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.

Posture

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!

Technique

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 line first.

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 go down.

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!