Five Tips For Better Motorcycling

This essay discusses five tips to help you improve your motorcycle riding.

Spring is sprung and your first day of riding brings back all the horror you felt as a novice. Curves seem to be laying in wait, you fumble with your bike's controls, and everything is new again for you.

Now take an honest appraisal of your skills. A new season means a new opportunity to improve your riding. Motorcycling happens as much in your mind - in your understanding of the physics of your machine - as on the road, and you can brush up on your riding by just paying attention to a few riding techniques.

This essay will discuss five tips to help you improve your motorcycle riding. Remember to begin slowly and develop good habits based on repeated success. Rather than trying to bull your way through a tight curve, try using these techniques and operating your machine as smoothly as possible.

Before even pulling your bike out for the first ride of the season check it over to ensure nothing has dry rotted or come loose through the cold season. Check your tires to be sure they're inflated to the right specifications; inspect hoses and seals for leaks; and run through your directions, brake light and other controls.

Set your bike up in a way that fits you, careful not to make drastic changes at first. Many motorcycles allow you to alter your clip-ons or swap out to different handlebars to get good fit. Adjust your front brake lever if possible and make sure your comfortable with the foot shifter and rear brake.

When you're confident about your machine hit the road, trying to keep the following tips in mind:

1) The faster you ride, the more stabile your bike will become: Many inexperienced riders wobble into traffic, thinking that speed kills, but in fact motorcycles become more predictable and stabile the faster you go. This means that coasting through or braking hard in a curve rather than gently accelerating through it will contribute to instability. If you begin to experience a wobble or drive shake, give your machine some gas and it will usually come out of it. If it doesn't try loosening your grip on the bike and tucking in while slowing and decelerating.

2) Your brakes are not dangerous: Many sport-bike riders will caution against using the rear brake, claiming that it will lead to tire breakaway and loss of traction; a lot of cruiser riders will say that using the front brake will cause dangerous fork dive; while some off-road riders trail the real through a curve and brake hard on the front. The fact is that in 90% of the cases using both brakes at the same time will prove most effective. If you must use only one brake, use your front, but the real test of a rider's ability is to grasp - even in the middle of a switchback curve - how much brake to use and when.

3) Look through the curve: You will go where you look, so never fixate on a target off the road or a potential threat in your path. Your motorcycle line (or path of travel) is largely going to depend on what you're looking at. Focusing on a point further away will allow you to see threats further away as well as "slowing down" your vision so that you can separate out the elements affecting your motorcycle.

4) Understand how to counter steer: Counter steering is one of the most misunderstood concepts of motorcycling. Some riders believe counter steering is only applicable to sport bikes, but this isn't true and know how to lean into a curve will help you make faster, safer corners. At slow speeds you may turn your handlebars into the curve or even weight the opposite side, but on faster curves or corners your body acts as a counterbalance against the gyroscopic forces at work. To do this you push against your handlebars in the direction of the curve while weighing the inside edge. Practice counter steering in long sweepers where persistent leaning and counter steering is needed and you will see startling improvement in your confidence and ability.

5) Know your limits and the limits of your machine: Travel at the speed you're comfortable at and don't let anyone shame you into going faster. It's always smarter to ride beneath your limits than to exceed them, and good riders know the importance of setting their own pace. Know the braking distance of your bike and be aware of when parts may grind off on the pavement. Remember to adjust your ride to the machine you're on and allow time to get to know a machine you're not familiar with.

© High Speed Ventures 2011