Cornering Straight Talk
AllAboutBikes Sr. Staff Writer
If it’s an extended straightaway that flexes a motorcycles’ might – then it’s in the corners where you’ll determine the sincerity of its soul. Every racetrack or winding canyon road has it’s own rhythm of turns. Some quick like a Texas two-step. Others graceful and familiar like a hypnotic waltz. Others still may rock-and-roll, back and forth, switchback to off-chamber, loud and unpredictable. Exist exactly in the pristine clarity of the moment so that music of the road resonates throughout every fiber and it will become the dance you’ll never forget.
What separates mere racers from champions then is how well they dance. Okay, that may have been one musical metaphor too much. My point is that a rider’s talent for going through corners faster then anyone else, at the end of the day, determines championships. Sheer brute horsepower alone won’t do it.
Cornering without waste requires an artist’s finesse and a fighter’s reflexes. It necessitates precisely honed peripheral vision that can at once focus straight ahead and 180 degrees left and right, at the same instant employing a highly developed mental algorithm to adjust entry and exit lines at speeds that would have the mightiest of computers blowing smoke. Cornering well is what turns a nerve-rattling, white-knuckle, back roads detour – into a harmonious, friendship-bonding, adventure with pals.
There are but two fundamental paths into and out of every corner. Either you enter it low and exit high, or you do the inverse of that. Entering low means you come into the turn on the bottom, or inside portion, drifting up until you find the natural apex of the turn and leaning into it. The other line is to come in as high up in the turn as is reasonable, then shooting down, in as straight a line as possible to the inside of the turns exit.
Under ideal conditions correctly approaching corners in this manner is how you straighten them out. It’s the purest path of least resistance through corners. Every other line is ultimately a variation on that basic low-to-high formula. On a racetrack, split-second, micro-adjustments are decided by other competitors vying for the same line. On the road it will most likely be obstacles or bad road conditions. On canyon roads for example, it’s best not to enter turns too low – that’s where the gravel and rocks rest after sliding down hillsides.
In the beginning, a good exercise is to practice with some gentle, slow curves, on an un-congested road. Enter the bend just a bit under the speed limit and lean just a bit farther than you think you need to. Exaggerate it for effect. The bike will attempt to corner too sharp and cross over the line. Before it can though, keep your lean, and give it a bit more gas. The bike will want to level up and your line will straighten back out.
The harder you twist the gas, the harder it will endeavor to stand up, and the wider it will want to run through the turn. At that point you have the option to ease off the gas and tighten your line, or lean more and corner harder. Should you find yourself entering a corner a tad too hot, roll the throttle back immediately and again increase your lean angle. NEVER panic and hit the anchors – things will go badly very fast if you do. The bike will stand up straight and you’ll probably abort the turn and run off the road. Learning how to feather the brakes while cornering is a technique that takes years of experience and isn’t recommended.
When you’re in sync, cutting through lines totally in the zone, your head is steady, your emotions chilled and your body still. Exiting cleanly from one corner, you’re calmly eyeing the entry point on the next, maybe even the turn after that. But, don’t be in a hurry to go fast. Cornering well is as much an art as it is a science. Slow-and-steady-Eddie is the only rational way to go. DNF’s are costly on many levels and result in nothing but pain – on the track or road.