Where does Point and Squirt come from?
Every few months, someone asks the question: "what's the best way to
get round corners?" and they get (mostly) sage advice. The general
consensus these days is that the best way to deal with a bend that
the rider can't see round (which is most of them when you think
about it) is to go in deep and relatively slow, turning tighter and
straightening the bend only when they see the exit.
For something like 15 years I've been riding this way, and since
1996 Survival Skills has been training riders this way too. I called
this technique "Point and Squirt", because that's exactly what you
do. You wait till you see where are going next, then turn sharper,
point the bike at the exit and turn the throttle harder to squirt
the bike out down the road to the next hazard.
And so to Visordown, and Spring 2000, and the launch of the Survival
Skills section on there. For the first time, I'm on a national
platform writing about "Point & Squirt". And suddenly a load of
people appear and tell me: "ah, but that's the line you'd take if
you follow the advice in Motorcycle Roadcraft." And every time year
or so, the discussion about whether they are the same thing
However, the more I think about this, and the more the supporters of
Roadcraft discuss this with me, the more I beg to differ.
Now if you've not a) already switched off because this is too
technical, b) face down on the keyboard through boredom or c) thrown
your hands in the air wondering why on earth we instructors can't
agree on something as simple as how to ride a bend, I'll tell you
why I think that understanding where and how Point and Squirt came
into being is an important issue. Firstly you need to understand my
own sources and background.
Many advanced instructors are ex-police, and have had benefit of
police training, or like the IAM observers or RoSPA diploma holders,
they absorb Police-style techniques because their trainees are
examined by ex-Police riders.
Coming from a non-police background, I learned my riding in the way
that the vast majority of ordinary riders have to - buying books,
reading magazine articles galore, discussing riding with
motorcyclists from all over the world, and then going out and trying
it, particularly before it became a bit more common-place to do
Naturally, one of the books that I bought was Motorcycle Roadcraft,
both the latest mid 90s edition but also I bought and read a much
earlier 80's "Blue Book". I also have a couple of IAM guides on
riding from both the 80s and the 90s which are heavily influenced by
Unfortunately none of these books really give a lot of help on
cornering. The advice which stuck in my mind was that the rider
should be using a wide line to "avoid working the tyres hard" and to
use "throttle sense" to speed up and slow down as the radius of the
bend changes by using the Vanishing Point technique. For a number of
years, this is what I tended to do, particularly as magazine
articles written in the late 70s and 80s tended to repeat these
points. And, truth be told, on the smaller capacity bikes more
common back then, maintaining momentum is rather more of an issue
than it is with the more powerful models of the last 15 years or so.
It's these issues that generate the bulk of the argument between
myself and the pro-Roadcraft lobby. I'm usually told that either
that I misunderstand Roadcraft, that an instructor would show a
rider how to interpret and apply the bald advice in the book
correctly on the road, or that my memory is fallible and I've got it
So, a couple of weeks ago, I went back over a number of books and
articles in my collection (or at least, the ones that I had
immediate access to) to see if my memory really was failing.
Turned out I wasn't. I dug out five or six books and several
magazine articles dating from the early 70s forward. The only REAL
exception to the "wide in, clip the apex, wide out" line was an
article in a series called Survival Arts (from 'Motorcycle Sport')
which showed a deeper, tighter turning, exit away from the white
line approach. It's quite obviously different from the diagrams in
the "Blue Book" edition of Roadcraft which show near-symetrical
maximum radius lines worked into the width of the road.
So why such a radical difference? I think it stems from several
things. The first is that the old 'Blue Book' was written for 50-odd
hp Triumph Saints and BMW R80s. Modern bikes respond very
differently to throttle use and have vastly more power. Even the mid
90s version makes no allowance for that fact. Wide lines taken on
modern sticky tyres and good handling bikes simply invite high mid
corner speeds and extreme lean angles, which goes right against the
idea of "not working the tyres so hard".
It's also a fact that Roadcraft is aimed at police riders and so the
safety message is somewhat subordinated to making progress. As other
instructors have pointed out the book was only intended as reference
material to the practical police training, not to be read alone.
This is almost certainly true, but surely the advice in the book
should still be unambiguous?
It might also be worth noting that the Survival Arts series was
written by a rider with courier experience, but with reference to a
police rider, who'd had that join the dots instruction that was
surely intended to go with the book!
This Survival Arts article appeared in April 1990. I was doing a lot
of cross country courier stuff from Kent from 90-95, and with the
aid of those articles, I altered my cornering technique and I found
it worked. This is where I developed my "slow approach, deep in,
turn late and quickly, fire it out" riding style. I've got some
notes which date from 92 or 93 when I actually started to write up
the "on the road" benefits of what would become Point & Squirt.
In 1993 Keith Code's Twist of the Wrist 2 was published. I read it,
and have to admit I didn't really "get it" first time round. As I've
said before, the combination of Californian English and
psycho-babble doesn't make it an easy read. It went back on the
Sometime in 1994, I got online and started discussing riding with
riders from all over the world. Naturally bends cropped up and I
called this late, quick turn technique "Point & Squirt" when I
was trying to explain it to someone on CompuServe.
As a result, I started to get useful feedback from US riders who'd
done Code's California Superbike School as well as Reg Pridmore's
CLASS in the United States. So I re-read Code, rather more carefully
What struck me immediately was that the stability issue of keeping
the bike upright as much as possible, keeping the throttle open
through a turn and using the quick steer that Code thinks very
important made immediate sense to me, and confirmed what I was
It also went diametrically against Roadcraft's "vary throttle/speed
with radius" and "maximise the radius" advice, as did Code's
approach to turning into a bend ("turn only when you see the exit"
and "steer once only") and definition of the exit ("where you can do
anything you want with the throttle - pull a wheelie if you want
to") . [The "turn only when you see the exit" advice IS in the later
edition of Roadcraft but it's not given any great emphasis.]
It was pretty obvious that I was actually riding the Keith Code
approach to corners rather than what I previously used and now
interpreted as the Roadcraft approach. What Code did offer was
something I hadn't worked out for myself - a way of knowing exactly
where the "entry", "turn in" and "exit" reference points in the bend
are - his "two step" way of looking for the turn-in point whilst
searching for a target point to aim for is an example.
Another useful source of information that came my way at that time
was some training material for instructors belonging to the
Motorcycle Safety Foundation in the USA, the "Slow, Look, Lean,
Roll" approach to cornering, quite a few years before Thames Valley
Advanced Motorcyclists started using the selfsame approach to bends.
That allowed me to break the corner down into sections.
I've been told that Point & Squirt is just the Roadcraft line
"properly explained", but I'm still not convinced that Point and
Squirt is the "plain vanilla" line that those critics suggest. Put
the advice from the MSF together with Keith Code's reference points
together as I've done with the "Bends" sections of my courses and
you have a comprehensive "what, where and why" system for riding a
bend, something that Roadcraft clearly lacks.
Whichever way you slice it, whether you believe that I got it wrong
because I didn't read ALL the advice in Roadcraft (and I'm happy
enough to accept that there are some warnings in the text which I
obviously didn't pay enough attention to), or whether you believe
that an instructor would join the dots and fill out what the book
tells you with common-sense warnings (and I'm quite happy to believe
that other instructors DO indeed do that), the fact remains that
Roadcraft, whether in the earlier or later versions, IS capable of
misinterpretation if it has to be "properly explained".
Certainly if the two are the same, it doesn't explain why, when in
1994 I joined the local IAM group, that I was told off by my
observer for using the Point & Squirt, and had demonstrated to
me the "proper" approach to cornering, which took Kerb/Apex/Kerb and
White line/Apex/White line approaches to bends. I wasn't even warned
to tuck in away from the white line on left handers as was advised
in the old Blue Book. And on social runs I had plenty of opportunity
to "observe" the members who'd passed as well as the observers
themselves putting themselves into turns they couldn't possibly see
round, and exiting millimetres from white line or kerb. I was also
"lucky" enough to be given a demo ride by a policeman doing just
I'm also told that I'm out of date and that the Point and Squirt
variant is now the accepted way of riding. Fair enough. Except that
I rode with a very nice guy only the summer before last on the last
but one CompuServe meet. He's had his IAM pass for 20 years or so,
and is still active in his group. After one of our rides, he quizzed
me on the lines I was taking. I explained Point & Squirt.
"Nah", he said, "I don't like that... it's all stop/start and sudden
jinks... I like to avoid touching the brakes at all and use wide
sweeping lines because the bike's more stable. It's how my two mates
who are both ex-police riders ride too".
But... not everyone rides like that.
The first time I recall seeing Point & Squirt properly explained
in a UK magazine would be Andy Ibbott writing as director of the UK
version of the California Superbike school in MCN - without laying a
hand on it, I'd hazard a guess that would be 6-8 years ago, late 90s
- at which time Survival Skills had been teaching Point & Squirt
for 3 or 4 years. Not surprisingly as I'd developed my ideas largely
from Code, I agreed almost entirely with his assessment of bends.
Since then, last summer's series of expert riding articles by Andy
Morrison in Bike covered the same techniques very well indeed.
Most interestingly of all, the Bikesafe videos from Thames Valley
and West Midlands clearly show the police riders using the deep in,
quick steer technique that I call Point and Squirt. Illogically, the
commentary on the second still talks about widening the line and not
working the tyres so hard.
So, where do we go from here? There are obviously two approaches
which are at some distance apart from each other each with its
supporters, and probably with a bunch of riders doing something in
the middle between the two extremes.
So what's right? At this point, the discussion can descend into a
"we're right because Roadcraft is used by the police, so you must be
wrong" slanging match which is not very constructive. It's also a
bit of a shame because there is a lot of really good information
available to all instructors and riders who want to get better from
OUTSIDE the usual UK sources if only they care to look for it and
accept that it can be used. I'm certainly not ignoring Roadcraft -
but I'm not afraid to build on it, ask questions of it where I think
it is of doubtful use, and discard it altogether where I think there
is a better alternative.
I'm quite happy to accept I was "doing Roadcraft wrong" because I'm
fallible and I do misunderstand things. But if I was wrong, so were
my IAM group, the other two or three dozen IAM members from groups
up and down the country I rode with around that time, and the many
riders I've subsequently taken on training courses since who based
their cornering technique on Roadcraft - none demonstrated a
credible version of Point and Squirt, nor a full understanding of
I'm not interested in scoring points and I'm not trying to put noses
out of joint by appearing to criticise other instructors, nor am I
looking to be "sole Guardian of the Truth" as one critic put it. (If
I was, I'd hardly be publicising how Point and Squirt works, would
But I do believe that an honest assessment of the sources we use is
vital to help others understand what and why we do what we do. Blind
acceptance of "what's always been done" is not something we should
be aiming for. We need to make the effort to give riders looking for
help the best possible advice to ride bends, whether we do that by
building on what Roadcraft does offer, admitting that in some ways
it is doubtful advice for modern riders or by drawing on new sources