View Full Version : U-Turns on Hills- An illustrated warning & reminder

09-03-2005, 07:39 PM
To make a short story shorter- today I found myself going up a narrow, unmaintained road, with exactly zero shoulder and steep and unforgiving ditches on either side in the specific place I wanted to make a U-turn.
I made the wrong move, which LUCK alone saved me from paying for, and also potentially endangered a scooterist coming down the other way, who had to go around my immobilized bike while I sat trying to figure out what to do. The moral- plan your U-turns, and consider gravity. Come, let me illustrate!

[*NOTE- the photo isn't of exactly where I made my U-Turn; that's a blind turn ahead and it would not be wise to make one in the place pictured.]

So I wanted to make a U-turn, from going up the hill to going down it. Now, my parking lot practice with the figure-eights and counterweighting has me able to make this tight of a u-turn MOST of the time, but not always. Given the drop-off at the edge of the road, I was pretty timid about it, went too slow and upright, and thus botched the U-turn.

MISTAKE TO AVOID #1- Hesitation or timidity won't help your slow-speed maneuver. Make sure you're so consistent you can do something blindfolded before attempting to do it in a do-or-ditch situation.
MISTAKE TO AVOID #2- Don't think for one minute you can duck-walk a bike up a hill.

See where the end of the red arrow is? That's where I came to a stop, realizing that the greatest amount of turn my bike's forks would allow still put my front tire rolling into the ditch. Actually, the LUCK part of it is that it made it at full lock, with about an inch of decent, solid ground to spare before the steep slope of the ditch. That's good, because it was my only option at that point. See, it was so questionable that my turn would keep me on the road, that I really wanted to back the bike up rather than proceed. But I was on a hill, not so very steep, but steep enough to make that impossible. While I pondered this proverbial creek I was up, a scooterist comes down the hill and has to pass me in the other lane. Finally, realizing I was probably boned, I let the bike roll forward at full lock, and I was fortunate to be able to make the turn and arc back onto the road and solid ground.


I should've thought it out, then if not beforehand.
I knew that I wasn't entirely confident with the width available to me for that U-Turn. I knew I could do it in theory, but not that I was going to pull it off. I should not have made mistake #1.
I also should've considered the fact that it was a hill, and I wasn't going to be able to duck-walk the bike out of a botched turn once my bike was on a downhill trajectory. Shouldn't have made mistake #2.

Isn't hindsight great? See the blue lines there?

(1) I could've been going straight up the hill, and moved towards the center line and come to a stop.

(2) Next, roll back, backing my rear end towards the shoulder (Watch that balance, stay off the front brake, make sure your foot can touch down when you stop, and straighten the wheel before you're done rolling). Tricky, but I could've done this with more confidence than the counterweighted U-turn.

(3) Finally, make the turn at a much lessened arc.

Don't do what I did, or you may end up having to knowingly send your bike down into a ditch. :redangry3 Not unlike pulling off a band-aid reeeeeely slowly. Think before you maneuver, and train yourself silly.

09-03-2005, 08:50 PM
That was a VERY good illustration of what to do and what NOT to do. :)

09-03-2005, 11:34 PM
remy, great illustration and thank you for posting it.

I find myself in situations somewhat similar to what you've depicted at times on the road and have often just kept going as I didn't have the confidence to make the U-turn. Your alternative is a good one- I will practice that a few times.

Seldom mind riding a few miles out of my way- BUT the day will come that I will need to turn that bike around!

09-04-2005, 12:52 AM
thank you thank you! great lesson plan---- :thumbsup:

09-04-2005, 01:18 PM
In your situation on a narrow road, I'd either:

Keep going till finding a wide spot or a side road to negotiate the turn, & make the U-turn

or do a 3 point turn. Pull as far as possible to the right at a spot that alllows good visiblity in both directions. Stop. Crank the bars to Left lock & accelerate slowly until the front wheel hits the center line. Stop, right full lock as you let the bike roll backwards slowly, using the clutch to keep it slow. Stop at edge of the road. By now you'd just need to pull forward while doing a left turn & you're on your way.

09-05-2005, 07:07 PM
That's very good advice RM! Thanks so much for posting.

09-06-2005, 01:54 PM
I've noticved that I'm much improved doing the box at the BRC/ERC site. I'm consistantly within the box and becoming more and more comfy doing it. BUT ... when on roads or parking lots that don't allow for any extra room ... I SUCK! LOL

I know it's all a mental thing. But it's the idea that I don't have any room for error that gets me. On the practice course, or any parking lot really, there's room to go wide if need be. "Oops, started the turn too late ... oops, didn't look all the way over ... oops, looked down, not up ..." All of those are fine in the parking lot as you have the room for error, you can go outside the box. But then, you're on a narrow two lane road with NO shoulder ( my ride last night ) and you want to make that same U-Turn. I'm sure I could have done it if I jsut would have NOT thought and just done it but ... NO room to my left or right, slight downhill grade, just no room for a mistak and ... ... I duck walked it around, slight 3-point turn.

I'm thinking I need to have some 2x4's or something at my next practice session to make me know I don't have that room for error, ya know?

09-06-2005, 04:23 PM
Doing ANY U-turn the illustration is good for a narrow road. Obviously on a slight hill it is even more important. My compliments. I often take use of a farmer's exit/entrance to help start it out for that already makes said spot wider.

Still watch out on the gravel for you can have a boot slip or skip over the gravel & suddenly the bike & you are going down.

09-06-2005, 04:40 PM

Those same thoughts went through my head this week-end. I can be brilliant in the parking lot but go to a real situation when the safety net is no longer there and panic can set in.

Makes me think that with such a psychological componentin operation that the parking lot work isn't going to do it for me. I just need a less-traveled road and get over the fear of running out of room. A little real-world confidence is all we need.


09-06-2005, 04:52 PM
Careful with that; I've felt the same way and figured that the "fear" or "necessity" of the real-road situation would make me do the turn at my least-hesitant best.
Sometimes you just go at it wrong, or roll too little too late, or too much too fast, and then you MAKE the turn but it's ugly and you're lucky that oncoming traffic never caught you up.

I guess what I'm getting at is make sure that the ONLY thing left is psychological fear before working at it on real roads. If you can't hit that box EVERY time in the parking lot, it's just a pointless risk to do it with pitfalls on either side.

SoCal LabRat
09-07-2005, 08:49 AM
An excellent post on this board. Thank you for bringing it up. We will all be in this situation sometime, and it's good to have forewarning about what to even consider before attempting such a maneuver.