MCN IAM Better Riding Guide: Cornering

By Stefan Bartlett -

General news

 10 October 2012 16:00

Cornering is arguably one of the hardest but most enjoyable manoeuvres on a two-wheeler. Practice is inevitably important to master them.

Whether it’s a hair pin bend or a slight corner, you’ll be ahead of everyone else if you familiarise yourself with this advice first.

  • To develop safe, smooth and progressive cornering skills you need to handle every bend in a precise way based on good observation, planning and an appropriate line and exit.
  • Approaching a corner, check in your mirrors to see if there’s another vehicle behind you that might be planning an overtake.
  • If it’s clear, position your machine correctly – move to the left-hand side of your carriageway for right-hand bends, or out towards the centre on left-handers (but don’t cross the broken white line unless it is completely safe). This repositioning increases your view through the bend and allows smoother steering and progress. Never position your machine so far over that it could unnerve another road user or put you in danger.
  • Aim to complete any braking in a straight line – ‘slow in, fast out’ is the best way to tackle a corner – and avoid braking in a bend, as this can cause your bike to run wide or worse.
  • Remember, your speed must allow you to stop within the distance you can see to be clear in relation to the Limit Point of Vision (LPOV). The LPOV is the furthest point ahead at which you have a clear view of the road – where the right and left-hand sides appear to meet.
  • Ride at a speed that allows you to stop (on your own side of the road) within the distance you can see is clear – the distance between you and the LPOV. This determines how fast you can safely enter a corner. The closer the LPOV, the less time and distance you will have in which to act and therefore the slower you need to go – and vice versa.
  • If you watch the LPOV on the approach to a bend or junction, you’ll notice that it may move in relation to you. If it moves closer, slow down and make sure you can stop within the distance of the LPOV. Use this technique to maximise your observation and manage your speed as you approach the bend.

  • Look out for potholes and drains or any other hazards that could affect your cornering line. Continually check the LPOV, adjusting your speed as necessary. If the LPOV is static relative to you then you’re at the correct speed to negotiate the bend. Select the correct gear to maintain a smooth and consistent ride through the corner.
  • Use ‘Positive Steering’ (see below) to lean the machine into the corner with a progressive movement, not a jerky motion.
  • As you turn in and your machine settles, apply a balanced throttle – just enough to keep your speed steady, but not enough to accelerate.
  • When you’re in the bend, check the LPOV. If it starts to move away from you, consider accelerating. As you exit the bend, again watch the LPOV. As it moves away from you and the road opens out, start accelerating – provided that it is safe. You can think of this as following or chasing the LPOV. If you start catching the LPOV, you are going too fast and need to slow. Keep up with the LPOV and your speed is okay. If the LPOV is moving away you can chase after it – speed limits and safety permitting.
  • Almost all crashes on corners are as a result of inattentive, careless or dangerous riding. Other factors, such as worn tyres or slippery road surfaces, are sometimes catalysts, but usually the rider is to blame due to poor observation, poor planning or too high an entry speed.
  • Camber of the road surface (a deliberate sloping of the road to aid drainage) can assist you on left-hand bends, but work against you on right-handers. Always observe the road surface you are on, adapting your speed and position accordingly.

Positive Steering

Above a certain speed, around 10-15mph, a rider needs to have positive input to make a bike lean in the intended direction of travel. This is positive steering (sometimes also referred to as counter steering) and it is an important part of smooth, safe cornering.

To negotiate a right turn you need to gently push forward on the right handlebar. This will cause the bike to lean to the right and enable you to negotiate the bend. At higher speeds and on tighter bends, more steering input may be required. On a right-hand bend you can also pull back on the left handlebar to make the bike lean further and quicker.

For left hand bends, the technique is to push forward on the left handlebar and pull back on the right handlebar.

Your riding position is another important factor to achieve accurate, proportional and progressive steering. You should have a gentle bend in your elbows with a relaxed grip on the handlebars and relaxed shoulders. The angle between your forearms and the fork legs should be as close to 90° as is possible.

If you found this useful, check out previous columns on braking, motorways, filtering and roundabouts.

For more advice on cornering technique, get a copy of How to be a Better Rider, Advanced Motorcycling the Essential Guide. It costs £9.99 and is available from the IAM. Contact www.iam.org.uk.

Alternatively, if you want to improve your riding skills, consider our one-to-one rider training.