Motorcycle Tips & Techniques

Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics

Skip Repetitive Navigational Links
Safety TipsTips:037-072   Tip039   Print article Print

Handling Curves
A better line

By: James R. Davis

Taking curves is rather a personal choice in terms of selection of entry and exit points as well as speed, it seems to me.

For example, the typical advice I have heard from others is to chose an entry point that allows you to make the curve using the smoothest line thru it so that you always have the least lean demand. This, of course, gives you the most ability to compensate your path through the curve should you find a need to do so. It also means that you hit the apex of the curve at about its middle. That is, you enter from the outside edge of the curve, then move towards the inside until you reach its apex, then continue from there outwards until you are once again at the outside of the curve just as you exit it.

I, on the other hand, do not normally do this. I prefer to delay my entry into the curve. That is, I stay to the outside edge well past the normal entry point, then turn much more sharply into it and hit the inside much beyond the normal apex. This gives me two significant (to me) advantages over the 'smoothest' course:

  • I get the lean that I enjoy (read: crave!) in the beginning of the curve where I have seen all that I need to see in terms of potential trouble.

  • When I exit the turn I am traveling at a much reduced angle relative to the path of the road. That is, since I am closer to the end of the curve when I reach the inside than is the normal apex, I have fewer degrees of the arc left to go before I am again going in a straight line. Said differently, if the road changes directions by a matter of 90 degrees through a curve, no matter what path you select through it you will have totaled 90 degrees when you are out of it. Since I turn more into the curve at my delayed entry point, I have less left to go to complete the turn when I am near the exit.

This last advantage is of profound importance, in my opinion. This gives me far more ability to handle unexpected problems as I get closer to the end of the curve. For example, what if it turns out to be a decreasing radius curve after all, or if there is gravel in the road that was not visible at its entry?

By the way, when I said that 'I stay to the outside edge' above I in no way meant to imply that I get close to the line. Far too many people seem to think that they have performed a safe maneuver thru a curve so long as their wheels do not touch or cross the (center) line. WRONG! If any part of your motorcycle crosses that line, including just a grip, you are in the path of oncoming traffic, and are in THEIR lane.

In any event, I TRY to overshoot my entry to a curve. Then I aggressively push-steer into it, and delay reaching the inside of the curve well past its apex. This also, incidentally, allows me to start an aggressive roll-on of my throttle sooner than when I am at the inside of the curve which gives me a better handling bike through the majority of it. I should add that this delayed entry approach requires that you get in the habit of not entering the curve too fast. Further, the right approach speed is one which requires NO BRAKING at entry.

[You should use MODEST throttle roll-on all the way through any curve. The 'roll-on point' that is shown in the graphic is where you can go after a higher exit speed if you happen to be aggressive with your bike.]

If you find that you cross the outside line, ever, then it is time to reassess what you are doing. Approaching the curve too fast? Insufficient confidence to aggressively push-steer when you need to? Insufficient experience to pick a good line? Lack of respect for the laws of chance (one of those times a 4-wheeler will have two of them across the line)? Acting like riding with friends is a competitive sport? Whatever it is, if you ever cross that center line you are riding above your abilities (and everyone around you will know it) and you need to change something soonest. Otherwise, make sure your relatives know your intentions relative to the donation of your organs.

This method is just my preference, after all, and it seems to me is generally safer than the 'smoothest line' method usually described.

Copyright © 1992 - 2019 by The Master Strategy Group, all rights reserved.

(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

A plea for your help