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Control for Safety

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This manual cannot teach you how to control direction, speed, or balance. That’s something you can learn only through a lot of practice. However, here are a few pointers to help you keep control and avoid crashes.

BODY POSITION

To control a motorcycle well, your body must be in the proper position.

Seat—Sit far enough forward so that your arms are slightly bent when you hold the handlegrips. Bending your arms lets you turn the handlebars without having to stretch.

Hands—Hold the handlegrips firmly. This will help you keep your grip if the motorcycle bounces. Start with your right wrist down. This will help you keep from accidentally using too much throttle—especially if you need to reach for the brake suddenly.

Knees—Keep your knees against the gas tank. This will help you keep your balance as the motorcycle turns.

Feet—Keep your feet firmly on the foot pegs. Firm footing can help you keep your balance. Don’t drag your foot along the ground. If your foot catches on something, you could lose control of the motorcycle. Keep your feet near the controls. This lets you get to the controls fast if you have to use them. Also, don’t let your toes drop down—they may get caught between the road and the foot peg.

Posture—You should sit fairly erect. This lets you use your arms to steer the motorcycle rather than to hold yourself up.

TURNING

The only way to learn how to make good, safe turns is to practice. Here are two important tips for practicing turns and curves:

Limit Your Speed. New riders often try to take curves or turns too fast. When they can’t hold the turn, they end up crossing into another lane of traffic or going off the road. Or, they try to make up for it by braking too hard. As a result, they skid out of control. Until you learn to judge how fast you can really take a curve, approach all turns very carefully. Be sure to reduce your speed before you enter the curve. You can always speed up as you come out of a curve.

Lean with the Motorcycle. Some riders are afraid to lean with the motorcycle. But, you have to lean to turn. The sharper the curve, and the faster you ride, the more you must lean. For most turns, you and the motorcycle must work together as a unit, both leaning about the same amount.

BRAKING

Your motorcycle has two brakes. You need to use both of them. The front brake is more powerful. It provides about three-quarters of your motorcycle’s total stopping power. The front brake is not dangerous if you learn to use it properly. Here are some things to remember about braking:

  • Use both brakes every time you slow down or stop. If you use only the rear brake for “normal” stops, you may not develop the habit or the skill to use the front brake properly when you really need to stop quickly.
  • Apply both brakes at the same time. Some people believe that the rear brake should be applied first. That is not a good idea. The sooner you apply the front brake, the sooner it will start slowing you down.
  • Remember, you can use both brakes in a turn. The front brake is dangerous only if the road is very slippery and you use the brake incorrectly. Otherwise, using both brakes in a turn is no more dangerous than using them when you are going in a straight line if you know the technique.

SHIFTING GEARS

There is more to shifting gears than simply getting the motorcycle to pick up speed smoothly. Crashes can happen if you use the gears incorrectly when downshifting, turning, or starting on hills.

Downshifting

Shift down through the gears as you slow down or stop. Stay in first gear while you are stopped; this way you can move out quickly if you need to.

Make certain you are going slowly enough when you shift into a lower gear. If you’re going too fast, the motorcycle will lurch, and the rear wheel may skid. This is more likely to happen when you are going downhill or shifting into first gear. Under these conditions, you may need to use the brakes to slow down enough to shift safely.

Shifting for a Turn

It is best to change gears before entering a turn; however, it isn’t always possible. If necessary, remember to do it smoothly. A sudden change in power to the rear wheel can cause a skid.

Starting Uphill

It is harder to get a motorcycle started and moving on an upgrade than it is on flat ground. When you are facing uphill, you run the danger of rolling back and dropping the bike. Here’s how to start on a hill safely:

(1) If the engine is not running, hold the motorcycle with the front brake while you start the engine.

(2) With the engine running and the front brake still holding, shift into first gear. (3) With the clutch lever still held in, apply the foot brake and release the front brake.

(4) Open the throttle a little bit for more power.

(5) Release the clutch slowly. If you release it too quickly, the front wheel may come off the ground or the engine may stop—or both.

(6) As the engine begins to take hold, gradually release the foot brake.