Cornering Problems 2 - Staying out of trouble

I mentioned in a recent tip three ways of getting out of trouble when it all goes wrong in a bend. But as I pointed out, the best way to get out of trouble in a corner, is not to get into it in the first place. There are 4 basic rules:

    1) Always assume the worst and make sure you can stop or at very least tighten your line. If you fly into a nice easy looking bend with knee a-sliding and peg a-scraping, and it suddenly becomes a decreasing radius, downhill, off-camber number, or a combine harvester is blocking the entire road you're in big trouble! Always leave yourself a margin for error on the road or you are pushing your luck! If things aren't as bad as you feared, you can always speed up again. So don't ask "how fast can I go" but "can I stop?"
    2) Slow in, Cautiously Round, Fast out! Go in too fast and you're going in on a closed throttle or on the brakes. The suspension is compressed at the front, the steering geometry compressed and compromised and the result is the bike is generally unstable and working against you. Go in slower (you can always accelerate if you are too slow), turn the bike and get on the throttle to get the bike to work with you through the turn. It is not always possible or even desirable to accelerate, but aim to apply just enough throttle to maintain speed.
    3) Read the corner backwards - you can't commit yourself to a line until you know where the road goes! Only when you see the exit can you commit yourself to steer to it.
    4) Learn to use the brakes effectively! If you are tentative and indecisive when it come to braking you are more likely to get yourself into trouble. If you need to brake, do so positively, and in plenty of time in a straight line before you need to turn - you can then turn your attention to sorting out your line for the corner.

It's the last point I'm going to concentrate on with the tip. However good our planning and observation might be, we all get caught out from time to time by bends, and it often happens when we are riding faster than normal or possibly with another rider, and misjudge the distance to the corner. The rider carries too much speed into the corner itself and uses increasingly heavy braking but too late - in attempting to make the turn, the rider gets caught between the "lean more" and "hard braking" options. If he's lucky, it's a horribly wobbly wide and slow line round the corner. If he's unlucky, eventually he goes down through overloading the front tyre, or simply runs out of space - either way, the Grim Reaper is waiting.

In my experience, what many riders identify as "cornering" problems and the resulting crashes are actually braking errors. Most of the students I have had with problems approaching corners too fast, or too cautiously for that matter, come down to lack of confidence with braking... few riders ever practice using them. Ask yourself and answer honestly, have you done ANY work on braking since you did that last morning's emergency stop practice for the test?

Most modern bikes can brake very hard in a straight line, and people rarely use the brakes to anything like the limit. Even in the worst case of misjudgement, if you have the confidence to brake hard, you normally have the space to get your speed down, ease off the brakes, settle the bike and make the turn with no (or at least not too much) fuss. Learning hard braking gives you another option to running in out of control!

Confidence that you can brake hard will allow you to make a rapid and decisive choice whether you have room to slow down using the brakes or will need to lean harder into the turn. The only way to gain confidence is to practice. Remember - very, very few people crash on the brakes whilst upright!