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"Expect all motorists to be idiots, and hope they think the same about you"
(My father's golden survival rule)
These texts are "borrowed" from some magazine site, which I cannot find on the net anymore. If anybody knows where these pages are situated, I will provide links instead. For the moment I take the chance of forgetting about copyrights, as reading this first class info will give greater riding enjoyment, and maybe one day save rider or bike from damage.
Practise these great guidelines and quickly experience improved driving skills.
Braking Mental Attitude Look Ahead Cars Counter-Steering Wide View
Body Position Reference Points Target Fixation Throttle When To Turn
Screaming along straights at wild three-figure speeds means you've got to be ready to slow down when you spot a corner coming. You should think of your brakes as a reverse throttle. Use them to regulate your speed into a corner, but a lot of people overuse them. Some brake too hard then find they have slowed too much and have to accelerate to get the correct entry speed.
That is at least better than the alternative. Not braking enough can leave you in real trouble going into a corner. You could lose the front end because you end up still braking as you turn into a corner. It happens a lot in racing as riders try to trail the front brake into the first part of the turn. Most people, sensibly enough, don't take that kind of risk on the road. But do you really know how hard you can get away with using the brakes.
On a clear dry day, find a quiet stretch of open, well-surfaced straight road, ideally without a steep camber. Look for a marker on the road, a place that you can use time and time again as your starting point for braking. Now travel along at 30mph. At the marker, after checking your mirrors to make sure no traffic is behind you, apply the brakes as you would normally. Mark the spot where you end up stopping. Your aim now is to stop sooner than that finishing point.
Try to use the front brake only - and don't grab it. You will slow up quicker using the front because the weight of the bike is transferred to the front of the machine as it slows, effectively driving the front wheel into the Tarmac.
The rear becomes very light when this is happening, so heavy use of the back brake will only result in locking the back wheel up - because the back tyre is making, so little contact with the road. Even the act of closing the throttle transfers weight to the front of the bike, so for this drill you are best off leaving the back brake alone.
You should aim to smoothly increase the braking pressure as the bike slows. This is called progressive braking. As you increase the braking force, the front tyre grips harder. Each time the tyre gets more grip you can brake a little harder, without fear of a slide.Repeat the drill again but at 50mph, then 70mph to see just how effective and safe your braking can be if it's done progressively.
No-one wants to fall off. It hurts and is expensive. But the key to dealing with an 'off' is more in the mind than the lap of the Gods.First you need to be willing to fall off. But there is a vital difference between being willing and wanting to crash. If you ride fighting the possibility you might come off you are MORE likely to crash. Accept that you can crash and you will spend less time worrying about it and are therefore less likely to. For example, you run wide in a corner and your first survival reaction is to tense up, which makes the bike run wider.
If you tense up even more you raise your chances of a trip into the bushes. Relax your mind and your body will follow. No-one can control a bike if they sit on it rigid with fear. This response is called a survival reaction, a physical response to danger. Most of these reactions, like freezing in fright, work well if we're on the ground, but if we're travelling at 50mph around a corner on a bike they work against us.
Rather than following your instinct and tightening your grip on the bars when running wide, relax your grip and you'll be able to make it go round. A common reaction when going into a corner too fast is to roll off the throttle. This upsets handling and again causes the bike to run wide. The answer is to fight your instinct and get back on the throttle, not hard but enough to transfer the weight evenly between the wheels. This restores the balance of the machine so it can get round the bend.
Panic braking makes the bike sit up and go straight on. When a corner is going wrong stay off the brakes and steer round with the throttle open. You will be amazed at how far the bike can lean and how much the tyre will grip on a dry day. There are no magic answers to survival reactions. All you can do is learn to recognise them and react in the right way, then they can be nipped in the bud and your chances of a safe ride will be improved. The key to it all is to stay relaxed. Try it and feel the difference..
LOOKING farther ahead means you can corner faster because higher speeds will seem less daunting.
You may think you are already looking a long way into the distance, but do you know exactly how far? On the straights it's really easy. You can look 20ft, 20 yards or half-a-mile depending on your speed.
Try this experiment next time you ride. Travel along a straight piece of road at 50mph. Look ahead as you would do normally. Now look just in front of your mudguard. All of a sudden you feel like you are going faster. Riding feels more frantic. Don't do this for more than a moment!
Now look as far down the road as you can. Everything seems to slow down. This may seem really obvious, but you will find that in a corner you will look closer to the bike rather than farther away. This makes corners seem faster than they really are. Even the most simple of corners can be made better by getting your head up and looking at where you are going to go. Try and look as far through the corner as is possible and you will appear to slow down - giving you more thinking time
That's why you might feel after doing some of our drills that you are riding slower, while you are in fact moving quicker. The faster you are going the farther down the road you need to look. Keep working at it until you find an ideal distance to look ahead. It depends on your speed in the corner. The more you look ahead the more warning you'll have of hazards developing and more time to react.
CARS are our biggest threat. They are heavier than us and the person behind the steering wheel is often less aware of what's going on around them than we are. Car drivers are notoriously difficult to predict, but here are pointers to help you anticipate what the driver might do next.
If a car is sitting in a junction what do you look at? The driver can look you straight in the eye, smile and still mow you down and claim not to have seen you. So as well as looking at him, try looking at the front wheel as well. Drivers nearly always roll forward a little before they pull out. If the car is rolling, get ready to take avoiding action.
The same thing applies when you are filtering through traffic. As you approach a junction, look at the front wheels again. Drivers have their wheels turned ready to dart across the opposite side of the road. Look for this.
If you are in heavy traffic, flash your headlight. You'll be amazed how many drivers will move over for you. It forces them to pay attention to you. Always expect drivers to do the most stupid thing. They normally do.
CORNERING hard and fast relies on you getting several things right. The first task to master is counter-steering.
You're probably doing this already without even realising it. Counter-steering is when you push on the inside handlebar to turn the bike. Push on the right and the bike leans and turns right. Push on the left and the bike leans and turns left.
You can pull on the left to turn right or pull on the right to turn left - the effect is the same. But pulling the bar can unsettle the bike. Pushing the inside bar is more easily controlled.
Turning a bike should be a single action. If you have to make adjustments in a bend you've done it wrong. The harder you counter-steer the faster it will go from upright to cranked over. And the faster you can turn a bike the less time it will be leant over.
You may find when you first try this the bike dives towards the inside of the corner. That's evidence you are turning the bike quicker. You can now go much faster into the corner or go deeper. Either way your corner speed is improved. You can get on the gas earlier and power out on to the next straight as soon as possible.
MAKING use of what's going on at the edges of your vision - what we'll call wide view - will give you the chance to look farther down the road and that will speed you up.
It will help you spot turns, braking points and hazards - without actually looking at them! The technique takes practice to master - but it's worth it. The theory is simple. You want to be aware of all important things on the road - such as the point where you want to turn the bike. But you can't look directly at everything at once.
You need to train your brain to switch from one object to another without actually moving your eyes to look directly at them. It's quicker than having to move your eyes, focus, then process the information for each turn point or hazard. It's easier to understand if you actually try it.
Next time you sit watching TV, look over the set and let your eyes go out of focus. Now move your attention to an object on the far right of the room but still look straight ahead. Now move your attention to an object on the far left. Keep doing this until you get used to it. Now try the same but move your eyes to look at each. It takes longer and, unless you force your eyes to stay open, you will close them while flicking from one to the other.
On the road, moving your eyes around means you'll hesitate to make sure you are taking in everything you need to. Put this technique into practice on the road. Pick your turning point on the approach to a corner (see pictures left). Now look through the corner but keep your attention on the turning point. You should still be able to "see" the turning point in your peripheral vision.
Now you can concentrate on looking farther ahead and deeper into corners because you don't have to physically look at each turn point.
It may sound difficult, but you do it already even though you aren't aware of it. You are aware of where the kerb is, but you don't have to stare at it to avoid it. You know where it is from using wide view. If you do stare at the kerb, the chances are you will hit it - which we deal with in this week's focus on "target fixation" on page 35. Obviously, if you do spot a hazard using wide view, that's the thing you should be paying attention to.
HOW you sit on your bike can make a real difference to how easy you find it to handle.
For normal everyday road riding we sit on our bikes the same way whether we are trickling through traffic, sitting on the motorway or just cruising. The only time we get down behind the screen is when the red mist drops. But you can make life easier for yourself if you change your body position just before you turn your bike.
Ride along at 20mph and turn your bike from side-to-side in your normal riding position. Now try the same thing with your elbows high in the air. The effort required to turn the handlebars becomes greater. Finally, ride at the same speed but drop your elbows until your forearms are parallel with the ground. Now turn the bike. The effort required is minimal.
A good way of checking to see if you are getting it right is to raise your fingers in the air and point them to the sky. Now you have to push the bar with the palm of your hand and that's all the effort it should take.
Now try it at a faster speed. If you are still not convinced, try holding your elbows high like a moto cross rider. You'll soon feel how much effort you have to put into forcing a bike off a straight line when your elbows are high.
THE roads are covered with reference points to help you find the fastest ways along them - the authorities have painted them on for years. Apart from the normal give ways, stop signs, corner chevrons, traffic lights and Gatso lines, there are many points we can use to our advantage.
We have all ridden down a road that has no road markings. When you ride a road like that you feel lost, because you have no reference points. You can use anything - even a road sign. You might use a repair in the road surface to tell you whether you need to be to the left or right of it as you approach the bend.
You may use this mark to help you decide when you are going to brake or when to turn. Even the direction the white lines are heading give you vital hints. And if the lines are long with few breaks you'll know the stretch of road has additional hazards to be aware of. You're already using reference points, but you'll use them better if you consider what you're doing with them.
REMAIN focused on where you're going and you'll stay on the right course. If you pay too much attention to a hazard you're likely to end up running over or into it! The "loose gravel in a corner" scenario is a perfect example of this kind of target fixation.
The gravel grabs your attention so much that you stare at that, and take your eye off the road. The result is that you end up drifting towards the very trouble you were trying to avoid. That's because you end up going where you look!
It happens on track days when one rider goes off and the guys behind him do the same because they are looking at what is happening to him rather than at where they should be going. If this happens to you, carry on looking through the corner and you'll see the rider slide away from you and off your line. You should always look past the immediate danger and concentrate on a route away from the trouble.
IMPROVE your throttle control and you will get the bike properly balanced when you're whipping round bends.
Good throttle control means a smoother, quicker ride. You'll get drive from the corner earlier and your bike will be more balanced because you are distributing the weight evenly between the front and rear wheels.
Open the throttle too hard, too soon and the rear will squat and the front wheel could lose traction. Keep the throttle closed or snap it shut halfway round and the bike will be pitched forward making the front wheel take the bike's weight, which could overwhelm the tyre in a turn. Both could cause you to crash.
To learn right from wrong it's easiest to demonstrate what's bad first. Take your favourite bend, entering at a speed well within your capabilities. Check your mirrors and if there's no following traffic chop the throttle on and off. The bike will buck and rear, loading the front as you shut off and the back as you snap the throttle open. It isn't pleasant and shows you exactly what bad throttle control does to the balance of your bike.
Now try it again, this time entering the corner on a constant throttle and gently opening it as you go round. Make sure you choose a low enough gear and select it before you turn into the corner. Going round in top means you'll hardly load the suspension at all and the bike is likely to wallow. Avoid changing while going through the corner, it will upset the balance of the bike.
Get it right and you'll feel more in control. The bike will be properly balanced and the suspension will be in its optimum operating range. When you get a clear view of the road straightening, start to pick the bike up and use more throttle. Don't aggressively snap the throttle open as soon as you dare. This could cause you to lose the front end, because the front will rise and you'll have less grip with your front tyre.
When To Turn
TURNING into a corner at the right point will get you round it faster and more safely.
If you peel in too early you give up the view you get round the corner too soon. That could catch you out, especially if the corner tightens up. So go in deeper. If you've followed our tips on counter-steering you're already starting to turn a bike quicker so you can afford to go deeper into a bend before turning the bike.
The classic apex-to-apex racing line isn't ideal for the road. If the corner tightens up on the exit you'll have had no warning of it and already be committed to a line for a more gentle exit.You end up having to sit the bike upright and brake like hell. If you're lucky it's a right-hander so you don't head towards on-coming traffic.
But if you go deeper into a bend you see farther round the corner. If the corner tightens it's no problem as you've seen it coming and taken care of most of your turning and lean angle in a shorter space on the road.
Give yourself room to go in deeper. On right-handers get as close to the kerb as is safe and stay out there until you can see the road start to straighten up. When it does, start to move in from the kerb to reduce the effect of the adverse camber.
For left-handers, come into the corner close to the white line in the middle of the road. Stay out there until you can see the road straighten. As you do, come slightly in from the white line to move away from approaching traffic. Your line should bring you out parallel to the white line, making the most of the camber, which on a left hander is working to your benefit. Your back tyre's contact patch is bigger so you can put more power through it.
Aim to ride the corner at a speed at which you can stop in the distance you can see to be clear. And be prepared to alter your line at the first sign of poor surface or any other hazard.