How to avoid turning wide from a stop
A few days ago I was out riding and enjoying what I consider the start of Florida’s best riding season. I was heading to a local biker hangout and found myself behind a couple of other riders; a man on a Harley Ultra and a woman on a Sportster. It looked like they were headed to the same restaurant. Just prior to getting to this location there are three stop signs, about one block apart. At the last stop sign you have to make a 90 degree right turn and then a quick left into the restaurants’ parking lot.
As I approached the first stop sign, the guy on the Ultra in front of me made a full stop in the left side of his lane and was looking left and right waiting for traffic to clear. The woman on the Sporty came to a shaky stop about 10 feet behind the guy in the right side of the lane. She never looked left or right, instead, she looked only at the guy in front of her. He pulled out when traffic cleared and she followed. I could hear her over-revving the motor as she slipped the clutch while trying to start off smoothly. She was duck-walking the bike as she tried to get going and still looking dead ahead. It took her so long to get through the intersection that a car on the cross street who didn’t have a stop sign, had to jam on the brakes to avoid hitting her. At the next stop sign, it was the same story except luckily, there was no cross traffic.
As they approached the third stop sign where you have to make a 90 degree right and then turn left about 50 feet into the parking lot, I thought to myself, this ain’t gonna be pretty. The guy made the right and quick left and pulled into a parking spot. The woman though, stopped again in the extreme right part of her lane. This time she looked left and saw no cars coming so she decided to make the right at the stop sign. Instead of looking to the right where she wanted to go, she looked directly at a car that was coming in the opposite lane. Sure enough, she started heading right towards that car. Just as she was about to cross the center line and collide with the car, she snatched the front brake. Since her handlebars were pointed slightly to the right, she went down hard and fast. The car swerved a bit and went on its way. I quickly jumped off my bike and helped her pick up hers. She wasn’t hurt but was obviously very embarrassed since several people in the parking lot also observed the incident. She thanked me, got back on the bike and duck-walked it across the road and into the parking lot. The guy with her was standing there shaking his head.
I then pulled in next to the two of them. I was trying to think of a tactful way to give her a few helpful tips so I started with, “just started riding have ya?” From the look she gave me, I could see my question wasn’t near as tactful as it sounded before my lips started moving. “For your information, I’ve been riding for 10 years”, she snapped back. As I began taking my helmet off and trying to figure out how to get my foot out of my mouth, her angry look turned to a surprised smile. She said, “Hey, you’re that guy from SPEEDTV”. I nodded and was about to introduce myself when she turned to the guy with her and said, “What’s his name, we watch him all the time?” The guy blurted out, “Motorman”. She then looked at the decal on my tank and said, “You’re the Ride Like a Pro guy!” Now I’m really embarrassed she said, and then added, “I’m really a good rider out on the road, it’s just the slow stuff that gets me every time”. With the ice broken, I was now able to explain to her how she could prevent the situation from happening again.
Since I’ve seen many riders both “experienced” and “inexperienced” with similar problems when turning from a stop, here’s the easy way to do it.
First, if you’re going to turn right at a stop sign, stop in the extreme left portion of your lane at an angle facing towards the right. This accomplishes two things. You’re already facing in the direction you want to go and since you’re in the left side of your lane, you’ve got 12 feet or more to go straight before you have to turn your handlebars. The more time you have to turn your bars, the easier it is. Next, once you’ve made sure no traffic is coming from the left; turn your head and eyes to the right and look way ahead at the lane you want to pull into. NEVER look at the yellow line or oncoming traffic. Stay in the friction zone until the bike is going straight ahead down your lane.
You can practice this on a deserted road or even better, in an empty parking lot. With a little practice using the clutch and throttle and a little pressure on the rear brake, you should start challenging yourself. By that, I mean, start making the turn sharper and sharper. Eliminate the start off angle. With enough practice, you should be able to make a sharp right hand turn starting off with the handlebars at full lock right from a dead stop. When you can do that, you’ll never have to worry about turning too wide.