• Whizbang's Spinning Wheels: October 2003

    You may have heard me offering my favorite piece of advice to Beginnerbikers in the New Rider Forum: trust the lean. I guess I also say things like "turn your head," "watch your entry speed when cornering," and "increase or at least maintain your throttle going through turns." You might also hear things like, "that new FZ6 makes me drool" and "you're not a poser just because you want to wear stylin' safety gear," but let's focus on the whole "trust the lean" thing.

    To me, trusting your lean angle is part of the fun of motorcycling. We all have to lean our machines to turn them. Beginnerbikers have a tendency to fear the lean when they're just starting out. Makes sense. You're on top of a heavy metal machine which is basically an engine with two-wheels and a seat. When something heavy with only two wheels leans to one side, gravity demands that it falls over, unless the kickstand is down. Physical Science 101. For the brave souls who choose to actually sit down, start the engine, and RIDE their favorite new toys out into the world, the lean is essential. The lean is something to be mastered. Enjoyed. This Beginnerbiker craves the lean.

    Maybe I should say "Crave the Lean." I'll get back to you on that.

    There are a number of scientific rules that apply to the art of the lean. Laws of motion, gravity, geometry, kinetics, etc. Let's not go there. I don't know about you, but I've forgotten most of my analytic geometry. Let's just say that the forward motion of your motorcycle in combination with the torque you create by increasing or maintaining your speed and the weight of the bike and rider together make it unlikely that you would ever kick out your rear wheel under normal riding conditions (what are normal conditions, you ask? Dry pavement with little or no debris such as gravel, sand, wet leaves, or packs of lemmings scurrying to and fro) as you lean through a turn. You're just not going to do it. You will scrape your floorboards first. You will fire off sparks first. You'll polish your teeth with asphalt first. All of the major deities will come down from their respective heavens and cheer you on first.

    You've seen those racer people in pictures on the 'Net. They're literally hanging off their bikes leaning into turns going what Mel Brooks refers to as "Ludicrous Speed." They wear thick, plastic protectors on their knees so they don't need a skin graft every race. You're probably not going to go practically horizontal like those racer folk. MSF Instructor and fellow Beginnerbikes.com Team Member Darwin has even said, "you just don't need to do that during street-riding." I don't think I've ever seen anyone do that in real life on the highway. I've seen some insane sportbikers get really, really close, riding unsafely through metropolitan traffic like they were fleeing for their lives, but we're Beginnerbikers. We don't do that. Right? Right.

    ...except for this one time the other day when I got really close and Mr. Trust the Lean got schooled.

    Picture if you will an off-ramp on a major interstate highway. Westbound US-94 has an excellent 25mph swooping off-ramp that takes you onto westbound SR-394. If you're lucky and it's the right time of day, you can take that ramp into the multiple passenger/motorcycle commuter lane and zip past all the sad people stuck in rush hour traffic going home where they sit and cry because they don't have a motorcycle. This turn takes some skill because you're going from 55mph+ to 25 and back in a very short stretch. Usually, you're going with the flow of traffic which is more like 75mph to 40 and back. The turn takes focus and concentration. It's a motorcyclists' dream turn.

    Now picture Whizbang on his Yamaha-blue YZF600R making a quick but safe lane change into a prime entry position for the off-ramp. Smiling to himself about the smoothness of his lane change execution, he fails to slow down. Hey, I'm a Beginnerbiker after all - one-year veteran or not. In the space of about 0.5 seconds his eyes bug out and he does a Linda Blair head turn and presses into a lean to the left. It's not enough. He's going wide. More press. More lean. Still not enough. That guard rail is getting closer. More lean. More panic. Still not enough. Extreme situations require extreme measures, so Whizbang goes for the gold. I'm telling you, I looked like this:

    I flew through that turn at close to 65mph, unintentionally. Nevertheless, I came out on the other side, heart racing like a 1000cc R1, and continued on safely.


    Because I looked, I leaned, and I rolled. I got a taste of my own medicine and personally illustrated why the MSF knows what they're talking about. "He talks a good game, but can he play?" The answer is yes. And so can you. I'm NOT suggesting that you take your corners at Ludicrous Speed to learn about the lean. What I'm saying is that you will be shocked and amazed at how much lean you and your motorcycle will endure. Don't be afraid to push that thing over to get you around a corner. Our new favorite toys are built to do this. My advice: when you practice your turns, do exactly as the MSF says.


    If you're doing it right, it'll feel a little weird, but your turns will be beautiful. Each time you lean a little more, you'll rarely go back to your earlier, tentative leans. Your body remembers what it feels like and will do it again. Trust it. Trust yourself. Trust your bike.

    Trust the Lean.

    That's it for this month. For those of you that can continue riding and practicing into the cooler temperatures of the fall, keep it up! For those of you for whom the temps are already getting too cold to ride…buck up, you wimps! RIDE COLD! Don't give up the fight! Ride until chilly motorcyclists in their cages flash you the "way to go" thumbs up from behind the wheel. I plan to ride until frozen snot seals up my breathing passages and I have to stop frequently and chip it away with a small nasal ice pick.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Whizbang's Spinning Wheels: October 2003 started by Whizbang View original post
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