Recently a friend requested my assistance with their riding, specifically on handling corners on a twisty road. My first question was to inquire about their thought process on corners. Their response, like so many street-only riders was simple: “Other than thinking ‘I’m going too fast! Slow down!’ I don’t really think about setting up for a corner.”
While many riders will naturally ‘setup’ for a corner, it seems common for many street riders to not really consider the specifics of what they are doing, when they are doing it and more importantly, why they are doing it. I’ve been with other riders and commented on something I had noticed along the way to get a response of “yeah, I didn’t see that, all I was looking for was the next corner.”
The street isn’t a track, but like many street riders, when I first started riding on the track, I was just going around having a good time. I once had an instructor approach me asking for a breakdown of what I did in a corner. I mumbled some response about slowing down before the corner, but the reality was that I didn’t understand the steps involved in navigating a corner. I wasn’t aware of what I was doing or how that was affecting the bike.
On the street, there are several steps that would technically be the “first” on corner approach, but they should be occurring all the time so should not be an added process. These steps mostly fall under the vision category: Look.
Look at where you are going with “soft” eyes, meaning relax your vision. Don’t focus in on one spot or the road directly in front of you. Soft eyes will relax your body, allow you to take in outside factors (such as that deer running across the field or that car about ready to run that red light), and provide you with a better reference of where the road in front of you is going and any hazards that potentially may require a response from you.
In my opinion, this is one of the most important factors in riding – poor vision practices can affect so many areas of our riding technique, safety, and ability to respond to and understand the road in front of us.
In addition to good vision practices, the other “constant” skill that has a significant effect on our corning ability is our “grip” or how we are securing ourselves to the motorcycle. Especially on bikes with a more aggressive riding position, which throws the upper body forward, it is common to see riders who are gripping with their upper body rather than their lower body.
Any rider can become a victim of “hanging on” to their bike regardless of the bike’s ergonomics. This is remedied by gripping the bike with the lower body and supporting the upper body with your core. For riders who are not used to doing this, it can be a workout! The benefits of having a proper grip are exponential. It frees the bike to do what it needs to do, allows you to quickly provide proper input, and allows you to move as one with the bike rather than fighting it. All of that creates a smoother ride and a more confident rider.
In my next post, I’ll begin to break down a corner itself, but consider the above skills to be antecedents to any additional techniques you might learn. In other words, sight and grip comprise the necessary foundation to proper cornering. Learn to use them well before moving on.