Advanced Riding

How to improve your motorcycle cornering

Nailing your favourite set of corners on a motorcycle is part of what makes riding such an enjoyable experience. But are you doing it correctly?

ONE of the many benefits of riding a bike over other forms of transport is the thrill of linking up a nice stretch of bends. Due to their compact size and overall nimbleness, motorcycles can take you on any number of lines around a corner, when a car is mostly restricted to just one or two.

But be warned, not all cornering lines were created equal, and your best impression of a MotoGP rider into the first corner at Jerez probably won’t do you any favours on the A427!

For this guide, we’re not going to focus on your body position and how you interact with the bike. This guide is purely about where you can place the machine and where you should be looking when taking a bend.

Slow in – fast out

It sounds too simple, but it really does work. Slow in gives you more time to asses the road ahead, especially if it’s a blind corner. It also gives you more grip in the front tyre to use if you need to make an adjustment to your speed.

With most of the tyre grip used up by speed and cornering forces, the amount of braking force available is almost nil. Apart from this, too much speed at corner entry is rarely the quickest way through the corner. If we flip the scenario on its head and go slow in fast out, we can open the line up, resulting in quicker exit speed – assuming it’s safe to do so of course!

Speed V Radius

Changing the bike’s speed during a corner makes big differences to a bike’s radius, much more than most riders would actually beleive. In the same way braking distances are bound by the laws of physics, (double the speed, quadruple the braking distance), cornering is governed similarly. If you lean a bike to a specific angle and maintain it while travelling at a certain speed, the bike will, assuming all other factors remain constant, go round the corner on a constant radius. Double the bike’s speed, keep the same angle of lean and you quadruple the radius.

In the next scenario the rider enters a fast sweeping corner and for whatever reason, at the point where the bike is tipped in, the rider feels uncomfortable with the speed. The result is they naturally enter the corner with a closed throttle. The chances of keeping a very accurate line until the view opens up is now almost impossible. The bike’s natural tendency now is to tighten its radius simply because it’s slowing down. The rider then tends to fight the bike’s natural course ending up in a series of line changes, making the cornering line end up looking like a 50p.

The trick is to be comfortable with entry speed so you can open the throttle and stabilise speed just before the bike’s tipped in. The bike then feels much more stable and minor variations in the natural radius of the corner can be dealt with easily. By subtle changes in speed, angle of lean, or a combination of both; smooth cornering can be achieved.

Linking corners together

Using the throttle to adjust the bike’s radius is an advantage in a number of ways and really useful linking one corner to the next. It’s easy to get carried away in a series of corners and be tempted to drive the bike through and out of each successive corner. If we’re not careful we can easily push the bike into places we don’t really want to go. Statistically, mistakes taking left-handers are one of the major causes of crashes – so what you do with the throttle is really important. Whenever you are presented with a series of corners the most efficient way through them is generally to exit one corner in the correct position for the next. This is particularly important if there’s not much of a straight between the two

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