Safe U-turn rid­ing tip

There are a few lit­tle tricks that can make tight, low-speed U-turns a piece of cake Master feet-up U-turns and stop pad­dling like a novice

Motorcycle News (UK) - - NEWS -

Take any bunch of long-ex­pe­ri­enced, rufty tufty bik­ers go­ing on hol­i­day and you can guar­an­tee one thing. Eight out of 10 of them can’t ride for tof­fee at low speed.

You don’t be­lieve me? Watch those flail­ing, pad­dling feet as they wob­ble up the ramp on the Isle of Man ferry. Or down the ramp to the Chan­nel Tun­nel train. They can be rid­ing Har­leys, grand tour­ers, sports­bikes or 125s – it makes no dif­fer­ence. Eighty on the M20 is a piece of cake, but do­ing one mph con­fi­dently on a slip­pery ramp is an­other thing en­tirely. It’s as if go­ing slowly isn’t worth both­er­ing to learn.

So here’s an ou­tra­geous as­ser­tion: any self re­spect­ing rider should be ca­pa­ble of bang­ing their bike onto full lock and do­ing a feetup U-turn. This is not be­cause of any safety is­sue, or even be­cause rid­ing with both feet on the footrests while go­ing ex­tremely slowly is more ef­fi­cient than pad­dling. You just look like a dork if you can’t con­trol your mo­tor­cy­cle.

So how is it done? Con­fi­dence, which comes from – what else? – prac­tice. But there are a few tricks that help.

Clutch con­trol

First is the clutch. At tick­over in first you might be do­ing 8mph. If you want to do a steady 4mph, one way is to pull the clutch half way in. This is a bit like hav­ing an­other gear which is half as short again as first. Or you could pull it three-quar­ters of the way in, and now you’re do­ing 2mph. It’s very ef­fec­tive, but will make your hand hurt if you do it for long.


Sec­ond is to own a mod­ern bike, be­cause it will al­most cer­tainly have a light clutch, a feath­er­weight rideby-wire throt­tle and the colos­sal ad­van­tage of cen­tralised mass. Com­pared with some­thing like my own 1998 Du­cati 900Ssie (low, nar­row bars, leaned-for­ward rid­ing po­si­tion, lumpy en­gine, er­ratic dry clutch) low-speed ma­noeu­vre­ing is a piece of cake.

Back brake

The third trick is to ap­ply light and con­tin­u­ous pres­sure to the back brake. This has a sim­i­lar ef­fect to pulling in the clutch, but be­cause you are drag­ging the en­gine down by mak­ing the back wheel harder to turn, the whole bike feels a lot more planted. U-turns are sud­denly re­ally easy. Af­ter a bit of prac­tice you’ll be amazed by hjow easy this is. Any­one who doesn’t know what you’re up to will think you’re a ma­gi­cian.

Prac­tis­ing a few key drills will soon see you per­fect U-turns

Ru­pert Paul Over 30 years’ of rid­ing, in­struct­ing and test­ing un­der his belt.

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