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Steering and Riding At Slow Speeds

Steering is the easy part right?  Not always.

When driving above 15-20 mph, the motorcycle's wheels act like gyroscopes. These spinning masses of wheel and tire combine to create a gyroscopic force. How do you must overcome this force to get your bike to turn?

You don't.

When you attempt to push a spinning wheel to the right or the left, the wheel, and the rest of the bike attached to it, will lean in the opposite direction. This is called counter-steering. Turn the bars left, and lean right. It is the only way to steer a motorcycle when going over 15 mph.

This is not a technique to learn in a moment of panic, it only works if you practice it. Unless the action is second nature, you will return to your old habits during an emergency.

Riding at Slow Speeds

Riding fast is fun.  Unfortunately to even get to where we can drive fast, we often have to sludge through traffic, urban areas or neighborhoods where slow riding is necessary.

Slow riding tricks include:

Proper posture
Sit comfortably on the bike and keep your knees against the tank. Try not to move around too much as this transfers weight around and provides steering input to the bike. And keep your feet on the footpegs.

Sighting
Failure to look ahead is one of the most common errors with slow speed riding. A good way to practice this is setting up cones about four yards apart and slaloming though them. Vary the distance between cones if your bike can't make it. As you are going between two cones, you should be looking at the path you want to take in the next gate, which should be about 3.0 to 5.0 ahead. Many riders look 3.0 to 5.0 feet ahead which causes them to be shaky. Looking the proper distance ahead gives your mind enough time to plan a route, so you don't have to make so many last-minute corrections. Force yourself to look far ahead.

The Front Brake
Under normal conditions, the front brake is an invaluable tool for keeping your bike under control. However, at very slow speeds while the front wheel is turned, the front brake can be too strong to provide a smooth stop. I tend not to use the front brake at very low speeds. The rear has more than enough power to stop you at these speeds, just be careful not to shift around to get your foot on the brake pedal (if it isn't already, as it should be), or you'll upset the bike's balance.

Clutch Slipping
Another major key to slow speed control is the clutch. Most motorcycles have wet clutches, which means that the friction plates are bathed in oil to keep them cool. This means that slipping a clutch is not a problem for a short time. When riding at a speed that is slower than your idle will let you go, control your speed by pulling in the clutch past the friction point to disengage the engine from the rear wheel. The friction point is the point that the clutch just starts to 'grab' and transfer power to the rear wheel. When you feel unsteady because you are going so slowly you feel you almost have to put your foot down, then let out the clutch a bit to speed up until you're steady. You can do this for quite some time without hurting the clutch.

*Slow Speed Riding Techniques shared with us courtesy of Mark Yaeger

Learn more about:

Braking
Cornering
Lane Placement
Obstacles
Riding in Weather Conditions
Steering and Riding at Slow Speeds

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