How to Master the Corners : A Step-by-Step Guide

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You have the guts, and you are not fearful of Throttle-Wide-Open on long, unpopulated stretches of tarmac. So you have cleared LEVEL 1! Now, let me help you take it a notch higher and trim those precious seconds while diving into corners.

Cornering Tips

If you are awed by professional riders kissing the curves with their knees, this write-up on Cornering Tips will help you get closer to that moment. While I am not really a Cornering Tips Master,  I do try to capitalise on my experiences. In this Cornering Tips guide, I have jotted down bits and pieces of my experiences.

1. BE GRADUAL, SMOOTH IF YOU SAY :

This is the Holy Grail of my Cornering Tips guide! 

While you are leaning into a corner, the contact patch of your tire isn’t really the maximum. As a result, the adhesion force between the tarmac and the tire is pushed to the limits. A sudden twist of the throttle lever or a depression of the brake lever will set up a weight transfer process to either the front/rear tire. Since they are already at their adhesion limits, you may lose traction and end up with a skid.

2. HAND POSITION :

Cornering Tips Hand Position

Position your index and middle finger on the brake lever in the way shown above. The thumb and rest of the fingers are used for throttle control. This is Hindustan, and people still do pop up infront of you on the streets, almost out of nowhere. This technique will save a few precious seconds in deploying brakes.

With regards to the cornering tips, this technique ensures that brake pressure stays below the threshold that can result in wheel lock-ups and skids. This is because the increase in brake pressure caused by pressing the lever with just two fingers is much more gradual. The same applies for the throttle lever as well. With just the thumb and two other fingers, the twisting action is more gradual and smooth. This avoids unnecessary sudden weight transfers to the rear which can unnerve your bike, and in the worst case lead to a skid or a highside.

3. INITIATE, COUNTERSTEER, THEN LEAN :

Cornering Tips for a Motorcycle

A very good way to initiate a turn is by weighting down your footpegs with the balls of your feet. However, you won’t be able to go through the whole turn on this technique. So the solution is to follow it up with a countersteer, and then a body lean, if necessary. I strongly feel leaning is not that much necessary for the speeds at which we ride on the streets. But as you push yourself to the limits, do hang from the seats on one bum.

Countersteering is a technique in which you disturb the bike’s equilibrium by a little amount, and then the inherent gyroscopic tendency of the wheels causes the bike to lean. I will come up with a whole detailed post on Countersteering sometime later. For the time being, do remember that you need to jerk-the-left-handlebar-to-lean-left, and jerk-the-right-handlebar-to-lean-right. Isn’t it puzzling?? 😀 Yes, even I felt so at the start. Try doing this at low speeds and on empty stretches. Just ensure that you are well equipped with gear.

P.S. – Remember that jerking the bar towards left is same as turning the handlebar right, and vice-versa!!

Cornering Tips and Countersteering

Now, as you have set up the bike in a lean by weighting the footpeg and countersteering, all you need to do is to ensure that the bike follows through the curve in its designated path. This can be ensured by a variety of techniques like Hanging-from-the-seats-on-One-Bum, Weighting-the-Fuel-Tank-with-Elbows-and-Knees and so on.

The basic point is that you need to set up a weight transfer process that moves the Center of Gravity of the Motorcycle-Rider system towards the center of the imaginary arc that it is tracing while it is cornering. For example, if you are turning left, you need to lean your body towards the left.

Now, isn’t the whole process much clearer?

4. NO CLUTCH :

Never ever disengage the clutch ( Means don’t “Depress the clutch lever!” ) while in a corner, as it may lead to traction loss for the rear wheel. As far as possible, try to cover the whole turn in one gear, even if it means digressing into the Redline RPM Zone. Gear shifting means you have to disengage the clutch for sometime. If you try to bend the rules by doing a clutchless shift, you risk grinding your cogs. Street legal bikes aren’t really built to take such a beating on their powertrains. Gear shifting will also rattle up your suspension by weight transfer to the wheels.

There is a reason why track-worthy bikes are built with an inbuilt capacity to withstand Over-revving! 

5. YOUR HEAD, ITS IMPORTANT!! :

Motorcycle Cornering Tips

Human body balance sense is due to a fluid present in the ears. It functions exactly like a spirit-balance. One should try to keep it perpendicular to the ground to avoid a gripping sensation of “Vertigo”. Often, novice riders initiate a lean but due to the sensation of Falling-Off, they abandon it mid-way. Keep your eyes on the curve, and look only in the direction where you are going. That will help in clearing the corners more easily.

6. DO NOT TRY THIS ON THE STREETS :

If you had a big grin on your face while going through article, you probably would have imagined smoking your riding buddies on a corner. Let me tell you, countersteering is a very counter-intuitive technique. And the rest of the techniques can’t be mastered overnight. 

DON’T TRY THIS ON THE STREETS. Head out to a track if you stay in Coimbatore / Noida. Other city-stayers, you might need to look out for a long, empty stretch of tarmac. My experience suggests that the regions in the proximity of airports often harbour such destinations. However, you need to exercise extreme caution and always be on the lookout for mangy dogs and ubiquitous cows.

And oh, while cornering, always remember to keep the bike in a gear lower than usual. SLOW-IN, FAST-OUT! 😉

Are you reminded of any particular incident you faced while on your bike that led you to adopt a better technique of controlling it??

ALSO READ : Guide to Averting a Deadly “Tankslapper”

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  • Ashwin Prakash says:

    Have tried it when I started riding, bike leans over sooner, but in case of a slide(caused by external factors) its hard to prevent a spill, unless you’re capable of shifting weights like em motogp people.

    And regarding clutchless shift as long as you aren’t forcing it, the bikes going to be fine. Personally I don’t clutchless shift at low RPM’s and I definitely don’t opt for a clutchless downshift, unless the cable has snapped or some other unavoidable circumstance occurs.
    In my D100, I religiously declutch, but in my ZMA, its always been clutchless.

  • Ishan says:

    typo error in my comments 1st para. “try it out”

  • Ishan says:

    no… weight should be put on the inside peg.. try if out…

    its not about “how to perform clutch-less shift”. we all know how to do that… its about “should we do that if we want long life/smoothness of our bike’s engine…”

  • Ashwin Prakash says:

    Hi, regarding weighing the inner peg, aren’t you actually supposed to put your weight on the outer peg? Because usually while countering sharp bends, I put the inside leg out to the front and weigh in on the outer peg and that gets the job done.

    And regarding upshifting, just put a very minimal load on the shifter and gently close and open the throttle, though it sounds like a long thing to do in reality it only takes a microsecond, because when it comes to really long corners and high speeds if you keep the throttle pinned you’ll soon bounce off the limiter.

  • Ishan says:

    the angle of lean can surely be controlled… it just depends on the extent to which one pushes the handlebar away and the overhang of the rider in the direction of turn(though this is not prescribed for a novice)… lean angle depends on a lot of things.. the most important factor is obviously the profile(curvature+contact patch) and grip level of the tyres.. when the lean angle increases further, other factors such as foot-peg height, center/side stand height/clearance, ground clearance, rigidity of frame, flex in shock absorbers, etc come into play…

    @kapil
    clutchless shifts are never good for internal gear cogs(except for some clutchless vehicles) of any transmission..they significantly reduce the life and smoothness of the transmission system… I know that you are thinking about the quick shifter mechanism used in many race-prepd bikes… yes they do help to save some precious seconds in a race(where long life of equipments are never at all expected) but for long life of the transmission, clutchless shifts should be seldom practised…