For new riders, cornering can be quite scary and intimidating but for the pros it is much fun and scary sometimes. Cornering is a skill just like mastering kung fu or learning how to use a musical instrument. Although cornering is quite hard to master, getting expert advice is the first step of improving your cornering skills. Below are some detailed tips to get you started.
How to Corner a Motorcycle like a Pro
Understand the type of the corner
This is one of the most crucial but underestimated step. When riding, I try to look far in front of me and if there seems to be a corner ahead, I try to scope out as much about the type of the corner. If there is a signboard, I read it carefully. If I cannot see the corner clearly from a distance, the road seems to disappear from a distance. If I see both the inner and outer sides of the road join at the corner, most probably the corner takes a sharp turn. And if the corner appears larger, the corner could be wider than the road.
You can also make use of roadside features to help you determine the angle of the corner. For example, you can look at the angle created by safety walls, lamp posts, roadside signs, guard rails, etc. If the features cut a sharp angle to the inside, the corner is likely to cut the same way.
However, don’t get carried away.
Enter Corners Wide
The best way to prepare the entry into a corner is from the outside of the turn and not from the inside or from the middle. This is because entering a corner wide allows you to see further ahead giving you more visibility as we’ve mentioned above.
Moreover, entering wide also makes the cornering arc bigger. This means that you don’t have to lean your motorcycle too much since the corner is not as tight as it would have been if you were on the inside.
Basically, entering wide gives us riders more choices in case you suddenly run into an oncoming car in your lane. As a rule of thumb, “Our lane is our limit.” So, do not cross the line, especially the centerline.
In my experience, one of the main reason why I have seen people crash when cornering on the street or even on the racetrack is going too fast into a corner. You need to be a bit slow with your entrance so you can have more space and time to deal with the turn. The goal here is to go into a corner slow, so you can accelerate out of the corner as you can see in the video below.
So when approaching the corner, release the throttle and apply the brake if required to slow down so you can get an idea about the road ahead. At this juncture, you want to be at the recommended speed or at the most comfortable speed before you enter the corner. However, it’s important to note that there is no fixed speed for any corner. The right speed varies from motorcycle to motorcycle, from rider to rider, from day to day, and from tire to tire.
And since corners are different, your slow down moment will also largely depend on your entry speed, tire temperature, corner radius, elevation change, as well as the line and pavement condition. If the corner is steep, it is recommendable to lean forward when slowing down the speed to get a better grip of the motorcycle. For a tighter corner, it is wise to lightly press the back break to reduce the speed so you can safely cross the corner.
In case your motorcycle arrives faster than you anticipated, you may have to concurrently apply both the front and rear brakes so you can safely slow down.
As a general rule of the thumb, your motorcycle goes where you are looking. So you need focus your eyes and head to where you are going- the exit is your target. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes an oncoming vehicle may appear, or the corner may be tighter that you expected, or there might be another obstacle.
Most riders freeze up in such situations, stare at the obstacle, and roll off the throttle also known as target fixation and can result in disaster.
When you are in such a situation, the right response is to steadily hold the throttle, focus on the exit, and countersteer to lean the motorcycle harder and tighten your line.
Motorcycles go around corners by leaning in. You can lean in successfully by pressing the handlebar in the direction of the corner. To get your motorcycle to lean to the left in a corner, gently press forward on the left hand and push the bike to the left with your right buttock. To lean to the right, gently press forward with your right hand, and push the bike rightward with the left buttock. This is what we commonly refer to countersteering.
Roll on the throttle
The final step while in the corner is to slightly turn on the throttle to neutral throttle. If you fail to open the throttle, your motorcycle will continue to go slow and will also corner in a decreasing arc. As a result, you will feel like the bike is falling into the corner triggering a panic reaction, which is quite difficult to overcome.
The best solution is to open the throttle to a point where it stops the leaning and accelerates the speed in order to widen the corner arc. As long as you get into the corner at the appropriate speed, you will hardly have an issue rolling on through. This may seem simple but when your panic responses are triggered you will do the exact opposite.
By rolling on the throttle, from my experience, I avoid the panic mode while gradually increasing my speed and lean in angle. This way, I stay in control and out of trouble. However, this requires more practice, but with time it becomes more of a natural response.
Learning how to corner proper is an important skill that every rider whether a beginner or a pro should have. Proper cornering is not just about riding faster, instead, it is about having greater control over your motorcycle making your rides more enjoyable and safe. With this guide, learn and apply each step in gradual increments until you get control.
Sam is Automole’s editor-in-chief and classic car enthusiast. Sam is studying mechanical engineering at Cockrell School of Engineering, Austin. He also writes for many top automotive publications and appears on the Collecting Cars Podcast.