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Motorcycling 101, lean angle and what to make of it.

Valentino Rossi corners during practice lap
Valentino Rossi corners during practice lap
Moto GP

Did you know that the more you lean into a turn the more ground clearance you get? It’s true. Have you seen the Moto GP guys scraping knees as they are flying around corners? The reason is just that. They are getting every single inch of ground clearance and lean angle out of their motorcycles so they can cut a corner the sharpest they can and lose as little speed as possible.

But do we have to do this on the street? No, of course not. In fact you should not be dragging knees on the street. Like this! But this man's skill was amazing and he had no fear of lean angle. Again this is an extreme, but it shows you will not fall off of your motorcycle.

That does not mean we can’t use body positioning and lean angle to ride safely on the street as well though. When entering a curve the first order business is what we covered yesterday, slow, look, lean, roll.

Look to the end of the curve or as far into it as you can see. That means turning your head, and not just your eyes. You need the head turn in there as well. Do you know the reason why? Because where your eyes go, the motorcycle will follow. You go where you look. It’s that simple. Conversely, if you look at a curb in fear of it, you will hit it. That goes with any obstacle you suddenly see in your path. Look where you want the motorcycle to go, and lean into the turn to get there. I’ll say it again; never look where you do not want to go. If some obstacle is in your path look where you want to track your motorcycle around it, and you’ll safely turn away from it. You may be leaning more than you’re comfortable with at first, but you will not fall. Inertia makes sure of that.

Getting back to ‘slow, look, lean and roll’ one more time; slow your motorcycle (meaning brakes), look where you want to go, lean in to cut cornering room and increase lean angle, and roll on the throttle. These things take practice and putting up a few cones to practice avoidance technique in a parking lot may not be a bad idea for everyone to go over at the beginning of every riding season.

There is one other very important component we have to go over and that will be the next subject we will cover. It is called ‘counter steering’. Everyone does it, though you might not realize you are doing it.