A warm spring day, the sun shining, the air with a hint of warmth in it and a clear road and ahead you can see that the road drops into a little quiet valley. You know that at the bottom of that small hill is your favorite corner, a sweeping right hander with a beautiful camber that leads the short climb out of the little valley. Every ripple, every bump you know them all because you pass this way nearly every day and you love the feeling of the bikes suspension compressing as you hit the bottom of the hill at the apex of the corner. In fact, you love this corner so much you get really pissed off when there is a car in front of you that prevents you from enjoying it to its full.
One day this will end in tears
So much is written about how to take corners. You have probably learnt about vanishing points, about how when they are coming towards you it means the corner is going to get tighter and if they are going away it means you can open the throttle and try and chase them. I am sure you have also read about safety in corners, the importance of taking a wide and late line in to prevent over running the corner and ending up on the wrong side of the road. How about the phenomenon known as target fixation? It is the tendency for the bike to go wherever you are looking and it doesn’t just happen in corners, if there is a pot hole or something on the road and you look at it, you will head towards it. Try it sometime, in a controlled environment of course and you will be surprised at what happens. It is a danger when you look at the wrong thing, but it is also a way of getting around the corner safely when you look at where you want to exit it.
Did he hit the apex?
So, you are approaching a corner you know really well, so in what scenario could this knowledge apply now? As you approach the corner you realize that the car in front is going to be in just the wrong place and just the wrong time. Now, you know that on the run down the hill there is just enough road to overtake as long as there is nothing coming the other way. The car in front is going slightly faster than normal and so you accelerate to make sure that there is enough of a speed difference to complete the overtake in time
for the corner. You pull out and commit just as a car appears coming in the other direction and you have no option but to open the throttle wide and accelerate just enough to avoid severe pain. Now you have another problem, you are going too fast for the corner and you are in the wrong position on the road. Nothing for it but some extra heavy braking but unfortunately it rained last night and here under the trees the road is still a little damp. Putting faith in your new tires, you squeeze the brakes as hard as you dare, progressively building to a point just before locking and look for the exit point ignoring the traffic coming the other way. You hit the apex perfectly, the moment is over and you can accelerate away to that series of twisties where they have just finished laying that new road surface.
That is the sort of real life situation that makes you realize two or three things:
- Keeping your bike in good running order is really important.
- Learning about cornering and even better pushing the limits on a track day can really pay off
- Adrenaline is brown!