U-turns are part and parcel of motorcycling. No matter how much you spend on the latest satnav, there will be a time when you need to turn around and retrace your steps.
The curious thing about U-turns is that they aren’t a problem for new riders alone – great many experienced riders struggle with them too. So, can you spot your chance here? If you master the art of U-turns, you will instantly be elevated to the exclusive club of ‘riders-who-are-less-likely-to-make-a-fool-of-themselves-in-front-of-others’ or RWALLTMAFOTIFOO. Ok, so the name could be catchier, but the point stands.
We talked to Nick Brown from Phoenix Motorcycle Training, the UK’s largest motorcycle training provider, to get some tips about how to get our U-turn right every time.
Here’s how to do a U-turn on a motorcycle:
Sorry to break this to you, but the most important part of getting the U-turn right, is to practice it again and again. Find a quiet, safe place away from traffic and repeat, repeat, repeat.
And remember once you have mastered the manoeuvre on your bike, don’t expect it to be as easy on your mate’s bike. All bikes are different in terms of their steering lock, centre of gravity, riding position, etc. so when you swap bikes you will need to do some more practice, but because you have already done the hard bit and learnt the basics, this will be far easier.
And one more thing before get to the technique: remember to practise the turns both ways. Even if the majority of your U-turns will be right-handers in the UK, there will still be times when you need to turn the other way. Practicing U-turns is simple enough, but you need a big enough space with no traffic to do it. One option is to do it at an organised training day, such as the streetSKILLS 101 training day where you can not only practice the moves, but also get accurate data about how you’re doing too.
The basics of a U-turn are pretty simple, just concentrate on getting the feel for the controls right, look where you want to go, and don’t panic.
Before you even turn a wheel, check for traffic and hazards, including the road surface on your intended route. Planning a turning radius as large as possible, will make the job easier. If it’s safe to go, do a lifesaver check, look where you want to go, and off you go.
When you’re on the move, you need to find the sweet spot of engine revs and drive by balancing the throttle, clutch and sometimes the rear brake.
When there’s plenty of space, you can do a U-turn just on tick over without the other controls. However, if the space is tight or you need to ride really slowly, it helps to slip the clutch and apply light and consistent rear brake to keep the bike stable and easier to turn.
One thing you should NOT do it touch the front brake. It’s too sharp and will upset the bike’s balance too easily.
Depending on the bike as well as your relative weight on it, it may help to move your body to the outside of the turn to stop the bike wanting to fall into the turn.
If you have just passed your test, you may have it drilled into your brain that you should not put your foot down during a U-turn. Well, this is not a test, and there are no prizes for keeping your feet up, so if it helps to dab your foot on the ground, that’s far better than dropping the bike.
So there you have it – simple, right? Now all you have to do is remember the technique and practice until it becomes second nature. And trust us, it will, sooner than you think!