TEAM Arizona Riding Tip: CORNERING STRATEGY Search-Setup-Smooth

February 1, 2015 Tags: , ,

Motorcycle rider perspective

Having a riding strategy is imperative to every aspect of operating a motorcycle, from stopping to handling intersections, to scanning ahead for threats. Cornering benefits from the implementation of a strategy. It’s estimated that nearly 40% of rider fatalities occur during corners or turns and lacking a cornering strategy is a significant contributor to this statistic. Therefore, having a strategy is necessary for every biker on the road.

Motorcycle riding strategies are continually evolving.  As more research is performed in the area of rider safety, massive amounts of data flows in, and organizations like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) analyze the data.  The MSF, from their data analysis, reaches conclusions and revises their curricula accordingly.

One major change from MSF in 2014 was the introduction of a CORNERING STRATEGY.  We as riders know that cornering a motorcycle means an elevated risk from straight line riding.  A conclusion MSF reached is that riders are lacking (or not implementing) a CORNERING STRATEGY.  Thus, the introduction of Search-Setup-Smooth.


road sign curvesBefore entering a corner, motorcyclists will need to acquire a lot of information.  The way we acquire the information is by SEARCHING amongst several key variables:

  • ROADWAY:  What is the condition of the road?  Is the road crowned?  What is the radius, type, and grade of the curve?  Where is our entry point, apex, and exit?
  • MARKINGS:  What signs are present that can help a rider determine entry speed?  Direction of the curve?  Sharpness?
  • MOTORISTS:  What potential risks do oncoming motorists create?  Could curve sharpness create a situation where approaching vehicles could cross the center line?

Before the entry of a curve, it is the job of the motorcyclist to use their vision to acquire as much information possible so that we can make good decisions for the next step.

Gathering the critical information is the key to handling almost any messy situation, a fact that’s never been truer than when applied to the world of motorcycles. Riding a motorcycle means we often move at speeds greater than what our biological hardware was evolved to handle, so we have to learn to gather the critical information we need for turns with plenty of time to spare. Identifying the radius of the curve, the slope of the road, surface condition, and various other elements need to happen well before entering the turn. Make use of the 12 second follow rule in order to give yourself plenty of time to assess and react to any details you might find when performing this part of the strategy.


Riding through curves is a lot of fun, especially if we set ourselves up in a manner that maximizes our safety margin and reduces our risk.  When setting up for a curve we are answering these two simple questions:

  • At what speed and gear should we enter the corner?
  • What lane position (Outside-Middle-Inside) should be select and does it maximize our safety margin?  (MSF likes a middle-middle-middle strategy; meaning enter in the middle of the lane, apex at the middle, and exit at the middle of the lane)

The setup portion of this cornering strategy is where you put all that information gathered in the “Search” step to good use. Which lane position offers you the most space, visibility, and safety? How fast should I be approaching given sharpness of the curve? These are all details you should’ve gathered before so you can set yourself up to tackle the challenges you’ve perceived in this step.


We aren’t massive fans of using the word smooth for training unless we obtain agreement about its meaning first.  At TEAM Arizona we define the word smooth as gradual and precise. Once you’ve searched out the difficulties of a curve and set yourself up to glide around it, it’s time to execute your turn in one smooth move. Making sure our throttle inputs are gradual and precise will help minimize motorcycle suspension movement allowing for a confidence-filled corner exit.

Tackling the challenge of perfecting a motorcycle cornering strategy cuts down on the likelihood of you going too wide on a corner, eliminating the second biggest threat to the modern rider. This strategy is all about practicing precision over speed, so if you want to nail the exact line of choice through the corner, you’ll need to operate with plenty of safety margin to stay within your lane to avoid making contact with curbs, barriers, or other drivers

The benefits are many to having a motorcycle that is composed when cornering, including adding ground clearance through smooth throttle application.

What’s Your Take?

What are some other strategies you’ve used to help you perfect cornering during your trips? Contribute your ideas and help your fellow riders find the perfect way to beat even the toughest corners with a bit of practice and training.

Join the discussion on our Facebook page; happy cornering!

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Bill Seltzer Yamaha FJ-09Bill 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:


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