The Point & Squirt approach to corners

One of the more impassioned discussions that has taken place recently on Visordown was about the difference between conventional lines through corners and the so-called Point and Squirt technique, of which I am an advocate.

What became quickly clear was firstly that some riders had no idea what Point and Squirt is all about and secondly that they had no clear idea of what they were doing in corners full stop!

A typical response was that the Point and Squirt was a racing technique, all about dashing up to the corner, hard and late on the brakes before banging the bike on its side and then firing it out with a handful of throttle and wheelspin. A second comment was that the Point and Squirt 'deep in line' stops the rider from reducing the severity of a bend by straightening it out by using a classic "kerb - apex - kerb" line (often call ed the racing line). A third criticism was that the Point and Squirt is rendered redundant by applying the "chase the vanishing point" technique as explained in Roadcraft. A fourth issue pointed out was that it doesn't apply to all corners.

Let's go back to basics and decide what we are dealing with in any bend. There are three seperate issues:

   * maximising stability
   * reading the line
   * maximising safety

What I teach is all about getting the basics in a corner right first. The bike will either turn or it will change speed. What it is not so happy at doing is both at the same time, so what we should be planning is to maximise stability through the turn. So braking is done in a straight line, and accelerating is done in a straight line.

Having got the speed right we don't take a kerb/apex/kerb line, but instead follow the outside of the turn on a non-commital tracking line on a gentle throttle. Only when we can clearly see where the road goes next and we have the clear idea of the line we wish to take to clear the corner, then and only then do we steer tighter, across to the apex and beyond. As we exit the turn we either pick the bike upright and accelerate again (the Point and Squirt part), or put the bike in the right place to deal with the next bend or other hazard.

By waiting till we see the exit before turning in tighter we give ourselves three advantages:

 - because we are not turning early to maximise the radius of the turn, we can go deep into the corner on the brakes, which gives us more room to slow, we are slower mid-turn where we are leant over, and we come out on a more upright line - we keep the bike upright for as long as possible and increase stability throughout the corner

 - we minimise the chance of taking the wrong line and running out of road, particularly on a bend of 90 degrees or more where the true line of the bend is obscured

- by apexing very late in the turn, we gain more clearance on right-handers to cars running wide in the mid part of the corner. Although it puts us closer to cars cutting the corner on left-handers, we are in the right frame of mind to turn in, so we can easily tighten our line away from them so it's safer on those too

The big advantage for road riders is that by waiting until we see the exit before steering for the apex, we avoid turning too early in the first half of the turn and running out of road in the second half of the turn, an error which puts us in the hedge on a right- hander or on the wrong side of the road on a left-hander. If the road doesn't go quite where we expect or we find vehicles in odd places, by taking that non-commital line early to mid-turn, we've got options to change line or position as we need.

If we want to, we can of course use the time the bike is upright to maximise our braking and acceleration, but it's not the raison d'etre of the technique. We can use the Point and Squirt with an "acceleration sense" no-brakes approach to the turns if we want - it works just as well.

What defines Point and Squirt is getting the bike upright and aimed at the exit before giving it the berries. It's particularly appropriate bends where we can't see the exit on the way in, and that applies to most bends greater than about 45 degrees. It's an excellent way to negotiate mountain hairpins.

So what about the critics? What about bends where it doesn't apply?

Straightening the bend out by "maximising the radius" is fine if we can see clearly that there are no hazards and where the road goes next before we turn in, but this only happens on gentle bends or rare corners where there is no hedge, more often riders are relying on educated guesswork to figure out where the road goes. Even if we do get the line right, it demands accurate steering to get our exit line right. Great fun IF we get it right, and potentially fatal if we don't.

Whilst the 'racing line' is intended to allow maximum speed whilst cornering, we're not riding on a track. It also happens to ensure that we use maximum lean angle mid turn whilst we are carrying a lot of speed - any suggestion that this line improves stability because it increases the radius of the turn is a bit flawed.

 In the real world we'll often find dodgy surfaces, traffic coming the other way on our side of the road and have to deal with bends that don't go where they appear to at first sight. Reducing the severity of a bend by taking the widest radius kerb - apex - kerb line possible will significantly reduce visibility, particularly of the road surface, and reduce our ability to plan ahead, and carrying extra speed limits our options for reacting to hazards.

As it happens, in the middle of this discussion I was quite interested to see Andy Ibbott in his column in MCN on July 23 covering precisely the theory behind Point and Squirt. Entitled "Seperate throttle and steering and never run wide again", he explains. "We need to get the bike pointing in the right direction before applying the throttle". My point exactly!