Updated: Jan 28, 2021
We all love riding our bikes and there's nothing better than a curvy road to heighten our enjoyment. We can pretend we're Valentino Rossi or Mick Doohan if you're old enough, but the line they take for success on the track is very different to the one you need to take on the road if you want to be safe. This is a bend on the way up to Mount Glorious:
A lot of your riding mates, facebook groups, some instructors and even sometimes the Government will tell you that taking the line labelled B is your best option as you can go around the bend faster and they are sort of correct.
Line B is your best option for the track and for when you can see all of the way through the bend to be sure that there's no issue with the road surface, oncoming vehicles, fallen trees or a broken down truck just around the corner. But as you can see from the picture, you currently have no idea what's around this particular bend so taking line B means you're going faster but riding into the unknown and hoping there isn't an issue; that's not always going to be the case. Even worse, on a right hand bend that line puts your head and torso into the path of an oncoming vehicle and you're in the worst possible position to see it coming.
The priorities for positioning in a bend are applied in a strict priority order:
Safety This is your top priority and you must always compromise your position in a bend to avoid any safety issue. These can be anything but typical safety considerations are debris such as leaves or rocks, poor road surface, oncoming vehicles, junctions etc. Your line should be adjusted to avoid these issues and that often means that you need to slow down because of the new line.
View In the absence of any safety reason above, positioning for view is how every bend should be approached. If you ride by the mantra of "being able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear on your side of the road" (and if you don't you're going to crash one day) then the further you can see, the faster you can go safely; and the key word there is safely! If going fast isn't your priority, or the speed limit restricts you on that road, then being able to see further gives you more time to react and more options in your riding plan.
If you take our two options for the bend above, here are the view the riders will have when they reach the gap in the barrier at the end of the yellow lines:
The rider who has prioritised the view by taking line A has extra view around the bend so can see any issues earlier. The shaded area below is the extra view that the correct line gives you and in some bends that advantage can be significant:
Speed/Straight If there isn't an advantage for view in the bend as it is completely open or the advantage disappears as you can now see the exit of the bend, you can then prioritise speed by straightening. By straightening the line, this reduces the radius of the bend and allows you to increase your speed, or allows the bike to be more upright and gives you more options to adjust your line or speed if necessary.
There is a lot of information about road positioning, observation, anticipation and all aspects of making progress whilst maintaining safety in Motorcycle Roadcraft; the Police Riders Handbook. The UK Police are recognised as the best trained in the world and take the global lead on Advanced Rider Training. Their manual is used by emergency service riders in many countries, including Australia, and is available to the general public for advanced motorcycle training. I would recommend reading it or, better still, take some on road advanced riding training with Roadcraft Australia and get a personalised training programme based on where you need to improve. Click here for more riding tips or make a booking on the Facebook page by clicking the logo below.