Learning how to corner on a motorcycle is one of the most exciting parts of riding a bike. However, it can be tricky to get the technique just right. An accident can happen if the rider takes a corner too quickly and leans using the wrong body position. Accidents can also happen if the rider applies too much throttle before the apex.
This guide will go over how to get the technique down, how to corner safely, and common mistakes to avoid.
The Principles of Cornering
When you’re practicing cornering, make sure you bring along your motorcycle helmet camera, so you can review your technique once you get home and determine whether or not you’re using the correct body position.
When you’re trying to take a corner, it’s a good idea to move your weight to the inside of the bike, whether you’re riding on a track or the road.
You can practice this technique safely by finding a quiet back road that has a bend in it. A ninety-degree bend is ideal.
Mastering the Right Body Position
To corner effectively, you need to lean forward slightly with bent arms that are relaxed. The elbows should be kept in line with the handlebars, in a low position. Hold onto the handlebars using a light grip and avoid leaning on them for support. You can grip the tank with your legs, gently, for more support.
Keep your head tilted up and don’t allow your vision to drop. Make sure you keep your chin up so you can see the road ahead.
Try to avoid looking at anything that’s on the outside of the turn, since riders tend to go where they look.
When you have a clear view all the way through the corner, you can turn your motorcycle. At this point, you’ll transfer the pressure from the outside to the inside of a footpeg.
Next, dip your shoulder into the corner, leaning your upper body into the corner.
Experiment and find a way to corner your motorcycle that works the best for you. Cornering easily and correctly can do wonders for a beginner’s confidence.
The basics of cornering include:
- Keeping your chin up
- Looking down the road
- And turning your head
Keep these three things in mind while you practice.
What is Counter Steering?
Counter steering is a technique that involves placing pressure on the inside bar to make a motorcycle turn into a corner. If you want to make a right-hand turn, you’ll push forward gently, on the right handlebar. This leans the motorcycle to the right, which allows you to easily negotiate the bend.
For tighter bends at higher speeds, you may need to steer more. For a right-hand bend, you can grab the left handlebar and pull back on it to make the motorcycle lean faster and further.
When you’re riding, you should enter a corner with a neutral throttle having reduced speed in the braking zone. This is a safer approach that provides more room for adjustment. When entering a corner, make sure you get into position early on then adjust your speed. When you brake, it should be gradual, so you can slowly build pressure and ease off the brake smoothly.
The goal will be to finish braking when you’re still riding in a straight line. You don’t want to still be laying on the brakes once you begin to tip the motorcycle into the corner. Instead, the goal is to be able to manage the speed of the throttle smoothly.
Avoid accelerating into a corner. This mistake is probably one of the most dangerous things you can do. However, you do want a throttle that’s slightly positive. After you change gears, you should be able to open the throttle slightly, but not enough to accelerate. Instead, it should be just enough to prevent slowing any further.
This will keep the motorcycle stable and will transfer the weight from the bike’s front tire to the rear. It will also increase the motorcyclist’s feeling of control. However, make sure you don’t overdo it, and always remember that accelerating into a corner can be very dangerous.
At the midpoint of a corner, you can begin to gently open the throttle so you can ride to the exit.
Should the corner begin to tighten, when you roll off again it will drop the motorcycle safely back onto a tightening line. For corners that open, if you continue to accelerate it will take the motorcycle out of the turn.
The initial twist of the throttle is the key. It should be steady and smooth at first and it should be at the correct time to put you on a good exit line.
The best way to demonstrate the importance of the line you choose is to find a corner on a quiet stretch of road and try the following:
- Warm-up by taking a few passes, then pay attention to how you’re handling the corner. There will be a point when you decide to initiate turns. Take note of where this point is and try to turn before that.
- You’ll quickly notice that an early turn-in will throw you wide as you get further around corners.
- If you go too fast, you’ll drift into oncoming traffic, but as you’re traveling at a reasonable speed, you’ll find that you can steer a little more and right yourself.
- Now, do the opposite. Try delaying your turn in as late as possible. You’ll notice that it’s basically impossible to turn wide. Riders may also find that they end up taking a more controlled, safer line compared to their normal approach since they’re focusing on gathering more information about the corner before they commit to the turn.
- A rider that crashes on a bend usually turns in too early. They may be trying to keep up with faster riders, or they may be riding beyond their ability. In some cases, a fatigued driver may not be paying attention to the road.
- Some riders may have a subconscious tendency to drift toward the corner and away from the wide position that provides the rider with a safe sweeping line through it and a good view.
Never head out of a cross-country motorcycle trip before you’ve mastered cornering. Practicing the standard techniques I’ve included here will help you stay safe on the road, even if you’re a beginner and have no prior riding experience.
- When you ride and keep your chin up, you’ll see everyone on the road in plenty of time, so you can easily prepare for the corner. This means moving the motorcycle over to the right side of the road for a left-hand bend or in the center for a right-hand bend.
- If you’re not sure how far over to go, only go as far as you feel comfortable with. When you spot a corner and focus on setting it up as soon as possible, you’ll have more time to prepare.
- If the road is full of potholes, avoid going too far out. If there’s any oncoming traffic in the opposite lane, avoid moving too close to the centerline.
- Using a wide position comes with many benefits, but the biggest one is the improved view it provides and the confidence it gives the rider.
Other Riding Tips
If you’re a new rider who just bought a motorcycle, have a friend ride with you to go over the basics. It’s great to have this extra level of support and a friend who can give you tips on how to ride safely. It’s also important to have someone with you who can provide help in the event you crash during practice.
Take it slow. Make an effort to find a secluded spot or a rarely traveled road where you can practice cornering for as long as you need.
Avoid practicing in inclement weather, such as high wind conditions or rain.
Only try cornering on main roads once you feel confident with your ability to corner during practice.
If you’re having trouble cornering after weeks of practice, you may want to consider taking professional motorcycle riding lessons. This may be a better option for some riders and will ensure you learn all the basics of motorcycle riding.
Learning how to corner on a motorcycle the right way can prevent you from trying to take the turn too early and too quickly, both of which can result in a serious motorcycle accident. Play it safe, keep your chin up, your eyes on the road, and only turn your head where you’re riding.
With these tips, you should start cornering like a pro in no time. Again, if you’re not confident about your cornering skills, make sure you put in plenty of practice, on a safe, out-of-the-way back road. Here, you’ll have plenty of time and space to build up your confidence in cornering and as a motorcycle rider in general.