Slow speed corners
Slow speed corners are a problem and the bigger the bike the bigger the problem. But not simply because of the weight. You’ll find that even riders of modern 1000cc sports bikes that are tiny and light struggle with tight corners. The reasons are far more to do with balance, control and those damn wobbly bits.
On a big bike at slow speed the throttle is so sensitive, the slightest movement and it goes from driving to closed, the bike goes from engine braking to engine driving resulting in a very awkward yo yo effect.
The brakes, especially the front brake that is designed to slow a heavy bike from very heavy speeds is so sensitive that it appears incapable of being used without causing the throttle to abruptly close and together drive the front of the bike toward the pavement.
First gear often seems too high and balancing a bike without drive, as we know from our low speed handling, is difficult at the best of times.
Because of the high first gear the engine is almost at stall and the chain “snatch” starts to cause problems. Riding smoothly and in control seems like an unlikely scenario for the best.
So what’s the secret? Is there one that can have you gliding around tight corners with great ease and comfort? The answer is of course yes
So in low speed handling we learn that throttle against brake with a slipping clutch keeps so much of these issues at bay, yet once the speed lifts beyond “slow” into “tight” we throw all that out and resort to the Yo-Yo again!!!!
Let’s look at a Round-A-Bout for a start, it’s simple and will make for an easy explanation, whilst a lot of sports bike riders actually struggle with them if they are small in size.
So here is the way a rider may normally struggle with the round –a-bout. The will approach as they would for any normal corner, close the throttle and brake as they enter the round-a-bout.
Then they will change down gears and begin the turn into the “corner”. At this point they will usually be on a closed throttle and everything will be ok. At least until the next part!!
The next part is opening the throttle again to drive around the round-a-bout. On a bigger bike this causes a lurch as they go from trailing, closed throttle to slightly open driving throttle. Often this means that they resist using the throttle until very late in the “corner” meaning that the bike doesn’t want to “Set” into the corner and they feel very uncomfortable and instable.
Once they put the throttle on they are extremely careful and all their attention goes onto the throttle in an attempt to not “over cook” the amount of drive they suddenly get from the engine.
This creates two things, a hesitation style of cornering as well as a lack of attention on the other things they need to keep smooth.
The resulting corner is mostly a slow wobbly reduction of speed until they feel they are able to use real throttle to get out of the corner. Their speed around the corner is seriously limited by this uncomfortable feeling and their “fear” of the throttle mid corner when its very tight.
Remember this is just a round-a-bout, imagine how much worse this gets when they are trying to hold an appropriate line so that the next really tight corner is as easy (?) as this one!!!
So how should it be done???
Well imagine if you could drive into the corner, keep the throttle on, keep the suspension compressed and set, smoothly drive out and thus have a bike that felt stable, solid and settled throughout the corner? This is how you do it.
As you approach the round-a-bout you brake normally and change down gears normally. But before you have actually entered the round-a-bout you get onto the gas and the rear brake and start slipping the clutch as you would if this were slow speed handling.
I know you are going a lot faster than slow speed handling!!! But the same approach still applies.
The result is that the chain is tight, the suspension remains compressed, the bike seems stable, the throttle sensitivity is pretty much irrelevant because you are using more and the drive is being controlled by the clutch.
The rear brake is important because without something to work against the clutch trick will only result in the bike accelerating faster than you want or you having to back off, either by slipping the clutch way too much or by closing the throttle.
Then as you get to mid corner you start to release the brake, the bike accelerates smoothly and you slowly feed in the clutch and the throttle to drive out of the round-a-bout.
The whole process takes a little practice but not much if you have practiced your low speed handling techniques. It’s just the same thing but at higher speeds.
My last two cents worth is too those of you out there that will challenge that this make sense at slightly faster speeds. For those I’ll say take a look at Valentino Rossi’s close up of his clutch hand on some race tracks around the world. You’ll notice that he uses this same technique even at much much higher speeds to ensure that the bike remains stable and under drive as he exits the corner.
Try it.. you’ll be amazed at how much control you have and how stable the slow speed corner arena becomes.