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Make the Curve – Cornering Technique for Motorcyclists

When you’ve perfectly carved your way through a corner, you’ve just experienced the most sublime joy of riding a motorcycle. To get that feeling and stay in control of your machine, you can use certain techniques which will help you improve your riding control and decision making.

With a little help from the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists)  and the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation), we’re going to help you improve your cornering technique.

The keys to solid cornering are safety, smooth execution and positioning. To make it happen in every bend you face, you’ll need excellent observation skills, the ability to plan quickly and decisively and the experience to choose the correct entrance and exit lines.

As you approach a corner,  make a fast check of your mirrors to see if other vehicles behind  might be moving to overtake or pull alongside you.

Once you’ve determined that the road behind and ahead are clear of possible threats,  position your bike correctly by moving to the left side of  the road for right-hand turns or taking the center line on left hand turns. As always, don’t cross the center line of the road without a thorough examination of  the roadway in all directions. Taking these positions  increases your view through the turns and helps you avoid abrupt turning maneuvers – a definite error. Make sure whatever lane position you choose is not so extreme that it causes other drivers or rides to react in surprise and put you in harm’s way.

Complete any braking you need to do to set up a turn while you’re traveling  in a straight line. What you’re aiming for here is a kind of  “go in slow, come out fast” method which minimizes possible errors or problem road conditions. Perhaps most importantly, avoid braking while executing a turn if at all possible as braking on a corner can cause you to run wide or worse, go over the high side.

Whatever speed you choose within your comfort level, you must allow enough room to stop within the distance you can see to be clear in front of you. This distance is directly linked to what’s called Limit Point of Vision (LPOV). The LPOV in a given situation is the furthest point of travel ahead  of you on the road at which you have a clear view of the entire course you motorcycle might travel.  It’s generally described as the point in your vision where the right and left hand sides of the road appear to meet.

You should never ride at a speed greater than what would allow you to stop on your own side of the road within the  LPOV when you begin your braking . It is this distance calculation that should determines how fast you can safely enter a corner. The closer you are to the LPOV, the less time and distance you have to react. As you watch the LPOV on the approach to a curve or corner, the LPOV point will change in relation to your position, so slow down and make sure you can stop within the distance of the LPOV.

Potholes, drains or irregularities in the road surface will certainly effect the line you take into a corner, so you need to continually check the position of the LPOV and adjust your speed in relation.

Use what’s referred to as ‘Positive Steering’  to lean your bike into the corner with a smooth and progressive movement and avoid abrupt motions. As you enter a turn in and your bike settles into an attitude, apply enough throttle to keep your speed steady but avoid acceleration.

Once you’re in the turn, remember to monitor the LPOV as it will give you feedback as to how much you may need to adjust to complete the turn on your intended line.

Nearly all crashes on corners come when the rider’s attention flags, a careless entrance speed is applied or abrupt maneuvers take the rider outside his intended line. Worn tires and slippery road surfaces can come into play, but in most cases, rider error is at fault in a cornering mistake due to poor observation, poor planning or too high an entry speed.

The camber and slope of  road surface can help you on a right hand turn, but will likely work against you in left hand corners.  It’s essential to take into account and observe the camber and slope of the  road surface you’re on and to then adapt your speed and position accordingly.

At speeds over 10-15mph, you’ll need to apply positive input to make your bike lean into the intended direction of travel, and that’s called ‘positive steering’ or ‘counter steering.’ It’s the most critical element of smooth and safe cornering.

To make a right turn happen, you’ll gently push forward on the right handlebar and this causes your bike to lean to the right let you negotiate the turn. The higher the speed and the tighter the turn,  the more steering input you’ll need to apply.

A left hand turn requires that you push forward on the left handlebar and pull back on the right handlebar.

It’s this input, and your riding position, which determine the accuracy during progressive steering. Maintain a gentle arc  in your elbows and a relaxed grip on the handlebars. Relax your shoulders as well. Try to keep the angle between your forearms and the fork legs should be as close to 90° as is possible depending on your riding position on the bike.

Follow these critical tips and you’ll find your cornering techniques improves and that you’ll be better prepared to face the challenges on the road ahead of you.

You’ll also find the best path to the near Nirvana that is a perfectly executed run along a snaking strip of asphalt…

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