Introduction: Basic Motorbike Handling Skills and Mindsets

About: I'm a engineer for utility and high purity installations. love driving my motorcycle and fixing stuff. Having a place of my own means mainly fixing up the place at the moment. That and keeping the bikes and c…

There are many reasons to drive a motorcycle,I personally started 10 years ago for fun. Several years later it became my primary transport for my daily commute.

When my wife started taking lessons about 3 years ago I was reminded of some simple tricks which I've forgotten in time. Since then I've been more actively looking for improvement in my driving skills which I could then implement in my daily commute. Starting with some of the most basic skills and mindsets.

I've summed them up in a few categories:

- direct handling skills and exercises.

- common misunderstandings

- mindset

- quick/fluid driving

I might add or changes some stuff around, it my first instructable and maybe readers have ideas on what to add.(v1 7-9-'14 rewrite)

Step 1: Direct Handling Skills and Exercises

Counter Steering:

For me this was a where my instructor and I could connect, he couldn't explain this and I didn't get what he was trying to get across. It was up until a few months after I got my licence that, when I took an advanced motorbike course that this piece of the puzzle dropped into it's place.

A single-track vehicle such as a bicycle or a motorcycle is an inverted pendulum—it will fall over unless balanced.

The technique used by cyclists and motorcyclists to initiate turning in a given direction is to first apply a steering torque in the opposite direction. For example, if a turn to the left is desired, it is started by applying a torque on the handlebars to the right. This causes the front wheel to rotate about the steering axis to the right and the front tire will generate forces in the contact patch to the right. The machine as a whole steers to the right briefly, and because the forces in the contact patch are at ground level, this pulls the wheels "out from under" the bike to the right and causes it to lean to the left. Then the rider, or in most cases, the inherent stability of the bike provides the steering torque necessary to rotate the front wheel back to the left and in the direction of the desired turn. Finally, the bike begins a turn to the left. It is often boiled down to "push left to go left".

While this appears to be a complex sequence of motions, it is performed by every child who rides a bicycle. The entire sequence goes largely unnoticed by most riders, which is why some assert that they do not do it.

It is often claimed that two-wheeled vehicles can be steered using only weight shifts. While this is true for small "trim" inputs to direction, complex maneuvers are not possible using weightshifting alone because even for a light machine there is insufficient control authority. Although on a sufficiently light bike (especially a bicycle), the rider can initiate a lean and turn by shifting body weight,[6] there is no evidence that complex maneuvers can be performed by bodyweight alone.

It is also important to distinguish the steering torque necessary to initiate the lean required for a given turn from the sustained steering torque and steering angle necessary to maintain a constant radius and lean angle until it is time to exit the turn. The initial steer torque and angle are both opposite the desired turn direction. The sustained steer angle is in the same direction as the turn. The sustained steer torque required to maintain that steer angle is either with or opposite the turn direction depending on forward speed, bike geometry, and combined bike and rider mass distribution.

Deliberate countersteering is necessary to adjust the angle of lean of a bike and works in the opposite sense to the handlebar input while conventional steering in the direction of the turn is used to negotiate the turn.


Just try it, go ride and push against the steering wheel and look what happens! Small add on from a driving instructor, keep yourself straight and don't lean into the corner. While at the same time lifting your but cheek that's on the inside of the corner.

Braking: You want to be able to brake fast, this comes with a risk. When you apply the front brake the first fraction of a second the weight of the bike will shift to your front wheel at this time you will not have the maximum traction on that wheel. Grabbing your front brake to aggressive can cause it to lock up and it will slide away. Try to find the transferpoint where the weight has shifted towards the frond wheel giving it maximum traction and braking capability before you apply full force. This is happens fast so it's possible to brake fast and hard with proper exercise.

Since I'm Dutch we have to do about 12 skill exercises of which you get 7 on a exam.

- walking with the bike, past a parking lot and then reversing into it and pushing it on the centerstand.

- driving at walking speed, no feet on the ground.Just you balancing throttle, clutch and rear break.

- half turn, self explanatory.

- driving out of a parking lot, imagine a short corner directly taken while starting to drive.

- figure of eight

- slow slalom, short distance between cones and driving slow.

- fast slalom, longer distance between cones and about 30km/h and increasing speed

- emergency stop, heavily breaking from 50km/h 3 gear and shifting down to first coming to a full stop.

- evasive maneuver, aproaching with 50km/h 3 gear, braking to 30km/h down to 2 gear and then evading obstacle.

- precision stop

- decelerating exercise:

- stopping exercise:

For the ones who think this is easy, try might be in for a surprise, and no your 250kg+ bike is no excuse.

Step 2: Common Misunderstandings

Most know the saying, your going where you are looking. Personally I think it's also where your mind is, not looking but still thinking about that tree and you're still going to hit it.

So a few thing to think about:

- Wet isn't slippery, unless it's ice. Just look at the MGP, it's mere seconds, you do lose some traction due to colder tires. Adjust your driving, use common sense but don't overreact.

- motorbikes do not suffer from aqua planning again MGP and see the vid, rest my case.

- motorbikes are agile and faster then cars. Yes and no, accelerating, low speed, short corners yes. However a car has more traction, so in faster bends they have the advantages. Brakes in cars these days are strong and assisted they brake harder and again have more traction to put it on the road. Add some fancy electronics and a prick in a expensive car thinks he is the one doing the work keeping up with that fast bike.

- I need more horsepower because I can't keep up. Wrong a. you are driving like idiots if that's an issue b. horsepower won't improve your skills which is the actual problem. A good story in our family is about 2 young friends on ducati's been outrun by a old man on a old Kreidler moped.

- I can evade that animal that just ran on the street. Yes maybe you can, if you have the time to avoid it easily go ahead. But if you have that time, usually you don't have to. If it happens to fast for you to react properly then don't react at all. Yes that means driving over the animal, but if you crash you will still kill it and it the process harm yourself. Stay seated and stay on the throtlle, animal up to a small dear can be run over. Maybe your bike will have damage, but you will be able to stop relatively save. Or at least your crash will be more controlled.

- Same goes for objects, a wooden beam, car tire most can be overrun if necessary without much problems. Motorcycles with a fairing on the belly of the bike might take some damage.

Step 3: Mindset

Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you think ohhhh crap.....what now.....

Well at that time you might be a bit late and have to improvise but you can train/condition yourself to situations. Imagine a situation you might find yourself in and think about what you could do and what the outcome could be.

For instance, remember that dead animal on the previous page? Most evade out of instinct, try to envision yourself driving and that happens. Do that a few times and the next time you will judge and decide faster. Maybe finding yourself responding quicker and avoiding the animal or at least know you couldn't have prevented it.

That can be done for numerous situations, for instance:

You just can't avoid hitting that car in front of yo, now there are 4 thing you can do.

1. Stay seated and probably headbutt the cars roofstructure, that's not gonna end well.

2. Fall off, still sliding toward the car having a bike going ahead of you. Probably a hard and sudden stop when you reach the car.

3 Jump, just before impact. You will clear the car and hit the road on the other side of it, sure you could still be overrun by a lorry but hey that's a second chance and that better than just one.

4. Evade to an empty space, best option yet. Unless it's a cliff of course that would be bad....

The message is to be prepared with your decision so you can act, instead of thinking about how you should act. This just might prevent you from reverting back to instinct due to lack of time and pick the least favorable option.

Step 4: Quick and Fluid Driving

The shortest part of all.

Keep calm and focus on the execution of your skills. A fast corner shouldn't feel fast but smooth and controlled, going through a corner and barely hanging on isn't fast nor smart. Going slow(er) into a corner to get your position right will result in a higher exit speed than going in faster and being in the wrong place. Taking a corner at a speed higher than comfortable will only scare you and eat away at your confidence. Start slow, focus on your skill and increase your speed as you grow more confident.

Again going through this in your mind can help you connect the needed steps and improve your execution of them while on the bike.

Step 5: Don't Forget

HAVE FUN!!!! Drive what you want and how you want it. Just don't be an A-hole.

I've done enough for now, any suggestions, spelling/grammar corrections are welcome!