Let’s face it, stunting is not easy. Not everybody can wheelie and stoppie a bike. Not everybody wants to wheelie and stoppie a bike either. But everybody can, should and wants to ride better, faster and safer – that’s the entire premise of our new Thrill of Riding tutorial series that also includes video tutorials on the Pulsarmania YouTube channel. Over the course of the next five months we will give you tips, tricks and lessons in how to extract the best from your motorcycle and up your pace while simultaneously making you a safer rider – safer for when you are riding solo, safer when you are in a group and and safer for other road users also. From the tremendous response gathered from you, our readers, to the Bajaj Pulsar Mania ABC of Stunting series we did a few months ago, we know there’s an insatiable thirst for knowledge. So this time around, we have come armed to the teeth with tips and tricks that will help you acquire some real world road riding skills. The idea of course is to make you a better rider, a faster rider…and, a safer rider.
This time too we shall be using the top-of-the-line Bajaj Pulsar NS 200 and the NS 160 to demonstrate our point. It is after all, the Pulsar that kicked off the idea of sport riding many, many years ago. Be it our motorcycle riding expert and road tester Hrishi Mandke or any other punter you can catch at random in this country, chances are they have honed their skills at the handle of a Bajaj Pulsar. In Hrishi’s case we’re certain that he did for he continues to ride one daily.
And, like last time we will tell you that you cannot give enough importance to safety. Unlike the controlled environment where we did all our stunting or the regimented realm of a racetrack, the road is a free for all. From errant drivers, jaywalkers and even animals and potholes, the road is filled with dangers. So we never step into the saddle unless we are kitted up with at least an ISI certified (usually better) full face helmet, a light mesh or textile riding jacket with CE approved armour. While a good pair of jeans will do the job nine times out of ten, we would recommend a pair of riding denims.
And now, it’s time for lesson one. How to stop on a dime, how to steer correctly and where to look.
There’s a lot of debate about front brake vs rear brake. We say, use both. When you decelerate, most of the weight shifts to the front, which means it is the front wheel that has maximum grip. So that’s where the braking is most effective. However you’ve still got to use a bit of the rear to stabilise the back end. We’d say keep 70 per cent of the braking effort at the front and 30 per cent at the rear and you’re sorted. In the wet, you’ll have to use a bit more of the rear.
Sit too far back and you’ll get very little feel from the front end. Sit too far ahead and you’ll load up the front. Plus, you might crush your jewels when that dog runs across your path. Give a bit of a gap between your crotch and the petrol tank, you should be able to fit a fist between them. Also, hold yourself on the bike with your core and your back. Don’t hang on to the handlebar for dear life. Relax.
This is a technique used by all good riders. Irrespective of whether they’re accelerating or cruising, good riders will leave a finger or two dangling on the brake lever. This will reduce reaction time in a situation that requires sudden braking. You’ll apply the anchors sooner, save yourself some braking distance and time, and of course a crash.
Remember you need to squeeze the levers. Don’t grab a fistful of the right lever and stomp down with your right foot as hard as you can. You’ll only hasten your downfall, literally. Braking progressively allows the suspension to settle instead of being suddenly loaded. This will also prevent the wheels from locking up.
Believe it or not, the engine helps you shed speed as much as it helps you go faster. Instead of pulling the clutch in and letting the engine freewheel, downshift and use the engine itself for retardation. Used judiciously with braking, this can reduce stopping distances drastically. This is especially helpful when you’re riding on a set of twisties, for not only does it help you reduce speed effectively but you also have the motorcycle’s engine in the meat of its powerband to help you power out of the turn and enjoy maximum Thrill of Riding.
We cannot say this enough times. Always buy a motorcycle with ABS. The Pulsar NS 200’s single channel ABS is a life saver, especially on slippery surfaces. Also, see if your bike has a rear disc, like the new Pulsar NS 160. Even when most of the braking happens at the front, a rear disc reduces braking distances significantly.
Nobody practices braking as much as they practice accelerating. But the truth is it takes more time for the brain to get used to the idea of sudden deceleration. Sudden deceleration triggers off all sorts of panic reactions, sometimes preventing you from being able to do the one thing that will save you – stop. So practice braking as much until it becomes an intuitive skill. If your bike has ABS then practice emergency stops. Apply the brakes until you feel the ABS kick in and work to keep the tyres from locking up.
This is the only correct way to steer a bike. It’s simple really. To go right, push the right side of the handlebar forward. To go left, push the left bar forward. Remember that the amount of pressure you need to push the bar increases in tandem with rising speeds. Hanging off doesn’t help steer. It helps you retain better control of the bike, so do so by all means. But don’t go all out and get your knee on the tarmac. On a public road, that’s asking for trouble.
This is basically the art of turning with one quick decisive push of the bars at the exact point where you want to turn. If you turn in lazily chances are you will miss the apex and run wide. Downright dangerous on a road with no run off. And it’s a fact that no one has ever fallen off by steering quickly. Only remember to do it smoothly, without manhandling the bike.
Our final lesson is also the most critical. Your bike goes where you look. So if you’re looking at the tree…splat! Don’t look at the danger, keep your eyes on the road and where you want to go and that’s where you will go. Also, lift your vision. The farther you look, the more you’ll be able to anticipate hazards.
Check out the full video here: