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Experiments In Riding

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Would you like to know how much lean angle and speed it takes to completely lose the front or rear-end as a result of a panic chop-off of the throttle when encountering wet pavement or riding through a patch of sand? I did. And I also wanted to know: would a rider receive his just rewards if he conquered his panic survival-reactions and maintained good throttle control in these conditions? One more thing: are crashes under these conditions inevitable and ruled by the laws of traction and physics or are they generated by our survival responses? Last week, during the filming of the “A Twist of the Wrist, Vol. II” DVD, we flooded one section of the skid pad at Willow Springs Raceway and then spread sand on another to get the answers.

 

Common sense tells us that under these conditions traction is reduced and that it is correct to fear them, right? Well, as our test riders’ confidence and speed increased from 20 mph/30 degrees lean through to 45 mph/ 43 degrees lean and chopping the gas, YES, in the wet it did finally lose front traction and crash. With good throttle control the three foot patch of sand produced a non threatening twitch of traction loss. The 30 feet of standing water and wet asphalt? NO sliding at all. If you said, wait a minute!, that’s nearly a 1 g load on the tires, you would be right.

 

Conditions: Hot. Asphalt: I’d rate it good, as far as traction goes, with a few tar-snake repairs. Bike: My Lean/Slide Trainer, Kawasaki ZX-6R. Tires: Well used Dunlop 209 GP front, Qualifier rear. Test pilots: Cobie Fair and Josh Galster, current Rookie of the year points leader in AMA Supersport. Sand: Fine white. Water: Standing water was about _ inch deep and came from a water truck.

 

I love doing Myth Buster stuff like this. Here is the disclaimer: Would I call this a scientific experiment? Not really. We didn’t do it on more polished or greasy or newer or older asphalt nor did we try it with slicks or other tires or cruiser or touring bikes, etc. Does it mean you won’t slide in these conditions? No, but it does mean that there is some additional evidence that overcoming your survival/panic reactions can save your bacon. The tenets of good throttle control aren’t just friendly advice. When we look at basic technical riding skills we see they are indispensable and create a firm foundation of control and can lead to confidence in ourselves and our riding. Are there other technical skills in riding? Oh yes, many. How many? Can’t say right now but I’ll leave you with this to think about.

 

I amused myself a few months back by writing up a comprehensive rider training program for newer riders. Result? 307 coached actions that can be done in a parking lot. You tell me, is there anything to learn about riding?

 

© Keith Code, 2008, all rights reserved.

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As one of the crash test dummies on this, I was astounded at what it took for Josh to finally loose the front.

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Keith,

 

Don't go damaging my instructors! (I pay for 'em, and that kind of makes them mine.) :)

 

I was riding through some standing water the other day, and was worried about sliding, so this came at a good time. See you guys in September!

 

--Alan

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Great article! I followed a link to this from another forum where the newly revised UK motorcycle licence test is being discussed, so it is incredibly topical in the UK context - there are many discussions on many UK motorcycle forae and in the press about the new two-part test format, and specifically the high-speed swerve exercise, and rather than reprise them here I'll just link to the one that led me here... RevCounter thread discussing the new UK test since it contains all the key facts. The new test has been in operation for a couple of days now, but instructors have had no experience of teaching for it, and since neither conscious countersteering nor the importance of throttle control feature in any DSA publication, nor in any DSA (Driving Standards Agency) training syllabus (it is, incredibly, considered to be 'an advanced technique that has no place in basic motorcycle instruction'), accredited instructors have no experience or guidance on how to teach the skills that are being tested here. The result has already been broken bones and broken bikes (the first day of the new testing regime was marked by typical british weather).

 

Obviously any number of individual instructors who don't share the DSA's view and who have enough experience and knowledge to know better have been teaching these key skills to their students for years, and feeding back their point of view to the DSA, but the DSA don't listen to the little people, they have their own in house self-appointed experts. The new test (mandated by the EU rather than developed in house) has brought this problem to a head. For my part, when I learnt to ride and took my test well over a decade ago, I was taught none of this stuff, and was able to pass the practical on-road test on a Yamaha RSX100 without learning them. It was only later after a couple of nasty moments and an incompetence-revealing track crash, that I bought TOTW2 on recommendation and suddenly understood what was what, knowledge and insight that literally and undoubtedly saved my life about 6 weeks later when I stupidly got myself into a situation that only counter-intuitive countersteering and throttle control got me out of in one piece. Now people are being put in a position to demonstrate that they don't have those key skills at the licence testing stage, and the outcome at present hasn't been pretty.

 

I think there's an opportunity here for somebody with credibility to say something to the DSA as a matter of urgency about the deficiencies in their training syllabus. Whether that is Keith, or somebody like Andy Ibbott, or both together, I wouldn't claim to know.

 

Finally, just a word of caution to juggler about standing water - I've had the experience of hitting standing water in a straight line at motorway speeds (80mph+) and losing front-end traction in a straight line due to aquaplaning. Fortunately it was a puddle not a lake and the front gripped again before it had drifted more than a smidgin out of line and I was on my head, but I'm glad I wasn't changing lanes at the time as that could have been very bad, and mid corner I am pretty sure I would have been straight off. If your tyre tread can clear the water you are riding through at the speed you are travelling then I suspect it is no more drama that any other wet surface, but I think that the moment there is enough water that a layer of it gets between your contact patch and the surface underneath, your front tyre might as well be on sheet ice...

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well said. I was faced with the sand/gravel issue on the street on my 10r the other day and throttle control and panic controll was all that kept me up!!!

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As one of the crash test dummies on this, I was astounded at what it took for Josh to finally loose the front.

 

You guys testing these kind of things is great! Will the videos of these tests be put on utube or will they be on the twist 2 DVD?

Geared more towards the roadriders it would be good to see the bikes reaction through a diesel spill or a patch of gravel in the road, but I am sure as with every other situation the best possible outcome will come from not chopping the throttle!

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This same advice applies to getting caught in the rain (or when forced to ride a full day in the rain).

 

In fall 2008, a friend had travelled from several states away for a tuneup and a weekend of riding. Our luck wasn't good and we found ourselves in the middle of a 5 day steady rain. Undeterred by the rain, we committed to our trip.

 

The trip included several winding roads. Using Keith's practiced methods of throttle control to overcome my SR's (I'd been practicing them for last 2 years), I settled into a comfortable & safe pace. I soon noted that my friend had fallen well behind so I waited for him at the next stop sign. After confirming that everything was OK, we continued. On the next corner, I checked my mirrors on exit to be sure my friend was OK and got a glimpse of him with his feet down and deliberately driving into the oncoming lane of traffic. Alarm bells. I pulled over immediately to have a talk.

 

His claim was that he was losing the front end (at some relatively slow speeds on decent asphalt). The two of us had the same model of tire (his had only 1000 miles while mine had almost 8000). His motorcycle was a lighter 600 while mine is a heavier 900. He shouldn't be losing the front end. After a little Q&A, I discovered that he was coming through the corner, unsure, and then when he was mentally convinced that the bike wouldn't take any more lean without sliding, he chopped the throttle, and ....the front tire slid. I also determined he was chopping the throttle in 1st gear so there was significant weight transfer.

 

A quick discussion of weight transfer and how SR's were going to potentially kill him, he needed a bit more convincing so I demonstrated the method both on my bike and then on his bike while he stood at the corner and watched/listened to the method. We got on our way again and stopped for lunch an hour later. He was simply amazed at the confidence he began to acquire with a little (low speed) practice of fighting his SR's. As a result, he never lost traction again for the rest of the day, and never fell behind.

 

Mother nature finally smiled and we were graced with dry roads for the last 3 hours of that day's riding. :D

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Great first post Beernose! How we can apply the techniques with a very clear example of what can go wrong and more importantly how to fix it. Glad your friend is a more confident rider in the wet.

 

Welcome to the forum!

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Great first post Beernose! How we can apply the techniques with a very clear example of what can go wrong and more importantly how to fix it. Glad your friend is a more confident rider in the wet.

 

Welcome to the forum!

 

Something from the Twist books that has always stuck with me: If you are mid-corner, and you judge that you're going too fast, there is NO GOOD that can come from chopping the throttle. If you're truly too fast, chopping throttle WILL overload the front tire and CAUSE it to slide.

 

If you think you're too hot mid-corner:

1) FREEZE the throttle (at maintenance throttle)

2) LOOK where you need to go (apex, exit, avoiding road kill, wherever....NOT the outer edge of the road)

3) STEER/LEAN the bike - If you really think you've bit off more than you can chew on this corner, get yer body leaned further so the bike doesn't have to lean as far.

4) TRUST the tires.

 

This has saved my bacon multiple times on unfamiliar roads.

 

Truth is, you shouldn't be riding that close to the limit on public roads. But ANYONE who has taken to 2 wheels remembers a few corners that surprised them. Keith's advice on controlling SR's (Survival Reactions) buys you a little more cushion the next time you get surprised.

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One other option can be if you are in WAY too fast, to pick the bike up and come in to the brakes aggressively. Often you can get it slowed down enough to release the brakes and turn again before running out of asphalt.

 

As far as diesel goes, it's basically an oil, don't think there is much to do there if you hit it with any lean angle, but test your gear :)

 

CF

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One other option can be if you are in WAY too fast, to pick the bike up and come in to the brakes aggressively. Often you can get it slowed down enough to release the brakes and turn again before running out of asphalt.

 

As far as diesel goes, it's basically an oil, don't think there is much to do there if you hit it with any lean angle, but test your gear :)

 

CF

Good to have you back around Cobie, even if for a bit. I've ridden Firebird East more than the other two combined. I used to reset my lines during the siting laps, but once I was taking the racers workshop (never ended up racing) and the instructor told us to look off the track for run-off and such, and WOW. I learned that all of my focus is on the track and what's ahead, because there are places with VERY LITTLE runoff. After that I got much more conservative, and usually run 1:10-1:11 around it instead of the 1:08's I can get when I'm just focusing on the track. There are a number of places I really don't want to run off.

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