TEAM Arizona Riding Tip: Avoid Going Wide In a Corner
Learning how to handle your bike both at a posted road speed in a straight-away and while gliding around corners is a must for anyone looking to spend time on the road. Corners can be seriously dangerous, so learning to navigate them while staying in your lane is one of the first things you should tackle as a learning rider who’s looking to kick up the pace a little.
Riding well means learning how to control our motorcycle at speeds faster than what we may have already practiced, especially if the Basic RiderCourse is all a rider has experienced. Courses like Advanced Riding Techniques and Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic are great for learning proper technique in a challenging yet safe environment. When we take to the street how can we make sure our learned techniques transfer at higher than parking lot speeds? How can we avoid going wide in a corner when riding at suggested road speeds?
WHY IS GOING WIDE A CONCERN?
Aside from the obvious answer like a motorcyclist can hit an oncoming car or run off the edge of a road, the less obvious answer is that it denotes a lack of proper cornering technique. The fundamentals of proper cornering are not being employed. If a rider misunderstands this simple fact they may be in for repeated and unnecessary trips into the oncoming lane, the hospital, or to the dealership to sell the motorcycle because they’re afraid to ride.
Up to two-thirds of single-vehicle, motorcycle accidents involve a rider going wide while cornering or similar problems, which is why it’s such a crucial issue. Poor cornering leads to general chaos on the road and unsafe conditions for everyone. Going wide can damage your motorcycle, but worse it could lead to serious injury or death. Mastering cornering takes practice to solve which is why it’s always great to have the chance to tackle the problem with experienced professionals in a semi-controlled environment. Learn to avoid going wide with motorcycle skills you’ve honed with time and patience to keep yourself safe on the road.
WHAT ARE THE ROOT CAUSES FOR GOING WIDE IN A CORNER?
The area riders make the largest number of mistakes is upon approach to the corner. Failure to establish the correct lane position and entry speed, combined with improper use of vision and steering technique, and a rider has a toxic brew which could lead to unhappy times. Learning how to establish correct lane position and entry speed is best mastered with a metered approach. When learning how to ride, always err on the side of caution. Enter a corner with a much lower speed than you think necessary. The adage of, “Slow in, Fast out”, remains with us in the motorcycling world since the beginning for a reason. As you gain experience, continue to take precautions to make sure your risk off-set is trending in a positive direction. Watch your entry speed to make sure it always feels manageable and really drill yourself on using your vision to locate key reference points (turn point, apex, exit) before adding those MPHs. Learn more below.
Let’s look at the causes for going wide in a corner. The causes may be singular, but often they are connected and come in multiples.
- ENTRY SPEED TOO FAST: Entering a corner too fast can cause a motorcyclist to freeze on the handlebars thus slowing or preventing entirely the necessary input into the handlebars. Can you say, “HELLO FEAR?”
- LACK OF TURN POINT: Do you have a plan? A good plan starts with where you’re going to initiate proper inputs into your motorcycle to ensure a successful path through the corner.
- EARLY TURN POINT: Turning in too soon can result in trajectory that puts the rider on a path into the opposite lane. It is a common issue for riders as we want to avoid road edges or oncoming traffic so we’ll initiate our turn early.
- INCORRECT VISUAL REFERENCE POINTS: Often riders are not selecting the proper visual reference points to give the brain a path to follow. Do you select the turn point, apex point, and the exit points for every corner? Do you know how to select these points for different types of trajectories?
- FAIL TO UNDERSTAND THE CURVE: What type of curve is it (increasing radius, decreasing radius, constant radius)? Does it have a camber (positive, negative)? What is the slope?
WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS TO AVOID GOING WIDE IN A CORNER?
There’s not always room for trial and error when you’re on a bike – errors are often dangerous and could prove fatal in some cases. That’s why you need to practice precautions like slowing down at corner entry, and taking classes is necessary to help prevent you from going wide in a corner. You always have the option of feeling out the road on your bike or even a car, but nothing quite beats some personal training for building this specific, life-saving (and bike-saving) skill set. Nail down the basics, learn about handling, and then learn to corner properly before heading out on the open road in order to keep both yourself and other riders safe while you enjoy doing what you love.
The solutions we are recommending below are results of the causes we provided above. Nothing beats training for helping a rider understand their motorcycle better. It is the very reason riders like Valentino Rossi have RiderCoaches. Even at the highest level of road racing, there are always coaches there to support their development. Once training is in place, practicing is the best way to cement what a rider has learned. It may be true that a track, instead of a road way, is the best environment to cement these new skills, especially if it means traveling at speeds greater that what is posted on the road sign.
- SLOW EARLY, SLOW MORE: When learning how to ride on the road or you are riding on unfamiliar roads, slow earlier than you might typically in a car and slow more. Why rush the corner and arouse fear responses?
- ESTABLISH VISUAL REFERENCE POINTS: Find the turn point, then before initiating the turn locate the apex. Before reaching the apex our eyes need to locate the exit. Locating these three valuable reference points are crucial. Our brain does a great job of calculating the necessary inputs into the motorcycle but ONLY IF we give it proper reference points.
- UNDERSTAND MOTORCYCLE HANDLING: Do you know what your hands and feet should be doing at certain points through a corner? Do you know the 10 Steps to Proper Cornering? Do you know what countersteering means? These ideas should be well planted in your mind before swinging a leg over your ride.
All of these concepts can be cemented in a car. Why a car? We don’t have to worry about the negative effects of gravity! The increased availability of mental processing (bandwidth) will help us with the acquisition of key visual reference points. So if you wanna improve your riding, maybe it should start in your car.
Having fun on two wheels is a big element to why we choose to ride. The more we know, the more fun it gets. The more comfortable we are on the motorcycle, the more relaxed we can be, the better the experience. This may take practice or even more training. Are you ready to put in the time? Who doesn’t want to avoid going wide in a corner and have more fun?
Bill Seltzer has been a Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoach since 2003 and a Total Control Advanced Riding Instructor since 2011. He currently serves as the Marketing Director for TEAM Arizona and is a member of the Arizona Strategic Highway Safety Planning committee. Have questions or comments about the article? Email him: Bill@MotorcycleTraining.com
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