Tight (full lock) slow turns

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Charles Oertel's picture
Joined: 2007/04/14

Points: 2

During the refresher training I did this weekend, I was the only person who could clean the "gate" obstacle.  This is a series of boxes with small gates that require very tight turns to complete.  A similar technique is used when doing a u-turn on the road.

This is how I do it: (Note, this is for slow, balancing turns, not high-speed where you need to countersteer)

1. Lean the bike for a tighter turn:

Your front wheel can only turn about 45 degrees either side, before it hits the lock.  But, if you lean the bike over you can get the front wheel itself to be almost 90 degrees to the road (try it with a small bike or a model bike).

On a trials bike you can turn the steering to 90 degrees, but then end up pushing the wheel sideways instead of turning.  So trial's riders lean the bike so that they can use less turn on the front during a tight turn.

So - the more you can lean your bike into the turns the tighter you can turn.

2. How to lean the bike more:

Traditionally, we are taught to "weigh(t) the outside footpeg" when turning.  What this means is to lean the bike into the turn, but keep your body leaning out so that you end up standing on the outside footpeg (I sometimes end up kneeling on the outside pot).

We are told that by leaning outwards we balance the bike so that it cannot fall inwards.  What I find strange is that I seem to be leaning the bike inwards more than others who are much heavier than I am, and who ride bikes that are lighter than mine.

So I did the calcs (I am a space physicist by training).  Even if I had both feet on the outside footpeg, and leaned out doubled over, I could only balance the bike 10cm off vertical!

So, it is not just acrobatics on the bike that allow you to lean it over.  In fact, excessive acrobatics will prevent you from being able to do the other things needed for balance.

Additional Balancing Techniques:

  1. Keep your weight forward, to weight the front wheel (and you have dropped the tyre pressure, right?).  This is to give the front more grip so that you have something to push against in the points below.
  2. Do not turn the wheel to full lock - you are removing half your balance manoeuvrability.  You need to be able to tweak the wheel left AND right a bit while balancing.  Obviously you will have it close to full lock, but not all the way.
  3. Use the front wheel to balance while leaning over.  While not moving, you will be more vertical, but when you dip into a turn you lean and then ride to bring yourself into balance again, using the handlebars to fine-tune your turn and balance.

Where to look

You really need to look where you want to go.  And be aggressive about it.  I you are doing a tight left turn, look at a point on the ground on your left, about 30cm tighter than you think you could turn in your wildest dreams.  You will be surprised at how often you end up riding over that point.

Box Strategy

Use the whole box: start as far to the one side as you can, and ride all the way to the end of the box so that you just miss the end when you turn.  Now turn so that you can get as far back into the box before the gate as possible, so that you are already somewhat turned as you enter the next box.

Above we see the rider does not use the full depth of the box, and ends up against the side when he is trying to turn right through the gate.  Failure to set up for the next gate leads to a fail.

Here, the rider keeps far right to the end of the box, then has enough room to get away from the opposite wall so that he can make the gate and enters the next box at an advantage.

Committee: Webmaster / Ride Captain

Andyman's picture
Joined: 2007/06/22

Thanks Charles,

I learned on the Country Trax course that All my learning of leaning backwards was my cause of fails.

Then I re-learned leaning forward as you describe it and looking where I want to go.


Now I can turn very tight and  and getting better.


I dunno where we learned to put weight to the rear, but that's what was hard wired into my DNA and it has really taken concentration to un learn and put my weight right forward over the front wheel.

Anyone can ride a bike fast....   But can you ride your bike real slow???

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