Motorman’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques
Struggling with High-Speed Curves:
I’ve been riding for many years, mostly big cruisers. I presently have a Harley-Davidson Ultra. I’ve ridden all kinds of roads and have had the occasional close call. Something happened to me recently that I can’t explain. I took a trip to the Dragon up in Tennessee and met up with a few friends I hadn’t seen in many years. My friends took off at a pretty good pace through the 318 curves in 11 miles. They didn’t appear to be going too fast but as I tried to keep up with them, I quickly realized I was going too fast. I soon began running wide in the turns, crossing the double line and at one point, coming close to a head on collision.
My friends left me far behind. Since they were no longer in sight, I thought I had slowed down enough, but I still felt very uncomfortable and just couldn’t seem to pick the right lines around the curves. I seemed to be struggling with the handlebars, everything was a major effort. After that ride, I find that I’m scared to death on just about all winding roads. I have to go so slow in order not to panic that vehicles behind me are tailgating me and I have to pull over to the side of the road. Could it be I’ve forgotten how to ride after all these years?
Name withheld per writer’s request
I believe what happened is instead of riding your own ride, i.e., riding at your own comfortable pace, you tried to keep up with your fellow riders whose skill level is apparently higher than yours. The more you tried to keep up with them, the less technique you were apparently using. In other words, instead of looking far ahead of the turn, you began looking towards the double yellow line. Since we know that the motorcycle goes wherever you look, you began steering right towards the yellow line. As you got closer to the yellow line, you began looking at the oncoming traffic and began riding towards the very obstacle you didn’t want to hit. Even after you slowed down you were so tense you forgot about counter-steering. If the bike was leaning to the right and had to transition back to the left, instead of pushing on the left grip, I’d be willing to bet your right hand was holding the bar and preventing you from proper counter-steering. Since it felt like you weren’t able to steer your motorcycle properly, you tensed up even further which then caused the problem to get worse and worse. Later on when you were riding by yourself, you began doubting your abilities which caused you to ride in an overly timid manner. Thus, the low speeds and the feeling of panic and stress were still there. Here’s what I suggest to get over these new found fears.
Find a large empty parking lot, mark off a couple of 100’ diameter circles in the shape of a figure eight. Place some markers at 12:00 O’clock, 3:00 o’clock, 9:00 o’clock and 6:00 o’clock. Get up to a speed that will allow you to counter-steer, that would be anything above 15 mph. Focus well ahead of the motorcycle, if you start at 6:00 o’clock in the circle, focus on 3:00 o’clock. As you begin heading towards 3:00 o’clock, snap your head and eyes and look towards 12:00 o’clock. If you’re circling to the left, remember to push forward on the left grip, the harder you push on the grip, the more the bike will lean. As you approach the 6:00 o’clock point, you’ll be ready to transition to the right. Turn your head and eyes and look at 3:00 o’clock, then 6:00 o’clock, etc. Remember to look far ahead of your motorcycle. Vary your speed; you should be able to perform the figure eight at speeds of at least 25 mph with a little practice. Once you feel comfortable leaning and transitioning the bike and looking well ahead under controlled conditions, head for your favorite winding road, hopefully one with very little traffic and practice the techniques there.There are also many high speed training courses around the Country, many of which cater to cruisers that I’m sure you’ll find beneficial. The only way to get over your fears is to face them and overcome them step by step.