Cornering a Motorcycle Confidently: Step by Step Guide

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You use straight patches of a track to gain speed, but if you don't know how to corner a motorcycle confidently, all the energy can go to waste.

Cornering a motorcycle requires a lot of practice. It would help if you found the body position you are comfortable with, the line that works best for you, and the correct combination of braking and throttle. It also helps to mark key areas like braking points, turning points, and the center of the turn.

Cornering a motorcycle is exciting and tricky at the same time. Unfortunately, corners are also where most accidents happen as many riders try to approach the corner at faster speeds, lean too much, or apply the throttle too early.

Experienced riders know that cornering requires time and practice to master. No one can start mastering corners overnight. Many riders have taken falls and faced crashes due to overconfidence in their abilities. It is best to start slow and allow yourself ample time and practice before pushing your motorcycle and yourself to the limits.

In this article...


Cornering a Motorcycle

Your priority on the road should be safety. Remember, you can still have a lot of fun riding your motorcycle without crossing dangerous limits. You must put on the right gear and especially a good helmet.

It helps to know the tips and tricks for confidently cornering a motorcycle, but the real skill comes from practice. If you do not have access to a track or a very advanced motorcycle, you can find a quiet country road to practice your cornering skills.

Ideally, you should find a ninety-degree bend that you can take at 45 miles per hour. Also, make sure to find nearby U-turns so you can repeat the turn multiple downs and in both directions. During your practice session, you will want to practice shifting your body weight and correcting the line.

Position Your Body Right

A crucial factor that most new riders forget about when approaching a corner is body position. Your whole body plays a crucial role, and you can use it effectively to take a corner.

As you approach the corner, lean forward slightly and keep your arms relaxed and slightly bent. Keep your elbows low and aligned with the handlebar. Grip the handlebars lightly, and don't put your weight on them. Instead, keep your weight on the seat and try to grasp the tank with your legs.

Keep your eyes on the road and face the direction you intend to go in. Do not look down and keep your chin up. It is important to keep your eyes on the road and not look at anything outside the turn. Because you end up where you are looking, do not look away into trees or oncoming traffic.

Once you are almost in the bend and get a clear view of the road exiting the bend, you can then start to shift your weight from the outer footrest to the inner one. Then start to drop your inner shoulder and lean your torso in the direction you are turning.

Remember, it is not all about getting the best lean or optimum weight transfer; the main objective is to effectively make the turn. As a new rider, focus on the methods that best suit you while taking the turn and add weight transfer and correct body position to increase your performance.

Counter-Steer and Steer

You must have noticed bike racers start to lean towards the turn a few seconds before entering the turn. They do this by counter-steering their superfast bikes.

To get the bike to lean in the right direction, you can also counter steer. This means that if you are going to make a right-hand turn, you will need to push the handlebar to the left, and this will cause your bike to lean to the right. Similarly, for a left-hand turn, you need to tug on the handlebar towards the right slightly.

Your bike's roll rate is directly proportional to the force applied. This means that the harder you push in the opposite direction, the faster your bike will lean. Once your bike starts to lean, steer in the direction of the turn and maneuver your motorcycle through the turn.

 It is important to understand that the counter-steering maneuver requires a lot of practice. You can start to practice at low speeds while paying attention to how your bike responds to your pushes and pulls.  

Maintain Throttle and Shift Gears

The best way to approach a turn is with the throttle in neutral. This approach will help you control the speed using engine drag before stepping on the brakes. With this method, you will get a wider window to make last-second adjustments and remain safe.

Once you approach the corner, you should take a good look at the exit point and adjust your speed by applying the brake. Remember to keep your braking smooth by increasing pressure on the pedal slowly.

It is best to complete the braking before you start turning. You do not want to enter a turn with excessive pressure on the brakes, risking your wheel locking up.

Once you have slowed down to the correct speed, flick the lever to go down a gear or two. Make sure to select the right gear according to your speed; stalling or over-revving in a sharp turn can cause you to lose control of your motorcycle and end up in an accident.  

One of the worst things you can do while taking a corner is accelerating into it. Most corner accidents happen due to riders speeding up when approaching a turn. But at the same time, you need to maintain some throttle while coming out of the turn. Just as you change the gear, maintain throttle in such a way that you maintain a constant speed.

Maintaining a slight throttle will allow the bike's weight to shift from the front wheel to the more stable rear wheel. This will make you feel more in control and make it easier for you to go through the corner. Just remember not to accelerate into the corner.

As you go past the midpoint of the corner, you should start to increase the throttle to exit the turn while accelerating. As you open the throttle, your bike will start to straighten up and move towards the outer edge of the road.

Let go on the throttle a little if you feel your motorcycle is moving out too much or straightening up too fast. Your bike will lean back down, and you will regain control during the turn.

Remember to make all changes in the throttle smoothly. Keep the throttle steady when entering the turn and open the throttle at the right time to make the turn efficiently.

Again, this will also require practice if you are a new rider or have just bought a new bike. It is best to get accustomed to your motorcycle slowly before trying anything new.

Pick the Right Line

To find out the best line to approach a corner, you will need to start by looking for a safe and empty road with some bends.

Make a few passes over the corner to warm up. Then start to notice how you are getting around the corner. You will notice you have a braking point and a point where you initiate the turn. On your next pass, try to start your turn before that point.

 Make sure you have your speed under control because when you start a turn earlier, you will get a wider turn and run close to the road's edge. Try to maintain the line using the handlebars and stay out of the way of oncoming traffic.

On your next approach, try to make the turn a little later. You will notice that your turn is much wider, and you have more control over your motorcycle. Using this trial and error method, you will find a comfortable method that suits you and your bike the best.

You might be surprised to know that most motorcycle crashes happen because riders turn too early. Sometimes, they cannot judge their speed, or they are too tired to focus. But the real mistake is ignoring the point at which they are supposed to initiate the turn.

For many riders, as soon as they see a corner, the subconscious mind tends to pull them into the corner. But if the riders approach the corner consciously, they will want to keep the approach wide, which will allow them to see further into the bend and sweep the corner through a safe line. All you need to do is delay the turn by a second or two, which you can use to change gears or apply brakes.

As soon as you see the turn ahead, try to move over to the opposing direction. This means moving as far right as you can for a left-hand turn and moving over as close as possible to the left shoulder for a right-hand turn.

Remember to keep your safety as the highest priority. If traffic is coming in from the opposing direction, do not move too close to the centerline. Similarly, do not go too close to the shoulder if it is rough or uneven. Instead, consider reducing your speed.

There are many other benefits of making wide turns, like less pull to the sides and a relatively straighter line through the turn. But the best of all is the wide view that allows you to see where you are going.

Handling Corners on a Track

No matter how much you push your bike down the straight portions of a track, if you cannot master corners, you will never be able to hit your best time. Handling track corners are very different than roads. With the right techniques, you can efficiently pass through corners without losing a lot of speed on most tracks.

Remember to keep your track-style riding limited to the track. Running on track speeds or applying track techniques on roads can prove detrimental to you and also your driving license, and in some cases, even your criminal record.

As the speed on tracks is higher, you will need to put in more force while turning to turn your motorcycle on a circuit. It is essential to keep your arms slightly bent on the inside and the elbows pointing downwards. Your chest should be as close as possible to the tank. You will need to shift your torso over to lower the center of gravity as much as possible.  

Although it may sound intimidating, you do not have to worry about it too much. As soon as you get the hang of it, it will become your second skill, and you will not even have to think about it before doing it.  

Contrary to popular beliefs, the more you hang off your bike, the less it will lean. When a motorcycle is leaned further than required, the contact area of the tires can decrease. This puts pressure on the tires and can cause the tires to lose traction, eventually causing your motorcycle to slide or tip over.

Try to split your corner into segments. With practice, you will identify points for braking, initiating the turn, and the center point of the bend.

The best approach to handling track corners is to keep your throttle at idle from the braking point to the center point of the turn. Once you are past the center point, you can add throttle and accelerate out of the turn.

Pay attention to the road grip as you start to throttle your bike up. If you feel you are veering off the track, reduce the throttle and steer the motorcycle to maintain the correct line. It is recommended that all hard acceleration and braking be done on the straight segments of the track.

Cornering Mistakes to Avoid

As we have discussed above, most accidents happen during cornering. You need to make sure you are not making the following mistakes when going over bends.

Taking Eyes off the Road

We cannot emphasize this enough. If you do not look where you want to go, you will probably end up where you don't want to. Scanning the corner will give you a good idea of how the road is changing ahead and will also give you a heads-up for any potential hazards on the way.

Once you identify any hazards, make sure to look where you want to go and not focus on the hazard. There is a phenomenon known as target fixation. Sometimes, we fix our eyes on a potential hazard and focus on it so much that we end up hitting it.    

Chopping the Throttle

Although it might seem swagger, do not chop the throttle in the middle of a turn. A throttle chop can send unchecked power to the wheels, causing you to lose control of your ride. The last thing you want while leaning over into a turn is to lose the balance of your motorcycle.

Hitting the Front Brakes

Hitting the front brakes while turning is never a good idea. You can easily lose the balance of your motorcycle and end up in a crash. If you need to slow down, consider easing up on the throttle and, if necessary, apply only light pressure on the rear brakes. Or you can also try to straighten up and then apply both brakes.