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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Disclaimer: English is not my primary language, so I tend to write and speak kind of weird. Please excuse my lack of writing skills.
Also, the following are my ideas, based on my own experiences and "research". If you do not agree, plsease manifest it in a respectful manner.

Original article: http://www.ofirmx.com/blog/2013-04-10/motorcycle-cornering-survival-reactions-and-proper-body-positioning/21/


Over the last few years I have heard many "experts" talking about the "Survival Reactions" that cause riders to crash way too often when they enter a corner and their brains somehow go into "panic mode" which cause them to make tragic mistakes. All these experts say that those Survival Reactions are bad in motorcycling and tell you that you need to fight or suppress those natural instincts.

To me, that's BS.

Why "fight" your natural instincts if you can avoid triggering in the first place?





The Theory

Q: What is panic?
A: Panic is a sudden sensation of fear which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking.

When your brain feels in danger, it panics. When your brain panics, it reacts with primal (and involuntary) survival reactions. In a motorcycle, these primal reactions can make you crash.


Q: What are the most common causes of panic when you are cornering on a motorcycle?
A: A "sense of lack of balance" and an "erroneous sense of speed".







1. Help your brain sense that your body is in balance

Q: How does the brain react to a lack of sense of balance?
A: It automatically panics and tells your eyes to look towards the "point of impact" and your body to prepare for the impact.

No matter what else is going on around you, once your brain has focused on that point of impact, it will remain focused there until the impact actually happens. This phenomenon is commonly known as target fixation.

I did my own experiments. Over a few days I approached friends and family members when they were standing still and looking forward and just pushed them to one side (no, I did not push my mom nor my wife). In a split second their brains went to survival mode and automatically turned their sight to the "point of impact" and prepared their hands for the landing.
No, nobody fell (I did not push them that hard) but I confirmed my theory that when someone feels out of balance he instinctively prepares for the hit; and looking towards the point of impact is the first thing we all do.

When your body is out of balance, survival reactions always come first.


Q: How can I help my body to feel always in balance through a turn?
A: By keeping your body aligned with your (ever changing) center of gravity at all times.

When you're riding on your bike at a constant speed on a straight line, the only G force acting on you is the Earth's gravity itself. As long as you are sitting straight on your saddle you will not feel like you are being thrown to one side or the other of the bike, you're only being pushed towards the saddle and your brain feels safe and secure. But as soon as you enter a curve everything changes; the centrifugal force of the turn will try to push your body and throw you to the outside of the curve. The faster the curve, the faster the sidewise G force.
So now we have two G forces acting on you: One pushing you down and one pushing you to the side. You cannot avoid these G forces, but you can align your body so it is pushed safely against the saddle and not to one side or the other of the bike. If you allow your body out of the balance of these two combined forces your brain will automatically feel in danger and go into panic mode.

PRACTICAL TIP: You don't need to "move" around your seat like a racer but transferring your body weight to the butt cheek that's on the inside of the turn automatically puts your body in a more balanced position within the centrifugal force of the corner. Also, your upper torso should always lean at least a bit INTO the turn - to where that balance point is. By doing these two simple things not only your body and brain will feel a safer sense of balance through the turn but you will actually keep the bike a bit more upright which helps keeping a good traction patch on the tires.
By practicing these simple body movements when you are cornering, your body will feel so comfortable and "in balance with the bike" that they will soon become a second nature when you ride.

Note: These movements become more drastic as cornering speeds increase to the point where racers "hang" on the side of their bikes, but the theory of balance remains the same.


Correct:
These two riders are keeping their torso aligned (in balance) with the dynamic G force. This sends a signal of "comfort" to the brain which avoids any panic reaction.
The rider on the right is going faster, so he actually has to hang to one side to stay aligned with G and prevent the bike from leaning too low.




Incorrect:
This rider is positioning his torso outside the G force. By doing this, his brain has to fight a sense of unbalance which can very easily trigger a survival reaction.




Note: IF you are going to put your torso out of alignment with G, it'd better be to the INSIDE. This way your body will only feel pressed against the bike and not thrown outside of the bike.






2. Prevent your brain from sensing that you are going too fast

Q: How does the brain react to an overly high sense of speed?
A: It automatically panics and engages every muscle of your body in preparation for a quick reaction. This also makes your sight focus on the sensed point of impact.

If your muscles are tight and your brain is in survival mode, you cannot think clearly and react properly in a curve.



Q: How can I help my brain to avoid sensing that I'm going too fast?
A: By looking farther away.

When you drive a car, you are surrounded by the doors on the sides and the hood on the front of the car that prevent you from staring directly at the pavement as it passes below you. That does not happen on a motorcycle. On a bike you see the pavement "flying" under you which in turns creates a sense that you are going faster than you really are. This is especially true on a curve as you are leaning and getting closer to the pavement. If you look down or in front of you, your brain will think that you are going way faster than you really are and automatically enter into panic mode. The best way to avoid this erroneous sense of speed is raising your sight and looking ahead, towards the exit of the turn.
This will not only prevent your brain from picking up an erroneous sense of speed but it will also help prepare all the movements that your body needs to make in order to exit the curve safely.

PRACTICAL TIP: Every time you enter a curve, imagine there is a fish hook in your nose, pulling hard towards the exit of the curve. So not only your eyes are "looking" but your whole head is pointing in the right direction.

Colin Edwards is a master at looking through the turn. This is how you're supposed to look every time you enter a curve:



Regardless of your speed, LOOK THROUGH THE TURN!







Another thing that helps A LOT to avoid panicking in the middle of a turn is to keep your arms and body relaxed. The only muscles that need to be really engaged are your torso ones -to keep you from tightening your arms on the bars- everything else should be loose and happy. Oh, and KEEP BREATHING through the turn, seriously!


So, summarizing, my cornering suggestions are:

1- Relax your body.
2- Look through the turn, exaggeratedly (point your face to the exit of the turn, not only your eyes)
3- Transfer your body weight to the butt cheek that's inside the turn. (this little trick makes a huge difference)
4- Lean your upper torso a bit to the inside of the curve. To the point where your body feels in balance with the G forces acting on your body.
5- Keep relaxed, looking through the turn and breathing until you exit the turn.
6- Smile inside your helmet :)



By doing the above you will feel much more confident on the curves and your mind will be clear to react in case a line correction is needed (but since most corrections are caused by panic reactions, it is very likely that you will just enjoy a nice, clean and relaxed curve).


- Ofir R-R
 

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...Q: How can I help my body to feel always in balance through a turn?
A: By keeping your body aligned with your (ever changing) center of gravity at all times.

When you're riding on your bike at a constant speed on a straight line, the only G force acting on you is the Earth's gravity itself. As long as you are sitting straight on your saddle you will not feel like you are being thrown to one side or the other of the bike, you're only being pushed towards the saddle and your brain feels safe and secure. But as soon as you enter a curve everything changes; the centrifugal force of the turn will try to push your body and throw you to the outside of the curve. The faster the curve, the faster the sidewise G force.
So now we have two G forces acting on you: One pushing you down and one pushing you to the side. You cannot avoid these G forces, but you can align your body so it is pushed safely against the saddle and not to one side or the other of the bike. If you allow your body out of the balance of these two combined forces your brain will automatically feel in danger and go into panic mode.
...
I think that the g-forces are always essentially facing downwards while riding a bike, as long as you are sitting on the bike in a normal position. That is the nature of the way bikes work. I imagine the issue that some people have has more to do with the sense of "down" not being in line with the horizon they see. Notice that your racer's head is fairly close to horizontal.

..Tom
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
I think that the g-forces are always essentially facing downwards while riding a bike, as long as you are sitting on the bike in a normal position. That is the nature of the way bikes work. I imagine the issue that some people have has more to do with the sense of "down" not being in line with the horizon they see. Notice that your racer's head is fairly close to horizontal.

..Tom
Yep, many riders tend to counter-balance, they fight the natural position because of fear and try to keep their torso perpendicular to the road while leaning the bike. This automatically throws them off balance and the centrifugal force starts pushing them off the bike. They feel the discomfort, they panic, stare at the wrong direction, panic more, apply the brakes and straight up the bike... and go kaput. It's an awful chain reaction easily avoidable by just keeping a proper body position... in balance.
 

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Very interesting. Sensible reasons for doing what I've felt I should be doing.

Thanks for an excellent post, well written and understandable.
 

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Disclaimer: English is not my primary language, so I tend to write and speak kind of weird. Please excuse my lack of writing skills.


Your language skills are just fine, and your post is very informative. Well done.
 

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Thank you for your thoughts on this and your written English skills are fine. I found some things in your post that I can practice. I will study more. I have noticed while riding recently and paying close attention to my cornering skills that I look too close in front me and things are a lot smoother when I look up. I am actually less than proud of my cornering skills and it took me 11,000 miles in the last year to realize it. I do very well when riding two up but when I ride solo I get more spirited and my shortcomings are very evident to me. I may be the only Strom rider with never scraped pegs.
 

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don't panic

nice tips

one aspect of cornering that I've recently re-discovered is equilibrating your 'perceived' contact patch with your 'actual' contact patch.

At times I have a tendency to turn too early into turns, which forces me to take bad lines. Instead, I've found DELAYING corner entry to maximize the turn radius and widen the apex helps immensely to take turns faster, smoother, with less adjustments in lean angle.

I realized that my tendencies to enter turns early was a symptom of me 'imagining' my front tire's contact patch to be out in front of the bike instead of where it actually is (look straight down along the forks!).

When doing a leisurely ride on smooth turns, try to become aware of the (short amount of) time it takes the road ahead to travel from your line of sight over the instrument cluster to your contact patch. This has helped me delay entry and pick better cornering lines.
 

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When you're in a panic situation, you don't have any time to think of charts, essays, magazine article - telling you in detail what is happening and why.....You need basic programming language and this is what works for me - three basic things....

1) Where you look, is where you go.
2) Push down/forward on the inside grip to keep carving a corner - this is what we call countersteering....
3) When in doubt, GAS IT!

Those three things will get you out of 99% of any jam you blunder into.
 

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The thing that panics me in a corner is the thought of losing traction and low-siding. That limits my speed (and lean) more than any perceived CG imbalance. I sometimes feel like one more MPH or degree of lean will push my tires past their limit and I'll go down.. on wet/ slimy roads x 10.

As a result, I find myself leaning over the bars into the turn. I must look ridiculous on some corners hanging my upper body way off a nearly vertical bike going at close to the posted limit for the corner (instead of twice the limit as is the local custom).

On dry, warm, clean roads I ride like motorcyclist. On a very slightly wet/ oily road, or cold enough to ice, or strewn with wet leaves... I'm all drama in the corners.
 

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Great post, very informative, and spot on. The only thing I would add to it is practice, practice, practice, so you learn what both you and the bike can do. All too often inexperience contributes to an unplanned get-off in a turn. I won't say that practice makes perfect, but it does make things a lot easier and more enjoyable.

Thanks for sharing your insights.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Practice does not make you perfect.
Perfect practice makes you perfect ;)


Thanks all for your nice comments.

Sent from Motorcycle.com App
 

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I don't really panic in turns, unless I enter too hot. I feel uncomfortable in certain situations that involve turns, like up the canyon while passing a Semi. My mind goes to my tires possibly not gripping properly and I slide into the truck. I have yet to learn to trust my tires and bike to take me thru safely.
Track time helped greatly, think a couple more times on the track will help me get to know my bike and tires better.

Thanks for a great topic Off1 :thumbup:

The thing that panics me in a corner is the thought of losing traction and low-siding. That limits my speed (and lean) more than any perceived CG imbalance. I sometimes feel like one more MPH or degree of lean will push my tires past their limit and I'll go down.. on wet/ slimy roads x 10.

As a result, I find myself leaning over the bars into the turn. I must look ridiculous on some corners hanging my upper body way off a nearly vertical bike going at close to the posted limit for the corner (instead of twice the limit as is the local custom).

On dry, warm, clean roads I ride like motorcyclist. On a very slightly wet/ oily road, or cold enough to ice, or strewn with wet leaves... I'm all drama in the corners.
I learned during my first time on the track, use knees to squeeze Tank, lean upper body slightly forward, when entering turn I should look thru the turn while I try to kiss the mirror. You will notice how little you will need to lean the bike in a turn compared to others who sit up right and lean with the bike.
 

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Great post

I spend a lot of time teaching friends to ride dirt bikes on my farm.

I will now do less taking and they will do more reading.
 

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Discussion Starter #18

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Read Keith Code's "Twist of the Wrist" or Lee Park's "Total Control." Both are awesome books with tons of the kind if stuff.


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Great post and replies. I will be taking the Lee Parks Sharp rider course this year. Twist of the wrist is great especially the videos on youtube..Kind of cheesy acting but the videos are great. Cornering Bible. Youtube it!:hurray:
 

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I gotta say that I probably learned how to really ride, in my younger days doing off road and MX. Endless low-sides, half as many High-sides, or a few flying W's over the triples, will teach you the straggly ends of what losing control of a motorcycle is all about. I've been there, and let me tell you - my chiropractor is still shaking his head over me. I would suggest that my love of mountain biking is a great simulator for all things motorcycle and dirty - and a bit safer! All the spills, and all the thrills, just half the speed.

The street is no place to earn those stripes. If you really want to know what it's like to creep up on the edge, do yourself the favor and buy a really slow dirt bike and slide around in the dirt - and buy yourself some armor. Read all the Keith Code books you want, but getting launched over the bars is a perspective I'm confident Keith knows first hand - why do you think he knows so much?

Track days? Sure - have at it, it's a great alternate arena, but the speeds are much higher and the physics break bones easier than in the dirt realm. That said, whenever a newbie friend of mine gets a bike, I'm very nervous for them, because I know they'll never get to the point where they cross the line enough before they get scairt and give up.....
 
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