This week’s things to remember – something that most newer and intermediate street rider struggles with, “throttle control.”
Here’s a little test to see if you get the basic concept: let’s say you’re going around a corner at a nice 30mph, you get on the throttle and as you do the rear end starts to slide out. What do you do?
- [a] back off the throttle,
- [b] gently use the rear brake,
- [c] use the front brake,
- [d] roll on the throttle.
I’ll tell you what all of us would want to do instinctively, we want to back-off the throttle to try to control the slide, but motorbike guru Keith Code points out that’s just about the worst thing we could do…and almost surely leads to a high-side. (Even expert riders have to unlearn this instinctive reaction to back off the throttle). Because two things tend to happen when you get off the throttle, one the rear will stop sliding and begin catching the pavement again, only the bike is now faced in a different direction that its momentum is carrying it (resulting in a high-side)…but before that happens, when you get off the throttle, the bike slows and more of the bike’s weight transfers to the front making the slide momentarily worse before the rear wheel catches. What needs to be done in a rear wheel slide is to stay on the throttle, or even roll it on a bit! Easier said than done! Here’s the master, Gary McCoy sliding into turns. Stunters do this just for the sake of burning rubber. But for those of us who don’t race professionally (and who want to keep their bikes and headlights intact) it’s not so much a matter of mastering the slide, as it is mastering throttle control.
The basic rule of throttle control is: “Once the throttle is cracked on, it is rolled on evenly, smoothly, and constantly throughout the remainder of the turn.” In fact the “ideal line” according to Code, is the line in which you can employ the throttle rule…rolling it on evenly throughout the turn.
What this means for new riders is, this is where having a lighter bike with manageable power comes in really handy… Throttle control is a million times easier on a Ninja 250 or 500 than it is on a supersport. For street riders this requires discipline in setting up reasonable corner speeds so that there’s plenty of margin for safety, but also a reasonable enough speed so that you can roll-on the throttle rather than just cruising through the turn. The slight acceleration that comes from rolling-on the throttle is what stabilizes the bike (even in a turn where the rear loses traction). Just remember we’re talking about a smooth and gradual roll-on and not just whacking open the throttle (and then letting go)…otherwise you’ll wind up like the guy in the video.
Now if you ride in the rain in NYC (or any of the boroughs), or even after a rain…which is bound to happen sometime – you will probably get the bike sideways at some point. Anywhere buses and trucks dare to travel (even occasionally) is likely to have oil feels like ice to motorcycle tires. But good throttle control will stabilize the bike even at low speeds and help keep the shiny parts off the ground. So the key is to “practice practice practice” with every turn. Set the appropriate (safe) entry speed for a turn in advance, and instead of cruising through the corner, crack the throttle early and roll it on throughout the corner using the throttle to pick up the bike from its lean. Do this, and when you hit the occasional slippery spot you’ll be able to power through it and feel like a pro!