Riding skills: Decreasing radius bends

By Guy Procter -

Riding Skills

 28 May 2010 14:12

Also known in-helmet as the shit-shit-shit-shit-shit bend, the decreasing radius corner isn’t a problem to be tackled in isolation – it’s a test of the fundamentals of your riding skills, namely looking ahead, reading the vanishing point and steering a planned line.

If you get a scare from a turn that tightens up, don’t worry about making a special effort to practise them, take a trip back to the basics and the problem will disappear all by its own.

The most powerful fixative you can bring to bear on any cornering problem is a curiosity about where the next straight is going.

Set your speed, find a position in the road and crane your head, all to get the answer to that question as soon as possible and everything else is mere detail.

What undoes you on a decreasing radius corner is the fact you’ve failed to foresee for sure where the exit of the (first part of) the bend is going.

You have sighted the apex of the first part of the corner, but from there you’re relying on your assumption of how bends like that open out, not from what you’re observing – which is that this isn’t a corner opening out onto a straight, but a corner opening immediately onto another, tighter corner.

How could you have avoided it?

1 Position
Your desire to know where the road goes next should force you to stay out wide on the way into a corner – the best place to get the longest view into and round the bend.

You should stay out wide until you’ve got a clear view of the how much or little the road out of the bend is opening up.  Fail to do this and you risk committing yourself to a too early apex – which may be fine on the first part of the corner, but leave you on a terrible line for the next.

2 Speed
On the road the only way to know the right speed for a bend is to know when it’s going to stop being a bend and start opening out into the next section of road. Your speed into a corner should be that at which your view of the road is unfolding at a speed at which you can react to it.

A decreasing radius bend finds you out worse than any other because it has no straight following it to allow you regain the right road position and speed for the next (part of the) bend.

3 Vanishing point
You can get advanced warning of the progress of a bend by watching where its two sides – or continuous features running parallel to it on either side like grass banks, hedges, walls, trees or barriers – meet.

If this point is moving towards you the bend is tightening up. If it’s constant, a steady throttle is called for. If it’s moving away, you can open the throttle to match the rate it’s moving.

4 Drop your shoulder
Drop your inside shoulder as you enter a bend and you're in the best position to apply some swift extra push to the inside bar, if you suddenly find you’re in too deep or too fast or both as a bend tightens up.

It also makes it harder for fear to lock your arms solid and make you unable to do anything but head for the outside kerb.


Key to image
Green: Reading the road
Red: Riding on autopilot
Blue: Really determined to try and get knee down

Image ripped from http://www.sportrider.com/index.html