Motorman’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques
The Art of the Swerve
When a vehicle violates your right of way, either by turning left in front of your path of travel, or pulling out from the right into your path of travel, or swerving into your lane, you’ll have 3 choices. Choice number one is hit the brakes to slow down or stop. Choice number two, lean and swerve. Choice number three, slam into that vehicle.
You wouldn’t believe how many riders choose number three. Not because they want to slam into that vehicle, you understand, but simply because they don’t know how to stop quickly enough to avoid a crash since they’ve never practiced maximum threshold braking. And since they’ve never practiced quick swerves, they are reluctant to attempt that maneuver.
In my Ride Like a Pro Class I set up two different types of swerves. The low speed swerves consists of a quick left to right transition, then right to left. Almost all the students and especially the ones who have been riding many years, have a real problem with this exercise. Every one of them will go way too slowly and try like hell to keep the bike straight up during the swerve. In addition, they have a real hard time turning their head and eyes and looking where they want to go.
Since a motorcycle was designed to lean while turning, keeping the bike straight up makes the swerve almost impossible. Believe me, trying to swerve at 5mph is a lot harder than swerving at 10 to 15 mph. After 5 or 6 tries and with a lot of coaching, they finally realize that a little speed or momentum makes the swerve a lot easier. Out on the street, you get only one try. That’s why practicing is so important.
The high speed swerve or counter steering exercise in my class consists of a speed of 20 to 25 mph. The rider must avoid 6 cones until about the 4th time through the exercise. Again, out on the mean streets you only get one chance to avoid the obstacle.
The braking exercise in my course consists of a straight line stop from 20 mph. The stop should be complete in 30 ft or less without locking up either tire. The vast majority lock the rear tire in their 1st, 2nd and 3rd tries and can’t stop within the 30 feet. On the street, you guessed it, you get one shot at it.
The bottom line is, spend an hour or two a week practicing your leaning, swerving, and braking. Do it in an empty parking lot. Don’t wait until that car turns left in front of you at a busy intersection. That’s the last place you want to test your skills.