Few things are more enjoyable than riding a sequence of challenging corners in the hills or mountains. At least it is when you get it right.
This type of riding demands a lot of the rider. But it gives back even more.
Sweeping through bend after bend in the hills is great fun. So much so, that it’s easy to forget your basic visual techniques. In fact, riding this sort of terrain poses all sorts of challenges for your vision.
In a constant flow of corners, climbing up and dropping down, chasing the vanishing point can be completely overwhelming. On flat roads, a bend will usually tighten or open out progressively. In the hills, the vanishing point can, well, vanish. In an instant, the road can drop away and you cannot see exactly where the road goes next.
It’s easy to say you should have been going slower. It’s also easy to panic, sit the bike up and head off the road braking like mad.
A sudden drop out of visual flow happens to the best of riders. The best prevention is to always use your peripheral vision to gain a general idea of the terrain (including where the road is likely to be going) and your location in it. Combine that with always taking the opportunity to look as far ahead as possible, so you have a rough ‘map’ in your mind’s eye of the route ahead.
If you then do find yourself with a ‘vanished’ vanishing point, the drill is to roll off the throttle, perhaps use a touch of back brake, and follow the broad line of the corner you thought you had entered. Aim for the middle of your lane and, as your speed reduces, get ready to either turn tighter or quickly turn the other way.
In hilly country, gravity adds special challenges to riding, chiefly when braking and taking corners. Going uphill isn’t usually a problem, in fact it makes braking and cornering easier. You slow quicker, of course. And opening the throttle to stabilise the motorcycle when cornering becomes instinctive when powering uphill. Though turning uphill in slow speed manoeuvres can be tricky, it’s going downhill that riders feel most nervous.
Braking for a steep downhill corner means modifying your general technique. The usual advice about vision, lines, being in the right position, the right gear and the right speed still applies. Only more so. Downhill, you’ll want to reduce your entry speed so you can still ride around it with maximum stability.
To prepare for a downhill corner, slide your backside as far back in the seat as you can and grip the tank tightly with your knees for support.
On the braking approach, you still use a lot of front brake. But, as you approach the turn-in, you should be releasing the front, while keeping a small amount of rear brake applied. Depending on the steepness, you may still have the rear gently applied as you turn in.
To make the motorcycle stable, you need to do just what you always do in a corner, including progressively opening the throttle. This balances the front/rear tyre loads and makes it stable.
See how you’re entry speed needs to be lower? You can also see how shifting your weight backwards helps.
Losing the front is what most people fear in a downhill corner. But proper set up before turn in, the correct entry speed and a smooth, stable technique will see you through. Be confident; use countersteering and lean to get you through on an open throttle - nervousness is as effective as gravity at making things go badly downhill.