The key thing about cornering speed is to slow down before you start turning. While you are still going straight, get the bike slowed down to a speed you feel comfortable going around the corner at. Now, let off the brakes and gradually accelerate as you make your turn. Increasing your speed slightly throughout the turn will add stability to your bike. If you slow down while you turn, the bike's dynamics get worse, not better.
Memorize that last line. Think: Slow in - Fast out
For more information on turning dynamics, please read Entering a turn too fast, Keith Code's A Twist of the Wrist 2, and the rest of the Riding Techniques portion of the FAQ.
The techniques listed here should be a part of your normal riding. If they aren't, practice.
- Shift your body weight to the inside of the curve. This increases ground clearance, protects the rider's confidence because it makes sharp cornering feel more natural, and makes it more difficult for the rider's eyes to look where they shouldn't be looking.
- Turn your whole head (not just your eyes) and focus far ahead to where you want the bike to go. Remember that you will go where you look, so look where you want to go.
- Push positively on the grip that is on the side you want to turn to. ("Push left, go left. Push right, go right.") If you don't know what countersteering is, learn now - before ignorance kills you.
- Apply a small amount of throttle through the corner. This keeps the bike from decelerating. Deceleration reduces the amount of traction available for turning and also reduces ground clearance by causing the bike to sink on its suspension. Gradually accelerate as you make your turn and don’t grab a handful of throttle; just use slightly more than constant throttle.
While leaned over in the corner, DON'T:
- Roll off the throttle. No matter what your brain tells you, this is wrong.
- Apply the brakes. There are exceptions, but that's too complicated for this discussion. Most of the time when you're in trouble in a corner, complicated stuff makes everything worse.
- Squeeze the clutch. This leads to deceleration.
How will you remember all this? By making it part of your everyday motorcycling. The weight shift, head turn, and controlled rolling-on are all part of good cornering technique. Even square corners in town offer practice opportunities. Approach corners with a "slow-in, fast-out" style. You should also follow delayed-apex cornering lines, starting your turn from the outside of the corner and squaring it off. See David Hough's books for more on these and other good techniques.
Standard cornering technique
Here's the cornering sequence for motorcycles. Practice in controlled conditions:
- Using your brakes and throttle, reduce speed before you reach the corner. This is also the time to do any downshifting. The bike is upright and still going straight. Get the clutch all the way back out and the throttle stable before reaching the corner.
- Move over to the part of the lane from which you can follow a delayed-apex cornering line to square off the corner: near the center line for a right-hander, and near the shoulder for a left-hand corner.
- Shift your weight to the inside before you get to the corner. A lot of the support of your body should be coming from your outside leg - not your arms. Your shoulders, arms, and hands should be relaxed.
- Turn your whole head and look through the corner to where you want the bike to end up.
- As you are turning your head, push on the inside grip to tip the bike into the corner.
- As the bike leans and starts to turn, gently roll on the throttle to keep the bike from decelerating.
- As you start to leave the corner, shift your weight back to the center of the saddle. This will help the bike straighten up.
- Accelerate back to cruising speed.
Smart riding doesn't happen accidentally. Learn and practice. Practicing good cornering technique leads to a state of mind in which you trust the bike to end up where you want it to. Eventually, you'll have the confidence to lean the bike, focus your eyes only on where you want to go, stay on the throttle, and get around each corner - all while expecting to succeed.