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From the Chapter Ride Educators - Curves

[Much of the material in this article comes from, and is copyrighted by, the Master Strategy Group web site, by James R. Davis. Used with permission.]

This month's article is about curves (no guys, I mean the ones in the road). Curvy, twisty roads are what many of us riders live for. In this article weell cover a few techniques for handling curves, some of which you may not have heard before.

Most riders have been taught a standard way to negotiate a turn: outside, inside, outside, illustrated by the diagram at the right.

The principle is quite simple: you use the width of your lane to straighten and extend the curve. Note that you start turning slightly earlier than the road does, and continue turning after the road straightens.

But is this the best way? Another alternative is to turn more sharply earlier, as in the diagram below left, which compares both methods. The red line represents the usual outside, inside, outside method, while the green line represents the alternative.

The idea behind this method is to make the sharpest part of the turn earlier, during the part of the turn you can most easily see. Later in the curve, when you encounter that unexpected obstacle, or discover the curve is worse than you thought, you have more maneuverability to react safely.

A frequent problem riders encounter towards the end of a curve is the Decreasing Radius curve. This is a curve that turns more sharply at the end of the curve than it does at the start. But many riders donnt take into consideration that a curve can behave like a Decreasing Radius curve even when it isnnt. How?

  1. The curve may lean inward more (have a more positive camber) at the beginning of the curve than at the end. A positive camber directs some of the centrifugal force downward into the road, increasing your traction.
  2. Rising elevation going into the curve may change to falling elevation towards the end of the curve. The falling elevation shifts more weight to the front tire, making the rear tire more likely to lose traction and slide. Worse yet, the downward elevation will probably require you to brake, shifting yet more weight
    towards the front tire.
  3. Finally, the traction may get worse partway into the curve.

Speaking of traction, a common problem when riding those two-lane roads in the summertime is mud on the road. Donnt forget that most of those nice riding roads are frequently used by farm tractors that can carry mud onto the road. Encountering a patch of mud at the end of a curve is not something you want to do if you're
already at the limit of your available traction.

All of these factors imply that you should leave yourself some traction to spare as you progress through a curve. And for you trike riders, note that none of these factors is unique to two-wheelers. They apply to trikes too!

Updated: 11/16/2008 5:08:29 PM

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