Friday, August 10, 2007

Mastering the U-Turn

One of the more difficult slow maneuvers is making a tight U-turn.

This maneuver is a combination of both the mechanics of the motorcycle and your physical HEAD and EYES position.

The mechanical part is a balance between revs and forward movement. You need to use the clutch for most of it. You can do a giant parking lot circle leaned over without using the clutch, but to do tight turns you need to use the clutch. If the clutch was fully engaged you would be moving too fast. If the clutch was fully engaged and you used the rear brake to slow you down, you'd kill the engine or it would become jerky. You slow yourself by using the clutch to find your “sweet spot” in the friction zone. This way you have the use of the power you need anytime you want it, without going too fast. With the rear brake slightly engaged you have the motor trying to pull, along with a little throttle and the use of the clutch, this combination will enable you to master mechanical control.

The physical part is all HEAD and EYES. Look where you want the motorcycle to go with BOTH your HEAD and EYES and that’s where the motorcycle will go. To practice pick a focal point, a cone or marker on the far side of the U-turn works well. Once you begin going into your U-turn dip the bike slightly to the outside of the turn then look over you shoulder at your focal point and lean the bike over into the turn. Keep looking at your focal point. When you feel the bike is going too far over, you will have the instinct to put your foot down and straighten the bars, fight that instinct and let out the clutch slightly if you need too. This will pull you upright.

Once you get over the instinct to put your foot down to catch yourself, and let out more clutch instead, you can get tighter and tighter. Eventually, once you get used to the bike being leaned way over, you can pull into the lot, pick your pivot point, drop the bike into its lean and pivot right around at or near full lock no problem. Anytime you feel like you're about to drop you bike, and want to put your foot down, let the clutch out a little, this will straighten you up and you should be fine. I would guess that most of the times that when you think you are about to drop your bike and want to put your foot down, you weren't really that close, it just felt like it. This feeling to put your foot down is instinct, with practice you will get used to that leaning feeling and become comfortable knowing that even though you are leaning you have control.
Remember, it is dangerous to put your foot down during a lean. When you put your foot down in a lean, the motorcycle is moving and your foot becomes stationary. This can throw your foot back and can break your leg or ankle. Putting your foot down in a moving lean is not going to straighten an 800lb motorcycle.

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