Analyzing and adjusting what we think we know about bike control can help us improve our skills.

what rules should you always or never follow when you're out riding?

What do you know about motorcycle riding? If you’re new to the sport, then you may not feel like you know much—but if you’ve been riding for any length of time, you may think that you have a pretty good idea of how things work. Somewhere in your piles of knowledge, do you have a stack of absolutes (things to always or never do) that you’ve internalized over time?

That’s what Canyon Chasers wants to know—and get us thinking and talking about. In riding, just as in most other areas of life, there are a number of pieces of received wisdom that get passed around. Some are useful, while others aren’t. Still others are more a matter of opinion or preference than they are a hard and fast way to do (or not do) something, and it’s important to be able to tell the difference.

The first topic brought up here is the idea that you should never touch the front brake mid-corner. Grabbing a big handful of front brake right in the middle of a corner wouldn’t end well, of course. However, there is such a thing as gradually easing on or off either of your brakes to attenuate your speed as you feel comfortable for the situation. Yamaha Champions Riding School agrees with this assessment as well.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that this is one of those nuggets of wisdom that’s been passed on through generations, from the times when braking systems weren’t as advanced as they are in 2022. In those days, it may well have been more difficult to have such fine control of your brakes—but times and technologies have changed.

Other points raised include the idea that you should never add lean angle and throttle at the same time, that the only way to turn is with countersteering, never apex on a public road, that you’ll never run out of clearance on a sportbike (but you might on a cruiser), that you should never stab the brakes, and that you should never push the throttle against the front brake. Never stabbing the front brakes or pushing the throttle against the front brake are pretty good rules of thumb. However, the other truisms here aren’t necessarily always true.

As most riders are continually learning, body positioning makes a huge difference in how your bike behaves—including in how it turns. Countersteering is important, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle—not the whole puzzle. Hitting a corner apex leaned over and with your head in the opposing lane of traffic may not be the greatest idea, but smoothly and safely taking a corner on a public road seems pretty reasonable. The keys here are using your best judgment—and recognizing that you can use more than one skill at once. There are all kinds of tiny things that go into riding your bike better.

That leads to the idea of lean angles and clearance on sportbikes and cruisers, and that you can just lean indefinitely on a sportbike and be fine. All kinds of things can affect your ability to lean, from road surface (surprise gravel in a corner is a big no), to whether your bike has footpegs or floorboards that could drag. Your own level of comfort, speed, and riding skills are all factors, as well.

It’s absolutely worth thinking about why we do things the way we do, and whether they’re the best way to do them—in riding, and probably also in life. Just doing something the same because that’s how we’ve always done it may not always be the best idea. I mean, imagine if leather motorcycle helmets were still the standard! Riding has come a long way, but we can always improve our skills as long as we’re willing to learn.

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