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MOTORCYCLE SAFETY - OBSTACLES AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

by Jerry Palladino (MOTORMAN)

There you are, cruising down the road just enjoying the ride. You're a safe distance behind the SUV in front of you, when suddenly a large tree branch appears in the center of your lane. The SUV went right over it without a problem. Unfortunately, the tree branch is too large for you to go over it and it came into view so quick, you don't have time to brake. What should you do? Obviously, you have two choices. Now the untrained rider will probably look at the obstacle and run right into it, the trained rider will simply get off the gas and counter-steer around the obstacle.

Let's talk about counter-steering for a moment. Above about 15mph, the gyroscopic effect of the motorcycle becomes apparent. In other words, to go left you push left on the left hand grip. To go right you push right on the right hand grip. Now, this would seem the opposite of what you should be doing. But, believe me, it isn't. At speed, when you push on the left grip, it causes the bike to lean to the left, and since a motorcycle at speed turns by leaning, when it leans left, it goes left and visa versa. The good news is counter-steering is instinctual. Anyone who has ever ridden a motorcycle above 15mph and has turned even slightly, has counter-steered. If you doubt me, try this. Cruise down the road at 30mph, keep both hands on the grips, but loosen your hand on the right grip, then push slightly on the left grip. Your bike will immediately lean to the left and steer to the left. Then try pushing on the right grip, you'll quickly understand the counter-steering phenomenon.

Now you're ready for an obstacle avoidance exercise. It's called the 30mph cone weave, but should be practiced at lower speeds until you get the hang of it, 18 to 20mph would be a good starting point. All you need is 3 cones set at 36' apart with the center cone offset 3'. Go to the left around the first cone then to the right around the second cone, the third cone should be on your left as you pass it. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, give it a try and you'll see that it isn't as easy as it sounds, especially at 30mph. If you want to make the exercise more difficult, add more cones or increase your speed. Once mastered, this exercise will improve your obstacle avoidance skills immediately.

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More articles by MOTORMAN:
Back to Basics Series:   About Jerry Palladino:
A "Motorman" is the term used in police circles to identify a motorcycle cop, or any law enforcement officer assigned to the motorcycle division. Prior to
becoming a Motor Officer, Jerry rode for enjoyment for about 25 years. Then one day, he saw a 5 minute segment on a television show which depicted motorcycle officers training on their Harley police bikes. The way these officers could maneuver these full size motorcycles around like a child's toy, made it appear as if they were defying gravity. At that moment, he knew that he had a lot to learn about riding a motorcycle. Shortly afterwards, the agency he worked for started a motorcycle unit. he was sent for training to Tallahassee with the highway patrol. The training consisted of 120 hours of intensive motorcycle training, focusing mainly on low speed handling. Jerry says, "When I finished this training, for the first time I really knew how to ride a motorcycle."
Safety Series:  
 

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