Advanced Motorcycle Riding Course: Cornering - left-handers

More riders mess up on lefthand bends than in just about any other situation. Panic has a lot to do with how we can get things wrong and then make things worse

Posted: 23 August 2010
by Sergeant Richard Breeze

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It was a warm dry lunchtime on a road much used by bikers for the smooth road surface, national speed limit and multitude of corners that make riding a bike so much fun.

In the apex of this bend there was a Ford Mondeo, with both the nearside wheels on their relative nearside grass verge.  The damage was all focused around the front offside of the vehicle.  The offside headlamp assembly was missing and the bodywork in this location had crush damage where the striking object had intruded into the vehicle. The bonnet was folded up and buckled around the point of impact and the front bumper was missing.

Slightly ahead of the Ford in the opposite carriageway was the Suzuki GS 500 motorcycle lying on its nearside. There were a series of scratches and gouges in the road surface leading from the rear of the Ford to the Suzuki. The front wheel and fork assembly has been broken at the headstock and wasw now lying in front of the Ford. The rest of the damage to the bike was mainly focused around where the front wheel appeared to have been pushed back into the engine before completely separating itself from the rest of the bike.

The initial account from the Ford driver was that as he navigated the right hand bend, a bike approached from the opposite direction, the rider had lost control and rode across the solid centre white lines and collided with the front offside of the Ford.

There were no marks generated by the bike to suggest its position prior to the collision. The first clue were two tyre scuffmarks at the rear of the Ford. The nearside mark was 7 metres long and led up to the front nearside tyre. The second mark was only 2 metres long and was set 1.43 metres apart from the first tyre scuff.  This separation in the marks matched the track width of the front wheels of the Ford. Tyre grinding to the front wheels confirmed the driver had applied emergency braking during the collision.

The rider was taken to hospital prior to our arrival but his position had been marked 12 metres behind the Ford in the opposite carriageway.


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Discuss this story

Oh dear, a rural left hand bend crash at 27mph!

Sergeant Breeze has not asked quite the right question. Rather than asking how you correctly assess corner entry speed, I would ask why this poor chap chose this particular corner at which to crash?

You could safely assume that this was not the first corner he encountered, so what was different about this corner compared to all the ones he had successfully negotiated before? Just looking at the picture of the aftermath we can see that there are chevrons in both directions and from the point where the photographer was standing, we can see that this corner was quite long. Sadly the photograph does not tell us if there were any more chevrons before or after the ones we can actually see, so we do not know the full extent of the corner or the road leading up to it.

Looking at where the car stopped, I would say that whatever went wrong, our rider got a spot of target fixation on the telegraph pole and sailed towards it and would have probably hit it, had the car not got in the way first!

So then, a classic rural left hand bend accident, made even more poignant by the fact that it happened at a stupidly low speed. Makes mincemeat of the idea that you slow down and enter the bend at a speed you’re happy with as you probably couldn't go much slower than 27mph if you tried.

One day, the Police will investigate accidents properly and perhaps will let us know just exactly what is going wrong in rural bends, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Posted: 31/08/2010 at 18:36

In my younger days I had this exact crash, only in suburbier. The mistake I made was nothing to with speed. It was to do with target fixation. Not on the oncoming vehicle, but the mini skirt and heels walking up the opposite side of the road.

Basically, as soon as I slow down, I get bored and my eyes wander. 

Take a 57mph bend at any speed, if you are not focused on the vanishing point, your gonna drift off line.

Of course, we also don't know if the the rider's entry speed wasn't alot higher and just 27mph at the point of impact.

Posted: 01/09/2010 at 08:25

I don't believe the 27 mph.  That was calculated from the distance the rider travelled after impact, which could have been reduced by many other factors, including contact with the car taking out most of the energy of his forward travel.  On a bend like that, if you take it at 27 mph, you would be wobbling round like a learner, more in danger of falling off due to lack of forward motion than drifting offline and hitting a car.  It''s a classic example of the bike being far more capable than the rider believes.  He thought he was going too fast, braked and stood the bike up.  That's not a criticism of the guy.  I suspect most of us are not as good as our bikes, and we've all done that at some point.

Posted: 01/09/2010 at 12:23

So, how do assess the correct speed to enter the corner??

Posted: 01/09/2010 at 15:08

if your vanishing point goes away from you on bend then it is a safe speed or can even accelerate more ,.....if vanishing point comes closer to you then you need to decelerate till the vanishing point is neither coming or going away from your point of view ......

as said and practiced by motorbike cop on the bikesafe course attended .would recomend to all, and in most  counties  it is free or  highly funded so cost is minimal....

Posted: 01/09/2010 at 22:30

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