Pulsar Mania Thrill of Riding part 5: Art of cornering
Whatever your idea of motorcycling nirvana may be, there’s nothing that excites a biker more than getting a corner right. In the final part of this series, we lay bare our black book of cornering secrets to help you master the art of cornering. Not on a race track with your knees scraping but on the road, in the real world. Over the past few months we have brought a whole bunch of riding tips for you and hopefully with those you are all experiencing the Thrill of Riding more than ever. While creating the content for this series, we have realised afresh why the Bajaj Pulsar was such a big hit back when it was launched and why it continues to be a sought after machine. From its early days to the top-of-the-line NS 200 and RS 200, the Pulsar has not only hung on to its blend of real world usability and enthusiastic sportiness but also bettered it in many ways. Truly, a machine for all seasons, and reasons.
Sitting right and body position on the bike
Sit too close to the tank and your back will straighten out automatically. The result? Stretched arms that you won’t be able to relax. Sit too far and again you will find the need to stretch your limbs. This time to reach the handlebar but the end result will be the same. An inability to relax. Sit so that there is a fist worth of distance between your crotch and the petrol tank. The spine should be slightly bent too and not ramrod straight. Your entire body, once seated on the bike, should feel loose and relaxed. This will give you maximum control over your motorcycle.
How to hold the handle
Most people hold the handles like they are grabbing a can of cola or any other thing. The ideal way to hold the grips is how you would hold a screwdriver. Changing the way you hold the handlebar essentially alters the way you operate the throttle and that has a tremendous impact on your steering input, voluntary or not. It also increases your ability to relax your arms and changes the amount of leverage you exercise at the handlebar.
Before you get to the steering bit, you must first learn to control your right wrist properly. Getting this right is absolutely necessary because the throttle is the single biggest control that affects the bike’s stability. The smoother you are with this, the more stable your motorcycle. Roll it open and roll it shut instead of whacking it open or chopping it shut. Aggression with the throttle will only result in an unsettling ride that feels fast but isn’t really. Once you’re leaned into the turn, start rolling open the throttle. Slowly but steadily and continuously. That’s the correct way to do it.
Body steering, hanging off, loading the inside pegs. We’ve heard them all but in reality there is only one effective way to steer a motorcycle. It’s called counter steering. Beyond all the complicated talk that usually surrounds this subject, the physical act of counter steering is actually quite simple. So simple in fact that most of us do it on instinct without even realising. Basically, if you want to turn left you push the left ’bar forward and if you want to go right you push the right ’bar. Most of us do this on instinct but our inputs are lazy. If you learn to do it with intent, provide one decisive nudge when you want to turn, the bike will turn much quicker and you will be pointing in the right direction sooner. There is one thing to remember however. Counter steer works only after around 25kmph. At slow speeds you will have to turn the handlebar in the direction of the turn.
Check out our mega 200cc motorcycle shootout here
Vision and markers
You go where you look. Every biker worth his salt knows this. Therefore, you look where you want to go. That much is simple enough. So where do you look when the road is disappearing around a bend? You raise your chin and look as far as you can into the turn; till the point where the two edges of the road seem to converge in what is called the Vanishing Point. Also, don’t just look. Pick up cues that will help you decipher your riding environment. Is that tree making the corner a blind one? Can you see through the gaps in the foliage? Is there a milestone that might be a good braking marker? Is there a man standing near the bend looking the other way?
The line is essentially the route traced by your motorcycle’s tyres on the road. But it isn’t something that happens by chance. It is chosen by you, voluntarily or not, courtesy your steering inputs. Which, in fact, are a function of where you are looking and the markers you’re choosing. If you choose a line that sees you riding too far to the inside of the turn, your view into the turn will be severely compromised. It will also mean that you will start your turn too soon, a recipe for running wide at the exit. For obvious reasons you can’t use a racing line that will take you from kerb to kerb out in the real world.
The line that you choose on the road should let you see the farthest because the farther you see the more info you have to decide how fast you can or should go. Turning in just a fraction of a second later can sometimes make a tremendous difference to how far you can see into the turn. Which also makes a difference to your confidence. Also, don’t ride too close to the centre line on an undivided road. Choose a line that leaves you a good margin of error. Unlike on a track, on the road you never know what awaits you beyond the turn.
Turn in, apex and exit
Before we tell you what to do, here’s what these are. Turn in is the exact point at which you make your steering input to get the bike turned in. The apex is the point in the turn where the bike is the closest to inside of the turn while the point at which the bike is back to vertical is the exit. Each of these is dependent on your vision and the three together decide the line that a motorcycle takes through a turn. Turn in too quickly and you will apex too soon and finally run wide at the exit. Turn in too late and you will require tremendous amount of steering input to get the bike pointed in the direction you want. The correct turn in point will let you see through the corner while also not requiring extra steering effort. In other words it all comes together naturally. On a road the apex is never the kerb. You must always leave room for hazards and try not to go MotoGP style when you roll open the throttle as you exit. Finally, neither your turn in nor the resulting apex and exit should take you out of your lane. Certainly not to the wrong side of the road.
Hang off or not?
The easy answer to this should be a no, but bike riding is a little bit more complex than that. Whether you hang off or not is dictated by your surroundings. Hanging off like Marquez is an idiotic idea at a roundabout or any road for that matter. But on a clear and relatively empty set of twisties, hanging off does increase your ability to control the bike. This happens because when you’re hanging off, the bike itself remains more upright through the turn, which means more rubber on the road. It also depends on the speed you carry. Some people tend to hang off too much. Rule of thumb is one butt cheek off the seat. What is a complete no-no is the rider’s body staying upright as he pushes the bike down into the turn. So you really need to use your judgement on this one.
(1) Slow in, fast out. That’s what you’re after because that will give you max Thrill of Riding.
(2) Follow a three step process: Set your entry speed using brakes and engine braking, counter steer at the turn in point and soon after turning in smoothly open the throttle by rolling it.
(3) Keep the outer knee locked into the tank to ensure max stability on the motorcycle.
(4) The best and safest way to brake in the middle of a turn is to stand the bike up and hit the brakes.
Check the rest of the Pulsar Mania Thrill of Riding here: