From U-turns to slippery ferry ramps, as we start the new riding year it’s time to conquer the demons that lurk in the back of our brains…
We all have them: motorcycling scenarios that fill us with dread. Whether that’s the fear of humiliation if you drop your bike doing something innocuous or not knowing how to cope in a situation you’re unfamiliar with. But fear not! MCN is here to help. Read this and you won’t have to fear any more...
A smooth, feet-up U-turn is a classy move, but it takes practice. An empty car park is perfect. Start by riding straight as slowly as you can: clutch half in, a little dragged back brake to keep it stable. Once that’s nailed, ride along a white line and turn the bars enough to make a smooth turn. Look where you want to go, not at the ground in front of you. Stop when you’re 180-degrees away from your start direction.
Notice how many parking spaces you needed to make the turn. Repeat that five times, remembering to use the back brake gently to steady the bike. Be smooth. If you wobble or hesitate, scrub your score and start again. You need five good turns in a row. Next, set yourself a tighter target. If you needed three bay widths before, try five smooth turns in two-and-a-half bay widths. Keep looking where you want to go!
Keep practising. Don’t give up. Believe it or not it’s possible to start on full lock, let the clutch out, and hold full lock for a full turn.
All groups contain faster and slower riders – which puts pressure on the slower ones right away. It can also be a long line, so, while the first rider (who’s often the most experienced) can overtake easily, the one at the back (often the least skilled) has to bust a gut to do the same thing. You’re right to be nervous: left at that, a riding group is not a great recipe for a fun day out.
The solution is for everyone to meet beforehand and agree some rules. For example, anybody who wants to whizz off has to wait at the next turn in a prominent position. That way no one feels forced to go faster than they want.
Riding quickly in a group is fine if you’re all skilled and good mates. In all other situations, it’s asking for trouble. If you’re a slower rider, just do your thing and enjoy the day as a social event. If you’re fast, a group with newbies in is the last place you should show what a hero you are.
The main thing is staying dry and being able to see. So, waterproofs on first and, if your visor steams up, prop it open a few millimetres. If you use special visor polish regularly, that helps clear water droplets, or fit an anti-fog pinlock system.
The only way to approach wet riding is to see it as a fascinating challenge. Everything is the same – except you have less grip. If you let that fact scare you, you’ll just get tense and stop looking so far ahead, which will make you even more tense, and so on.
Instead, drop your speed, and do everything – brake, turn, accelerate – more smoothly and gradually. Don’t jam the front brake on sharply; use both brakes equally. Likewise acceleration: this is not the time for handfuls of throttle. Use your engine’s flexibility.
To boost confidence, find the place in the rev range where you feel the best connection between your right hand and the road. Play around to see what works for you.
Above all, enjoy it. Because it is enjoyable.
More new rider hints and tips
This can feel pretty scary – especially when the wind comes in sporadic gusts. Even a steady sidewind creates the same erratic effect when you come out of a large lorry’s ‘wind shadow’.
Your instinct as a rider is to lean to counteract the wind pressure. The trouble is, however, that you can’t lean quickly enough to react to gusts. Instead, the best thing to do is to hunker down to reduce your area exposed to the wind... and countersteer. If the wind is coming from the left, put pressure on the left bar to push the bar away from you – and vice versa. Stay relaxed. The bike will still move, but it will feel more stable.