FAILURE TO NEGOTIATE A TURN
If you’ve ridden a motorcycle for any length of time, I’d be willing to bet at some point you’ve ridden into a turn a little too fast. If you were lucky,you made it through the turn without low siding, running into an oncoming vehicle or going over a cliff. The fact that you made it through the turn without crashing doesn’t mean you’re a skillful rider, it just means you’re a lucky one.
The most common type of motorcycle crash that involves just the motorcyclist is failure to negotiate a turn. What happens in these situations, the rider gets into a turn and thinks he’s going too fast to complete the turn. He then makes mistake number one…he tenses up his arms and shoulders making them rigid, and tenses up his grip on the bars.
In order to complete the turn, the rider needs to push forward on the low side grip; however, with the upper body so tense and rigid, it becomes very difficult to push on that grip. Thus, the bike will continue widening its arc through the curve. As the rider realizes his turn is getting even wider, he makes mistake number two…he looks at the very thing he doesn’t want to hit such as the edge of the road, the oncoming car, etc. Since your hands follow your eyes, he’s now steering right toward the obstacle. More panic sets in and mistake number three occurs…he lets off the throttle and the bike starts to straighten up. That causes the turn to become even wider, which of course puts the bike even closer to the very thing he doesn’t want to hit.
Now, if the motorcycle Gods are watching over him and all the planets are aligned, the rider just barely makes the turn. Everything I just described happens in a matter of seconds or less, depending on the rider’s speed.
I see this very scenario unfold several times a day at my training classes during the offset cone weave exercise. The only difference being, the riders’ speed is only 10 or 12 mph and the obstacle is a rubber cone. The question then is how to avoid this kind of thing from happening to you out on the road. The answer of course is to practice proper technique under controlled conditions. The first thing to do is remember to relax. The bike is just an extension of your arms and hands; stay loose and the bike will turn with very little effort.
Next, you must use your head and eyes and look ONLY where you want to go. You must look at that point as soon as possible. In other words, focus on the end of the turn, not where you’re going at the moment. If you’re relaxed, your hands will follow your eyes and the bike will go where you’re looking.
Since the head and eyes technique is the opposite of your instincts, it must be practiced in a repetitious manner until it becomes instinctual.
While you can practice the technique out on the road at high speeds, keep in mind, until you get the hang of it, you’re going to make a few mistakes. It’s a lot safer to make a mistake at 10 mph in an empty parking lot rather than at 40 mph on the street.
Even after all these years, I still get a thrill watching one of my students when they finally get it right and turn their head and eyes and the bike smoothly completes a turn with the boards leaving a trail of sparks. The rider is even more thrilled. Consequently, he/she wants to do it over and over again. The rider loves the feeling of being in complete control of his motorcycle. All fear disappears as the rider gains more and more confidence. As your confidence and skills grow, so does your riding enjoyment and your safety.
Learn how to use your head and eyes to the extreme. The more you use that technique, the better the rider you’ll become. If you train properly, the next time you get into a turn with a little too much speed, instead of panicking, you’ll revert to your training and look toward the end of the turn and you’ll make it through without all the drama I described earlier.
In the late 70’s, a motorcycle crash study was performed in California called the Hurt Study (you can look it up on the internet). Hundreds of “failure to negotiate a turn” crashes were studied. It was found that in every case, the motorcycle was capable of making the turn at the speed the rider was going. In other words, it was the rider’s lack of skill that caused the crash, not the speed or road conditions.
Don’t become a statistic. Learn the proper techniques and use those techniques every time you ride.
Copyright 2014 – Jerry “Motorman” Palladino