The fascination of cornering on a motorcycle

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The fascination of cornering on a motorcycle

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The fascination of cornering on a motorcycle

The fascination of cornering on a motorcycle
And the curve beckons forever

Curves are works of art. Where lines bend, tension and intensity arise. A subjective look at the famous game with gravity and centrifugal force.

Markus Biebricher


A planet without curves would not only be dull and unnatural. Because even the infinite distances of the universe are curved. Even in the author’s biography, which is not always straightforward, curves were as important as they were shocking from the start: I didn’t get all the curves, many ended in a sluggish manner. Sometimes with a bike in a Ford, sometimes with a moped on a wall.

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The youth calls for the exploration of boundaries. The subject of “excessive speed” in connection with curves remained relevant for a long time. A hairpin bend was so devious that I had to let the borrowed Suzuki GSX 750 break straight ahead over a curb into the forest at a tremendous excess speed. The trees hissed past left and right before Suzi came to a stop. Damage? Compressed fork, dented elbow and a kink in the psyche. Unfortunately, its effects did not work long enough to prevent me from flying out of a pass curve with a Yamaha FZR 750 in Switzerland.

Playing with the limit

There are enough competent sources on the physical laws to which the motorcycle and rider are exposed when cornering. This text is more about experiences that trigger centrifugal force and gravity. Mentally, spiritually, physically. Every motorcyclist knows how exhilarating it can be to have rushed through challenging corners quickly and unscathed. To be able to follow the ideal line in alternating curves. To get proof that you read the road correctly, correctly anticipated the grip of the asphalt, and simply intus the cornering behavior of your own machine.

Curves are playing with the limit. What you dare to do, what your motorcycle can do, where the tire grip is. This is where the chance for lifelong learning lies. Especially on the racetrack because there is usually a fall area for those drivers who have courage, instinct and strength. And the topic of curves is raised to a new dimension in terms of speed and lean angle. If you don’t feel like “learning by doing” including falls, you can also acquire cornering skills in training sessions. What you learn here about eye guidance, ideal line, psyche and driving physics is of inestimable value. The most important key qualification, however, is experience. Every curve increases this treasure.

Every type of motorcycle presents different challenges

When changing direction, every type of motorcycle poses different challenges to the rider and raises questions that are unconsciously worked through: How much lean angle is there before load-bearing parts touch down and can lever you out? How is the motorcycle balanced, what is the center of gravity? Is the chassis hard or soft? Do you brake harder in front or behind? When does braking or applying gas lead to straightening? How do you use your body to successfully guide the motorcycle through the hairpin bend??

The genius is: no curve is the same. Even if you drive through the same curve several times, fine-tune the ideal line, accelerate out of the same place, it feels a nuance different. The feeling of happiness from the combination of inclination and change of direction is intense. And when, as a motorcycling globetrotter, I’ve already had three weeks of pistes in my bones, fully loaded and with the best of all socias behind me: the winding paths are still and always a new joy. Even when the heavy load pushes over the front wheel to the edge of the slope on a slippery surface. And I can’t turn it back in the right direction with a youthful freshness, unencumbered, alone on the moped, simply with a throttle or a skid brake. If only a mixture of gently knocking down, braking, disengaging or downshifting, using every neighbor, no matter how fine, and praying helps.

Sometimes curves bring me to the end of my tether. Then only a secret force of instinct and will guides me. Then I just want to arrive and become blind to the surprises that can lurk around every bend. But by the next day at the latest, I experience what sources of power can be curves. Because they mean a change of perspective and thus grandiose stimuli for the senses.

The great lama in Bolivia

And yes, evasive maneuvers are also small curves. Here, especially in the vast expanses of Africa, Asia and South America, tricks on the handlebars are always in demand, because countless creatures run in front of your front wheel every damn day. I was able to outsmart the dog in the Himalayas, the big llama in Bolivia was quicker than my reactions. Which would not have helped on the corrugated iron runway overflown without traction anyway. Then we described some nice curves in the air (see “Motorcycle tour Altiplano Chile and Bolivia”). The consequences of this led to a number of dangles in the health record. But isn’t it a real love of curves when you climb back up after an accident and go back to the hairpin bends? The wide, the narrow, the narrowing, the opening, the steep ones leading down or up? All those works of art to drive dizzy.

Johannes Muller, the youngest test editor at MOTORRAD, expresses his love for cornering as follows: “Cornering is the essence of motorcycling and in many ways a metaphor for life itself. A straight line may be the shortest, most efficient connection between two points. A series of curves, however, is the most sensual. Curve is the game of lean and grip, risk and trust. You can immerse yourself in this game infinitely deep. And you can’t escape from curves any more than you can from life. The perfectly hit curve is a process that is orchestrated down to the smallest detail: looking ahead, laying out the line, adjusting speed, turning in, keeping the line, making corrections if necessary. And then gas at the right moment. Every single one of these aspects needs to be practiced. In the best case, the flow occurs, weightlessness, the ‘I’ disappears, the driver and the curve become one. A moment of great happiness. ”Applause, Johannes!

The fascination of cornering on a motorcycle

to travel

Motorcycle tour Altiplano Chile and Bolivia

End of the line in Bolivia

read more

That’s how it gets weird

The fascination of cornering on a motorcycle

0 ° lean angle 1.5–2.0 ° steering angle

Before making a left turn, we first turn slightly to the right. This steering impulse is necessary so that the centrifugal force can tilt the motorcycle to the left in an inclined position. The greater the steering impulse, the more abruptly the machine folds down. This can be tested very well in an empty parking lot.

The fascination of cornering on a motorcycle

15 ° lean angle approx. 2.0 ° steering angle

At a 15 degree incline, the handlebars are turned relatively far at around two degrees. Usually the driver then has to work with counter pressure on the handlebar grip on the inside of the curve, because the off-center wheel contact point wants to turn the steering inward. The motorcycle would straighten up.

The fascination of cornering on a motorcycle

30 ° incline approx. 1.2 ° steering angle

With an incline of 30 degrees you are on the safe side on dry roads. This can be seen from the fact that the centrifugal force (red) is significantly smaller than the force of gravity (yellow). Easy to see: the tire contact point moves to the inside of the curve as the lean angle increases.

The fascination of cornering on a motorcycle

50 ° lean angle approx. 0.5 ° steering angle

An incline of up to 50 degrees is possible because modern sports tires interlock with the asphalt. The steering angle and thus the steering forces are now reduced, and the driver has achieved what is known as force-neutral cornering. Centrifugal force and gravity have the same effect.

Essential for survival

The fascination of cornering on a motorcycle

Generated by Dassault Systèmes software

Tire contact patch

The tire is the interface between the road and the motorcycle. What happens in curves?

The tire contact area, the so-called Laces (red), creates the contact between the road and the motorcycle. The sketch shows a 180 mm sports tire with a pointed tire contour at a lean angle of 48 degrees. The tire’s cornering force results from approximately 38 square centimeters of contact area. Most of the time, a part of a tire the size of a credit card is in contact with the ground.

The fascination of cornering on a motorcycle

Warm and cold tires

If tire temperatures are too low, special rubber compounds, for example for use in sports, can lead to what is known as glass behavior. The rubber is too hard to interlock with the rough surface (blue). Only when the temperature rises does the warm tread of the tire (red) form an almost form-fitting contact with the road.

Reading on the subject

The fascination of cornering on a motorcycle

Iron ham

Year after year, our photographers are out and about to find the best corners. One of them has now devoted an entire book to the curve.

Info: Gerhard Eisenschink is known to MOTORRAD readers as a proven author for travel reports and as a photographer. In his new book DIE KURVE it says: “Literary-photographic anti-depressant and remedy for Morbus Curva, the curve fever”. Probably the world’s first motorcycle book with a medication-like instruction leaflet, on which warnings are given of the “obsessive desire for cornering and the rejection of straight stretches”. In addition to this humorous addition, the book sets serious accents with regard to the curve and lets selected guest authors illuminate it from a scientific, emotional, but also philosophical point of view. Archaeologist Harald Braem calls the round, the circle, the curve, “the most natural and deeply human signal that exists. A kind of original logo for life “.

An old road researcher, on the other hand, proves that the curve on roads and paths led a shadowy existence up until the 19th century, because people preferred to torture themselves up the mountains on almost vertical paths due to the greater structural effort. The increased demands of motorized traffic then produced the technically perfect curve on which we as motorcyclists move so sportily today. A road builder explains the know-how of building curves. Of course, a driving trainer must also have a say in this book. In addition, the MOTORRAD technology editor Werner Koch reports as a racing driver on “curves on the last groove”. But DIE KURVE also lets critical voices have their say. A passenger talks about loss of control and confidence building. In the wide range of aspects that this book offers on the subject of curves, the text of a monk from a Buddhist monastery is certainly one of the most surprising. Gerhard Eisenschink has underlined the book with his best pictures from 25 years of looking for curves. There are also aphorisms about curves and traveling, about the pleasurable deviation from the straight path and much more.

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