(WARNING!!! This article is for intermediate riders only, if you are a new rider then know your ride first, which means, it isn’t for you. But you can read nonetheless, just don’t blame me if anything goes horribly wrong).
Hi, everyone…Following my last article, I will try to shed some light on, how one can ride precisely and safely on a motorcycle. While doing that, I will try to explain some two wheeler phenomena or dynamics so that one can have better understanding of motorcycle.
You may think that I am trying to promote reckless riding but on the contrary, all I am trying to do is to enable riders to go precisely without being reckless or being danger to themselves and to others. One thing all riders got to admit that at some point of our riding life, we for some reason try to go fast, feeling the wind on our face or something poetic. So I will try my best (according to my experience which is almost half of that big old round thing) to enrich your knowledge about how you can ride safely and precisely on a two wheeler i.e. motorcycle; respect to all cyclist but it is really tiring and my ass hurts like hell on those tiny seats. May be, I have a skinny ass…hahahahaha…so without any delay, let’s get on with our article.
But before we start our blah, blah, blah… Let me ask a very basic question. How do we steer a motorcycle? Turn the handle bar towards right to turn right, to go left we turn left, right? Somewhat right but mostly wrong…
Now if you are an experienced and enthusiast rider, you will see that, whenever we try to turn right just before turning we do something that makes the bike lean towards the turn. Some do it naturally, some do it after some practice and some just can’t get it right. It only happens with two wheelers.
Again, have you ever noticed, while you are leaning towards left, your bike is drifting towards right? You can’t get your head around what just happened. You may learn this in a hard way while on weekend having some fun with another rider and suddenly you or he drifted towards outside and collide.
So what is it, actually? (There is no easy definition, so we just need to feel it first then the definition will reveal itself automatically..hahahaha…mystic!!!..ooooh)
Give me a moment here. Please know this, motorcycle is not a toy. It is some serious machine. Any street motorcycle can achieve 50 degree lean angle, where two forces equals out and cancels each other, just like a fighter plane but motorcycle just flies on the ground. So treat it carefully, otherwise, it will bite back.
Sorry about that. Let’s get back to our article.
So, the phenomena is called counter steering. At higher speed (it doesn’t necessarily mean 100 km/h; even 30 km/h can be higher speed if you have some obstacle at 4ft away) motorcycle wants to go straight. Motorcycle is made in such a way that while running, front and rear wheel will always try to line up on a straight line on their own. If you ever ride on an uneven surface, you will feel that the handlebar is shaking left and right.. Why??? Two wheels trying to line up on a straight line. So if I try to use force to stable my bike at those situation, I will actually worsen the wobbling and it may get uncontrollable because the rear wheel will try to revolve around the front because of the extra input I am delivering (it is just science, you can dig things up a bit by doing some little research). So please, in such situation, just hold the handlebar gently. Don’t try to fight it, try to slow down gently if it gets scary. That’s why, bigger bikes use steering damper and even stunt riders uses them sometimes.
Anyway, where were we? Counter steering!!! So at higher speed, (above 20km/h) how will we avoid certain obstacle? Simple, we do it by counter steering, by unsettling wheels line up. If I want to turn left, I push my left handlebar outwards or pull the right handle bar towards me slightly so the bike will get unsettle and lean into the turn. Now once it is leaned over, rest is plain and simple. Remember, you can do it with one finger, but the irony is, your mind won’t allow you to do this at first. That’s why, you need to practice in some safe place with zero traffic.
Let’s test this at a safe open place. First, let’s do it slow but try to feel the difference. Speed 30 km/h, do an imaginary obstacle swerving maneuver on your best side (left or right, whichever you are good at) in the way you usually do, then do the same at the same speed using counter steering. Let’s say you want to go left, just push your left handlebar outwards or the right handlebar inside (towards you) and see how quickly and effortlessly your bike swerves the obstacle. With the help of counter steering, even a girl (5’4”) can ride a 200 kg motorcycle with ease. Please do note that, not everything cannot be said or expressed thru words; something must be felt or experienced to understand properly. So please seek someone’s help or do some own research.
One can ask, why the hell will I want to learn such mind boggling skill; it is for racers or for young riders or for motorcycle enthusiasts or whatever reasons your mind can come up with to refrain you from learning such skill, please don’t allow that. Trust me, every rider needs to practice this skill. We, Bangladeshi, need it more than anyone else, because of those potholes, dirt on the road, coverless manholes, WASA’s Gold Mine, jaywalkers, street dogs, turning cars, beautiful Y women Y and mostly our whimsical traffic etc. etc. We need to swerve way more than any other rider of the world and counter steering will help us turn quicker than traditional way. So please it is very important to have this skill in your bag.
As a rider, if you know your limit, you can avoid self-cause accidents. If you read my last article you know what I am talking about. So know your own limits.
Now even after bagging the skill, one needs to practice even more. Why??? To get an idea, how much counter steer or unsettling the wheel line up is needed to get certain lean angle. How does speed effect that movement? What’s the sweet speed spot or C spot (counter steer spot) for avoiding certain obstacle? For better understanding, you can do your own research but there is no alternative of practicing in real life, again, do it in some place safe. (Do you know there is a huge parking lot in front of Chittagong New Railway Station? Go practice there.)
Now with the steering problem solved, we can start to go even safer than before. Now where is the precision part?
The answer is very simple. IN THE CORNER…
Hahahaha…yes, Cornering…hahahaha…and riding is fun because of that corner, because of that lean…no other vehicle allows you to do that, NO OTHER VEHICLE…No driver can touch the surface of the road while taking a turn with their own hands or knees or with foot pegs…hahahaha!!!
Every road turns, it doesn’t always run on a straight line. So no matter how stable my ride feels on a straight line, I must learn to corner properly. Enough of beating poor bushes, let’s start our engine and take the first known corner.
There are thousands of words about cornering written everywhere about how to be smooth in a corner. All I will say,
- Look where you want to go.
- Brake before tipping your bike in.
- Do not brake while in the turn unless absolutely necessary and use front brake very gently if needed. Don’t just hit the brake with full force, your front will wash away then. Anyway, braking will drift you outside of your turn. Why? When you are in the turn, lowering your speed will lessen your lean angle, meaning, it will lift up your bike. So in place of having tighter turning radius, your ride will lift itself up and then it will adjust the lean according to your speed. It will certainly widen your turn radius which won’t end up in a pleasant way if you don’t have that much room outside or venture over oncoming traffic lane. Even in city road, going left and right while filtering the traffic can become dangerous if you aren’t well versed with this phenomena. In any turning situation if you brake or kill your throttle, it will straighten your bike and you will drift outside of your turn. That’s why sometimes when you are leaning left, you felt the bike drifting outside. Please don’t trust my word, go to a parking lot and see for yourself. Get acquainted with the phenomena so that you can use it to your own benefit.
- While turning, keep your gas on, it will give you more grip. You may think, I will never spin my rear tire cause I am f***ing riding 150cc motorcycle. But trust me, just a little sand or rain or water can change your mindset rather quickly. So, roll on your throttle to be safe on wet road surface. Usually we keep our throttle close while turning. Now unless it is bumper to bumper traffic or hazard, try to keep your throttle open a bit so that you can accelerate continuously thru the turn. Don’t just hold the dead grip at 4000 RPM. Keep on giving gas gently. Continuous roll on throughout the turn actually helps to stabilize your bike in the turn (considering traffic and other situation). What it does, it transfers weight from front to rear and keeps our suspension in sweet spot to properly absorb bumps, have better grip and keep your ride stable in any corner.
- Lastly, please never ever enter a corner too hot. It is the prime reason for bikers to crash on any road with or without any traffic.
Now what if the road is unknown. Watch the furthest point of the turn, if it moves closer to you then your speed still too high or it is a tight turn…but if the point moves away then you can speed up. Just picture, you are approaching a blind tight U turn. You won’t see passed that point until you reach the point, meaning it will get closer to you…while in case of a wide turn or big radius turn, you will be able to see further and further as you start to approach the turn, so the furthest point will move away from you. Hope you are getting the picture. Here is some diagram to clear it even further.
And at this point movement is relevant with your approaching speed.
Use your judgement and knowledge. Try to avoid showing off with something you are not comfortable with.
On highways, please do not treat it like any city road. Never pull out blindly and always remind yourself, every vehicle is running at higher speed (In BD, Truck above 60 km/h, Bus above 80 km/h, Cars above 80 km/h) than that of you are used to see on any city road. So be very careful while braking or slowing down to turn or park, someone tailgating you may fail to notice you on time. And be extra careful, while riding in a windy day. Cross wind can really catch you by surprise and higher the speed, worse will be the effect. So try to ride slowly when the wind is coming from the side. One more thing, buses and microbuses leave behind a trail of turbulent wind like boat on water. So what happens if a ship goes by a small boat, gentle water can become rough all of a sudden, right? So, be aware of those things, your ride can get shaky a bit like you have no tire pressure. Everything is fine, no need to panic, just slow down a bit. It isn’t that much but just can trigger panic and combination of several phenomena at the same time can cause something terrible.
Finally, remember some basics-
Don’t hold the handlebar too tight.
Do not chop the throttle or suddenly close the throttle. It will unsettle our bike.
While we are turning (whatever the lean angle), applying brakes will stand the bike up.
While we are in the middle of the turn, even rolling off the throttle will drift us outside because of counter steering effect.
Precise throttle control (roll on and roll off) will help us to get better grip and traction and predictable bike behavior.
Try to look away from the oncoming traffic or whatever may scare you while turning. It is more likely that there will be enough room for leaning further rather than trying to slow down which will lift your bike up and increase your turn radius. Again look where you want to go and try to lean more. It is proven that in a panic situation, we usually go where we look.
- Counter steer to swerve quickly and if possible use it all the time. I don’t know if it is a natural thing truly then do we need to practice it? and why does it feel so against the instinct..hahaha
- A confident rider can ride safely and precisely. Stupidity isn’t confidence. Confidence comes from knowing your own strengths and weaknesses.
- One more thing, while turning, place your inside foot in the following manner to avoid twisting your toe if mishap happens.
- Know your ride and take good care of her.
ally, let the gene out of the bottle. I didn’t discover all these by myself, I observed, researched, asked, practiced and I still can’t comprehend all of it. If you figured out how I found all these out, then it is time for you to practice in a safe place or there are some ways where it is almost safe but who will have your back if something goes wrong. Hahahahaha….So please practice but in a safest manner possible. That’s all for now. See you next time. Ride hard and ride safe. Wear protective gears (helmet, gloves, shoe), don’t be a squid.
Do you know which part of your priceless body is most vulnerable when you crash? (Head, palm, elbow, knee) (Please dig up some pictures if you dare)
Please wear helmet, gloves every time you start your motorcycle. Do it for your loved ones. If you die, it is fate but if you are handicapped, I wish no one faces that situation in his life. Please don’t let the fun turn into a life time nightmare. And ladies, please force your loved one or ones, to wear protective gears. If you truly love him and care for him, it should be the first thing you want to give him i.e. riding gears (helmet, gloves and shoe).
All cars and vehicles (four wheelers) have some blind spot. So ride defensively, we will talk about that in the next article. It is your responsibility to keep yourself safe. You cannot hope for others to do it for you. So know your limits, know your ride, wear protective gears and ride defensively. Rest is faith…hahahahaha…