Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Riding A Motorcycle Too Fast Into A Corner

Here's an interesting question...

what to do when going into a curve to fast on a motorcycle
I found this in my website statistics. Someone searched Google for these words, and apparently, it lead them to this blog.

Lean it hard.

I'm assuming that you're already into the curve, and you realize you're going too fast for what you're accustomed to handling.

In this case, you might crash in one of two ways, by going out of your lane and into the side, or opposing lane, or, you can lean the bike over too hard and create a "pivot point", causing you to lose traction with the rear tire. There's actually a third way to crash, which I'll discuss below.

But if you think about those two, you'll realize that the latter, leaning the bike hard, is the least likely to cause a crash. The former, which is not turning enough and going out of your lane, is more likely to cause a crash. Therefore, take your chances by leaning the bike as hard as you can, and hope the rear tire won't lose traction.

By leaning the bike hard, you're going to hear your bike scrape the road. All bikes can scrape the road without losing tire traction. However scraping too hard will eventually create a "pivot point", which is when the rear tire lose traction with the road. But still, every bike has a range of lean angle where you can safely scrape the road without creating a pivot point.

You should ALWAYS prepare yourself to hear the scraping sound so that you won't be startled by it. Too often someone will hear the scrape and become so startled by it, that they straighten up the bike and ride into the path of oncoming traffic, or the side of the road.

If you're going to lean the bike hard, you may feel your feet being squeezed up against the engine, due to the ground pushing the pegs or floorboards upwards. In that case move your feet off of them, or else you'll end up creating a pivot point too early.

Using the rear brake is something you can use, if you use it lightly. If you're going really hot into a curve, I wouldn't use it at all. Your chances are still better by just leaning it hard.

Downshifting can also slow you down, but it's very dangerous in the middle of a lean. When you downshift, your bike will lunge forward, causing the weight to come off of the rear tire, and thereby losing traction with the road.

Downshifting, and using the rear brakes are things you can do if you can do them before you enter the curve. Most people usually are already into the lean by the time they realize they've bitten off more than they can chew.

The third way to crash when riding too hot into a curve, is when the bike wobbles out of control. All motorcycles have a point at which they wobble when riding hard into a turn. Harleys tend to wobble at slower speeds than most motorcycles. So, if you lean a bike hard into a turn, it could wobble uncontrollably, and throw you off like a bucking bronco.

But, you're still better off taking your chances with a hard lean, prepare yourself to hear the scrape, don't let that scrape startle you, and hope the tire holds.

Even if you do go down, you're better off going down in a hard lean (low side), than by going down any other way.


  1. We've already established in my comments on one of your earlier posts that we disagree on the use of rear brakes in a turn, so I'm not trying to change your mind with this comment. I just wanted to offer a different viewpoint so your readers can make their own informed decision.

    I feel -- quite strongly -- that using your rear brake in a turn, especially in the kind of hard turn you describe in this entry, is a VERY dangerous practice. Just as downshifting will un-weight the rear wheel and lead to loss of traction as you said, so too will using the rear brake.

    You shouldn't brake in a turn at all, but if you absolutely, positively HAVE to -- use the FRONT brake. (In my humble opinion, of course.)

    1. Your wrong, any braking force applied to the front may cause it to slip and you WILL lowside. The front tire is the only thing keeping you going in the direction you want, do not use the front brake whilst in a turn. If you have to use the back very gently. You should be going into the corner with your rev's quite high, this gives you the option of either accelerating with a decent amount of power, or using the engine to slow you down. You'd be surprised how much your turns will tighten just by letting off the gas.

  2. I agree in a hard turn, you shouldn't use any brake, your chances are better to lean it hard, and ride it out.

    I just know from experience that I've been able to brake successfully (but just tapping it mind you) in easier turns.

  3. I agree with you 100% Steve.

    I've successfully gotten through the scenario you described by doing it just the way you advised - and more than once. Light use on the back brake and a good lean, followed by a throttle-up coming out.

    I think when you're leaning hard in a turn, your hands are too busy holding onto the bars to be applying the front brake number one. Second, I think it does the same thing as downshifting would, causing a weight shift forward - not cool while leaning.

  4. Okay, I've done some Googling about the "rear brake in a turn" issue, done some reading on what I found, asked a couple of the guys in my club about it, and then yesterday I did some road testing, and I'm here to tell you that...

    I was wrong.

    I'm going to have to learn a new cornering technique now, because after testing it out in the twisties yesterday -- I like it.

    I just thought I'd man up here and admit I was wrong. I'm glad I finally learned about this.

  5. I forgot to mention one situation where you really were right about this Chuck.

    If the corner is on a steep downgrade, most of the weight will be shifted to the front wheel. In that situation, slowing the rear wheel at all reduces traction, and locking it is also possible, which would probably put you down. So while looking through the turn, a little front brake, combined with holding the outside line as long as possible and leaning hard, is how I'd do it.

    All the times we've discussed this I never took the grade into consideration. If the grade is steep enough, the difference in weight distribution on the motorcycle definitely changes the scenario. Something to think about.

  6. Just layed mine down june 17,08
    perfect example. taking a sharp curve to the right. slowing down with the front brake leaning into it while still driftin to the other side.
    Split second choices @ about 50 mph.
    Choose to go to the other side, grass and stop.
    Front wheel dug in about 6 inches to embankment yo soft. rear of the bike swung to the right putting the engine guard in and my right ass hip on the ground. Black and blue 8 iches in cir. Bike rebounded back to the left side breaking the rear signal light and tearing the upper tendon fom my elbow. My buddy and myself righted my 1994 FXDL LOW RIDER and i drove her back to my shop. Straighten the crash bar, new bullet signal light in the rear on the way, new beam lens only on its way. tig te right highway peg. Dr stitched the tendon back to my elboe JUNE 20,08. I got away cheap and a good thing for my spirit guides.

  7. Motorcycle racers, riding at the extreme limits of lean angle and traction, use their brakes all the way to the apex of a turn and accelerate all the way out from there. That's a lot of traction points used while leaned WAY over ... probably WAY more than you or I ever lean.

    I agree that you probably can't stomp on the rear brakes or grab a handful of front brake lever while turning, but even if you are using 90% of available traction for turning, that leaves 10% for braking or accelerating. In fact, you are doing this already every time you turn a corner and pull up to a stop sign or slow down because you see a mid-corner patch of sand or find a truck clogging up your lane.

    Touching the brakes in a curve is NOT death sentence.

    May I offer a less controversial suggestion for improving cornering?

    As you approach a corner, lean your upper body FORWARD and into the direction you want to turn. This will bend your arms giving you more control over counter steering. It moves your center of gravity in and down, pushing the bike up and out for increased lean angle. At the same time, a forward-and-in lean "get's your head in the game." This movement is a natural "running and turning" movement that allows the brain to stop working so hard and just ride the bike.

    Try it yourself and read "Sport Riding" by Nick Ienatsch.

  8. A couple of comments that I haven't seen here:

    1)in most cases there is a lot more capability to the bike than our courage to use it. Stay with the bike; stay in the corner; don't panic.

    2)any action you take, take gradually.

    3)Many comments about 'leaning harder'. Apply the technic of 'counter steering'. In other words, press the grip on the side of the trun (left grip for left turn, right grip for right turn) This technique will improve your cornering DRAMATICALLY. It should be used in ALL corners, but especially when you need performance.

    4)lowering your center of gravity will help you get around corners faster with no increased lean angle. To do this you need to slide off the seat to the inside of the corner. Tougher to do, but better than dumping it.

    In most cases, by staying calm, counter-steering, and applying light brake pressue, you will navigate the corner.

  9. I wiped out may 26th 2010, on twisties (no straight lines between curves at all. Negative camber and sliping down hill a lil bit but not a STEEP grade. 60mph(30mph suggested) , panic set in and I hit the rear brake, bike got the wabbels, then hi- sided the bike on top of my right leg while sliding down the road and stopping @ the edge of the road ( thank god no other traffic was there and I had never been down this road before). PUSHED MY LIMITS THAT DAY. I admit I have been a bit of a chicken shit about cornering at max speed limits. DO PEOPLE USUALLY GET THROUGH THAT ROUGH SPOT?

    1 full year of riding experience at that time

  10. I find that applying the rear brakes during a corner is actually not that bad but just dont use it too much. try applying it gently and its much easier to lean down.

  11. Watch the first laps of MotoGP practice sometime. Even the pros don't go 100 percent right away.

  12. Watch the first laps of MotoGP practice sometime. Even the pros don't go 100 percent right away.

  13. I took a bend to fast today racing a golf 7 R line. The guy is pretty quick and I entered a bend to fast slowly going near the pavement. I just decelerated mid bend so the bike stayed in the middle on the lane. My mind was racing thinking if the engine breaks to hard the front Tire might not grip or lose grip. I eventually dipped the bike further after engine breaking but Damn that experience makes me want to get better at riding ASAP. Thanks for the article I could have easily stopped moving to the pavement if I had just leaned the bike lower. I'm riding for 3.5 months now. First bike.

  14. Boy these comments sure help me get thru the mind games my head's been playing with me since the 3rd of September. I had the bike 8 days. First bike, rode all week, rode everyday after work and on the weekends. Big long sweeping curve, just before the center, it's like the bike locked up, I looked at my left hand and thought why aren't you letting me push you down? No time to think other than to pull in clutch and apply both brakes and I drove off the road. My hubby was in front of me and saw it go in his mirrors. We agreed we were going 45-50 mph andI probably got it down to 30-35? Anyway, ended up with 4 staples in my hairline and road rash across forehead and down my nose, fractured back rib, and shoulder, hip and knee deep bruising. Pretty lucky for no helmet and no leather other than boots. Thanks for all the advice, will help when I get back on! :)


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)