Making U-turns like a PRO
As I write this article, we’ve just returned from performing at the Leesburg Bike Fest. If you’re not familiar with this event, it takes place in Leesburg Florida on the last weekend in April. The event attracts over 500,000 bikers. Leesburg, by the way, is located in central Florida.
This area of Florida happens to have the best motorcycle roads in the state. Within 100 miles, North, South, East or West of the area, there are actually curves and hills.
We perform our shows in the bank parking lot Friday through Sunday. The city even sets up bleachers for us but they do fill up quickly, luckily, there’s plenty of standing room in the shade as well.
Between 4PM and 6PM on Saturday in our parking lot a riding group comes in and coordinates the biker games. These games are the usual, slow race, slow cone weave, hot dog grab and balloon toss. The reason I mention this is while these games are fun to watch and participate in, there’s a lot more that can be done that can show off a riders skill level.
As an example, here’s a great exercise to set up. It’s called the intersection, iron cross, or four leaf clover. Regardless of what you call it, here’s how to set it up. Each leg of the four leaf clover should be 24 feet wide and 34 feet long. Twenty four feet is the size of your average side street, so that’s a lot of room. The length of 34 feet gives you plenty of room to set up for the U-turns you’ll be making in each leg. The idea is to pull into the first leg, make a right turn into the 2nd leg, then make a U-turn then a right into the 3rd leg, make a U-turn, then come to a complete stop at the end of the 4th leg. (I’ve included the diagram of the Intersection exercise along with this article right from my Ride Like a Pro, The Book so you can see how to set it up).
We perform this exercise at the end of each of my Ride Like a Pro classes. We award a trophy to the rider that completes the four leaf clover with the quickest time and the least amount of errors. An error would be hitting a cone or putting a foot down. A one second penalty is added to the rider’s time for each error. If the rider drops the bike or rides out of a leg, they’re out.
The best part of this exercise is in the case of a tie, you can have the riders run it in reverse. That means all the U-turns would be to the right. To make it even more interesting, you can have the riders perform a complete circle in one or more legs of the clover or even a figure eight.
The trick to the exercise is to use your head and eyes to the max. That means you should be looking at the spot where you’re going to place your front tire long before you get to the spot. Five or six feet before you get to that spot, it’s already time to snap your head and eyes over your left shoulder and make the U-turn. The moment the U-turn is completed, it’s again time to snap your head and eyes toward the spot in the next leg where you will place your front tire to start the next U-turn. Performed correctly, you will be leaning and turning throughout the four leaf clover. Your bike should never be straight up as you progress through each turn.
If you maintain a speed of at least 10 mph, you will easily be able to lean in one direction or the other with ease. Of course you must be in the friction zone of the clutch the entire time and have a little pressure on the rear brake. At 10 to 12 mph, this exercise is easy. At 5 mph or less, it will be very difficult since you will have to make your turns with the bike almost straight up and a motorcycle wasn’t designed to make turns without leaning.
Even if you’re not going to enter any bike games, set up the intersection/four leaf clover in an empty parking lot and practice running it in both directions at least once a week for 30 minutes or so. Your skills will improve very quickly and you’ll have fun at the same time.
Copyright 2014 Jerry “Motorman” Palladino