The double throw down, jump back, five speed, positronic quick turn and why you need it.
Can you steer your bike as quickly as you can a car? What does quick turning your bike have to do with your safety? How quick can it be done? Where can you practice it?
Let's take up question number one first. Can you steer your bike as fast as your car? If your answer is "no", my next questions are: What business do you have riding in traffic with cars that can out-maneuver you?, and, Ain't that dangerous? The answers, not pleasant ones to swallow, are: none and yes. You lose.
There are several ways to view this. One is that bikes are much narrower than a car and that gives you an advantage right off, because a little steering input goes a long way in changing your position in space, e.g., to avoid a lawn chair that just fell off a pickup truck , you can move your entire machine one bike width, or about three feet, to the right or left to be out of harms way; a car would have to move much further due to its greater width to avoid hitting it—great, that's one for the bikes.
Because of its greater width, a car driver must be able to swerve up to 4 times quicker to avoid you on a motorcycle; many drivers can but often don't because they panic and freeze.
Your task is even more daunting when confronted with a car's greater dimensions. Your ability to change position in space must be even quicker to avoid the beast which just pulled out on you; especially if you look at the broadside dimension of a car, the one usually offered at an intersection confrontation, which is 5 to 8 times greater than your frontal silhouette. That looks like one for the cars.
Logically, your steering should be at least three times as effective (the ability to reposition your bike quicker and farther to the right or left) as an automobile driver's. Now that's the rub: you've got a basically more maneuverable machine with thread-the-needle dimensions and (according to statistics) you aren't willing or able to use it in a pinch. That's one for the statistics book. What's wrong with this picture?
The truth is: if you can't quick turn your motorcycle, you won't even try. There are no instances on record where a motorcycle rider suddenly acquired the skill and guts to overcome their reluctance to execute a quick turning maneuver if they didn't already possess it: flashes of inspiration in this area appear to be in short supply, especially when most needed.
Even the thought of making quick steering changes on a motorcycle is enough to raise goosebumps the size of eggs on most riders and the commonly cited reason for them is the seemingly very real sense that the front or rear or both wheels will wash out. In some cases that could be true, e.g., turning on wet or otherwise slippery surfaces. Riders are keenly aware of this and generally avoid it when possible.
Another and very real concern is: an aggressive direction change with the front or rear or both brakes applied, something that often accompanies a panic situation. You can ask the front tire to take a substantial cornering load or a fistful of front brake but you may not ask it to do them both at the same time; them's the rules of rubber. That's one for Physics.
Take a moment to evaluate how quickly you are willing to turn your bike. If there were a scale from 1 to 10, where would you be. After twenty years of intense observation, I place the average motorcycle rider at around 4 on that scale. Is fear of falling a reason? Yes. Not practiced at the art of quick turns? Yes. Very few ever take the time to hone their skill up to the standard of effectiveness needed for the street.
At the Superbike Schools, we treat the quick-turn idea as a must have, fundamental skill; and provide riders with plenty of incentive to bring their own level of mastery of it up to the point it can be practiced on a day to day basis. This can even out the score.
Practice The Act
It does seem a bit outlandish to ride along and "flick" your bike from side to side and it would be easy to become self conscious about doing it on a routine basis: you might even get a ticket for reckless driving, it's possible. But that doesn't alter the facts of auto vs. motorcycle maneuverability stated above, they are real. Let me state this again: "If you can't turn your bike quickly you won't even try". That is not my opinion, that is an overwhelmingly obvious statistic from motorcycle accident research.
So what are we talking about here, weaving some cones in the parking lot at 7 MPH? No, we are talking about the average speed of an auto / motorcycle accident, our worst enemy, and that is 28 MPH. We're talking about a disembodied car muffler turning lazy circles in your lane or a truck tire tread flipped into the air or the refrigerator that just fell off a pickup truck, a car, a kid, a ball, a dog, a traffic cone... , anything where a faint hearted attempt simply won't cut it. And the usual result? – Cream the brakes, and that's nothing more than panic reactions winning. That's one for the obstacle, zero for you.
The ability to quick turn your bike is valuable and must be practiced and kept in fine tune. Even that is no guarantee you'll perform when the moment of truth arrives but it's the best you can, or should strive to, achieve. Watching a professional racer perform a quick-turn maneuver through an S bend is valuable. A pro, accomplishing three or four times the steering action of a lazy rider, should be viewed as a potential goal for anyone who rides. Having this ability is just about right for adding two or three more points onto a rider's score card.
The point is, it can be done, in fact it is becoming easier and easier with companies like Dunlop applying their racing tire technology to street rubber; making the street executed quick-turn even more possible by compounding stickier rubber along with increased load capacity and longer wear.
There is a basic steering drill I do to observe and correct riders' ability to get their bikes turned quick. The drill works so well that I have seen (on a stock ZX 6R fitted with Dunlop 207 ZR Sport Max Radials, with four hard track days on them, cold, on dusty asphalt, at 30 MPH and a 68 degree day) serious quick flicks (the bike actually sanpped over to respectable lean angles) done by riders who have taken the time to perfect this drill. Perhaps even more amazing is that I've also seen it done on a Softail Springer Harley!
Buying a tire the consistency of a bowling ball for touring and long life is no longer necessary. In combination with more compliant suspensions, a key part of quick-turns, everyday technology has placed riders on a far more level playing field with cars. The technology is there, but so are the panic reactions which prevent riders from using it. Refining your quck turn abilities isn't simply another good idea, it is somehting that should and can be practiced each time you ride. Even up the score—learn to turn.
Keith Code copyright 2002, Keith Code, all rights reserved. Permission granted for reprint to CSS, Inc. web site, 2002
I was reading bunch of his articles, and they're pretty insightful. I just have a question regarding this for you guys with track credentials.
When he says quick turns to avoid hazards or flick the bike or what have you, does he mean regular swerve where the body should be straight and only let the bike lean? Or does he mean lean the body with the bike equally to get a quick turn? Which would be quicker between the two? Thanks.