Sunday, July 26, 2015
What I've Learned: Slow in, Fast out
When I started riding, I wasn't on what I would term technical roads very often. The turns were more of the long, sweeping variety. As a result, I could maintain speed through them, and even minor slowing got me through the curve.
As my riding progressed, I sought out twistier, more challenging roads. There are a lot of them here in South Central PA, and they meander through countryside, farmland, and alongside the hills that pass for mountains in my area of the state/country. At first, I thought the best approach to these corners was to let off the throttle and to apply the brakes. This slowed the bike down, and also moved the weight forward, giving a better turning feel. But in these more technical areeas, what I was finding was two things: First, I often came into the corner too hot, approaching at a speed that felt not quite as safe as it should be. Even with the braking, it didn't feel like I was slowing down enough to get the bike around, nd I found myself scrambling to make adjustments while I was in the turn. Second, when I went to accelerate out of the turn, the bike lugged because it didn't have a high enough RPM. The bike felt unnaturally heavy in those moments, not like it was going to fall over, but like it could. I was on a Suzuki SV1000, and the sport-bike nature kept me upright in those situations, in essence making adjustments for my lack of skill.
So I started trying to downshift. At first, I tried to do it in the turn, but that really didn't feel right. I graduated to a Tiger 800, which is a much more upright bike, and the feel of the lean in the turn was much more dramatic from this perch. On the Suzuki, it felt like I was diving into turns nose first, whereas with the Tiger, it felt more like a tipping over and just riding around them. Interestingly, I also became much more aware of oncoming traffic, because that upright position puts your eyes up with them. Then, I read Keith Code's Twist of the Wrist and saw how downshifting BEFORE the turn sets the whole bike up. The weight shifts forward AND the RPMs are high. I just started tipping into corners, picking the best line, then accelerating out of them. It was like magic.
I'm on the Multistrada now, and I am still experimenting with this (How much brake? How many downshifts - I usually do two? What is the BEST line?). One of the surprises to me is just how far the lean can go. Watching sportbike riders, I think to myself I won't ever lean over to the point where I am scraping knees, footpegs, or bags. Nor do I want to do this. But, there are roads with which I am very familiar, and I have found myself leaning a bit farther into the turns, and actually experiencing that it is more comfortable to lean farther. The bike just WANTS to go in to the lean.
My focus, now that I am beginning to understand the physics of riding, is how to do it more smoooooothly. I have minimized adjustments in the corners, so the steering is less choppy and the turn is one fluid movement of the bike. It's not pperfect, but it's better. Also, the roll on of the throttle is getting better, because I am becomeing comfortable with wht the bike can do.
Smooth. Comfortable. In control. That's a nice turn.