Recently, on my Internet forum, Motorman’s Tips and Tricks, http://forums.delphiforums.com/motorman/start there was a long discussion about riding the Dragon and winding, curving roads in general. It seems that many people fear riding winding roads and try to avoid them at all costs. Many of the people who have windingroadaphobia say, “I can ride straight roads just fine, but those curves scare the hell out of me.” What these people may not realize is that anybody can get on a motorcycle and ride it straight down the road. Riding straight takes virtually no skills at all. But, when the road starts to wind, you’re going to have to counter steer, down shift, up shift and use the brakes properly. In other words, you’re going to have to actually ride the bike instead of just being along for the ride.
If you don’t have the skill and confidence to perform the above, don’t even think about riding a very challenging road like the Dragon with 318 turns in 11 miles. What’s more, though I haven’t ridden the Dragon, I understand there’s quite a few bikes on this road and a large number of them are being ridden very aggressively. Plus, there’s the occasional 18-wheeler and a good number of sports cars on the Dragon at any given time. Obviously, it’s not a stretch of road for the timid rider.
So, the question is, how do you get over your windingroadaphobia? Fortunately, the answer is quite simple. You learn to use the proper techniques in as safe an environment as possible. Now, I know I’ve written many articles on riding the twisties, but, since failing to negotiate a turn is still the number one motorcycle crash that involves just the rider and no other vehicle, the proper techniques bear repeating.
The most important technique is the proper use of your head and eyes. You must look only where you want the bike to go. That means, focus as far towards the end of the turn as possible. In order to do this properly, you must put your motorcycle in the correct position as you enter the curve. If the road curves to the right, placing your bike in the left portion of the lane closest to the center of the road gives you the best view around the curve. Naturally, if the road curves to the left, start the turn on the right portion of the lane, close to the edge of the road.
Don’t look at the yellow line or oncoming vehicles. Brake and downshift before you enter the curve, then roll on the throttle or at the very least, maintain a steady throttle throughout the curve. Rolling on the throttle causes the bike to rise up on its suspension which gives you the most ground clearance. Avoid braking in the turn and rolling on and off the throttle in the turn, either one of these mistakes will cause the bike to straighten up and run wide of the curve.
It’s very easy to practice these skills and build your confidence. Find a road with long sweeping turns or a low speed winding road and take it slow. You can even set up some low speed (15 to 25 mph) turns in a big parking lot to gain confidence. If you never do these things, you will never lose your fear of winding roads and you’ll be missing the best part of the motorcycling experience. Practice is the key, with repetition comes confidence and skill. It’s that simple. Now, get out there and ride.
Remember, all it takes is a little practice. Good Luck!
By Jerry “Motorman” Palladino, ridelikeapro.com