Friday, August 28, 2020

U-turn on a motorcycle? Looks easy in video

Motorcycle rider makes a turn with no hands on the handlebars.
No hands! But this rider gets around a cone by slowing down and leaning in.
WARNING: The article that follows contains my own idle musings about motorcycling, in the face of contradictory advice. Those who really do know how to steer a motorcycle will likely disagree with me. No one should take my conclusions as gospel.

Although I was a decent bicyclist as a boy, and I have lots of miles on my Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle, I still can't get around corners.

I live in Florida, flat and cursed with only straight roads. I never have to corner, which is good, because, having no experience, I stink at it.

I can't escape having to make occasional U-turns, though. I just sort of blunder around, feeling as though I am about to fall.

Seeking advice I lazily turned, of course, not to time-honored text books or certified training courses, but to that well know tower of wisdom, YouTube.

Here I encountered two seemingly contradictory demonstrations of making U-turns on a motorcycle. One rider demonstrated turning the motorcycle by leaning INTO the turn. In fact, he did the turns without touching the handlebars, simply by slowing down and leaning his body (as seen above). It looked like he and the motorcycle should fall over, but they did not.

Motorcycle rider makes tight turn by leaning to the outside of turn.
This rider puts all his weight on the outside peg, leaning away from the turn.
In the dueling video, another rider demonstrated turning the motorcycle by leaning to the OUTSIDE of the turn. He put his weight on the outside footpeg to "counter-balance" the motorcycle. In fact he took his foot entirely off the inside peg to illustrate that no weight was on it.

Again, it looked like the motorcycle should fall over, but it did not. Could his 180 pounds really have balanced a 500-pound motorcycle?

Watching the two videos, I have to conclude that experts can get motorcycles to do anything.

The key could be the factor that both videos have in common: letting the motorcycle slow down and the handlebars turn deeply into the turn.

Amazingly, doing this, the motorcycle (check out the videos, below) doesn't fall down. Why? It must be largely the action of the front wheel as the handlebars turn and speed drops off.

(SIDE NOTE: The usual explanation is that this is the benefit of "caster," often described as the offset that enables shopping cart wheels to automatically go straight when you push the cart. That makes no sense, though, as shopping cart wheels obviously go straight because they are offset to the rear of their steering attachment, whereas motorcycle front wheels are obviously offset ahead of the steering head. This would suggest that motorcycles will not behave like shopping carts, and, in fact, Wikipedia explains that shopping cart wheels in fact have "no caster." It's more complicated.)

Whatever. What must be happening on the ground is that the front wheel, sharply turning as the motorcycle slows and leans into the turn, is actually trying to force itself to go straight — which would automatically force the motorcycle upright.

Is the motorcycle, as it almost seems to fall over, actually counter-steering itself back to vertical, as the first video suggests?

I now realize I actually experienced this once, when I tried to turn at an intersection in Florida and hit a patch of oil. The motorcycle tried to fall down, but as it did, the front wheel turned into the fall and — magically, it seemed, without me doing much of anything — the motorcycle picked itself up and went straight. I didn't know what caused it.

I need to go practice U-turns.

Meanwhile, watch the videos. Both emphasize a complete technique, giving the motorcycle the proper amount of speed, avoiding brakes and sudden acceleration.

1 comment:

  1. In an old motorcycle magazine I cannot find they described leaning in as the "English" way and leaning away as the "French" way.


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