Thursday, May 27, 2010

Slow Look Press Roll or Ready Aim Fire?

I just discovered something.

There are some differences in the order of steps related to turning a motorcycle, compared with the way I learned.

When I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic Rider Course, they gave the order of tasks as Slow, Look, Press, Roll. From the MSF handbook:
  • "Slow: Reduce speed before a turn as needed by rolling off the throttle and applying both brakes; downshift if necessary.
  • "Look: Turn your head to look where you want the motorcycle to go. Keep your eyes up, looking as far as possible through and beyond a turn, and keep your eyes level with the horizon. This helps you maintain a smooth path of travel.
  • "Press: To initiate motorcycle lean, press forward on the handgrip in the direction of the turn. This is called counter-steering. Press left, lean left, go left. Press right, lean right, go right.
  • "Roll: Roll on the throttle throughout the turn. (Be sure to slow enough before the turn so this can be accomplished.) Maintaining or slightly increasing speed will stabilize the suspension and improve overall control. Avoid deceleration or rapid acceleration while in a turn."
Now contrast that with or Ready Aim Fire, developed by Team Oregon:
  • "Ready: Before turn, Complete braking, Select your line
  • "Aim: Look through the turn
  • "Fire: Gently roll on throttle, Press to lean, Continue to face exit"
Did you detect the difference?

Let me quote Irondad again from his Musings of an Intrepid Commuter blog (something I have been doing quite a lot of lately):
"The 'roll' should start before you actually lean the bike. Which means you need to be off the brakes and back on the throttle before you lean. This gives some time for the suspension to recover from the front end dive typical during braking."
Now do you see the difference? Ready, Aim, Fire advises to roll on the throttle before pressing the bars to begin the turn; MSF advises to roll on after.

I noticed this discrepancy a few days ago while reviewing Irondad's posting, and have begun watching my cornering technique. I have mostly been doing it like MSF, though the Lean and Roll on are almost coincident. When I try the Ready Aim Fire method, it seems to provide more control through the corner, though I have to back up the previous steps a little to allow time to roll on before initiating the lean.

The latter approach makes sense to me: Separating the Lean from the Roll on a bit, with the Roll on occurring before the lean. That way any abrupt off-idle response of the engine to the throttle opening takes place while the bike is still straight up. It doesn't unsettle the chassis as it would if into the lean already.

I am not questioning the need to roll on at the beginning of most turns. At the very least, the smaller effective diameter of the rear tire when leaned over requires an increase in RPM to avoid further slowing -- and by slowing, using up some of the rear tire's traction. Ground clearance and stability are also improved by rolling on.

You probably already know that I am not in the habit of turning so aggressively that I am at the edge of traction, but I think it makes sense to try to do it the best way in case I ever have to come close to that edge.

I did a little more research on the order of cornering steps. David Hough, in his Proficient Motorcycling book says to lean and roll on simultaneously.

Hmmmm. That is interesting. Now we have all the possible variations. Before. During. After.

  • Is the Roll on done before or after the Lean?
  • Are they simultaneous?
  • Which technique is better?
  • Does it depend? On what?
  • Am I missing something here?
  • What do you do?

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