Where’s Your “Lean”?

Anyone who has ridden a motorcycle, a bicycle or even a horse knows what the term “lean” means. You can steer a motorcycle at very low speeds however, once you pick up speed you must lean the bike to turn it. Simple? Yes and no. Like Jerry Palladino of Ride Like a Pro states in his article “The Art of Lean”;  “On a bicycle or a small motor scooter, the gyroscopic effect may take place at 3 to 5mph. At very low speeds on a motorcycle, you can turn without leaning simply by turning your handlebars back and forth, however, turning with the bike straight up is not a natural movement, the motorcycle was designed to lean.” Read more of Jerry’s article

It has been proven that if a bike is kept in an upright position the distance it must cover to make a circle will be more than if the bike is leaned into that same circle.  The ease of handling a bike, once you are able to lean it, is huge.  However, getting comfortable with how far you can lean your bike before you scrape the pegs is a different story. I can promise you this; it is far less than it seems!

Beginners and even some experienced riders have an innate fear that if they lean the bike over “too much” while in motion, that it will just fall over or they will loose control.  On the contrary, keep in mind that forward motion through acceleration keeps the bike “wanting” to stand back up straight thus the use of the “throttle on” technique while exiting a curve.

The “Friction Zone” however allows you to handle the bike at low speeds while maintaining complete control of the bike.  This works through the combination of clutch, throttle and the rear brake which give you the “ingredients” for total control at very low speeds.  Never heard of the “Friction Zone”? Check out this short You Tube video .

So if we can lean our bikes in a curve or even in a tight circle then why should we know “our lean”?  As Jerry Palladino puts it in the above mentioned article, ” At 40 or 50mph, if you’re afraid to lean that bike, when a car turns left in front of you, you’re going to steer right into it or jam on the rear brake and slide into that car, when all you had to do was lean the bike a little and steer around it. Consequently, if you’re afraid to lean your bike, you’re a crash looking for a place to happen, it will be inevitable.

Recently I rode with a friend to our local county airport which used to be an Air Force base and is now seldom occupied.  We are lucky in that we are allowed to use the airport for practicing our skills as shown in the Ride Like a Pro DVD’s.  I will admit that I had a “lean problem”.  After changing bikes last year to a longer heavier bike, the new one seemed harder to lean and like many others, I had that fear of leaning. While at the airport I was able to practice going down the runway “dancing” with the bike.  In other words by weaving left and right I was able to scrape my pegs on both sides.  Through repetition my brain got the message of “this is how it sounds and feels, DON”T PANIC”.   At higher speeds I felt more comfortable but in the circle at much lower speeds I felt uneasy.  It took a bit more practice but I now can really lean my bike; I know where my lean is.

Donna Palladino-Ride Like a Pro

How this will help me is that when I do scrape I won’t panic and I will know that the bike will work with me in a pinch not against me.  Take the time to find a large empty parking lot or deserted flat road.  Practice is the only thing that sets an awesome rider apart from the rider who only looks good going down the road.

Nanci enjoying the lean!

Ride to stay up, not to go down!

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