Motorcycle Cornering - Positioning for Safety - Part One

Two people on a motorcycle going around a corner If you’ve been following along with my blog posts, you will have seen Positioning – Part One, Positioning – Part Two and Positioning – Part Three. These posts were mainly discussing positioning your motorcycle for maximum view and visibility while riding in a straight line. I purposely did not cover positioning on corners because it is a subject which deservers a post of its own. In fact, it deserves three! This is part one of that series on motorcycle cornering. Remember, to be informed as new posts are made, you can subscribe here!

What I’m about to relate here truly was a “Eureka!” moment for me when I first started my advanced motorcycle training back in the 90′s. I could not believe that I had been riding all those years — completely unaware of how much view and visibility was “there for the taking” — yet I was not taking it.

It transformed my riding, and made it a much more relaxing occupation because, suddenly, I was seeing hazards — and potential hazards — literally seconds before I had been seeing them previously. It was as if I had been given a crystal ball to see into the future, and I was very excited!

I have prepared many diagrams and photographs for these posts because it is something that is best described graphically. So, let me introduce positioning for corners.

The thing that was such an eye-opener for me when I was first shown these techniques was that simply by altering my position in the road when approaching corners, I was able to see sometimes hundreds of yards further round the bend!

So, let’s dive back into the world of positioning with some examples:

Positioning For a Right-Hand Bend

Take a look at the following diagram. Here, I am starting to negotiate a right-hand corner. I am toward the right part of my lane. The green area shows what I am able to see from that vantage point. I am about to get a little surprise because there is a large truck around the corner which is encroaching on my lane. I can’t see it.

Now, although this example shows a truck encroaching on my lane, it could just as easily be a crash on my side of the road, a stopped vehicle, an animal, a boulder… anything. If it’s outside of that green area, I won’t see it.

Now, in this diagram, the only thing that has changed is that I am now riding to the left of my lane.
Take a look at the green area. Can you see how much more view I have round the corner? This example demonstrates the effect on a reasonably narrow road. You will find that the wider the road, the more pronounced the extra view — and visibility that can be gained.

Incidentally, when I talk about view and visibility, view is how well you can see hazards or potential hazards ahead, visibility is how well others can see you. An ideal technique is one that markedly increases both. This is one such technique.

Positioning For a Left-Hand Bend

Now, let’s look at this from the opposite perspective — when negotiating a left-hand bend.

In this scenario, I am starting to negotiate a left-hand bend. There is a truck completely on my side of the road (something you often find on twisty roads). Unfortunately, I’m riding to the left of my lane, and I’m about to get quite a shock because by the time I see the truck, it’s going to be pretty close!

In this diagram, nothing has changed, except that I am now riding toward the right of my lane.

Again, I have much more visibility into, and around, the bend. I am also visible to the truck at a much earlier time.

You can see that, by the simple action of shifting your position in your lane, you can gain a huge advantage in what you can see, and how well others can see you. This is an advantage us on two wheels have over the “more-wheeled” variety. It would make sense for us to use it to its maximum.

Let me address here a couple of observations that people sometimes make about positioning like this:

“I don’t want to be riding near the middle lines when I’m on a right-hand bend. Someone could be coming the other way.”

Yes, someone could indeed be coming the other way, and that’s the point. By being in the best part of the road, you get to see that vehicle much earlier — and they get to see you. If/when you see a vehicle coming from the opposite direction, it is a simple matter of following the golden rule: Always give up positioning for safety. Because you can see the hazard much earlier, it is all taken in your stride, and you smoothly alter your position to create the buffer zone.

“I don’t want to be riding in the right of my lane on a left-hand bend. That’s where all the gravel is.”

That is a valid concern. I ride all the time up in the mountains of North Georgia, USA. One of the hazards we often face is the gravel and grit they use to make the roads “safer” (they obviously don’t think about motorcycles when they do that). I find that unless you are actually right about to go off of the edge of the road, the extremes of the lane are often the cleanest because that’s exactly where cars’ wheels travel. They clean it for you! However, just like any riding technique, there are no hard-and-fast rules to be adhered to blindly. Everything you do is a combination of multiple factors and concerns. If one of those concerns is a bad road surface, then, you guessed it, give up your positioning for safety. Of course, giving yourself the best advantage by judicious positioning in a curve allows you to see those hazard sooner!

“If you do that, you’re ‘apexing’ too late.”

I often hear this from people who have done some track days on motorcycles. The ideal line for negotiating a corner on the road is similar, but not the same, as the “racing line”. We are not “apexing” at all. We are describing a gentle curve, which exceeds the radius of the curve we are following.

This seems an opportune time to describe that ideal line to take through a curve. And this is how we will start the next post in this series!

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