Monday, January 26, 2009

Sitting Up Straight On a Motorcycle

Spent the afternoon yesterday practicing my U-turns at this college parking lot. My buddy Brian came out with me to practice his braking.

I've been wanting to get to a point where I can lock the handle bars all the way in one direction, and effect a full circle, in a smooth and graceful manner. Just like the cops. I've practiced this before, and was able to do some tight circles, though still not with locked handle bars all the way around. Plus I wasn't leaning enough, and I wasn't exactly smooth and graceful. I even caught myself putting my foot on the ground when things got too wobbly.

But today, I think learned something. Sitting up straight gives me more reach. On my Ultra Classic, I've always sat in a slouched position whereever I ride, and in the past I've practiced my slow-speed turns in that position as well. Slouching makes it more difficult for me to reach the handle bars when they're locked all the way in one direction. For whatever reason, I feel more relaxed when trying to make those turns.

After being used to sitting slouched on a bike, sitting up straight tends to feel like I'm riding someone else's bike, where I know how to ride it but it all seems new.

Later, Brian and I decided to switch bikes. He has an Ultra Classic also, the same year, 2005. But the front end felt lighter on his. It was like I had total control in turning the bike; it responded completely to my input. Interestingly, Brian said that when he turned the handle bars on my bike, the bike wanted to lean, which perhaps is a good thing or bad, depending. I think it was a round-about way of saying the front end felt heavier on my bike, and that it was trying to dictate what to do. I'm assuming we have the same front end, with all the same parts. And have the same Dunlop tires.

So I don't know.

But I think I learned something about riding a bike today; it helps to sit up straight.


  1. Wow!! I guess my dear old ma was right when she yelled at me to sit up straight. And I always wondered why, until now.

  2. I practice tight little doughnuts all the time and get mad that I can't lock the bars completely. Either I need more practice or the locked position on my bike is past the sweet spot for smooth turning.

  3. There are some great dvds from that teach you how to ride like police officers do. There are even guys that cut the stops off to turn tighter.

    If you have lowered you rear suspension, it will make the steering feel heavier, because it will change the rake and trail of the bike. Low tire pressure can do the same.

  4. Yeah it helps! Speed decides your position on the seat in turns. What works at low speeds will not work at high speeds. I think this is what screws most riders the safety courses tell you to stay perpindicular to the horizontal plane of the seat. Great for leisure riding. Slow turns? Not so great. You can lock that steering up and have full control by shifting your body upright and letting the bike lean while your body is perpendicular to the horizontal plane of the asphalt. My glide has reverse triple forks so it's even harder to hit the locked position but I don't have a problem doing it by shifting my weight to the outside of the turn. Just the opposite of what you would do with your body in a high speed turn.

    I know, blah, blah, blah. All I know is it works for me because I have to do it everyday to get my bike onto the sidewalk at work.

  5. Sitting up straight is part of the secret to stability in those low speed turns. Head position and seat position as well. Requires abandoning all concerns for being cool or doing it my way.

    And it applies even to a scooter which is far more maneuverable.

    Reading your post reminded me that I should do some more practice. I've come to realize over the years that riding is not practice.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

  6. Reading this definately makes me want to go out and practice some more.

    Ride 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...)