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 Tip 254: A Case Against Counterbalancing ... And A Few Other MSF Teachings
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JanK
Male Junior Member
76 Posts


Ljubljana, Ljubljana
Slovenia

BMW

F650CS

Posted - 10/02/2012 :  5:54 PM                       Like
As a part of continuing education about everything motorcycle related, I've come across and read this tip. May I respectfully submit that both leaning outside and leaning inside the turn are tools that even a novice can use, or at least should know about.

Some of my riding this year has been through small villages, where the some of the streets between houses are very narrow. Riding in-line with the bike on these streets is more dangerous than counter-weighing, due to simple geometry. When counter-weighing, the front profile is quite narrower, 30-50cm, thus presenting a smaller "target" for the opposing traffic. More importantly, your head is not the object closest to the centre of the turn, i.e,. to opposite traffic in left-hand turns and to walls in right-hand turns.

Another distinct advantage of keeping the body vertical is that transitions between left and right corners can be much faster than when rotating with the bike. A consequence of simple physics.

Moment of inertia is proportional to mass and to the square of the length. Imagine two sticks, one 50cm long, the other 100cm long, both weighing the same. If you hold a stick at the middle and try twirling it like a baton, you will find that it will take four times as much torque to spin up the longer stick and not twice, as you'd expect from the ratios of length. Even though the rotation needs to be larger to produce the required common lean angle, rotating just the bike reduces the lateral forces on the tires by a factor of at least 2, but more likely 3-4. On slippery limestone cobblestones that you find in some villages you need every bit of traction you can get. To have the option of reducing the traction needs by such an amount is not negligible. In a possible emergency situation even less so.

On the other hand, in turns where there is enough space and time to lean with the bike, my bike's handling improves markedly if I lean the body inside the turn. If I keep the body aligned with the bike, the bike feels stiff and I need to work at keeping it in a turn. If I lean towards the inside and open the throttle slightly after leaning the bike, the bike feels as though on rails, I set the lean angle/trajectory and let the bike go. I can feel everything in the handlebars, which can be held very lightly. The bike handles this way when it's close to neutral steering, which can never be experienced if you are always aligned with the bike.

Yes, I can go faster. But at legal speeds I have a larger margin of error. My partner doesn't like to speed on her bike, so when riding with her, my speed oscillates from slightly below speed limit before the corner to slightly below after the corner. And even at those speeds the ride is simply more relaxing.

Another advantage to leaning towards the inside is that the bike lean angle is smaller that if it were ridden in-line with the body. And less lean is always a good thing, n'est ce pas?

It is my opinion that by discounting these two techniques as dangerous and applicable only when speeding, new riders are not being told the full story. Again, I understand that information overload can be problematic for new riders, but they could be better served by telling them that these are advanced techniques and give them some pointers where they can be used and what needs to be mastered before they are used.

bricksrheavy
Male Standard Member
130 Posts


Europe
Croatia

Yamaha

FZ6

Posted - 10/03/2012 :  3:29 AM
quote:
Originally posted by JanK


...Again, I understand that information overload can be problematic for new riders, but they could be better served by telling them that these are advanced techniques and give them some pointers where they can be used and what needs to be mastered before they are used...


When I started riding over a year ago (on a 50cc scooter) it only made sense to me to lean my body to the inside to keep the scoot as upright as possible so when I bought a bike I actually never learned how to corner by leaning with it. Let's say I'm riding in the city, and I need to make a right turn - that means partially riding (and leaning) over a zebra crossing which are slippery as hell over here. If I lean my upper body to the inside of the turn (my butt stays in the seat so I'm not talking about a full racing, knee down position), I can make that corner without having to lean the bike as much as I would have to otherwise. How is that not safer?
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17292 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 10/03/2012 :  5:28 AM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
quote:
...I can make that corner without having to lean the bike as much as I would have to otherwise. How is that not safer?


'Safer'? I get the distinct impression that you mean 'less likely to lose traction'.

I've heard similar arguments before and have not bothered to challenge them because the concept is not particularly dangerous. However, this time I'd like to at least clarify the thought for those who have a similar misconception.

The idea that the lower the lean angle of the bike, the more traction it has in a turn is simply not true. What is true is that the lower the lean angle of the bike in a turn, the more capable its suspension is in handling irregularities in the roadway surface.

Traction is consumed in a turn based on how great the lateral acceleration is (assuming the tire remains in contact with the ground). In other words, traction demand is a function of velocity squared divided by the radius of the turn. There is no lean angle in that calculation.

Because your body is loosely coupled to your bike, you can change the lean angle of the bike by counter-leaning your body, but that does not change by one iota the lean angle of the combined body and bike mass - that is, it does not change by one iota the amount of centrifugal force it experiences in a turn.



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Horse
Senior Member
263 Posts


Newbury, Berkshire
United Kingdom

BMW

R850RT

Posted - 10/03/2012 :  5:46 AM
. . . More importantly, your head is not the object closest to the centre of the turn, i.e,. to opposite traffic in left-hand turns and to walls in right-hand turns.

Another distinct advantage of keeping the body vertical is that . . .


Another possible advantage is that keeping your head higher could improve your view of the road ahead.

However, I have owned a succession of BMW 'RTs' (R-air, K, K, K, R-oil) so hanging off in coners is obviously not something I know about or could condone :)
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JanK
Male Junior Member
76 Posts


Ljubljana, Ljubljana
Slovenia

BMW

F650CS

Posted - 10/03/2012 :  6:16 AM
@bricksrheavy: Don't misunderstand. I agree that using the body weight for adjusting bike behaviour is safer.

When braking I sit up as straight as possible as quickly as possible, firstly to drive the fork into ground at the very start of braking and secondly to raise the COG and enable more weight transfer to the front wheel. When riding in twisties, especially uphill, I lean the body forward to compress the forks and thus reduce the tendency of the unloaded front end to widen the turn. So yes, shifting the body is an important tool for controlling the bike and making it safer to ride.

I just think that there are other more important skills for the novice: visual skills, throttle control, knowing how to brake for maximum effect,... Assuming that one rides well below the limits, as a novice should, the body positioning is not as crucial as the need the get these basics right.

But as soon as these basics are absorbed, the body position is the next major influence on bike control, lateral forces, the regime in which suspension works,... and thus rider safety. Saying that you always need to be in-line with the motorcycle simply decreases safety in my opinion. And this is my main complaint with the tip.

@Horse: It's not so much hanging off as it is shifting the body to the inside of the turn. Here's an explanation from the Sport Riding Techniques by Nick Ienatsch:



In most of the corners it's not even necessary to shift the butt off the seat, leaning just the body is enough to improve the handling.

Edited by - JanK on 10/03/2012 8:35 AM
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bricksrheavy
Male Standard Member
130 Posts


Europe
Croatia

Yamaha

FZ6

Posted - 10/03/2012 :  7:26 AM
quote:
Originally posted by James R. Davis

quote:
...I can make that corner without having to lean the bike as much as I would have to otherwise. How is that not safer?


'Safer'? I get the distinct impression that you mean 'less likely to lose traction'.

I've heard similar arguments before and have not bothered to challenge them because the concept is not particularly dangerous. However, this time I'd like to at least clarify the thought for those who have a similar misconception.

The idea that the lower the lean angle of the bike, the more traction it has in a turn is simply not true. What is true is that the lower the lean angle of the bike in a turn, the more capable its suspension is in handling irregularities in the roadway surface.

Traction is consumed in a turn based on how great the lateral acceleration is (assuming the tire remains in contact with the ground). In other words, traction demand is a function of velocity squared divided by the radius of the turn. There is no lean angle in that calculation.

Because your body is loosely coupled to your bike, you can change the lean angle of the bike by counter-leaning your body, but that does not change by one iota the lean angle of the combined body and bike mass - that is, it does not change by one iota the amount of centrifugal force it experiences in a turn.






You're right, what I wanted to say is that I think I'm less likely to lose traction, but reading and re-reading your post is making me think twice. What about the contact patch? If I lean the bike less - I have a bigger contact patch, right? Just to make clear, I started leaning my upper body to the inside 'cause like most novice riders I had a problem with trusting the tires and I thought that by keeping the scooter more upright I'm reducing the chance of a tire slide. I'm not doing it to improve my street racing times (or something stupid like that). This video (from 01:33) demonstrates how I do it;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUJ3...feature=plcp
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JanK
Male Junior Member
76 Posts


Ljubljana, Ljubljana
Slovenia

BMW

F650CS

Posted - 10/03/2012 :  9:26 AM
quote:
Originally posted by bricksrheavyI'm not doing it to improve my street racing times (or something stupid like that). This video (from 01:33) demonstrates how I do it;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUJ3...feature=plcp



Yup, that's the position I was talking about.

BTW, when RoadcraftNottingham demonstrates hanging off, he's making a fundamental mistake. From his remark that the bike becomes twitchy and that there is too much weight on the bars it's obvious that he's using the bars to hang on to the bike. Wrong!

For all this to work smoothly your body needs to be in a position where there is NO weight on the bars. That means that you need to lock your lower body to the bike and use your torso muscles to support the body. If you do that (and lean the body into the corner), the steering torque is so low that you can control the bike by literally holding the bars only with your thumb and forefinger - The steering torque is LOWER if you lean your body towards the inside than if you keep it in-line. Any extra inputs into the handlebar are due to poor technique.
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gymnast
Moderator
4267 Posts
[Mentor]


Meridian, Idaho
USA

Harley-Davidson

Sportster Sport

Posted - 10/03/2012 :  9:33 AM
quote:
Originally posted by JanK

quote:
Originally posted by bricksrheavyI'm not doing it to improve my street racing times (or something stupid like that). This video (from 01:33) demonstrates how I do it;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUJ3...feature=plcp



Yup, that's the position I was talking about.

BTW, when RoadcraftNottingham demonstrates hanging off, he's making a fundamental mistake. From his remark that the bike becomes twitchy and that there is too much weight on the bars it's obvious that he's using the bars to hang on to the bike. Wrong!

For all this to work smoothly your body needs to be in a position where there is NO weight on the bars. That means that you need to lock your lower body to the bike and use your torso muscles to support the body. If you do that (and lean the body into the corner), the steering torque is so low that you can control the bike by literally holding the bars only with your thumb and forefinger - The steering torque is LOWER if you lean your body towards the inside than if you keep it in-line. Any extra inputs into the handlebar are due to poor technique.



Are you suggesting that this technique be incorporated from the beginning in the instruction of new riders? If so, could you please say why this needs to be taught and give some indication of the speeds at which the instruction is conducted.
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17292 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 10/03/2012 :  10:11 AM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
quote:
What about the contact patch? If I lean the bike less - I have a bigger contact patch, right?


That, too, is generally misunderstood to mean 'greater traction'. While size of contact patch CAN make a trivial difference in the traction available, you cannot conclude that a bike traveling in a curve has more or less traction based simply on contact patch size as, for example, many tires have softer rubber on the sides of the center line than on the center line.
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6890 Posts
[Mentor]


Pleasanton, CA
USA

KTM

990 Adv, XR650L

Posted - 10/03/2012 :  3:12 PM
quote:
Originally posted by James R. Davis

quote:
What about the contact patch? If I lean the bike less - I have a bigger contact patch, right?
That, too, is generally misunderstood to mean 'greater traction'. While size of contact patch CAN make a trivial difference in the traction available, you cannot conclude that a bike traveling in a curve has more or less traction based simply on contact patch size as, for example, many tires have softer rubber on the sides of the center line than on the center line.
Only slightly diverting from the topic...

I was recently reading about the MotoGP riders and their complaints about the spec Pirelli tires that they all have to use. Apparently before the change, when they straightened the bike up the contact patch was bigger than when leaned over, so they could get more power down. So they would spend less time cornering and more time on the brakes and on the throttle. Now the contact patch is supposed to stay pretty much the same at all lean angles, so they're better off spending more time cornering, kind of like the riding style for the 125 and Moto3 bikes. And some track tires are more triangle shaped that actually have a bigger contact patch when cornering than when riding straight.

None of this makes any difference to me or my riding, but I found it interesting.
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JanK
Male Junior Member
76 Posts


Ljubljana, Ljubljana
Slovenia

BMW

F650CS

Posted - 10/03/2012 :  3:48 PM
quote:
Originally posted by gymnast
Are you suggesting that this technique be incorporated from the beginning in the instruction of new riders? If so, could you please say why this needs to be taught and give some indication of the speeds at which the instruction is conducted.



If we're talking about hanging off the bike, as shown in figure B and in the video, of course not. As I've stated before, there are other, much more important skills to be learnt when first learning how to ride a bike.

On the other hand, and correct me if I'm wrong, I don't see a reason why beginners should not be taught to keep firm contact between the bike and the lower body and not to use handlebar as a support for the body. IMHO there are no negatives to these two elements.

Perhaps the point of my initial post can be explained better by contrasting the information in tip 254 with the whole section of tips on braking, especially tip 30.

The 75%/25% division between front and back braking power is adequate for stopping in most non-emergency situations and as such is still taught by many instructors (if the information at the beginning of tip 30 is correct). Of course in an emergency situation adequate is not enough and can leave you dead. Thus the whole section on how to brake properly.

The steps in a perfect stop, described in tip 30, are not trivial and probably not something that a new rider would be expected to execute without lots of practice, especially during the limited course period. But any rider, advanced and beginner, that comes across this site, will know that there is a better way of stopping than 75%/25%, why it is better and how to practice the method.

Incidentally, I'm sure you'll agree that standing on the pegs is something which is far from a beginners' technique and is probably harder to do safely than leaning your body while seated. Yet it's included on the site, because in some situations it is safer than riding sitting down.

Similarly, riding in-line with the bike is adequate in most situations. But there is no information for the advanced rider that this is not the safest way to ride in all situations - assuming that the reasons I've listed are not flawed.
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gymnast
Moderator
4267 Posts
[Mentor]


Meridian, Idaho
USA

Harley-Davidson

Sportster Sport

Posted - 10/03/2012 :  4:08 PM
JanK. Basic courses in the US do emphasize "squeezing in with the knees" in order for the rider to better attach themselves to the bike. Standing on the pegs to go over a bump or uneven surface is also taught. Leaning off the bike in corners is not taught for a number reasons, one of which is that the speeds in basic courses are too low to provide a meaningful experience and another of which is that it is not necessary for safe operation at legal speeds. None of the courses are designed to teach techniques that are associated with operating a motorcycle on the street or in traffic at speeds that exceed the posted limits or would be used in racing on track. Track days are associated with learning techniques to be used in competition rather than safe and legal operation on the public roads.
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bricksrheavy
Male Standard Member
130 Posts


Europe
Croatia

Yamaha

FZ6

Posted - 10/04/2012 :  3:28 AM
quote:
Originally posted by James R. Davis

quote:
What about the contact patch? If I lean the bike less - I have a bigger contact patch, right?


That, too, is generally misunderstood to mean 'greater traction'. While size of contact patch CAN make a trivial difference in the traction available, you cannot conclude that a bike traveling in a curve has more or less traction based simply on contact patch size as, for example, many tires have softer rubber on the sides of the center line than on the center line.


I'm having a hard time trying to wrap my head around this. Basically, what you're saying is that slightly leaning my upper body (not completely hanging off - my outside knee is locked to the tank and my backside stays in the seat) to the inside in order to keep the bike more upright has no safety value whatsoever?
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17292 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 10/04/2012 :  5:49 AM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
Not being able to wrap your head around something may be saying something about your head , but I'm NOT saying that leaning your body in a curve more than the bike leans has no safety value.

It does, for example, reduce your odds of dragging a peg, except when traveling at legal speeds where the odds are already zero.

On the other hand, it adds a body movement that is unnecessary and which momentarily destabilizes the bike when you do it, and which does the same when you undo it.

The practice has about as much safety value as blipping your throttle while stopped at a traffic light in order to advise people around you that you are riding a motorcycle.

Feel free to do so if it is important to you for some other reason, but claiming it has safety value is a stretch.
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bricksrheavy
Male Standard Member
130 Posts


Europe
Croatia

Yamaha

FZ6

Posted - 10/04/2012 :  6:15 AM
quote:
Originally posted by James R. Davis

Not being able to wrap your head around something may be saying something about your head , but I'm NOT saying that leaning your body in a curve more than the bike leans has no safety value.

It does, for example, reduce your odds of dragging a peg, except when traveling at legal speeds where the odds are already zero.

On the other hand, it adds a body movement that is unnecessary and which momentarily destabilizes the bike when you do it, and which does the same when you undo it.

The practice has about as much safety value as blipping your throttle while stopped at a traffic light in order to advise people around you that you are riding a motorcycle.

Feel free to do so if it is important to you for some other reason, but claiming it has safety value is a stretch.



There's a lot to be said about my head, and unfortunately most of it is not very reassuring, to say the least
Joking aside, I wouldn't be visiting this forum every day and re-reading the safety tips if I wasn't interested in riding safely, so please don't misunderstand my interest in various techniques for desire to find ways to race faster on the street.
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17292 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 10/04/2012 :  6:32 AM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
There is no mystery on this site in that regard. Should a member become objectionable in behavior, that member soon ceases to be a member. Your behavior is clearly sincere and not objectionable.

Besides, this particular forum is designed to carry the opinions of members who feel that the host is 'full of sh*t' - so long as they do so in a courteous manner. Much latitude is provided in this forum.
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Axiom2000
Male Moderator
1761 Posts
[Mentor]


Georgetown, Delaware
USA

BMW

F 800 GT

Posted - 10/04/2012 :  6:34 AM
Here is what's included in the Basic Riders Course Handbook concerning body lean while turning.

"In most situations you and the motorcycle should lean together However, for slow tight turns like U-turns in a parking lot use a counterweight technique by leaning your upper body to the outside of the turn. Putting more pressure on the outside footrest can help too.
Turn your head and look where you want to go. Turn the handlebars more in the direction you want to go for slower, tighter turns".

In teaching the basic class to new riders, even at the low speeds of 12 - 18 MPH we hope they attain, coaches will demonstrate and teach the benefits of leaning together with the motorcycle. Especially with individual students who have a fear of leaning and fight the machine while in a curve. In my experience, most new riders just naturally lean with the motorcycle while turning. For those that do not we provide that instruction. In the basic class, we do not teach, hanging off, flipping out a knee or any advanced techniques normally associated with racing or riding on a track. If you have never taught new riders in a formal setting, then trust me you would not want a novice rider with less than 10 hours seat time riding through a curve with their butt off the seat and knee pointing towards the ground.

Perhaps my expectations for students are too low, but if by the end of the class I would be happy as a clam if all the students, when riding a curve would; slow to an appropriate entry speed before the curve, turn their heads to look through the turn, press on the grip in the direction they want to go and either hold a steady throttle or even demonstrate a slight roll on while leaning with the motorcycle through the turn.

I don't know of a single coach who spends any appreciable amount of the limited valuable riding time available for students on counter weighting. Although, I find the technique valuable in making slow tight turns, what I find with new riders is having them shift their weight around at low speeds just tends to add to their problems of balance they are already fighting for. I would much rather see new riders controlling the motorcycle in slow speed tight turns by use of the friction zone to add incremental power to the rear wheel for stability.

For those who believe there is nothing wrong with at least mentioning more advanced techniques to new riders, that's fine. However, we have a total of 15 hours with these folks and in that time they need to learn and be able to demonstrate the basics of operating a motorcycle. For the new rider student the class is already akin to drinking from a fire hose. To add things that are of no immediate use in the basic operation of a motorcycle, at least in my opinion would only serve to confuse and frustrate.

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CaptCrash
Male Advanced Member
744 Posts
[Mentor]


Nampa, ID
USA

Honda

Phantom

Posted - 10/04/2012 :  8:41 AM
Let me offer an observation--newer riders seem to each a point where they start looking for the "mysteries of the kingdom". There comes this point where they seem to feel that the basics are no longer enough. I don't think this is a bad thing--we should all want to polish our craft, but sometimes I think it's misdirected. Most of the quest tends to be banked toward technique that increases speed. Perhaps better served would be honing mental skills or braking & avoidance maneuvers.

A great deal of motorcycling literature is geared to going faster and that's all fine and dandy except your street goals probably shouldn't start with "go faster". See further, make better decisions, brake well, and obstacle avoidance should probably top the list.
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kacinpa
Male Advanced Member
802 Posts
[Mentor]


Lansdale, PA
USA

Triumph

Sprint GT

Posted - 10/04/2012 :  9:12 AM
I thought I should add my 2 cents based on my fairly recent experience taking the MSF ARC.

In the Advanced Rider Course, one of the techniques taught is moving your body "up and out". No hanging off like a racer, but keeping the knees tight against the tank and moving the torso forward and toward the inside of a curve / turn. Before teaching this the class rode a course with several tight weaves and swerves. In my opinion the speed and degree of lateral movement needed were "real world" realistic, something you might actually have to accomplish on the road to avoid an obstacle. There was also two "swerves in curves", simulating an obstacle in the road in the middle of a curve. The majority of the class was able to negotiate these obstacles easily. However, two riders (one on a Vulcan 1500 the other on a Honda Fury) scraped their pegs and other hard parts every time they had to do the tight swerves. After being taught and practicing the leaning forward and in technique, they were able to do the same swerves without the sound of grinding metal.

I would suggest that having a way to swerve without dragging parts is a useful arrow to have in your quiver. I know I have seen the suggestion in the safety tips to "lean into the curve" if you start dragging pegs. I would submit that it is far better to be taught and practice the technique rather than hope to remember what to do in case a peg drags. The utility of this skill set is highly motorcycle dependent, during the course every "cruiser" type bike dragged a peg a few times, some almost every time, The Gold Wing dragged his boards a few times, but the adventure and sport bikes never even came close. I think the only reason to have this skill on a sport bike would be to facilitate riding at extra-legal speeds, on most Harleys, Vulcans, V-Stars etc, it could easily be a crash preventer.

I do agree, however, that this is not a beginner's lesson, as there are more important skills to master first.
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TonicBIA
Male Senior Member
382 Posts


Arlington, Va
USA

Triumph

Sprint ST

Posted - 10/06/2012 :  5:22 PM
quote:
Originally posted by James R. Davis
except when traveling at legal speeds where the odds are already zero.

Feel free to do so if it is important to you for some other reason, but claiming it has safety value is a stretch.



James, I use this technique around my area when I'm turning onto a road with a steep upward slope. There are quite a few turns in Georgetown for example where I'll scrape a peg on my cruiser just going 15mph. I've run into similar situations near Seneca Rocks in WV, Raleigh in NC, and San Francisco to name a few. The additional ground clearance, which MSF toutes as being the purpose for that forward and in leaves me scrape free while letting me achieve a reasonable speed for the turn. Since drivers in Georgetown don't believe in personal space, keeping a car more than 2-3 feet off my rear wheel is another area with safety value.

Axiom- your experience jives with mine when teaching. I spend more time on teaching the student smooth control and the ability to put the bike where they want it instead of trying to push counterbalancing. It helps some, it's too much for others.

We also insist on every student putting the right foot down after coming to a full stop. This is primarily to develop a habit to support and balance the bike. However, we also insist on them taking a few steps before starting to provide a consistent, straight and less eventful start.

I'm sure there are lots of differences in opinion on how the BRC should be taught, but the RCG, student handbook and range cards are fairly clear (when states/instructors choose to use them).
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17292 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 10/06/2012 :  6:55 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
quote:
James, I use this technique around my area when I'm turning onto a road with a steep upward slope. There are quite a few turns in Georgetown for example where I'll scrape a peg on my cruiser just going 15mph. I've run into similar situations near Seneca Rocks in WV, Raleigh in NC, and San Francisco to name a few. The additional ground clearance, which MSF toutes as being the purpose for that forward and in leaves me scrape free while letting me achieve a reasonable speed for the turn.

Point taken - you are right, of course.
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