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RobF

Left-hand turns are more difficult

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There are a few motorcycles and a few decades of adulthood in my past, but I'm relatively new to sport riding. This past weekend I was riding in the Cascade mountains, working on my technique, and I noticed that I had developed a real asymmetry in my cornering competency. When entering right-hand turns, I felt (relatively) balanced and in control. Left-hand turns were a different experience. The bike and I felt awkward. I realized that I am always much more relaxed in right-hand turns than I am in left-hand turns and that over time the accumulated difference has caused an asymmetry in my technique.

 

Interesting to me is the underlying cause of the discrepancy. Here's what I think it is. When making right-hand turns, my tires are toward the center-line and my head is toward the shoulder. I have half a lane of clean road to right of my tires and half a lane to the left -- more if there are no oncoming cars. When turning left, these comfortable margins of error are much reduced. In left turns, my tires are closer to the gravel-strewn shoulder and my head is toward the center-line and possible oncoming traffic. The margin of error buffering a possible flubbed line through the corner is smaller, so my technique becomes more tense and timid.

 

I'm curious if others have experienced anything similar.

 

 

 

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I have the reverse problem. Riding here in the mountains means entering right handers blind  but left handers you can look across the lanes to get a bit more visibility. Ergo I'm better at lefties than righties. And have the tires to prove it :)

 

To put it another way, I'd rather blow a left hander and be off in the ditch than blow a right hander and become a hood ornament.

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To put it another way, I'd rather blow a left hander and be off in the ditch than blow a right hander and become a hood ornament.

 

What if blowing the right puts you off the side of the mountain? :wacko:

I go equally slow in rights and lefts. No problem. :schla15:

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I used to have the opposite problem.  You just have to make the effort to get over it.

 

Ciao,

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On the road, I don't feel any more or less comfortable with left or right turns, but I'm sure if a riding coach saw me they'd probably find some difference in the way I perform them. In a parking lot or slow speed turns however, I think I favor left hand turns, probably due to the right arm (throttle side) being extended, vice "tucked" in. As with most things Moto related, practicing and getting over the "fear" or apprehension is the only way to improve.

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On 8/17/2016 at 4:40 PM, RobF said:

zoolander_sm.jpg

 

There are a few motorcycles and a few decades of adulthood in my past, but I'm relatively new to sport riding. This past weekend I was riding in the Cascade mountains, working on my technique, and I noticed that I had developed a real asymmetry in my cornering competency. When entering right-hand turns, I felt (relatively) balanced and in control. Left-hand turns were a different experience. The bike and I felt awkward. I realized that I am always much more relaxed in right-hand turns than I am in left-hand turns and that over time the accumulated difference has caused an asymmetry in my technique.

 

Interesting to me is the underlying cause of the discrepancy. Here's what I think it is. When making right-hand turns, my tires are toward the center-line and my head is toward the shoulder. I have half a lane of clean road to right of my tires and half a lane to the left -- more if there are no oncoming cars. When turning left, these comfortable margins of error are much reduced. In left turns, my tires are closer to the gravel-strewn shoulder and my head is toward the center-line and possible oncoming traffic. The margin of error buffering a possible flubbed line through the corner is smaller, so my technique becomes more tense and timid.

 

I'm curious if others have experienced anything similar.

 

 

 

I find myself doing the same thing although I wouldn't say I am less comfortable, just more limited in the line that I choose.  For the majority of mountain roads, if you divide each lane into thirds, the portion nearest the yellow line is generally clean, the middle is potentially oily with debris, and the shoulder is potentially strewn with debris or cracked and uneven due to increased cornering pressures of vehicles on the outside.  As such, I typically start RH turns from the proper turn-in point (nearest the center line), but some LH turns from the "wrong" turn-in point nearest the center line simply because I want the best probability of my tires maintaining traction.  In a LH turn, you are less likely to seek full lean if you start the corner from the middle or left side of the lane because of the reason you mention with your head in the oncoming lane.  This is not an issue if you are confident the shoulder is maintained and you start your lefty over there.  The added issue is that the left hand corners are on a wider radius (from driving on the right hand side of the road):  with identical speed, you will need less lean angle to navigate a wider radius corner.  If you increase the pace too much to meet the appropriate speed in the LH turn and maximize lean angle, you might be going too fast for the upcoming RH turn.  You don't want to blow RH turns for the reason below.  It may be more an issue of logistics than technique although it sounds like you may be suffering a little of both.  Some track time will help sort it out, especially on a track that runs counter-clockwise.

On 8/17/2016 at 7:53 PM, checksix said:

 

 

To put it another way, I'd rather blow a left hander and be off in the ditch than blow a right hander and become a hood ornament.

Agreed. 

On 8/17/2016 at 8:55 PM, VFR4Lee said:

 

 

 

What if blowing the right puts you off the side of the mountain? :wacko:

I go equally slow in rights and lefts. No problem. :schla15:

You can fly off the mountain on both sides of the road (ask me how I know).

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I know for sure I am much more comfortable in left hand turns than right handed ones. The thing is, I always have been. I attribute it to the fact that I have had three knee surgeries on my right knee so I am more confident getting low on my left side. Maybe it is all in my head but that's my comfort area.

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Curious whether you feel the same difference in fast sweeping left/right turns (like on Highway 42 from I-5 to the coast).

 

My experience is opposite of yours. In tight right turns - esp. in the mountains - line-of-sight often is occluded by the side of the hill. Those right-handers are blind corners. You cannot see through the corner. There may be rockfall in the road or loose gravel. Or an animal! When I was 20 years old I ran into a dairy cow standing in the middle of a blind right-hand corner. Haha. Not so amusing at the time, however.

 

I am more comfortable in lefties.

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Good read guys...this sort of discussion sure is interesting coming from different perspectives. I learned to corner at Spokane County Raceway from Mike Sullivan Racing coaching and track days back in 2008-10 and seemed to feel most comfortable in lefties. That translated to my years sport riding in the Arkansas Ozark Mtns...righties are frequently blind reinforcing my preference for going faster to the left.

Sent from my XT1254 using Tapatalk

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I've had similar issues in both directions; right handers being blind in many cases and left turns trying to find a line that keeps my whole body in my lane without scrubbing the debris on the right third of the lane. I found that in my case I was tense going into the turn and hence fighting my own control inputs. What I found that helps are two things; 1) entry speed just dial it back, and 2) relax my arms and use my torso to keep my arms loose and my grip light. Then just lightly push/pull the bars (counter steer). It's hard at my age but in the corners I have learned to NOT lean on my arms - use legs and torso. 

 

One instructor at a class I took a long time ago also told me....  Finish the F'ing turn. Meaning if you find yourself wide just push in and lean harder into it. The bike will usually take more lean than our senses will trust. And a lowside is slightly better than going wide into a ditch on the right or oncoming traffic on the left. So sometimes when I get tense I just tell myself "Finish the F'ing turn". It works for me.. cheers!

 

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My own experiences tell me that relaxation is often the barrier between a good turn and a bad turn. Tensing up arms and keeping rigid make for poor control all round in my case, and I was told many years ago that whenever I felt myself tensing up I should imagine myself as a sack of potatoes. Seems to work. As does looking through the bend and trying to remember that the bike will generally go where you're looking. 

 

I also think that another key is to practice, slowly at first, then gradually build up your speed, preferably on a road you already know, remembering one very golden rule which is that 'you should always be able to stop (on your own side of the road) in the distance you can see to be clear.' If your limit point (vanishing point) is approaching you too quickly then you're probably going too fast.

 

Sadly, over confidence and over-exhuberance in bends have been the demise of many decent people on bikes. 

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When I’m not feeling as good in left turns as right, I find myself turning in later in right handers so able to see through turn as much as possible before turning in, and looking though as far as possible. On left handers turning in early because I was able to see the turn on approach and or looking at the road condition more than trough the turn as much. Consciously turning in later squaring off and looking farther through the lefts with very relaxed arms usually cures it 

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Finish the f'ing turn you old sack of potatoes. LOL.

 

If I am in too hot and risk running wide and off, I'd rather lean it some more and hopefully she goes around the turn.

If not, it seems to me a lowside is probably better than running off on 2 wheels.

At least your butt brake is likely engaged. :unsure:

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49 minutes ago, VFR4Lee said:

Finish the f'ing turn you old sack of potatoes. LOL.

 

If I am in too hot and risk running wide and off, I'd rather lean it some more and hopefully she goes around the turn.

If not, it seems to me a lowside is probably better than running off on 2 wheels.

At least your butt brake is likely engaged. :unsure:

What you never use your butt brake?

 

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50 minutes ago, VFR4Lee said:

Finish the f'ing turn you old sack of potatoes. LOL.

 

If I am in too hot and risk running wide and off, I'd rather lean it some more and hopefully she goes around the turn.

If not, it seems to me a lowside is probably better than running off on 2 wheels.

At least your butt brake is likely engaged. :unsure:

BTW - coming from Idaho we don't take potato jokes kindly...  :-)

 

And yes I'm an old sack of potatoes.... and proud of it! 

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I try to avoid using my butt on the pavement as a brake.

Good thing I didn't say moldy old sack of potatoes. :unsure:

 

I do like that old B52's song about your state. :beer:

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Hi Rob,

 

How do you feel about up and down?  Which is more comfortable to you?  I have often found riders who are apprehensive of left/right turns are also uncomfortable usually when going down and more comfortable going up a hill incline into a turn.

 

You may want to try this, find a 2-4 mile section of sweepers with about an equal amount of lefts and rights and no off-camber turns.  Set all the track techniques aside, like outside/inside lines, delayed apex, brake in/throttle out, shifting your body.  Start the exercise at a relatively moderate speed, slow enough that it doesn't take a lot of braking, if any at all to safely make the turn.  Something like a cruiser or tourer would do.  That's the boring part about the exercise.  The challenge is to keep your line in the center of the lane throughout the entire 2-4 mile practice course.  Go back and worth on this stretch of road keeping your line in the center of your lane.  That is the challenge and for most can be frustrating because it is easier to tell when you are off a bit.  Then increase your speed, as you feel comfortable with, on each lap keeping your body centered on the seat and your shoulders relatively centered on the grips, while rotating your head and looking into the turn.

 

If the road you have available provides for adequate sighting ahead without blind corners it is amazing how fast you can make those turns without using track techniques to help keep the bike planted.  But as you start the exercise at a slower speed you will have more time to analyze your line and try and discover what it is about the left turn that bothers you over the right turns.  And, even if you can't put your finger on the reason, or reasons, the practice should help you become relaxed and more confident about entering the turns.  Entering the turns is usually where things get messed up and effects the exit more than any other part of the turn.  Often this is caused by us advancing our speed beyond our developed skills.  You may need to find two practice courses, one on the right side of a hill/mountain and one on the left side of a hill or mountain.

 

While doing the exercise look for the little things and things you felt you were doing properly, but may not be doing equally well in both turns.  Something as simple as turning you head into the turn and looking ahead?  Turn your head a bit more than you usually do and see if that helps.  Are you scanning the road for debris as you start the left turn and for that slit second looking off the turn makes you feel uncomfortable?

 

There is no doubt there is a difference in right turns and left on most twisties on the street, unlike the track.  In my area we have a couple roads with sections in them, when the traffic is light, we can track ride.  But most country twisties demand a certain amount of respect by keeping a reasonable clearance from oncoming traffic in the opposing lane, missing the debris on the right edge of the lane and avoiding the sand that may be left in the center lane, and of course the obstruction in our path around the blind turn.

 

One other suggestion, don't over look the front tire.  If it is worn poorly, it could influence your confidence and bias for left's over right's.

 

Best Regards.......George

 

 

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Great discussion! I agree with pretty much all the tips above, but especially about the need to relax one's arms.

 

Everybody agrees that steering a motorcycle is more technically challenging than steering a car. The need for counter-steering is probably the most widely discussed difference between the two, but I think the physical intuition of counter-steering can be learned in a few months of riding. Keeping loose arms is, in my opinion, a more subtle and difficult habit to learn. Only in the past couple years have I realized how much this has been tripping me up.

 

Two small but important differences between how we interface with the grips of a handlebar vs how we interface with a steering wheel are causes of trouble:

 

1. We instinctively rely upon the motorcycle grips for support and balance. Ironically, this bit of poor form is especially true for sport-bikes which are famous for putting a significant portion of our weight on our hands. This isn't true for steering wheels, which are not tasked with holding any weight.

 

2. Motorcycle handlebars have a push-pull dynamic between the hands while turning whereas steering wheels make us of an up-down twisting. This matters because up-down is perpendicular to (i.e. independent of) the action of the elbows and push-pull is most definitely not.

 

A consequence of these two ergonomic differences is that a steering wheel is better suited to pure input control -- you only use it to communicate your steering inputs to the machine. For most riders, motorcycle handlebar grips serve a dual function as both an input control *and* a structural support. The dual purposes of the grips create opportunities for conflicting rider inputs.

 

For instance, no matter how stressed, panicked, and tense you are, a steering wheel will still effortlessly turn in either direction. Which is why car drivers pretty much never fail to complete (just f*ing finish) their turns -- unless they overwhelm the available tire grip, which is a different problem. In contrast, a motorcyclist (this motorcyclist!) feeling panicky in a turn will very often stiffen both arms, at which point the inside handlebar grip will be effectively locked in position and the handlebar's ability to transmit further steering inputs will cease.

 

I've been trying to use my legs and "core" more for basic balance so that the handlebar grips can function as pure input controls. Also, I try to relax my elbows, which I mostly experience as letting them "fall" downward. I'm still not very good at it.

 

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On 1/19/2018 at 8:50 AM, EagleSix said:

 

How do you feel about up and down?  Which is more comfortable to you?  I have often found riders who are apprehensive of left/right turns are also uncomfortable usually when going down and more comfortable going up a hill incline into a turn.

 

 

 

You have guessed correctly. I prefer uphill turns because gravity makes it easier to control my speed with just the throttle. Going uphill, gravity is a like a free second brake hand doing the trail-braking for you. Downhill turns seem to require more skill, IMO, because gravity is complicating rather than simplifying speed control.

 

Thank you for the great tips, George. I will try your suggestions.

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Hi Rob,

 

It doesn't surprise me that you prefer up to down.  I think most riders, even experienced and confident riders prefer the up hills to the down hills and there is definitely an adjustment to make between the two in our approach braking, throttle and trail braking, and exit.

 

I like your comparison between cage steering wheels and bike handlebars.  As you and others have pointed out, stiff arms add to the fatigue and anticipation even when in the straights and especially through the turns.  And I would agree, many of the sportbike drivers I ride with, see on the streets, and even some on the track, rely on the handlebars for their upper body support.  I can't ever remember doing that, but I'm sure I did when I started riding, but I started riding about 55 years ago, and they say that is the first thing to go!!

 

Most of the reason riders lean on the bars, I think, is because of poor body position and especially their backs.  When I see a rider arch their backs, upright or back, almost certainly they have weight on the bars.  Another giveaway sign is every 30 miles or so they are releasing the throttle grip and shaking their hand to relieve the cramps. And of course there is the release the left bar, left hand on their leg so they can get a more upright position to their back to relieve the aches! 

And most look really apprehensive and stiff going through the turns.

 

There should be no body weight on the bars at all, none.  We should be able to take both our hands off the grips by an inch and feel no necessity to flex our leg, butt, and back muscles to hold our riding position.  If you try that, you are probably going to have to flex some muscles to keep your chest/head from falling forward.  If we do, then we know we need to work on those massive muscles in our calves, thighs, butt, and lower back, while relaxing our mid-to-upper back, shoulders, and arms, using only the light required hand grip on the handlebars.  That is, just enough grip to assure we have control for the specific road conditions and maneuvering such as in the turns.  In normal riding on good roads, it takes no pressure in our grip, just a little feel to attain the required counter-steer for the direction we want to go.

 

Once we can let go of both grips and retain full support of our body riding position with out mid-chest down muscles, we need to enhance that control by simultaneously shifting our body weight allowing our butt to slide on the seat smoothly without upsetting the bike dynamics.  If we do it right, and are new to riding, our legs should hurt after a ride, rather than our back, arms, wrist and hands.  Outside of things like a tank slapper, etc., our feet, calves, thighs, butt, and lower back control our riding position, so our upper back, shoulders, arms and hands can control the bike to go where we want it to go with small relaxed pressure adjustments.  Please know what I say isn't expert advice, or any kind of advice, it's just the way I ride and seems to fit me well.

 

At my age I should be riding a Harley bagger like many of the seniors I ride with, but even the sit-up position of a Sport-touring bike makes me feel even older than I am!  I need to arch my back forward over the tank and hang off the side when my speed dictates it (and it often does!) in a turn.  So when I'm cruising along in around triple digits, my arms aren't straight, they bend at the elbow and my hands are lightly laying on the grips.

 

I don't think it will be very long before you start feeling better about your left turns, and soon after that you will most likely forget their ever was a difference.

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Uphill twisties are def easier than downhill.

Downhill and left hairpins are the hardest.

But otoh right hairpins are tighter.

Well, maybe decreasing radius needs a word in there too.

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For me, uphill vs downhill is neither easier or harder, but definitely different.  As Rob pointed out gravity effects our forward travel.  As we all know it takes more power to maintain the same speed on uphills, and less power for downhills.  What adds to the difference is it takes more braking downhill and less braking uphill, whether that be by the use of the brakes or engine, or combination.  So uphill I use more power/less brakes and downhill I use less power/more brakes to maintain the same speeds of a level turn regardless of the stages of the turn such as approach, line, turn-in, apex and exit.  I think I'm like many other riders and use the exhaust sounds, vibration, gear and engine speed much more than I look at the speedometer to determine what comes next, so when I adjust power up or down to account for the grade, it changes that perception and I have had to get use to it.

 

I seldom have been on a road that is level and had an off-camber turn, but occasionally see them during up and/or downhill roads.  Regardless of up or down, an off-camber turn changes the effective lean angle and requires an adjustment of our speed.  On camber turns seem to be more lean friendly, and are, for obvious reasons.

 

So, when going uphill, I hold power/speed longer and brake less as I flick the bike into the turn (often holding the rpm's higher to reduce engine braking) and less trail braking (if any), and at the apex I use more throttle for the exit.  Downhill is about the opposite.  How much different the controls we use, over level turns, is dependent on the grade angle extreme of the up or down along with other consideration of road lane size, road surface, temperature, camber, etc.  To me, until I go around the same turn more than once, all turns are different and require a difference on the controls.

 

I was cautioned many years ago from a racer friend that the subtle difference in suspension geometry can make a difference in up/down hill turns effecting our bike lean angle and tire traction.  Of course he was always on the edge and any twistie we road, he considered his personal and private race track!  He would go into uphill turns a bit faster than level turns so he could get about the same amount of braking necessary to settle his front end down and the opposite when approaching downhill turns.  So his turning speeds were about the same, but approach speeds adjusted.

 

Another condition I find myself changing out from my normal turns, is riding through an obstacle we all ride in everyday, that is the wind.  When the wind is light, I pay very little attention to it, but when the winds are up, which they often are in my location, things change a bit.  A strong head wind presents a similar effect of uphill and a tail wind similar to downhill.  The changes are most often more subtle than up/down hill, but often are tricky to anticipate.  Nonetheless, I try to keep my head in the game when riding and attempt to account for the steady, and the sudden wind directions and velocity that often we face in the open desert plains.

 

I think it's all easy to talk about and tougher to actually do, but I keep trying to improve, and even after over 50 years of riding I find at my age it is just as important for me to keep honing my skills and learning from other riders regardless of their age and experience, as I'm always a student with ears and eyes wide open.

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I too suffer from a perceived discomfort in one direction but not the other, however looking at my tyre wear I seem to end up with the same wear and lean so it's probably all in my head. To keep this discussion coherent I will mentally flip sides although we drive on the correct, left side of the road here, and I'm more comfortable here on lefts than rights.

 

For me the discomfort factor comes down to beginning the left turn-in  closer to the road edge where there is a higher likelihood of debris and bad surfaces, and less margin for error. Contrast that to a right hander where I'm starting closer to the centre line, bending away from oncoming traffic and in a part of the road where it is usually cleaner and smoother. As a result on lefts I tend to start my turn earlier, and cut further across the lane getting my leaned-over head closer to the oncoming lane. This is something that I am getting better at, and one tip I've learnt is that entering the left turn a little slower allows for a deeper entry and less corner cutting. On rights I am perfectly happy to sail deep into the bend and then hold the tyres just on the right hand wheel track all the way through a bend, which also gives the best visibility around the bend.

 

Overriding all of that is my perception of the road surface, and I will make a primary line decision to pick through potholes, avoid glossy melted patches or anything else that looks vague from a traction perspective, before considering whether to stick to a preferred line. 

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13 minutes ago, Terry said:

Overriding all of that is my perception of the road surface, and I will make a primary line decision to pick through potholes, avoid glossy melted patches or anything else that looks vague from a traction perspective, before considering whether to stick to a preferred line. 

 

Nice post and great job on flipping the right and left so us 'wrong' side drivers aren't confused!  On the other hand, I occasionally drive on the left lane, or use both lanes through a turn....and I'm suppose to be getting smarter with age, but sometimes the dumb comes out!!!

 

I especially like your road surface perception addition.

 

 

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