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Posted By : Andy VH - 7/18/2005 8:37 PM
An a MSF instructor, I've had students who were clearly afraid of leaning their bike. Leaning is a crucial element of riding and a critical skill to master so you have the option to use it when necessary. Motorcycles will safely lean probably more than most riders ever venture to find out about, given that the traction is good and other inputs/actions have not used up your traction reserves.
Here's my best example. On my 94 BMW R1100RS, with a female passenger I was leading three bikes through the twisty backroads south of Potosi, Missouri. I misread (clue:mistake) an approaching turn (reading the tree line into the turn) at the end of an uphill cresting right hander. Still at 60mph,  I setup wide in my lane and entered the turn, to realize it was a decreasing radius turn, with a pickup truck coming in its lane in the other direction. I maintained my throttle (to keep my ground clearance), looked to the exit of the turn (to maintain my path of travel, and not fixate on the pickup truck), pressed hard on the grip in the direction of the turn (to maintain/increase my lean angle), and rode it through even though my full boot edge was dragging, the centerstand was dragging, AND my passengers boot edge touched pavement (while fully on the pegs). The bike simply stuck, easily made the turn, and we rode on. She shreiked at first but then gave me a thumbs up signal.
What's the point here? I trusted the bike, and myself to do what I had trained to do. Had I not pressed (on the handgrip) through to maintain/increase my lean angle, the bike would have run wide and possibly smack the truck. If I had backed off the throttle but maintained my line/lean, the bike would have squatted down, lost lean clearance, and possibly unload the rear tire (lowside it). If I had backed off the throttle and touched the brakes the bike would have squatted but stand up (the physics involved would cause the bike to straighten up like applying the brakes) and ironically it would have run wide (exactly the worst thing to have happen). I was fortunate that the road was in excellant shape and clean with great traction. I have studied this event in my mind many times over and realized my initial mistake of mis-reading the road was corrected by applying leaning techniques most motorcycles are capable of, but many riders never attempt or learn to use. However, the MORE important thing I learned was to not enter a turn at speed when I couldn't see the entire turn. I should have slowed to about 50mph before entering the turn since I couldn't see all the way through it.
I consider leaning as part of the arsenal of CRITICAL riding skills necessary to master in order to fully enjoy riding and give the rider the ability to react properly. Leaning, high effort braking, throttle/clutch control, traction management and strong visual skills are the CRITICAL SKILLS that must be learned and mastered to survive for many years/decades of riding. Ask any rider who has had nearly no accidents/incidents, with many years and miles of riding experience, and you'll probably get similar answers.
Ok, so how do you get to that level? Take an experienced rider course. Sign up for some Track days on your bike, hopefully with professional instruction. Read some of the excellant books available at many bookstores. Ask experienced riders who have done these things. Practice, and get familiar with what your bike, and you can do. If you find you are not comfortable with this level of riding, then adjust your riding style to make sure you don't put yourself in a situation you are not able to respond to. Learn from every ride, be honest about your abilities, realize you DO have much to learn and gain, push yourself but trust yourself (this is VERY satisfying when it comes to riding). Enjoy your ride!!

Posted By : Temporary Saint - Yesterday 11:39 AM
Great post. Thanks.


Endeavor to be unique; everyone else does.

Posted By : louemc - Yesterday 12:24 PM
Certainly good post, with the items that always have to be in the active mind works all the time. Like Andy points out, some serious mistakes were made there, and, it wasn't just doing the rightest things that saved the day, it was also that the un-seen and un-planned for part wasn't worse than could be dealt with. A rider isn't going to be a rider for very long if they air-head their way into corners they assume with denial, they are going to do just fine in, what they can't see, to have the info to make the decision from. When you have a passenger, it's not exactly a divine revelation every time you go around a corner to find out every time (somehow forgot from all the last times) that the bike has reduced clearance to use in the lean. The worst case of that, I saw was on a group ride, going South from San Francisco, we hadn't been out very long, and a BMW rider that had brought his girl friend, was just doing the pace we all were on. In his case though, on his BMW Boxer, in a corner the cylinder touches down, and there is no more lean going to happen, and the lean he had wasn't enough to stay on the arc of the corner. So........ they go off the road and over a small cliff. They weren't killed, she took a hit to the head that removed he memory of everything after they had left home though. I never saw her again, but I'm assuming her memory came back. (I'm also hoping no one is going to start making up stuff about it only happening because he backed off the throttle, he didn't so don't go there).

Posted By : Andy VH - Yesterday 8:55 PM
Thanks for the comments louemc. You are exactly right that I was VERY fortunate that the road and conditions allowed me to do what I had to do to make the corner without incident. Anything that compromised the traction I had available would have resulted in a very different outcome. I cetainly reviewed that in my mind many times over after the ride. That in itself is another good example of the "ladder of circumstances" we discuss in the MSF program, each step of which brings us closer to an accident or incident. In this case another factor was that I had adjusted my rear suspension to account for the passenger weight and style of riding we were doing. Had I not done that I may have been dragging far more than boot edges and centerstand, and may have potentially upset the bike.
Think back to every potentially bad situation you've experienced on a bike, and consider all the elements of the situation that "stepped up" the risk factors leading to a potential accident. Accidents or crashes don't just "happen", there is always a chain of events, links, or steps up a ladder that connect to result in an accident. If you can change or alter one of the steps you'll likely avoid the crash. Or if you realize what lead you to each step of the ladder incident, you'll know what to change or alter to avoid it in the future.

Posted By : karen627 - Yesterday 11:06 PM
I sort of have a fear of leaning the bike.  I mean, I understand enough about my bike to know that it can do more than I can, and I'll lean it when I go into a curve.  If the curve suddenly tightens up on me, I'll lean it more; but it's because I know the alternative would be going into the oncoming lane or going off the road.  I fear leaning less than I fear crashing.  Doesn't mean I'm entirely comfortable with it yet, though.
I spent some time on Sunday in the parking lot where I took my MSF class, and rode the S turns and cornering lanes painted on the ground -- I was actually hoping to scrape a footpeg every now and then just to get used to it.  (Only did it once, by accident, when I was going too wide through a u-turn a couple of months ago.  I completed the turn, but man, did the scrape startle me.) 
I also got the Ride Like a Pro video, and set up the offset cone weave in the parking lot a couple of weeks ago (24' wide, cones on each side spaced 15' apart, with a 12' offset).  Nailed it the first time I tried it, and every other time.  I don't know if I'm leaning the bike more than I think, or if that exercise is too easy...  does something like that help with practicing leaning, and if so, do you have any tips on making that exercise more challenging?  (I thought I remembered the MSF cone weave as being more difficult -- but then, I'd never ridden before I took the class.)

"Culture of Life"?  You're gonna start legislating based on phrases stolen from herbal tea packaging?  Why not "Sleepytime Lemon Traditions"? -- Get Your War On

Posted By : Pickles - Today 7:40 AM
I read this post yesterday morning.  Yesterday evening on the way home from work I enter the Interstate via one of those 270-300 degree entrance ramps.  Steady increase of elevation with no decreasing radius. 
As I entered the ramp I was thinking about this lean post.  I purposfully entered at a safe speed, but did more "roll through" and lean than normal.  I guess I wanted to practice some and overcome some of my lean aversion.  The merge lane onto the interstate is not too short so I generally have plenty of merge time on the top.  In the past, I would take the entire ramp a bit slower with less lean so I could eye-ball the traffic flow to better pick my entry spot/speed.  This time I was so concentrated on the lean that I didn't look left as I approaced the end of the ramp (just prior to entry of the merge lane).  On the very top I was approaching 55-60 mph (much faster than I've ever done) and the lean angle caused my right board to scrape and tilt.  This has happened before and I "know" not to fear it or "jump" but frankly it scared the sh** out of me.  I stood the bike up and as I did noticed that I was imediately adjacent a vehicle traveling in the right lane.  Since I was heading straight with plenty of merge lane, I powered through the merge lane and entered the highway well in front of the vehicle.  Someone observing me would probably have thought that it was a well executed entry.
Truth is I made several mistakes and could have really gotten hurt.
1) Don't practice leaning (or anything else new) in traffic.
2) Don't be so focused on a new task that you miss the big picture (and other vehicles).
3) Had the board not scraped and jolted me out of my fixation, I probably would have merged right into the side of the passing vehicle.  This is what frightens me most about the episode.  I was one move away from getting hurt and it was totally my fault.
Your post was right on, and a skill I need to master, but if anyone else is tempted to develop that skill in traffic they should be real careful.

Posted By : louemc - Today 10:24 AM
This is a major item that a lot of way beyond newbie level riders still have, and non operating, passengers really have. I can't recommend any way, on pavement (instructors at street focused and entry level race classes, would be sure to be able to do it, but I'm not an instructor), The only safe and fun, and broad range of the variables, way to master this that I can recommend, is in the dirt, doing over and over, unloading in the mistakes, get up and shake off the dirt, do it again. The dirt bikes survive well, a dressed rider hitting the dirt, survives well. A pavement rider and bike hitting the pavement (or worse), doesn't do well, and the loose zone in dirt can be played with (why ride dirt if you don't, play with it). The loose zone on pavement, isn't anything to experiment with, and toss in the variables of public road traction, and it's just out of the question. Bottom line though, until a rider learns this stuff, they are a hazzard to themselves, as a non skilled rider.

Posted By : Leonard - Today 11:04 AM
Whoa, Pickles. Amen, to your rule number one.

Andy VH, excellent post, excellent thread.
I've had many similar experiences. This response is an introspective one:

One dominant question always stands out as gaffes replay in my head. (as Leonard biff's forehead over and over..) How could I have gotten myself into that situation? The answer's the same every time: My head wasn't in the game enough. Mistakes only come when my attention wanders.

There are many who like to travel backroads fast. One thing I never see discussed is something that has nearly bitten me many times over.
 Here it is:
 Lets say you've been backroading in a groove roughly 25-30 over the speed limit. You're on an uphill rise-can't see where the road's going. Up ahead a sign indicates: curve. The corresponding speed limit sign indicates: 45mph. Piece of cake, cool. You take it at 65 mph. Suddenly it's: OMG! I'm nearly airborne! The road beneath me is going that way! I'm traveling straight off the road!  Leonard

Post Edited (Leonard) : 7/20/2005 6:20:36 PM GMT

Posted By : louemc - Today 11:41 AM
Uh Leonard, You want to stay healthy, right? Healthier than someone that plays Russian Roulette. What do you mean getting surprised by the road? No way in hell will the signs tell you exactly what the road that is out of sight, like. Or even the surface condition at the moment. It's a public road. Slow down in the areas you can't see to confirm. Live long, and healthy.

Posted By : Leonard - Today 1:31 PM
Yes sir, you are quite correct.
Then.. there is what we experience when we ride.
There's rhythm and pace in backroad riding. That groove is motorcycling nirvana. A state of grace: with max control, max confidence-max awareness. How can I be locked into the groove and have that happen?
I was no longer in the moment, I slipped out. It's a lapse of concentration due to fatigue.
Fatigue is sneaky in that sometimes our concentration slips without us even knowing it.
Fatigue is the devil I dance with every long ride. Leonard

Post Edited (Leonard) : 7/20/2005 8:35:29 PM GMT

Posted By : louemc - Today 1:50 PM
Shared that dance a few times, when not avoiding seemed even worse. Thank God it only came up a few times, and the force was with me, to carry me on those few times, of insane fatigue. I just have to, to be true to myself, keep saying, if blind corners or road rises, or whatever, take away the visibility, slow down to the speed that is totally dependable, in that distance of visibility. For that moment, until it changes. That is the groove, the rhythm, the zone. The discipline that translates to a full life span.

Posted By : CaddmannQ - 7/21/2005 7:32 PM
Reading the story about how the BMW rider touched down in a corner brought home the times I've done that with a passenger on the bike. I've never had a Beemer, and so never touched a head, but I've ground other hard parts when I wasn't planning to.

On one occassion, I was taking my wife up the mountain. My bike has air shocks, and normally they stiffen up a bit with altitude, which is just fine with me, since the roads I really like to ride are "up there." But on this day I had checked the pressure in a hot garage.
Somewhat up the mountain we parked the bike in the shade, and it was actually rather cold there, with some snow still on the dirt. The bike evidently cooled off a lot while we were eating lunch, and that caused the air shocks to soften considerably.

I didn't even consider that when we got back on the bike, and a half a mile down the road I found myself scraping the sacrifice bolts off of my mufflers in a turn where I never expected to ground out.

"Whoa! Where did that come from?"

As we rode farther, the shocks heated up and the pressure improved, but it never felt really right. since then, I usually carry a bit more pressure, because I can always bleed some off; and it's better to have too much clearance than not enough.

2004 Nomad 1500
VROC #11619 Rolling Blunder #128

Posted By : FunGus - 7/22/2005 12:54 PM
I like to ride hilly twisties with two of my friends. Of the three, I am the least experienced in this type of riding and I find that it is hard for me to guage what is the correct speed when entering a turn. In other words, I am not sure by visual/physical sensation alone if I am entering too hot. In fact I ride much faster when I follow one of my friends and use them as a visual guide than when I am in the lead. Of course this isn't the best scenario because I don't want to rely on anyone else.

I suppose it's just a matter of practice and body memory but we all know that riding also has a bit of theory.

Any pointers?


Posted By : louemc - 7/22/2005 1:54 PM
Humm, What kind of bike are you riding, and is there a track anywhere near you, where riding schools are held? The major things are, self teaching, and, the learning process on the highways that aren't a safe enough place to be learning, are too risky with variables and, no slack given to mistakes. Riding with friends, is super risky, because of getting sucked into things you shouldn't be sucked into. It happens all the time, like a moth into a flame. All that aside though, what are you riding, and what's the tires?

Posted By : DataDan - 7/22/2005 4:39 PM

FunGus wrote:

I find that it is hard for me to guage what is the correct speed when entering a turn. In other words, I am not sure by visual/physical sensation alone if I am entering too hot. In fact I ride much faster when I follow one of my friends and use them as a visual guide than when I am in the lead. Of course this isn't the best scenario because I don't want to rely on anyone else.

You are correct, sir, that following another rider isn't the best way to select entry speed. Your regular group may keep speed at a level you find comfortable, but in a different group you could easily get sucked into a situation you can't handle. Stay far enough behind the rider ahead that he doesn't influence your line or speed. It would be best if you can't see him except at the end of a quarter-mile straight.
Speed judgment is highly sensitive to your visual focal point. The farther you look ahead, the slower your speed seems. Look down at the road just ahead of your front tire and it's whizzing by at breakneck speed. Look 300 yards beyond, and terrain approaches in slow motion. This presents an obvious problem for judging turns: If you don't look through turns in a consistent way, you can't develop a consistent sense of entry speed.
So the first step is to work on your visual skills. Judging turns well is a matter of looking in the right place at the right time--what I call "visual sequencing." One suggestion often given to new riders is to look ahead as far as possible. I think that's perfectly useless advice. It works in some situations, but in others you'll lose track of your position on the road and miss reference points and hazards.
I recommend Keith Code's systematic visual sequencing technique (found in his book Twist of the Wrist II), which he calls the "two-step." As you approach a turn, first find a turn-in point. Before you get there, find an aim-point and move your focus there. Then, when you reach the turn-in point, which you spot out of the corner of your eye, steer. Practice at moderate speed to ingrain the habit, and soon it will become automatic.
In another good book for visual techniques, Sport Riding Techniques, author Nick Ienatsch describes a method similar to Code's (using former Superbike champion Scott Russell as an example) : "As Russell approaches his braking marker at the entrance of the corner, he moves his eyes off the braking area and into the apex of the corner. As the bike turns into the corner, Russell moves his eyes off the apex and to the exit of the corner, and continues to move his eyes up the track..."
When you've developed the skill of visually tracing a path through turns, you'll find that judging entry speed is much easier. By doing it the same way every time, and you'll also develop a sense of the "right" speed for a turn.

A superior rider uses superior judgment to avoid problems that would demand his superior skill.

Post Edited (DataDan) : 7/22/2005 11:49:57 PM GMT

Posted By : Leonard - 7/22/2005 5:12 PM
FunGus-I usually play lead dog in rural rides for a group ranging from 3 to 6 riders.
The larger groups tend to have less experienced riders. So the core group plays it cool; we stay together as a group pretty much the whole time. It's a: "take in the sights" scenic mode event. 
Rides with new folks begin with an informal pre-ride briefing. Here; we figure out gas stop intervals, discuss where we're going, exchange cell phone #s, figure out which new guy we're setting up to pop for our lunches, stuff like that. We discuss some rules: Stuff like, maintain visual contact with guy behind you via mirror, ride staggered style. Then. I tell them upfront: [i]There's going to be a place where three of us are going to downshift and bolt off. This breakout will be on a straight section of road. Go ahead open your bike up a tad, do what you're comfortable with. Ride within your limits, don't try to keep up. Our second breakaway will take place on curvy road after lunch. Don't try to keep up with us here. Ride within your comfort. We'll meet ahead up the road.[/i]
Our number one rule is: Don't try to keep up. Ride within your limits. Leonard

Posted By : flyinggreek - 7/22/2005 9:22 PM
I have come to the conclusion that the MSF coarse, that I have also been teaching for a few years, does not cover leaning anywhere near enough. The experienced rider coarse covers it a bit more on the bike that you own, and does teach more how to react to a situation like Andy put himself into. ( Not bagging on ya Andy, Done it myself 100 times.) The best training for this situation is actually on a closed track. I am in the fortunate position with most of my students to offer a day at the track to teach them this exact skill.
One day on the track will not only teach you how to trust your tires, your bike, and your ability to read the road, but also trust yourself to make the correct observation and the correct reaction.

Most local racetracks have club events and local "pro's" that teach these classes. It's not to make you a racer, but to make you a better and smarter rider.

BTW: It's really cool to see a guy on a Goldwing or a K1200L drag pegs with a sport bike.

Check it out at your local track, or motorcycle club and spend the money that will one day, save your(and your passenger's) life, just like it did in Andy's case.

Props Andy, for teaching by your mistake.


Posted By : luiggispeed - 7/26/2005 10:25 PM
It is very hard,actually,to make new generation tires slip at road speeds and lean angles,those new radials like the Batlax 014 are really agressive,you wont find the sliding point anywhere but in a track situation.I have grown great confidence in good tires and I come from an era where tires really sucked,tractionwise.
In fact,you will scrape some metal before a decent tire will slide,and forget it if you ride a cruiser,you will never even stress the tires,there is simply not enough ground clearance to ride on the very edge.
Race tires are even more incredible,as I founded out while cleaning my VTR after a track day,I was already scrapping the pipes and the pegs were shaved too,and I didnt even noticed.
One thing you may want to learn is hanging of the bike.It makes leaning less nessesary,and it allows you to use a bigger portion of the tire thread,given the same cornering speed.

Life its a matter of perfect internal balance...
Kawasaki KLR650
Yamaha FJR1300
Honda VTR1000

Posted By : FunGus - 7/27/2005 1:38 PM
Thanks for the replies. It's all very interesting and I think I'll have to check out those books. I ride a Bandit 1200. I've actually been riding for many years (since 1987) but mostly commuting and even then, with my wife on the back. I'm top notch on the city streets but I've only been taking the twisties for two summers or so. I love this type of riding but in Upstate New York, I find that most of these curves are blind so there isn't alot of visual info. But I guess you have to know what to look (and feel) for.


Posted By : Andy VH - 1/22/2006 11:36 PM

I too feel the current MSF format only touches on the basic cornering skills that need more training/coaching/practice to develop and master. Some of that can be picked up in the Experienced Rider Course, but not to many campuses run that as well. Also, not all MSF instructors themselves are skilled or comfortable with finding what a bike can really do.

To that end I am considering setting up a "Turn Tech" course at a local, tight (11 turn) one mile track, about 35 miles from Green Bay, WI. The course will focus on cornering technique and skills, not about speed or lean angle. However, with appropriate training the speed and lean angle pretty much happen anyway. By that I mean the knowledge, comfort level and skill are developed to the point that the rider actually becomes quicker and safer through the turns with more control.

Most of profficient cornering has to do with setup before entering the turn. Other factors like reading the road, sight lines, apex choices, braking skills, throttle control all play into it as well. feedback from the bike actually tells you what the tires are doing. But learning riders need a facility and the chance to learn this with proper instruction before just going out and doing it.

I'm sure I'd have no trouble filling a class of 12 students for a course like this. Any comments?

Posted By : Smitty - 1/23/2006 2:44 PM

Like Lou when I am on hwy roads I have rarely touched of never been on THEN I will probably be travelling above the max speed limit BUT when it comes to a curve that is when I slow down to pretty well the suggested speed.  Like Lou I want to live on in this life of ours.

So often I tend to ride back on the same road & will hit it a few more times noting said turns can be taken above suggested speeds, to some off cambered ones to be noted.  Around two or three yrs of hitting that part of the hwy, along with others, I will have it in mind exactly what is coming after each bend or curve so we could look upon it as being something like practicing out on a road racing circuit & it takes a few yrs to get to know said circuits & yes when practing racing it is good to latch onto a good racer/rider that KNOWS the  circuit & learn things from him as IT will be his home circuit.

Remember all the others on the road are crazy & out to kill you.

Posted By : Mac_Muz - 2/2/2006 7:29 PM
I am not sure who or if there is a mod here, but this is note worthy in at least the first post which I missed long ago..... Great stuff.... Mac

I'm out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message.

Posted By : RedDog - 2/2/2006 8:15 PM
Andy - I think that's a good idea. We need something between no available training and advanced road riding. Track days and racing courses are all over, but little for the street rider that wants to hone his/her skills.

Travel Light & Leave Your Fears Behind You!
Normal People Scare me!

Posted By : Andy VH - 2/3/2006 4:31 PM

Thanks Arild (aka Red Dog). There is a course like what I have in mind called "Corner Masters". It is offerred at a track in California. See one of the mid-season issues of Motorcycle Consumer News for the article.

The Corner Masters course focus is on cornering technique and skills that will make the rider more comfortable and confident in the turns and twistys. It too is not about speed, but rather about the techniques that experienced/trained riders use to handle the curves. But, the result is that most riders end up being quicker and smoother through the turns.

I'd like to set up a similar course here in Wisconsin. The highest number of cycle accidents (almost 50%) are from the cage driver failing to yield and turning in front of the motorcycle. But, the second highest/most common accident rate (almost 40%) is a sinlge motorcycle loosing control and crashing and/or hitting something. Many, many times this occurs on turns and curves. So obviously there is a real need to address here to help riders avoid "the bike just wouldn't turn" or "the bike just couldn't make the curve" report after they have experienced what is really not knowing what to do. The bike will do it (reference my "Learn to trust Leaning" post), it's the rider that doesn't help the bike to do what it can do.

Posted By : RedDog - 2/3/2006 4:39 PM
Andy - There was an advanced riding school at Road America some years back. Talked to a guy that took it and he was really happy about the whole course that lasted over a weekend. RA is quite and "easy" track that benefits raw power and high speed, so with that in mind a more narrow, technically harder, tighter corner track like Black Hawk would be more feasible. Where's the track you mention? Barber is a splendid choice too, though too far for you.

California is way too far for us and a long boring ride until you get there. But we will be up in WI again and again for the RA Superbike races being corner marshalls.

Travel Light & Leave Your Fears Behind You!
Normal People Scare me!

Posted By : Andy VH - 2/5/2006 12:47 PM
Check out the track at this website:
It should be a perfect track for the course I have in mind.
Oh, the course mentioned in Motorcycle Consumer News (an EXCELLANT magazine by the way) is "Streetmasters",
featured in the April 2005 issue. Details can be found at:

The Road America track is great and exciting, but big, with high speeds possible. The track I plan to use is 11-turns in one mile, with a 1000 foot straight, and both banked and off comber turns, dips and humps. I feel it may be the perfect setting for a course focused on cornering, and not speed. In fact, the highest speed ever recorded on the track was 85mph during either a go-kart or supermotard race.

I plan to be at Road America in June. But I may be working in the pits on a cycle team with friend who is managing a new upcoming dirt-track/supermotard rider. Depending how that schedule works out I'll be working in the pits one day and corner working the next. See you two there!

Posted By : Andy VH - 2/5/2006 1:35 PM
All the responses here make excellant suggestions on how to attain the critical leaning skills (good input Data Dan). Very strong and active visual control is probably the most important factor, aside from learning the control inputs and trusting the bike, conditions and yourself. But, trying to learn these techniques in traffic is iffy at best (thanks Pickles) and better done in a secluded empty parking lot if you can find one. Late Sunday afternoons at local tech schools are a best bet. Find a parking lot with lots of runoff room, at minimum 50 feet to any hard obstacle or curb. Check out the surface first, walk all over it to check for debris and fluids, clean off what you can. Look for any surface conditions like cracks, tar snakes, grooves, paint lines, grade or slope.

Start off slow, in a straight line at 20mph, second gear. At some point you select (don't slow, brake or downshift, just steady speed), look to your left or right (your chin should come close to your shoulder), and press against the handgrip in that direction to initiate the lean. Hold the press, keep the throttle steady, keep looking through to an "exit" of the turn, and go back to the start position. Use all of the parking lot for the turn if you need to. Those who have taken the MSF course should recognize this exercise. Keep doing this in both directions until you are getting good feedback from the bike, and your confidence builds.

Now, select your stronger direction, some like right turns better than left. Doesn't matter which, but pick your stronger side. Again 20mph in second gear. Initiate the turn with the look, press and steady throttle. While in your lean, SLOWLY and steadily increase the press in the direction of the turn (remember, press right, go right, press left, go left) and feel how the bike increases the lean angle, but do not back off the throttle, just keep it steady. Try this a number of times in each direction to again get the feel of the lean and the bike. But do it slowly! It takes a smooth controlled press to make the bike lean in a progressive manner that gives you a chance to learn what is happening. If the bike feels twitchy or unsteady, its because YOUR input was to strong or inconsistent, or you didn't apply a steady or SLIGHTLY increasing throttle.

Steady and smooth are your goals here. Use as much of the parking lot as you can until you feel and recognize what the bike and you are doing. Then, and only then, you can add speed to say 25mph, and try the practice over again. When you actually feel what is happening you can make smooth slight adjustments, such as increasing press through the entire turn. What you'll likely find is the bike will make more of a 270 degree turn than just 180 degrees. With the higher speed the control input effort gets higher and it may feel easier to do. But don't think you're suddenly ready to try it at 40 or 45mph. Keep your speed down because proper technique is far more important than speed. When the comfort level is there after more practice, the increased press will increase your lean angle.

IF you do lean enough to touch a peg, floorboard or boot heel/edge, KEEP YOUR THROTTLE AND PRESS STEADY. The worst thing you can do is suddenly chop off the throttle or touch the brakes. That may be enough to break traction or unload the rear tire. Also, suddenly chopping the throttle will also suddenly decrease your ground clearance, actually making the touchdown WORSE. Steady and smooth. The bike will stick. Keep your feet in place on the pegs, right over the controls, don't let them hang off or dangle, because as your lean angle increases your feet get closer to the ground also. No need for you to "hang off" racer style either, that's not what this is about. Keep your body central to the bike, lean with it but keep your head level to the horizon. Practice until you really feel what the bike is doing. When you are done (and don't puch yourself here), get off your bike and look at the scuffing on the tires. You'll probably see that you have leaned further over than you thought you were. Trust it, learn from it, and enjoy it. Don't brag about it though. Be honest with yourself about what you have learned, cause bragging leads to going beyond learning.

With what you have learned to "feel" about the bike and yourself, you can take those skills on the road. But here the visual part of riding is EXTREMELY important. Never ride faster than for as far as you can clearly see, especially in corners. If you can't see all the way through the corner decrease your speed until you can see the exit of the turn.
Learn from every ride and enjoy the ride!

Posted By : Arizona - 2/16/2006 9:24 AM
Great post Andy and excellent input from all. Each mishap makes you a better and more mature rider. I know when I have a "moment" I analyze it a thousand times in my head afterwards and LEARN from it so as to hopefully NOT repeat it anytime soon. I ride a V-Star so don't have tons of lean angle available to me due to how the bike is built, but as mentioned above I dont have to worry about over-taxing what the tires can do, only what the various bike parts limit me to! I'm a very conservative rider and rarely push things too far - at 42 I'm beyond those crazy days I guess. I take rural twisty roads at pretty near the speed limit or maybe 10 mph over generally. Just enjoying the ride... :)

2001 Yamaha V-Star 1100 Classic - daily commuter 3000 miles per month

Posted By : ShawnKing - 2/18/2006 5:28 PM
Andy VH said...
But, trying to learn these techniques in traffic is iffy at best (thanks Pickles) and better done in a secluded empty parking lot if you can find one.

Andy, great post. Do you mind if I use it in a future podcast of mine? Full credit will go to you and this forums of course.

Shawn King
New Rider (12/02/05)
2005 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Deluxe

Posted By : Andy VH - 2/19/2006 9:16 PM
Go ahead ShawnKing. But be aware I don't claim exclusive knowledge or background on these subjects. This subject and others similar to it have been written/discussed by many other authors and riders with far more knowledge than I have about the subject. I just offer my input and experience about the subject, but I am by no means an authority on the subjects listed. I suggest research on this subject by David Hough and Ken Condon, both writers for Motorcyle Consumer News, probably THE best factual and informative motorcycle magazine on the market.

Posted By : ShawnKing - 2/19/2006 9:34 PM
Andy VH said...
Go ahead ShawnKing. But be aware I don't claim exclusive knowledge or background on these subjects.
Thanks and understood. But if you were full of it, someone would have spoken up by now. :)

Andy VH said...
I suggest research on this subject by David Hough and Ken Condon, both writers for Motorcyle Consumer News, probably THE best factual and informative motorcycle magazine on the market.

I will check them and it out. Thanks!

Shawn King
New Rider (12/02/05)
2005 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Deluxe

Posted By : ShawnKing - 2/19/2006 9:38 PM
Andy VH said...
Go ahead ShawnKing. But be aware I don't claim exclusive knowledge or background on these subjects.

Thanks and understood. But if you were full of it, someone would have spoken up by now. :)

Andy VH said...
I suggest research on this subject by David Hough and Ken Condon, both writers for Motorcyle Consumer News, probably THE best factual and informative motorcycle magazine on the market.

I will check them and it out. Thanks!

Shawn King
New Rider (12/02/05)
2005 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Deluxe

Posted By : To The - 3/24/2008 5:40 PM
I'm signing up for this one for my birthday present:
Only $600.00 and you get to tear up THEIR bike!!

Posted By : Jramion - 3/28/2008 3:38 AM
Smitty touched on an important tip when cornering but did not really have much to say on it. I believe one important thing about cornering is knowing the corner. I know that there are times when you are on a road that you had never ridden and that is a time you need to be extra cautious of your speed in the corners. But in order to really practice your leaning technique, you need to travel on a road that you know well (or as Andy stated, practice in a parking lot). That means to travel the road many, many times at a comfortable speed and increase your speed as you learn it and feel more comfortable.
As for the leaning is corners, I would have thought that that is a given. I didn't think a bike could take a corner without leaning. I haven't ridden a street bike in over 20 years but am currently researching to buy one so I may not know what I am talking about. But even as a kid I noticed that I had to lean my bicycle in a corner to make it turn. Sometimes leaning way over. This was always a thrill for me. I used to steal my brother's Suzuki 125 when I was in high school and it was exhilarating when I could make the muffler drag while taking corner.
But I will restate, practice on a road that you know well (or parking lot). One that you know well enough to retrace in your mind while sitting at home, knowing every corner, hill, bump and dip.

Posted By : Andy VH - 4/22/2008 9:12 AM
Thanks for the input. Because I am an MSF instructor I am always looking for, listening for, input from others about riding conditions, leaning and cornering being one I especially look and listen for. I have seen many, many a rider negotiate simple turns with a MINIMUM of leaning, to the point I sense they have no confidence in the bike , their ability, or no knowledge about how to really do it. I have heard from many a rider, how their bike "didn't want to make the turn". I have read far too many crash reports in the media about a cyclist "failing to negotiate a curve" or "loosing control on a curve".

So this is a very real deficit for many riders, many of whom either never gain the confidence, or get the training, or have enough riding/seat time to develop the skill sets required to be effective at leaning and cornering. That is why training and learning are SO essential to our survival.

Training, the best safety and performance "equipment" you can get!
Get MSF trained, check out: