Often find yourself struggling to judge corner entry speed? Unsettling the bike with mid-corner gear shifts? This guide will get your planning and corner entry speed right on the money. Ride faster and ride safer.
After detailing the elements that affect your choice of position and speed at the approach to a corner, I’d like to cover selecting the optimum gear and braking to achieve the correct speed for the corner. As this is part two of cornering, it builds on the advice from last month, specifically the thirds technique which concerns splitting the approach to a corner into three sections, or thirds. Ideally, once you’ve passed the first third of the distance to the next corner your speed should be regulated downwards accordingly, so that you enter the corner safely, accurately and in a manner at which you feel confident and relaxed. By doing this you should remain accurate in the corner and then be able to use the motorcycle’s biggest asset, its acceleration, to drive out of the bend on the most appropriate line. The overall net result is safer and quicker cornering.
Should we use the gears to slow down?
There is quite often a misconception, even in some advanced riding circles, that all approach speed should be lost by engine braking alone and if the use of the brakes is required there has somehow been an error in the rider’s judgment. Time and time again I see riders potentially courting disaster by adopting this practice. Imagine that you are approaching a corner and all the clues are telling you that you need to slow down considerably faster than you are, but instead of braking you select a lower gear and then another in a desperate attempt to slow the bike. The chances are you will not have slowed down sufficiently so at the last minute, to avoid a potential accident, you grab the brakes in a panic trying to shed the excessive speed. The net result of trying to avoid using the brakes is that you will be anything but comfortable and relaxed entering the corner, there is no way your corner entry will be accurate and the ideal position will not be achieved in the bend so your cornering will be slower and not as safe.
This obsession of trying not to brake only encourages the rider along the route of an unnecessary low gear selection to slow down and inevitably, on occasions, it will lead to selecting a much lower gear than is desirable to take the corner. Once in a lower gear the bike’s revs are higher, making the throttle overly sensitive and leading to difficulty in maintaining accuracy as the high revving engine disguises a lot of the feedback and feel from the bike. Also, the copious amounts of power available to the rider on a lot of modern machinery often means that the rider will be reluctant to open the throttle for fear of the rush of power when the revs are high. In addition, a lack of useable revs left means the rider will probably have to change up as the bike leaves the corner, disrupting the motion of the bike through the bend. As a rule, the ideal gear for a corner is one that provides enough power to drive the bike out of it in the manner in which you desire, while providing a certain amount of flexibility in the corner; one that’s responsive to throttle changes but not overly so.
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