Getting to grips with low speed riding balance and control not only makes you look like an experienced rider, but it can help reduce the chance of dropping your motorcycle while riding.
The key to riding a motorcycle slowly and in complete control is learning to balance various elements and that’s not just the balance of the bike but also the throttle, clutch, brake and your body position.
If you can learn to control all of these elements, U-turns in narrow roads, carpark manoeuvres and moving through heavy traffic while filtering, will no longer hold any fear of an embarrassing topple over.
For highly experienced riders, the assured way they can weave their way through a tight space, carry out a controlled U-turn and filter through traffic is super skilful but with practice, it can be done by any rider.
IT’S ALL ABOUT PRACTICE
Finding somewhere quiet for a bit of practice is the simplest and best way of learning how to handle your motorcycle at low speeds. An out-of-the-way car park, out of hours, is perfect.
You don’t really need anything other than some flat, paved area that’s big enough to offer space to ride safely and take into account any errors you might make that might entail you needing some extra room to ride into.
You can take some cones or markers along to create a square which you can make smaller and smaller to practice turning within the confines of the square.
Firstly, keeping the speed down to around a maximum of 10mph, try to ride in smoothly controlled arcs where there are no sharp throttle applications and no harsh braking.
Modulate your speed using the throttle and back brake only, and keep two fingers over the clutch at all times. This type of manoeuvre will allow you to get familiar with how your bike feels at lower speeds. Don’t use the front brake as its too harsh and upsets the balance of the bike.
Be prepared to ‘dab’ a foot down if the bike starts to tip but one key element is to keep the engine revs up to avoid stalling the bike.
As you start to get more confident you can tighten the turns, all the while looking through the corner and not down at the floor just ahead of the bike. Wherever you are looking is where you will end up. The eventual aim is to be able to make lock-to-lock turns in both directions as you become more comfortable in how your bike feels while turning.
Stay relaxed and move with the bike and after a short while it feel natural and you become even more relaxed about doing it.
U-turns give a lot of riders a sense of fear but that usually comes about due to a lack of practice rather than them being particularly difficult to master.
Using the techniques practiced above, start by making full use of the width of the available road by starting at the very left and making sure to look through the turn and not at the kerb or edge of the road. If you stare at the opposite kerb, that’s where the bike will head towards.
When starting at the far side of the road, check for road debris, gravel or litter as this can all cause the wheel or your foot to slip.
Make sure to check over your shoulder for cars approaching from behind, along with making sure there is nothing coming from ahead before committing to the turn.
Using the balance of throttle, back brake and slipping the clutch when needed to keep the movement smooth, set off gently and ride in a straight line until you decide to make the first part of the turn.
Make sure to use only two fingers on the clutch as it gives you more feel.
As you turn, you can lean out of the direction of the turn to balance the bike, all the while modulating the speed of the bike with the back brake, making sure to keep the revs up to avoid stalling the engine.
As you lean the bike into the turn, the lower you lean it, the tighter the turn will be. You counterbalance the bike’s weight with your own body.
Once you have made the full turn, straighten the bike up, release the back brake and feed in some more speed, change gear and you’re away.
There are inevitably going to be times when a road is too narrow to be able to successfully carry out a U-turn but there are still options. You can either carry out a partial U-turn and then paddle the bike backwards with your feet or push it around in neutral while covering the front brake to control speed.
SLOW RIDING TIPS:
- Adjust your bike to fit you – this means the brake and clutch levers should be adjusted for span if they can be, the seat height and even the gear lever can be moved on some bikes. This all helps make you feel more comfortable.
- Look ‘through’ the turn, NOT at the floor ahead as that’s where you will end up going.
- Use your body as a counterweight to lean out of the turn; the opposite to how you might ride on a track when you lean off the bike in the direction of the turn.
- Get both of your feet up and onto the footpegs as soon as you can in order to have the maximum amount of control over the bike as quickly as possible for both the back brake and changing gear.
- On tighter turns you can ‘hold’ the bike against the back brake while keeping the revs up as this can help avoid a stall. You can regulate the speed of the bike using only the back brake while the throttle stays open and the revs stay higher than idle.
- Just slow it all down when filtering. There’s no rush to get through the traffic and don’t risk yourself by squeezing through gaps that are too tight and might result in you clipping another vehicle.
- Take your time and keep your feet up on the footpegs as much as possible as it’s easy to catch your feet on kerbs and injure your ankles.