher your MPH can be, the tighter your turn (radius), the lower your speed needs to be. It is your job to decide your speed for a given turn. On the street, many of these turns are blind so it is difficult to consistently and safely set the proper speed before your turn in.
Too fast for a racetrack corner and you could run off the track, but you won’t run over a double yellow line into oncoming traffic. Maybe you try to compensate for running wide by adding lean angle to make the turn. Maybe it works, maybe you low side. Does anyone want to run over the double yellow line into potential oncoming traffic on the street? Does anyone want to low side into the oncoming lane? Or off the cliff in a left hander? No, but that’s what’s happening out there.
If you enter a turn too fast you have two choices to make the turn: add lean angle or slow down. Which is safer? On the street, entering a corner at the wrong speed (often too fast) is VERY common because so many turns are blind and you don’t know how long it lasts or how tight it gets. Therefore, you physically can’t safely and repeatedly set the perfect speed before you enter the turn. Trying to ride that way is just plain dangerous. So given the two choices when you enter a turn too fast, which one would or should you choose? We are going to slow down over adding lean angle every time; we’re going to adjust our speed to match the radius.
For riders who have some fear and respect for blind curves and often enter them too slowly, think of this: if you were 100% confident that you could slow down at any time in your ride, even in the turn, you would be okay entering a bit faster because you have the ability to slow your MPH to match the radius of the turn. It’s called trailbraking, or brake assisted steering, and involves using your brakes at lean angle with a smooth right hand and foot, and adjusting your speed to adjust your radius.
Not sure about this yet? Look at it from this angle. All modern motorcycles are designed to be turned with some brake pressure on. The engineers calculate steering geometry and contact patch when designing the bikes. So if you are turning in with no brake pressure on, you’re riding the bike counter to the way it has been designed.
We’ve already lost a few riders this summer, how many of them could have been saved with proper technique?
Here are some great articles that everyone should read to get more details about these subjects that could save your life on the street.
We teach these skills, as well as many others, in detail, during our school and every student leaves a much more in-control rider with a MUCH higher chance of thriving and surviving. Can’t make a class yet, read these and become a safer rider until you can.
Until then, thanks for reading and Keep the Rubber Side Down!
The Yamaha Champions Riding School
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