Safety Bits: Low-Speed Riding 

Description Safety Bits: Low-Speed Riding
Author Matthew Date Sun Jun 19, 2005 6:27 pm Type Type 1
Category Documents
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Safety Bits: Low-Speed Riding
How To Make Yourself a Safer Rider, Part 1
By Mark Yager
Editor's Note: This is Part One in a series of safety articles by Mark Yager. A long-time motorcycle enthusiast, Mark is currently an instructor at the Canada Safety Council.

Slow Speed Riding
As much as we enjoy ripping down smooth, curvy roads devoid of traffic and radar guns, we all know that the majority of our time is spent plodding through urban areas at low speeds: Trips to the mall, off to the grocery store, down the street to the v ideo rental store, all clustered with traffic and "cages" (also known as automobiles).

We deal with slow speed riding daily yet so few riders are adequately trained to properly deal with it. So we must remember that, as important as high-speed riding skills are, we can all benefit from slow-speed survival techniques as well.

My definition of slow-speed riding is about walking pace, and it's easy when you know a few tricks.

Proper posture
Many riders are tempted to use body parts as balancing weights when riding slowly. Usually, this involves moving a knee away from the bike to counterbalance in a slow turn. If you do find yourself doing this, be prepared: Proper seating posture is ver y important. Sit comfortably on the bike and keep your knees against the tank. Try not to move around too much as this transfers weight around and provides steering input to the bike. And keep your feet on the footpegs.
Failure to look ahead is one of the most common errors with slow speed riding. A good way to practice this is setting up cones about four yards (meters) apart and slaloming though them. Vary the distance between cones if your bike can't make it. As yo u are going between two cones, you should be looking at the path you want to take in the next gate, which should be about 3.0 to 5.0 yards (about 3-5 meters) ahead. Many riders look 3.0 to 5.0 feet (about 1.0 to 1.6 meters) ahead which causes them to be shaky. Looking the proper distance ahead gives your mind enough time to plan a route, so you don't have to make so many last-minute corrections. Force yourself to look far ahead. Try it, you'll be amazed how this technique will improve your slow-speed rid ing.
The Front Brake
Under normal conditions, the front brake is an invaluable tool for keeping your bike under control. However, at very slow speeds while the front wheel is turned, the front brake can be too strong to provide a smooth stop. I tend not to use the front brake at very low speeds. The rear has more than enough power to stop you at these speeds, just be careful not to shift around to get your foot on the brake pedal (if it isn't already, as it should be), or you'll upset the bike's balance.
Clutch Slipping
Another major key to slow speed control is the clutch. Most motorcycles have wet clutches, which means that the friction plates are bathed in oil to keep them cool. This means that slipping a clutch is not a problem for a short time. I have over 50,0 00 miles on my bike -- the clutch has never been rebuilt and still works fine, even though I occasionally "slip" it. When riding at a speed that is slower than your idle will let you go, control your speed by pulling in the clutch past the friction point to disengage the engine from the rear wheel. The friction point is the point that the clutch just starts to 'grab' and transfer power to the rear wheel. When you feel unsteady because you are going so slowly you feel you almost have to put your foot down, then let out the clutch a bit to speed up until you're steady. You can do this for quite some time without hurting the clutch.

By putting these techniques into effect, you will ride at low speeds better than 80 percent of other riders. I talk to police officers and other life-long riders who have never heard of these tricks, and many come back and tell me how much they have helpe d them.
The best way to learn any riding techniques, including these, is to take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation or Canada Safety Council rider's course. They will increase your confidence and skill immeasurably. Contact your local Motor Vehicle registration of fice for local contact numbers.

User comments 
mr.David Posted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 8:58 pm    Post subject

Thanks for the hints and tips, perhaps now i will have more confidence in passing my test now (yeah im on a provisional, im only 19 mind you) lol we were all learners but this helps me alot, im pretty large and i have a smallish bike so weight balance would seem pretty important to me, thanks man
pachakutek Posted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 3:39 am    Post subject

Most of the times (several now) that I have fallen on a bike I was only going under 5mph... but it still wasn't pretty.
So having proper skills for low speed riding and knowing you abilities is certainly important. Thanks for the article.

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