I’ve received some E-mails lately asking why I only write about how to handle a bike at low speeds. One person stated, “I never ride around at 10 to 15MPH and nobody I know does either, so why should I need to know how to make tight turns at low speeds?” Another rocket scientist writes, “why don’t you teach people how to pop wheelies and do burnouts in a circle?”.
Let me answer the 1st question first. You DO ride at 10 or 15MPH or even SLOWER if you turn into a parking lot or if you are stuck in traffic. No one I know or have ever seen riding a motorcycle has a problem balancing their bike at 50 to 60 or 70MPH. At those speeds, the gyroscopic effect of a motorcycle keeps the bike up all you have to do is steer. It takes little or no skill to ride in a straight line at those speeds. Statistics show that when a motorcycle crashes, the impact occurs at less then 20MPH. The reason for this is, let’s say you are traveling down the interstate at 70MPH, the car in front of you suddenly stops, you jam down on the brakes. By the time you strike the car, you have already slowed to about 20MPH.
Now, if you know how to handle you bike properly, you could brake hard, turn your head and eyes to your escape path, release the brakes and swerve and lean your bike till you are out of danger. If you never practice hard braking, leaning, and swerving and the proper use of head and eyes, I GUARANTEE in that situation, you will lock your rear brake and stare at the car and slam right into it.
If you learn to handle your bike at low speeds, high speeds are easy. It’s at low speeds where everyone has the most problems because obviously, with two wheels, the bike wants to fall over with out enough momentum. By keeping the bike in the friction zone and feathering the rear brake while applying power, you’re making the bike stay up on it’s two wheels as if it were going much faster.
You can lean the bike over until it scrapes the floor boards at 5MPH and make extremely tight turns if you use these techniques. Believe me, knowing how far you can lean your bike over at 5MPH is far better then learning the same thing at 60MPH for obvious reasons. If you follow and practice these techniques, your confidence will be much stronger and you will improve your riding skills tremendously and hopefully be able to avoid that crash or at least minimize the damage to yourself and your motorcycle. Yes, it’s true, there are some crashes you can’t avoid no matter what your skill level, but, there are many more you can avoid with the proper training.
To the person asking why I don’t teach people how to pop wheelies and do circle burnouts, it’s simple, I can’t think of even one instance where doing either one of those things will help you avoid a crash. In fact, just the opposite would happen.
By Jerry “Motorman” Palladino, ridelikeapro.com