Master your motorcycle with these top tips for being a better rider
Sometimes the traffic is just out to kill you. There’s no obvious explanation for this occurrence but it is a fact. Look for the signs - a car nearly pulling out on you, traffic blaring horns and flicking vees at each other, a tractor creeping round a corner - and slow down. When the mojo is against you, accept it and knock the throttle on the head before it gets you.
Don’t scream up behind a vehicle and sit on its bumper revving your engine. Stay a safe distance behind then, when you’re going to overtake, pull out laterally so you can see what is ahead of the vehicle. It might be slowing because a vehicle ahead is turning. Once you can see it’s safe, accelerate into the gap.
When riding in town or fast country back-roads, get into the habit of ‘arming’ your brakes by riding with one finger constantly on the lever. You can still use the throttle and hold on to the bars, but should you have to brake hard and fast, just having your finger already on the brake will give you an advantage – a potential life saver.
Filtering is legal as long as you comply with all traffic signs, road markings and filter with due care and attention. Look way ahead, keep the bike in a low gear and anticipate being side-swiped
When joining a motorway use the speed of your bike properly. Accelerate hard into a gap then slow down to match the speed of the other traffic. Gives you a good reason to gas it and it’s the safest way of joining fast-moving highways.
When accelerating, practice quickly rolling off the throttle to unload the gearbox and then clicking up a gear without using the clutch. It’s much smoother and faster than using the clutch, doesn’t harm the bike’s gearbox, and clutchless changes are much easier on pillions.
Smooth out deceleration by blipping the throttle between downshifts. This helps by matching the engine speed to the gearbox speed, making for seamless deceleration while keeping the bike stable on corner entry and preventing unwanted pillion head-butts.
Don’t get suckered into a corner by riding out of your comfort zone. If your mates are riding too quick for you, let them go and ride at your own speed. They’ll wait for you at the next junction.
Just circulating a roundabout is a great way to learn how far over you can lean a motorcycle. Find a quiet one with as few exits as possible, and go round and round. Don’t worry about knee-down nonsense, but get comfortable with how far you can actually lean a modern bike.
90% of sportsbike owners ride around like flagpoles, stuck out in the breeze. Duck down behind the screen. You’ll get the benefit of aerodynamics, the bike will handle better, and you’ll be able to see your clocks. Not rocket science, is it?
When coming up to a car looking to turn out of a junction, watch their wheels. They’re the very first things to move and you’ll instantly know if they’re staying put like a good chap or whether they’re about to make an assault on your life.
Decide the order and stick to it so you know that the guy behind isn’t going to overtake you. Organise a meeting point and exchange mobile numbers so if someone gets lost they won’t panic. Don’t ride close to the rider ahead and don’t put the slowest rider at the back, they will only feel pressured into riding beyond their limits.
Your bike will go where you’re looking, so if you’ve messed up a corner don’t stare and get fixated on the hedge, look around the bend where you want to go. Nine times out of ten the bike is capable of getting around the corner. Even if you think it can’t, look at the exit and you will get through.
The key to knee down, other than lean angle, is foot position. Once the bike is over at a decent angle, roll the ball of your inside foot around the peg so it is at 90-degrees to the road. This forces your knee closer to the ground. Concentrate on sticking your leg out at right-angles to the bike and hey presto!
Everyone tells you to cover the rear brake when practicing your wheelies, but there’s enough to get your head around without worrying about that as well. As an easy alternative, cover the clutch lever with one finger instead; it’s easier to dab it if things go wrong and cutting the power to the back wheel will have the same effect
The key to riding in the wet is smoothness. Avoid any big weight transfers such as heavy accelerating or braking as they can over-load the tyres. There is a surprising amount of grip in the wet, but load your tyres up accordingly and look out for slippy areas such as the lethal spectre of over-banding (like ice in the wet) white lines, manhole covers and always brake in a straight line. You’ll be amazed how much speed you can carry.
Once the rear steps out just roll the throttle a bit and tame the back wheel, don’t touch the rear brake or anything. Use the throttle to either hang it out or bring it back into line - more gas the further it goes out, less it comes inline. Honest, it’s as simple as that.
Start in first gear, or for modern V-twins 2nd gear is safer. Accelerate to just before the power comes in then slip the clutch in and out. Don’t pull it in and dump it, just slip it, and accelerate smoothly at the same time. This will make the front wheel rise. As the front wheel rises do a clutchless-shift into the next gear; now just ride the wheelie, going up through the gears as you pass the meat of the power in each ratio.
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