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The 'Point and Squirt' approach to corners

This particular article has its origins in some heated debates that took place online on my regular bike forum. It concerned the difference between what some called 'conventional' cornering lines, and what I have been teaching since 1997 as the 'Point and Squirt' technique. Point and Squirt has its origins in a series of articles published in the 1980s in the old Motorcycle Sport and Leisure magazine, one of which showed some cornering diagrams which featured a 'late apex' line. I'd long since realised that running wide on the exit to bend was best avoided and the late apex line got me thinking, and also experimenting - not just with late apex, but with a quicker steering input to make the best use of it. That was something that went pretty much against the grain at the time. It was usually stated that machine inputs should be smooth. The trouble was, smooth was usually interpreted as 'slow'. But the fact is that quick steering inputs can be also smooth. It's all in the timing. I developed over many despatching miles, and when I started training it was a natural way to cover cornering.

Let's go back to basics. Riding a bike requires us to be able to:

  • change speed
  • change direction

That's all that the machine itself can do. Of course, there are other issues:

  • managing stability
  • managing risk

But it's our ability to change speed and direction first and foremost that allows us to manage stability and risk in a bend. So what I teach on my Survival Skills Performance cornering courses is all about getting these basics right.

Here's the first point to consider. It's easy to get a motorcycle to either change direction OR change speed. We can mix-and-match, but it's not so easy. So whenever we can, it makes sense to separate the braking and acceleration forces from cornering forces. On the approach to a corner we can achieve that quite simply - we get all deceleration, whether by closing the throttle or braking, completed upright before the corner. Once we've finished steering - which is the moment the bike is clear of the curve and upright again - we accelerate positively. So it's this late turn-in and the upright acceleration which gives the technique the 'Point and Squirt' name.

What we don't try to do is 'chase the Limit Point' by accelerating whilst still leaned over in the curve, as it says in 'Motorcycle Roadcraft'. With Point and Squirt, when the machine is leaned over, it's ONLY having to deal with the cornering forces.

Now, here's the second point. To minimise risk, we need to respond to hazards, whether that's the shape of the corner itself, the presence of other vehicles and places they could turn, the state of the road surface and possible stability problems, or other issues such pedestrians and animals. To manage the risks posed by those hazards, we have to SEE them - or at least realise that we CANNOT see them! So until a mid-corner hazard forces a change of position on us, our line around the bend is dictated by what we can see. The line that gives us the best view of the road ahead is what I call the 'Vision Line', and we follow it from the moment we enter the corner to the point at which we can clearly see where the road goes next. To maintain the view, we usually position ourselves towards the outer edge of our lane, just so long as we don't put ourselves at risk from oncoming vehicles (on a left-hander in the UK) or blind entrances or debris at the edge of the road (on a right-hander).

And thirdly. We need to know where we are in a bend - we need some kind of road map. And this is where I borrow from track technique - we can define ANY corner in terms of:

  1. the 'entry' - where the bend forces us to steer or run off the road
  2. the 'turn-in point' - where we can see the exit
  3. the exit - where we're upright again and pointed to where we want to go next.

Once we realise that committing ourselves to turning-in to a corner when we can't see our way out of the bend is liable to lead to us running wide later in the corner, then it's fairly obvious that we should only turn-in and attempt to widen the line around the final part of the corner when the view opens up for good. It's this view of the way out - the exit - that locates the 'turn-in point'. Using a late 'turn-in point' minimises the risk of turning in too early, and running wide later in the bend.

Why the controversy? Firstly, I was told "it's in Roadcraft already". It isn't, although there are common elements such as the wide 'vision line'. But the Point and Squirt approach emphasises the advantage of separating from the steering the inputs that make the bike do a 'rocking horse' on the brakes or under power. It also emphasises the late turn-in, late apex line. And it requires a moderately quick steering to make the direction change when the view opens up. Whilst it's always possible to interpret 'Roadcraft' that way by reading between the lines, none of these elements are made explicitly clear as they are in Point and Squirt.

A more negative view was that Point and Squirt is a racing technique. Because I was talking about braking rather than simply rolling off the throttle, it was assumed that it must be all about dashing up to the corner before braking late and hard, and that the late 'turn-in' would result in the rider banging the bike over on its side before firing it out with a handful of throttle and wheelspin. Clearly that's NOT what I'm suggesting. Of course, if we want to, we could brake later and harder, then maximise acceleration out of the turn, but getting through the corner quicker isn't the raison d'etre. A moment's thought will show that because Point and Squirt is about views and lines, it works just as well with a police-style 'acceleration sense' approach to riding.

What else? "Point and Squirt line's 'late apex' requires a big steering input which could destabilise the bike." It's true that Point and Squirt gets the bike turned over a shorter distance, but if we're travelling a little more slowly, it's not a problem - in any case, there's nearly always plenty of grip available to steer the machine, mid-corner it's braking and accelerating grip that's in short supply. We also get the bike upright sooner which is a benefit.

And "by taking a very late apex and making a more rapid change of direction, a rider is prevented from reducing the severity of a bend by 'maximising the radius of the corner'." Whilst in theory, this wider line 'works the tyres less hard' - that's the very explanation given in a West Midlands BikeSafe video, the reality of what riders do with a wider line is very different. We all use it to carry more speed, not lean over less. The benefits are non-existant! What was really ironic in the West Midlands video was that having explained the benefits of the maximum radius line, the police rider then demonstrated a sequence of perfect Point and Squirt lines!

A more reasonable response was that it doesn't apply to all corners. I'd totally agree, but I'd point out that it all comes back to the view. If we can see clearly right through the corner from one end to the other, then there's no need to delay our 'turn-in', and we can indeed open out our line to 'maximise the radius' but in the UK at least, it's rare to find a corner where there is nothing blocking our line of sight. Turning in too early means we're relying on guesswork to figure out where the road goes. Even then, the wide exit means our steering must be spot on. If we get it wrong, we'll run wide. What defines Point and Squirt is that delayed 'turn-in' which is controlled entirely by our view of the way out of the bend. That means it applies to any corner where we can't see the exit on the way in, which happens to be most bends in the UK. And it's also an excellent way to negotiate mountain hairpins where running wide could be catastrophic.

Nothing about Point and Squirt is particularly unique - you can find elements of it in various different books. What is unique is that way it's all put together, and how it pulls all aspects of cornering - assessment of the bend, managing risk along the way, choosing a line and timing machine inputs - into one neat and self-contained system.

Funnily enough, right in the middle of the big online debate Andy Ibbott used his MCN column to explain how to "Separate throttle and steering and never run wide again". Covering precisely the theory behind Point and Squirt, he stated:

"We need to get the bike pointing in the right direction before applying the throttle".

My point exactly!

Kevin Williams
Survival Skills Rider Training

...because it's a jungle out there


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What is Survival Skills all about?

How are Survival Skills Courses put together and taught?
The Making of a Good Instructor - musings on my Driver Education course

Would a National Standard for advanced training be appropriate?
Writing a riding tip - what detail is necessary?
What to do if you've had an accident
Accident Statistics - dispelling some myths

Improver or advanced, pragmatism or perfection?
Piling on the miles
Compartmentalisation & Practice -  the key to learning new skills
Countersteering - Question and Answer

Braking Rules and Tips
Over-confidence and Riding at the Limit
Practice makes Perfect
The Danger of Misunderstanding
Learning from your Mistakes
A Moment of Inattention
Staying Warm
Staying Awake
Don't just ride for yourself, ride for others
Filtering - what's legal and how to do it
Cornering Problems 1 - Lean or Brake?
Springing into Summer - polishing off the winter rust
Group Riding - Rules and Tips
Awareness of Risk and Risk Management
Cornering Problems 4 - Stability and the "Point and Squirt" technique
Cornering Problems 3 - Staying out of trouble! Pro-active Braking or Acceleration Sense?
Cornering Problems 2 - Staying out of trouble
What is Risk?
Avoiding Diesel
The Vanishing Point - is it enough?
Posture - the key to smoother riding
When the Two Second Rule is not enough
Riding in the Dark
Roundabouts - straight lines, stability and safety
Slow Speed Control
Aquaplaning - what it is and how to deal with it
Rear Observation - when to & when not to!
Staying upright on icy roads
KISS - 'Keep it simple, Stupid' or Low Effort Biking
Overtaking Safety - avoiding vehicles turning right
Proactive versus Reactive Riding
Living with  Lifesavers
Which Foot? The Hendon Shuffle - Question and Answer
Carrying a passenger - Question and Answer
Riding in the rain
Riding in strong winds
Sorry Mate, I didn't see you - an analysis of SMIDSY accidents
Ever gone into a corner too hot and had it tighten up on you?
The Point & Squirt approach to corners
A time to live...
Target Fixation - Question and Answer
The Lurker, the Drifter and the Trimmer
The five most important things I learned as a courier
Overtaking - Questions and Answers
Precision riding - or keeping it simple?
Wide lines, tight lines, right lines - the law of Diminishing Returns
Surface Attraction
Euphoria - when your riding is just too good to be true
Straight line -vs- trail braking
Sit back, close your eyes, relax... and hope for the best
Before you overtake, do you...?
Do you need to blip the throttle on a downshift?
Holiday Riding Tips 1 - Dealing with hairpins (a new occasional series)
Holiday Riding Tips 2 - The (drive on the) Right Stuff
Why SMIDSYs happen
Avoiding dehydration - riding in hot weather
Riding errors - and avoiding them
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness - riding in fog
Where does Point and Squirt come from?
Overtaking - lifesavers and following distances
Offsiding - what is it, and why you should think before you do it!
Anger Management - dealing with "red mist" and "road rage"
That indefinable gloss
Overtaking on left-handers - experts only or best avoided?
Apex or Exit - what's important when cornering?

Developing 'Spidy Sense'

Armchair Riding - how to improve summer skills in winter

Working towards a BTEC in post-test instruction part 1

Working towards a BTEC in post-test instruction part 2

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