Slow Speed Control
If there is one area of bike control that really shows up the rider, it's
slow speed control. Get it right and it takes the fear out of bumping into
parked cars when turning in tight roads and prevents you looking a complete
prat when you topple off in the carpark in front of your mates. Results are
rarely serious but look at the number of bikes around with bent levers, scrapes
on the fairings and dinged silencers. It's not only novice riders who trip
up at slow speed, but experienced riders too. Save yourself £££'s
in repairs and resprays by using the correct techniques.
Before you start the turn, sit as far forward as you can, keep your knees
against the tank to allow yourself to brace your back - this will keep your
elbows and shoulders loose and your weight off the bars. Leaning on the bars
destroys slow speed control. Keep your foot where you can reach the rear
brake lever - don't turn with the ball of your foot on the peg. Turn your
head to look as far through the turn as you can see - don't look down at
the floor or at the wrong side of the road - you go where you look. Keep
your head level with the horizon - this will help prevent you leaning your
body into the corner (see counterweighting below)
Concentrate on keeping your feet on the pegs all the way through the manoeuvre-
trailing your toes upsets your balance and makes you liable to stub a foot
on a road irregularity. You also lose the ability to brace against the tank
which means you lean on the bars and you can't use the rear brake!
Make sure you enter the turn fast enough that the bike has balance - this
means brisk walking pace at least, too slow and it will just topple over.
You have to let the bike lean over. Make sure you are not using the front
brake - slow down smoothly on the approach using both brakes if necessary
but five metres or so from the point where you need to turn, ease off the
front completely and use the rear only and start slipping the clutch. Get
this sorted BEFORE you start to turn.
Use plenty of revs to drive the bike through the corner. If you need to adjust
your speed with the rear brake rather than the clutch/throttle. Keep your
foot on the brake with constant pressure (DON'T bounce it - this will just
set the rear of the bike pogoing) at the point where it is dragging gently
- that way you know immediately where the brake will start working if you
need it. DON'T pull the clutch in if you think you are going too fast - the
bike will just stop dead and fall over sideways - use the rear brake! If
you need a little more speed, you can just lift off the brake. If you are
not happy using this rear brake/clutch technique, practice it in a straight
To complete a smooth turn, slip the clutch ALL THE WAY through the turn till
you are upright and facing the way you want to go - avoid letting the clutch
out too soon or you will run wide as you open the throttle.
If you start to lose it, DON'T touch the front brake! This will just cause
the front wheel to tuck under, you will lose your balance and the bike will
If you are having trouble starting the turn, don't forget that even at brisk
walking pace countersteering actually initiates the lean - this rule is true
for any speed over ~5mph. You only need a tiny nudge at this speed.
You may need to counterweight on anything much bigger than a 125 - hinge
at the waist (you can practice this on a straight road at around 20mph to
get the feel for the effect) so that the bike leans into the corner and you
sit bolt upright - this reduces the turning circle and lowers the centre
of gravity = better slow turning. Leaning your body into the corner has the
opposite effect and makes the bike run wide - keep your eyes level with the
horizon - this will help stop you leaning your body into the turn. Counterweighting
also brings the controls closer and makes them easier to control - leaning
into the turn makes them very difficult to reach.
Finally, just check you have sufficient slack in the throttle and clutch
cable - very often on full lock these can go tight (could be routed wrongly)
adding throttle or taking away clutch control at the wrong moment.
This collection of techniques and tips works on any bike of any size... I
was riding a Triumph TT Legend yesterday which has slightly cumbersome slow
speed handling and it works for that bike. It also is the only way to do
a foot up full lock turn on the GSXR with confidence.
Practice this and your slowspeed riding will be smooth and controlled!
... And much cheaper!