Whats holding you back from feeling in control? Holding you back from being confident in situations? Holding you back from getting outside your comfort zone? Holding you back from having as much fun as you can on your motorcycle?
For most of us it comes down to three things…lack of confidence, lack of skill and lack of practice. Lets’ reverse that. Confidence comes from skills, skills come from practice and practice comes from, well…practice.
I have said this before, “riding a motorcycle isn’t hard, controlling a motorcycle takes a bit more work”. Let’s talk about skills building. I’ll think that most of us have gone through some sort of class program to get our motorcycle license. Great! Now we’re off. But wait, there has got to be more to riding than just passing a simple test? There is.
Over the years I have watched riders (new and experienced) struggle with certain aspects of riding and the most common is U-Turns. On the flat and, more so on a hill, but they cause stress no matter where. So how do we get over that and have the confidence to pull it off wherever and whenever we need to ? Skill Building.
Doing a precise and consistent U-Turn requires three things.
1; Body position. Understanding “look where you’re going” or as our clients hear me say all the time “Turn Your Head!!”. Look at the picture above…the rider is looking at where he is going, all the way to the exit of the turn. Also look at his general body position, he is more upright while the motorcycle is underneath him, he is using counterweighting (we’ll get in to that later).
2: Power Management. Mastering the ‘Friction Zone’ , I call it “The Golden Triangle”. Throttle, Clutch and Rear Brake. Developing a steady throttle hand ( it is not an on-off switch), smooth feel with your clutch (soft and feathery), and your rear brake (again, not an on-off switch).
To accomplish the ‘FEEL’ requires practice and this is something you can do anywhere. An empty parking lot, your driveway, the street in front of your house (provided it’s not a busy street), even at a traffic light. We have a small and simple exercise that really helps you get the FEEL. Sit on your motorcycle, put it in first gear and with just a bit of throttle let out the clutch, not all the way but just to a point the bike is moving. Pull the clutch back in.
The ‘Toe-Heel” practice. While doing this you want move the bike just enough to move you onto the ball of your foot, then when you pull the clutch back in rock back onto your heel. Just rock back and forth. This exercise helps you get a feel for where the throttle and clutch engage. The important thing here is not just to let the motor idle and use the clutch to move, give it some throttle, you want to feel the balance between the two. Practice it every time you come to a stop light. It’s fun and it really helps.
Next part…your rear brake. Lets look at the picture at the top again, see where his right foot is..resting on the rear brake pedal. Now, sitting on your bike (power off) put your foot on the rear brake pedal, feel the amount of free play there is…sometimes it’s easier to kneel next to your motorcycle and with your hand work the brake pedal…get a feel for where it actually engages. Like the other two components of the Golden Triangle these are not On/Off switches you have to know where each part of the system comes together. Practicing rear brake only braking is a huge help, get the feel for it…because this is what is going to help you make a smooth, confident U-Turn.
Think about it this way, the motor is the power, the throttle and clutch control the power and the rear brake controls how much of that power gets to the rear wheel and the ground. You always want to keep power to the rear wheel because when there is no power to the rear wheel your motorcycle isn’t going anywhere except maybe onto its side. Practice this a lot.
Counterweighting. No, not Countersteering, Counterweighting.It’s easier than you think, and if you think about it, it actually comes quite naturally. Lets go back to the picture at the top, look at the riders position on the seat, look carefully, his bottom is more to the outside of the seat (you can see more seat on his right side) and his bike is leaning while he is more upright allowing the motorcycle to turn underneath him. The key to this is turn your head, try to keep your shoulders square and you will find your hips naturally move to the outside which puts more weight to the outside and you can make a tighter turn.
Next time you’re out practicing, you do practice don’t you?, work on all these things. do them over and over again thinking about what you are doing each step of the way. When working with counterweighting feel how your bike moves underneath you and with good power management you’ll find that U-Turns get easier and you can do them more confidently.
Ride safe, ride far and go out and practice your skills.