So You Want to Ride.. Part 4 Turning
After you've practiced braking and acceleration, then it's time to move on to turning. Turning comes naturally to some. Some people need to think about it and practice more. The first thing to consider when riding a motorcycle is that the faster you go, the more gyroscopic effect there is imparted to the motorcycle by the wheels. Generally, the faster you go, the more stable the motorcycle will be. The faster you go, the less wheel deflection there will be when hitting bumps and the smoother the motorcycle will turn. In some cases, the motorcycle will be harder to turn when going faster and tend to remain traveling in s straight line. Thus, a motorcycle traveling at slower speeds will be easier to tip over and will take more concentration and minute corrections to keep it upright.
Turning at slow speeds requires you to stay limber and be loose on the bike. You need to be able to adjust your weight slightly from left to right in order to keep the motorcycle balanced on the wheels and to adjust for unexpected response from bumps and road irregularities. Turning at high speed is best done with the body tighter to the motorcycle. At higher speeds you want to be hanging on so to speak. At higher speeds you want to use minute nudges on the bars to do your steering.. for the most part. The exception being when you are on the extreme edge of turning at race speeds. Then some body english might be necessary. But we won't cover that in this part.
A motorcycle turns by initiating a controlled fall to one side or the other. Then, you use steering to keep it upright. Try this exercise. Get a broom. Balance the broom vertically in the palm of your hand with the heavy brush end pointed to the sky. The handle in your palm are the wheels. Your palm is the road. The head of the broom is your head. Now, move your hand to the right. Which way does the broom fall? To the left. Now, if you were to move with the broom and maintain a steady angle, the broom would continue moving to the left. Add some forward motion, and you've got an approximate example of how a motorcycle turns. With forward motion comes centripetal force. That force is what alters your momentary point of gravity. Remember swinging a bucket of water around when you were a kid, maybe on a rope? The water in the bucket stayed completely level while you were swinging it in a circle. The same thing applies to a motorcycle in a turn. Everything attached to the bike "feels" gravity as if it were completely upright when making a turn. Theoretically, if a bike is leaned over at 45 degrees in a turn, it will be experiencing 1G horizontally and 1G vertically. However, do to the geometry of the cross section of the tire, this is not 100% accurate. But enough of the physics lesson.
To initiate a turn you actually PUSH on the same side of the bar as the direction you want to turn. Want to turn left, push on the left bar end. This causes the front tire to move to the right of the center of gravity, thus initiating a fall to the left. Then you maintain the turn with a steady pressure on the left bar.. releasing or adding more pressure in order to maintain the desired rate of turn. You have to do this because as soon as you let go of the bar, the motorcycle will return to traveling in a straight line.
Many people learn to ride a bicycle first. A lot of these people don't even realize how the mechanics of making a turn work because a bicycle is so light and easy to turn. It doesn't take much of a concentrated effort to turn a bicycle. A motorcycle takes a bit more pressure on the bars to keep it under control. This is why many people don't do well when turning a motorcycle. I believe understanding how a motorcycle actually turns may help most to turn better. As usual, the best way to get better is to practice. Reading how to do something and actually doing it are two different things. Likewise, having somebody there that knows what they are doing to instruct you live, is much better than just reading about it. I encourage new riders to seek out GOOD, EXPERIENCED riders who are will to teach you how to ride.