122 comments on “Tips for cornering on your motorcycle

  1. Hi. I’ve just bought a Road King and use it in Portugal on plenty of curvy roads. Using my XT600 before I taught myself not to use the relatively useless rear brake at all on the road.
    I’ve been reading a little about trail braking but it doesn’t feel good to use the front brake and throttle at the same time on this bike. Knowing that while slow maneuvering using the rear brake can stabilize things today i tried cornering by keeping the throttle open somewhat and rear braking a little then easing off the brake when rolling on the throttle.
    It feels OK and I can concentrate foot and hand doing only one thing plus powering the throttle all the way down and then opening up to come out of the corner usually gives a slight kick to the back wheel as the power comes back to the wheel. This way the power is never fully off the wheel.

    Anyone got any thoughts on this? Is it a plausible technique or am I heading down a wrong way. The bike has ABS but I’m not relying on it.

  2. Thank you! I got my licence toward the end of last year and rode my beautiful Bonny for a couple of months before putting her away for the winter. Now the sun is shining and friend’s are out riding again and I find myself a little paralysed by fear! So I googled “nervous motorbike rider”, found a wealth of information and encouragement on your site. You inspired me to go and practice some of the things I’ve been reading! Unfortunately, I went out to ride but my battery was flat (after the long winter and only starting her up once – naughty me) but I still got as far as having my jacket, gloves and helmet on and sitting in the driveway raring to go. So again, thank you! I’ll be back on two wheels with my biker buddies in time for the glorious summer’s riding. I’m still apprehensive but can see myself making this corner!

  3. Admiring the dedication you put into your website and detailed
    information you provide. It’s nice to come across a blog
    every once in a while that isn’t the sane outdated rehashed
    information. Fantastic read! I’ve saved your site and
    I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  4. Thankyou for your complete explanation, it’s very helpfull. I think from now on I’ll follow your guidance.

    Salam from Indonesia 🙂

  5. Great thread, I’m still learning better ways to do things after 69 years. I’m often guilty of gearing down too late as I enter curves, especially on sloping mountain turns(Of which there are many here in Northern Thailand) and the rear tire does slide out a little in response so I’ll be working on that one.
    Have to put in my two cents about using knees for turning. I often do this for feedback pressure in what I’m doing. While simply pushing your knee against the tank would not change balance and cause a turn what it does do is allow you to lean to the side and the off balance (say to the left) cause the angle of the front wheel to also change and you will go to the left. I use this to go straight with the clutch disengaged and hands off the bars . . . so as to put on my gloves which I forgot to do, for instance. I also do hands off coasting to check that the back wheel is in line after a major chain adjustment. If the back wheel is slightly off or the frame is bent it is very hard to go straight and using knee pressure leaning allows me to keep the bike straight.
    I like to think of cornering as a matter of balance because the bike is designed to go straight by putting in a castor angle to the front fork. Anyway a bike can be forced to go straight even leaning at a 30 degree angle if you compensate by putting your weight to the opposite side. Likewise the bike can be almost straight up and also turn if your weight is heavy to the inside. Make that four cents worth, sorry.

  6. First of all, thanks for helping people ride safer.
    When it comes to the use of throttle to increase traction during a corner, you say “The ideal situation is when you are able to turn on the throttle, little by little, during the whole corner.” Does it mean i should crack the throttle before leaning the bike; then lean and roll on the throttle slightly the whole corner? Even when you are adding lean should you turn on the throttle little by little?
    It seems when i reach a good lean angle (almost one index finger from the tyre’s margin), i feel the bike more stable if i keep on rolling the throttle just slightly. If i have the throttle just cracked open to maintain speed i feel the more i lean, the more speed i loose. Can you help me here?
    Thank you in advance.

    Armando Mateus

    • Yes, that is what we mean: having the throttle open a little bit helps, as you have noticed.
      When the corner opens a bit, and you lean less, you can open the throttle accordingly.

  7. Thanks for taking the time to write this up!
    i have been thinking about using brakes whilst cornering, as recently i have changed bikes and my old bike (K1200s) just doesn’t “stand up ” when braking in a corner. (Hossack forks)
    My new bike however does, and i was caught out the other day, which made me consider the issue!
    Your description of how the rear brake works during cornering was very helpful.

  8. The bike has to be set up for the turn. If you take one turn after another on a tight winding road, such as in riding with a group, the bike has to be set up for lean for each turn.A left turn after a right turn, or a right after a left turn, can leave you in the wrong position for the next turn.This can make you unable to make the next turn on a bike.Under some road and traffic conditions this can be very bad.

  9. Thank you for your information I had a read of your cornering tips this morning as I was planning on a ride today and thought I would pick up some tips well I believe your write up helped a great deal I have ridden off and on for about 10yrs mostly off tho whilst most of what you said is taught at a learners riding coarse but not as indepth but it never hurts to have a refresh so any I set of after having a read about 2km into the ride it starts to rain I thought great I can use the stuff I just learnt in the wet so I continued after around 30ks more towards the end of the ride iam on a country road that was dry so could pick up the pace a little so feeling great I take a right hand bend iam at the point where iam just starting to move to the inside of the corner then a car in my lane coming straight at me she swerved but enough for her not to go off the road but still mostly in my lane I had a moment where I thought theres nothing I can do and just accepted that iam going to hit this car head on some how i just pulled the bike up right and managed to miss the car but this has made me go wide and off the road into the long grass and rocks barley missing the small white reflector poles wobbling until the bike had slowed enough to return to the road safely the lady did come back to see if i had come off and was more shaken then me she tells me she was looking at the hills for a nice picture instead if watching the road so i just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to do this as i believe it saved an accident and possibly my life as i was more aware of what i was doing in the first place and paying attention to lines body positioning etc so again thank you very much

  10. Thank you for writing this piece. I am about to get back into motorcycling after an 18 month gap. And in the 3-4 years that I rode before that, I was never comfortable with cornering. Instead, I adopted various techniques to ‘cope’ with it.

    This article has given me a clear direction and renewed confidence about approaching each corner!

  11. I have been riding on and off, for 54 years and just recently May10th bought a GSXR K6, the limitations of which I personally, will never come remotely close to testing.
    I’ve just done about 550 klms in 8 days over country roads that typically, are straight and then have corners road signed at 55-75. Some tight-ish and some reverse camber. Generally speaking the road surface although metalled is pretty poor. I cruise at 95-100 ( about 4000 rpm in 6th ) and take most at about 80-88. I decelerate and sometimes but not always drop down into 5th and round she goes.
    I don’t seem to need to shift my seating much and so far there has been no need for any knee out, which surprises me. ( I guess part of me wants to look the part ).
    I don’t know, but at 70+ yrs, laziness may be part of the issue. I find that although I am mentally avowed of the benefits of ‘ riding actively ‘ in the manner of the fabulous MM; but sanely and in the text book way you so competently recommend… when I am on the bike… I have fallen into the mind-set of ‘ I don’t need to do anything about this ( corner ). Not even change down. Just pilot it round ‘ . And of course being what it is, it does.
    But part of me says ‘ Uh uh ‘. So I guess I just have to go to bed earlier and be more energetic and be what road safety demands of me.
    I knew I needed a wake up. Thanks for the article.
    By the way, should I be actively trying for the knee out a little anyway? It doesn’t get a mention and I was wondering what the protocol ( science? ) is for it?

  12. Finding your site and reading your well explained information for braking , cornering and lots of biking occurances is like a breath of fresh air. So I would like to thank you for taking the time to put it all together.

  13. Please clarify why the engine will tend to bring the motorcycle upright under hard braking when cornering? I’m finding it hard to get my head around this, although one assumes it must be something to do with torque! I can’t say I’ve ever noticed the effect in 60 years of motorcycling, but there again, I suppose I treat braking hard in corners as being akin to having the plague!

    • This is difficult to explain 🙂
      In most cases, while cornering, your front wheel will be not exactly in the “straight” position, but slightly in the direction of the corner.
      In that position, when the engine pushes forward while you are braking, the angle of the front will get slightly smaller, and this, in combination with the position of the front wheel, pushes the bike upright.
      It won’t happen if you slide through the corner, like Lorenzo or Marquez, this won’t happen; instead, the back would slide away.
      I hope this clarifies something!

  14. Just read more of the article for detail; came across a shocking statement. You suggest when in trouble in a corner, to pull in the clutch. You NEVER want to do this; the engine is you best friend in this situation. you need the engine power for stability; you have very LITTLE control with a coasting bike. I’ve never seen ANY expert suggest this technique; in my opinion, that is a recipie for a crash.

    Continue to counter steer; usually the bike has more in it, than your comfort level; better to be scared and make the corner, than to try an bail by over-braking, and/or disengaging the clutch.

    • You misread slightly:
      The page states that you should pull the clutch when you have to brake in a corner.
      The gas is *not* your friend when you have to brake in a corner.

      It is possible to brake while you are cornering, but you have to pull the clutch!

      • I respctfully disagree with you. The engine provides braking power, as well as acceleration; if you pull in the clutch you not only lose that braking power, you also lose much of the geometrical forces that assist in cornering and then you are simply trying to stop dead mass. Not a good idea at speed.

        I would welcome some citation that subscribes to your method of braking in a corner.

        • 1.- In an emergency brake (I don’t know if that’s what you are talking about), the braking power of the engine is not enough. You want to brake more, and not pulling the clutch in means that you still have a forward movement of the engine. You don’t want that.

          2.- In a corner, in the case of an emergency brake, the engine will have the bike stand up when you brake whithout pulling the clutch in. You obviously don’t wnat to ride into the side of the road while breaking.
          So, if you have to brake hard while you’re in a corner, you pull the clutch in. In that way, you will be able to finish the corner and brake relatively hard.

          We are not writing about race circuits; we are writing about street riding.

          • I would like to second Jeff’s sentiments here. In an Emergency situation where a sudden obstruction appears ahead of you, losing traction control on the rear wheel would really spell impending disaster. Losing rear wheel traction management would be expected from actions such as pulling (or disengaging) the clutch. That is why almost every riding school I’ve looked into always combine “steering” and “braking” as compensating forces in getting clear off the obstruction.

            From my own experience, I would only be able to pull the clutch with absolute certainty of safety if I can “feel” or “gauge” that my rear wheel can subsequently manage the speed and lean that I have been previously committed to, which only happens at very low RPMs just before an engine stall. And I am still speaking on the context of Emergency braking situations.

          • We do *not* write about circuit riding, but about riding on the street. In those conditions, you will never lose the rear wheel by pulling the clutch.
            Riding on a circuit is something completely different: you don’t have to take other traffic into account, and you can trust the tarmac. On the road, you never ride (I hope) “on the edge”.

  15. Nice article with one major exception. The term ‘leaning’ is really a misnomer, and very mis-leading to inexperienced riders. Leaning, does very little to actually turn the motorcycle. Leaning assists the turning, and reduces the angle required to turn, but COUNTER STEERING is the key to effective turning; especially when you are in trouble, as in a decreasing radius turn. You accurately point that fact out, but it also implies that counter-steering is used less often than ‘leaning’. I can ‘lean’ all the way over and NOT turn the bike if I want. I can’t counter steer and not turn the bike.

    • I’m sorry to disagree 😉

      Leaning your bike is what makes it turn. It’s just a matter of physics.
      You can use countersteering to get it leaned over: that’s true.
      I hate the word countersteering: it is too confusing. That’s why I use it so sparsely.

      • I appreciate your comment, but I encourage you to try the following (in a large, open area): take your hands off the handlebars and try to “lean” around a turn. You you find that leaning has very little effect on the turnnig forces of the bike. You are correct, it is ALL physics, which is why counter-steering is actually make the bike go around the turn.

        • It is even possible to turn the bike while wheely-ing. And when you sit on the back, it is easy to turn the bike (only a little, because the one in front also has influence).
          But you are rigtn about turning without your hand on the handlebar. It is very difficult to find out how the physics work exactly.

      • Great article and it demonstrates why people can get confused especially with advise from friends. It’s true leaning does nothing to turn a corner it helps maintain the cornering process but it always begins with counter steering wether you aware of it or not. Proof is take your hands off the bars and lean into your corner, it looks like it does it by just leaning proving your point, but in fact at slow motion you will notice the bike itself turns first in the opposite direction then falls in the leaning direction. If you understand it you can work with it and continually improve your cornering systems. While in the corner it is the rear tyre that maintains the arc until you counter steer out of it. It also explains why you can steer the bike while doing a wheelie. Front wheel does not have to be on the ground. Keep up the great work really enjoy the reads…rob

        • I completley acknowledge that the bike “coutenrsteers itself” when it turns when you lean without your hands on the handlebars.

          The point that we make is that *you* have more options than countersteering tot turn in the bike. How your options work may well have to do with countersteering, but that is not the point we made.

          Thank you for the clarification!

  16. Brilliant. Having not ridden for 40 years and getting back on a bike, it is like coming to new world. I could not get my head round cornering, but it beginning to make sense. The counterintuitive steering is interesting. I must have been doing it, but will check it out tomorrow. Very clear exposition. Thank you, and well done.

  17. Some great advice! Just got my bike back on the road after 5 years in the garage, and I think this is exactly what I need to make sure I stay safe. Thank you!

  18. I have been riding bikes for 40 years, this is a very well written piece, however I must disagree with your cornering technique.
    The only way to corner a bike is to counter steer the handle bars. not push down on them but turn, to do this you should have your arms low and relaxed and gently push the left bar to go left and visa versa.
    I ride over sand and gravel all the time the bike will not fall over if you are relaxed and neutral on the bike.
    “pushing your knee onto the tank” will not make the bike turn!
    If I enter a turn and think oh dear I’m going to quick I say to myself “If Casey, Jorge or Valentino were here they would be going twice as fast, so I should at least try to make the corner”

    • I think you misunderstood the piece: pushing down is countersteering. In reality, you don’t push down, but it feels like you push the handlebar down.
      That is what countersteering feels like.

      And pushing your knee onto the tank does’n make the bike turn, but it helps you turning the bike, keeping the turn as tight as is needed. In other words, when you use your knee, you don’t have to tell yourself about Jorge or Valentino 😉
      Just try it, and you will understand the meaning of our words.

  19. I am returning to bike after a two year break ,I had an incident which mocked my confidence big time ,I lost the back end on high speed corner,luckily I didn’t come off how I don’t no , soon my return to it,it’s obvious to me I have issues with cornering ,I rang my local training place and explained and was stunned by the “instructors” comments ,he said we all come off sometime just face up to it and get round the corner,I’ve read your explanation and realised where I’m going wrong and I am looking forward to getting out to practise ,thank you .

  20. Wow. Amazing post.

    Came off my bike a couple of days ago, revisited where it happened and realised I’d simply misjudged the bend, anticipating an upcoming incline far too early into the corner.

    There really is no substitute for practice, but this article so clearly guides the reader through each stage of preparing, entering and exiting a corner that – if anything – I’ll be far more conscious of what I’m doing from now on.

    I look forward to reading more of your work. Thank you.

    • Thank you for the recognition of our work, we hope you’ll never misjudge a bend again.

      We wish you zillions of them in good health 🙂

  21. An extremely interesting important subject and very well explained.

    I am sure if this was addressed more on motorcycle training courses it would vastly reduce the amount of deaths on motorcycles.
    I am 67 and passed my test 4 years ago, and at no time during my training at two major motorcycle training school, was cornering, counter steering, positioning etc. ever mentioned, after 4 years and over 75000 miles touring Europe I now appreciate the importance of knowing the safe and right way of cornering.

    I take my hat of to you, and I am sure it will be to very young, and old, motorcyclist advantage who visits this website.
    Thank you.


  22. Just an amazing website full of very useful information – especially to a returning rider after a good few years! The piece about cornering was extremely helpful.
    After reading your article and other rider’s comments, I went out and put it into practice, and although not perfect, managed a much better ride with my cornering – more practice and confidence needed.
    It really is all about riding in your own comfort zone and not riding to the expectation of others, especially given that I ride a Ducati 848 and some riders think I should be riding like i’m in the MotoGP!!
    Thanks guys for sharing your knowledge and expertise!

    From: Tracie

  23. Concise information about cornering.
    I ride a Standard street bike (Bandit 1250), and it’s important to note; a slight patch of dry sand will cause you to low-slide if you lean too much. It takes very little sand to cause major crashes at any speed.

    From: Roger Ramjet

  24. i found this verry helpfull thanks it helped me pass my test i think, thank you verry much.

    From: James

  25. Due to many scooters and some bikes being autos, would it be possible to explain to the unitiated the differences in cornering?
    As it is not possible to ‘downshift’ or enure your in the right gear on an auto this part has to be handled differently. This is true also for emergency braking in a corner as you can’t pull the clutch in if you don’t have one.

    From: coffeescoffer

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