The unique motorcycle

What are the options a rider has when dealing with other traffic? What are the particular movements, or directions a motorcycle can accomplish in its environment? How best can we utilize these changes in direction to assist our risk management strategy? Our motorcycles have the capability of moving straight ahead through the environment, although, most motorcycles move through a gradual arc almost always turning as the rider corrects for the slight camber of the road. Like most race cars motorcyclists are almost always turning left.

When called upon to make decisions to change the angle from the roadway a motorcyclist is traveling, we almost never actually turn, the angle along the roadway is what we change. Why the specificity of the terminology? As the motorcycle moves forward it does not instantly change direction the vehicle actually describes an arc along the path it takes. Thus, the motorcycle during the period of steering input is slowly going in a circle . To understand this principle go to a large parking lot that is completely free of vehicles and traffic to practice.

With the motorcycle stopped and both feet planted firmly on the ground and engine off push on the left handlebar. The the front of the wheel turns to the right the supposed direction of travel. Does the motorcycle actually do this when traveling fifteen miles an hour?

Try these experiments on your Wing for some simple physics of motorcycling. First ride down the center of the parking lot sitting straight up and down with proper posture at about 15mph. If you go to fast it will be unsafe, and to slow the effect will be negligible. Near the center of the lot, without leaning, push down and out on the left handlebar. The motorcycle will describe an arc to the left. This is the principle of countersteering. After all what you have basically done is push the bike over using the physical principle of precession.

The second experiment requires a friend with a Wing too. Other motorcycles that are shaft drive, and have telescopic forks will exhibit the same effects during the experiment. On your practice parking lot stop the bike facing the other end. Put the unused bike in a safe spot. One person is to be observer, and the other the rider.

Set the motorcycles up by doing thorough inspection to insure they are safe to ride. Your owners manual has an excellent pre-ride check that you can use. Set the suspension up by getting the bike at rest as level as possible.

The rider from a stopped position will start quickly and ride down the range slowing, turning, and then accelerating towards the position he just left. The rider then will do a quick stop. THIS IS NOT A PANIC STOP. The desired effect will occur naturally without having to burn up tires, or toss motorcycles on the ground. When the rider has made the stop talk to each other there are a few simple effects that should have been easily visible.

The first effect seen, by an observer, is the motorcycle “squatting”, and the front of the bike lifting slightly towards the sky. The motorcycle will even out as the torque requirements even out as the bike accelerates. Look at the very rear of the fender, or the saddlebags to see how close to the ground the bike will get. When the rider returns watch as the stop is accomplished. The front suspension will compress, and the rear will lift slightly into the air. The effect will start out extreme, and then as the bike slows, decrease in magnitude till the stop is complete.

Both of these effects as observed can be accomplished with varying degrees of success. The first effect of acceleration becomes a wheelie when to much power is coupled with adequate traction to raise the front wheel off the ground. To those of you who are interested a wheely is possible on a Goldwing, but is strongly discouraged. Incredible amounts of damage, destruction, and embarrassment are possible when a wheelie is incorrectly done. Similarly the stop can become a stoppy when adequate traction sources and incredibly good brakes are utilized with short wheel base motorcycles to the extreme. Some sport bike publications have carried pictures of bikes balancing on the front wheel while riders hang on for dear life. Do not attempt this at home.

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