I read an article this weekend in the San Jose Mercury news about a tragic motorcycle accident which took the lives of a biker and his passenger. Apparently the rider of his new Harley Davidson motorcycle rode through a turn too fast, and slammed into a slow-moving big rig truck, killing himself and his passenger. You can find the article here.
I receive daily reports of motorcycle accidents throughout the nation. Many motorcycle accidents are caused by motorcyclist losing it in turns, which results in either the motorcyclist crossing the median and striking an oncoming vehicle, or losing control and crashing their motorcycle.
The one thing you should never do while riding your motorcycle, is to attempt to pass another vehicle in a turn. The below video courtesy of Youtube.com shows what can happen when you attempt such a stupid stunt. (I am not going to comment on the idiots in the cage who should have pulled over to help the fallen rider, or their assumption that they would have been beat up by the bikers if they pulled over. That is not the purpose of this article.)
All of those who ride motorcycles have made the mistake of taking a turn too fast. Anybody who says they haven’t is lying. Depending upon how fast you were going, the traffic conditions, and the type of turn that you are in, you may have even experienced the feeling of panic knowing that you’re going to cross the median, or you might not make it through the turn.
I am not the Holy Grail when it comes to motorcycle safety. I can tell you flat out that I have taken turns too fast and crossed the median, especially in Canyon roads. I have seen friends, brothers, and strangers do the same thing. Luckily for me, there was not oncoming traffic at the exact moment that I crossed the median; if there was I could have been roadkill as well as my friends.
What you do, and how you react in this type of circumstance can mean the difference between life and death.
On the Internet you will find many motorcycle riding safety manuals. I have posted a few links to motorcycle safety articles in this Blog. You can find them by searching for motorcycle safety articles in the search box. A basic MSF training course will also teach you the basics of riding your motorcycle through turns.
There are many different theories about how you should ride your motorcycle through turns. It is said that you should bring your knees close to the tank; try to look ahead of the turn while going through the turn; not to apply too much brakes, etc. It is also said that you should counter steer while going through. (Counter steering is the principle of moving your handlebars in the opposite direction in which you are leaning or turning your motorcycle in order to control the turn better)
I basically agree with most of the different theories on how to ride your motorcycle through turns because they have worked for me. However, the most important part of riding your motorcycle through a turn is to slow down before you enter the turn. You can either slow down by downshifting before you enter the turn, or apply the brakes. I personally prefer to downshift to slow the motorcycle down. I apply my brakes when I have to. If there are cars and/or other motorcycles behind you when you’re approaching a turn, you must remember that if you downshift, they may not anticipate your sudden decrease in speed, and rear end you. If there are cars or other motorcyclist directly behind you when you’re approaching a turn, you should either tap your brakes, or gently apply them, so that the people behind you can see that you are about to slow down by way of your rear brake light. Your rear brake light is your friend! Use it when you have to.
Many of the motorcycle safety manuals will tell you not to apply your brakes in a turn, and/or not to downshift in a turn because you might lose control of your motorcycle. I agree, and disagree. The bottom line is you have to do what you have to do in order to keep your motorcycle on two wheels, rather than crashing. The instinct to know what to in a turn only comes from experience, training, and practice. Therefore, get out there and practice, practice, practice, especially if you are on a new motorcycle that you are not used to.
The purpose of this article is not to write an exposé on the technicalities of riding your motorcycle through a turn. The purpose of this article is to make you think the next time you’re riding your motorcycle; about what you’re going to do when approaching a turn.
Slow down. If you are riding with your friends, do not succumb to peer pressure and ride at speeds that are not safe, or to keep up. Ride at your comfort level. This goes for experienced motorcyclist as well. I have no problem whatsoever slowing down to a safe speed in order to enter a turn no matter who I am riding with, or no matter who is behind me. It is better to be alive than to be dead, or laying in a hospital intensive care unit.
Keep both wills on the road!
By Norman Gregory Fernandez, ESQ. , Copyright 2006