Walt Fulton is the lead instructor at Streetmasters Motorcycle Workshops. He's logged on over 1,000,000 miles of motorcycling on the road and track. Walt's also been the editor of three major motorcycle magazines, a motorcycle journalist, a BMW Legends racer and a professional motorcycle accident reconstruction expert.
On this episode, Walt teaches us some simple steps to help improve your cornering skills on the road.
Streetmasters offers a Precision Cornering Workshop in California: http://www.streetmasters.info/precision_cornering/index.html
Episode Thumbnail Image: Walt Fulton - Head turn - Always look where you want to go.
Interviewer: Jim Martin | Guest: Walt Fulton Photos: Walt Fulton
This transcript has been created from the original audio episode released February 15, 2018. This transcript may have been modified to make reading easier. As Adventure Rider Radio shows are meant to be listened to and not read, the following script may contain some grammatical and other errors. You can also listen to this interview by downloading the episode.
Jim (Narrate): For many riders, motorcycling comes down to feeling. For instance, freedom. Cruising down a long, straight, empty highway; warm air and sunshine coming down. It feels great. Connection; carving the perfect corner though some scenic twisties. Feeling those g-forces push you into the seat. While you’re taking that perfect line around the bend, you’re totally in the zone. Now, interestingly enough, the corner…that one that really epitomizes motorcycling, that feeling that we all want, of going around that corner in the perfect line…if you were to go to a popular spot with tight switchbacks, and sit back and watch the motorcyclists go through, it’s surprising how many riders don’t know how to make that perfect corner. Many coming in too fast, or riding the centre line into oncoming traffic, braking hard, making multiple correction turns throughout the corner; a general misunderstanding of how to judge a corner, and how to properly execute your turn. It seems that cornering well done is the exception rather than the norm. On this episode, we have an expert cornering instructor; Walt Fulton. Walt has a way of breaking down the perfect corner into a few simples that, if followed correctly, should help you achieve that sensation and satisfaction of carving your perfect corner. I’m Jim Martin, this is Adventure Rider Radio. Stay with us, we’ve got a good one for you.
Walt Fulton: My name is Walt Fulton, I live in southern California, and Nancy Foote and I are partners in a company called Streetmasters Motorcycle Workshops. What we do is teach street riders how to corner better. This is an advanced cornering class. We focus the whole day on doing just that; making corners.
Jim: Walt, welcome back to Adventure Rider Radio.
Walt: Thank you. It’s always nice to chat with you, Jim.
Jim: I can’t remember what we talked about the last time we were talking. Were we talking about vibrations? I think it was engine vibrations that we talked about.
Walt: Yes, it was vibration.
Jim: Right- because you also work for Kawasaki.
Walt: I do. Actually, Kawasaki is my real job. My love is Streetmasters [and] motorcycle training. It’s something we’ve been doing since…well, with Streetmasters; since 2004. And of course, prior to that, decades and decades of training riders in different conditions. Both on, and off road.
Jim: You’re one of those riders though that’s a real die-hard. You ride your motorcycle to work; you don’t even have a car, do you?
Walt: I haven’t- correct- I haven’t owned a car since…let’s see…2000 and…no, let’s see…no- 1997!
Jim: Oh, wow. You’re going into the 19’s! That’s kind of back there a ways.
Walt: Yeah. Well, you know what? I live in an environment where I don’t have to have an automobile. We don’t have much winter here in the south. It rains some, it gets cool sometimes. Of course, the places I go are even cooler and wetter. But, I don’t let that stop me. I dress for it. I’ve got some good heated gear, and waterproof gear, and off I go.
Jim: Well, I mentioned die-hard. You also have, as a die-hard motorcyclist, you also have quite a pedigree in motorcycling.
Walt: Well, I have been involved in motorcycling my entire life. My father… I get it honestly, and it comes from my father, who was a district manager for the first Mustang with Triumph motorcycles until 1959, when he went to work with American Honda. [He] brought in, and was on one of the first managements teams at, American Honda. He was there for a number of years. In 1964, he moved to Suzuki, and he brought them into the country. He was sales manager at that time. He’s done other things in motorcycling, too. Jack Walt Chain and Sprockets, and American Eagle, and Jack Walt Fairings…[Jack Walt] which is Jack McCormick and Walt Fulton (Jack Walt).
So, I come by it honestly, actually. I’ve just had a very great time in motorcycling. I tried to get away from it once. I had not only raced motorcycles for a couple of years professionally (finishing 12th in the Grand National Championship…my highest finish), I work with manufacturers. And, as you pointed out, I’m working for Kawasaki now. This is my 3rd time back at Kawasaki. I just haven’t learned to stay away from them.
I was 28 years in crash investigation and reconstruction. Primarily motorcycles, but also heavy trucks, buses, off-road moving equipment, portable drilling rigs, bicycles, trucks, cars, so on…just about anything that moved [that] somebody could hurt themselves with. And even some industrial accidents, which we didn’t do a lot of. But, it’s been good. I’ve been very fortunate to know a lot of people- Harry Hurt, for one- and I think that name probably rings a bell with you with The Hurt Report (the investigation of 900 failed crashes, motorcycle crashes, in the LA/Basin area). It was kind of a landmark thing, so I work with Harry from time to time in motorcycle crash investigation reconstruction. It’s just been a delightful time.
Jim: Well, today you’re going to walk us through cornering, like you do for your classes. But before we do that, let’s talk a little bit about Streetmasters, and what you’re doing. You said it’s sort of your love, but it’s your…I guess your secondary thing that you’re doing. You have people come to you to learn to corner better now that you- we’re talking street, right? Obviously with Streetmasters, it has to be street.
Walt: Well we are talking street, and I will underscore the fact that it’s an advanced cornering class. Some people that have come to the class, and written reviews on it, are quick to point out that- this isn’t elementary school, it’s college. I expect to have some reasonable control on the rider part, and then [with] the rest of it, we’ll work with him. Tweak and improve. Here’s what happened. My former partner (Bob Reichenberg) and I noticed over the years that the second greatest cause of a motorcycle accident, and the very first cause of a single motor cycle accident, is a rider all by themselves running wide, off the edge of the road, or into the front of a car in an incoming lane. That to us just wasn’t acceptable. That’s where this all came about. That’s how Streetmasters started. Like I said, we’ve been in business since 2004 teaching. It’s not my method, it’s nothing new. It’s something that I started using when I was actually in high school, and riding up around the mountain roads up around Yosemite and Bass Lake, where I lived for a number of years. We use a delayed and late apex. So we stay out wider, stay out longer, and when we exit a corner, it’s on the inside one third of the lane, not the outside of the lane.
Jim: When you’re talking about people running wide on a corner…I think everyone’s had that feeling at one point in their motorcycle riding career. Are there some common mistakes that you find that people do? (Before we get into the actual teaching of a proper corner.) Are there some common mistakes, the ones that you always see? You did accident reconstruction, you must have come across some things where you go, this is really common.
Walt: Yes, there are a number of them, actually. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that riders tend to want…the old adage; bigger is better. More horsepower is better than less. And so on, and so forth. Put the words together however you want, but they end up…As a new rider, he wants the fastest, baddest thing that you can throw a leg over. Unfortunately, they’re not ready for that. So what I see is people buying things that they aren’t capable of handling (that’s number one). Number two, poor visual control. Frankly, I see a lot of that. That’s very common. And number three is, instead of ride your own ride, they try to keep up with people that are faster than they are. They don’t want to be embarrassed, so they find themselves getting in over their head, and crashing. Which really embarrasses them more. Not to mention hurts them and costs a lot of money. So, those are the main things that I see.
Jim: Well, we’re going to get into cornering. We’re not going to talk about counter steering. Obviously it’s huge for…I was going to say cornering, but just for riding a motorcycle. Do we want to touch on that at all? Do we want to just briefly talk about it?
Walt: Well, we could because, if someone (a rider) isn’t comfortable or understanding exactly what that is and is practising it all the time…and I point that out because counter steering is so subtle in most conditions/most situations. Just a little press on the bar, one side or the other, will turn the motorcycle significantly. But, what happens is, when an emergency jumps up in front of you…people tend to revert back to the things that they are most comfortable with. With me, it’s counter steering, because that’s what I do everyday, several times a day (every time I get on a motorcycle). Let me point out that I probably have somewhere in the neighbourhood of…well, I quit counting at a million miles. So I have a million and a half to two million miles on two wheels. So, I’m very familiar with counter steering. But, what happens to a lot of people is, they revert back to the old steering wheel process of, if I turn the wheel to the right, I’m going to go to the right. Well, if you turn the steering assembly (the fork) to the right, you’re going to go left. Unfortunately, I have worked a couple of accidents where that’s been the cause of them, of the accidents. It becomes such a subtle thing, and little inputs make big differences at the wheel. [You need to] understand what you’re doing all the time and realize that that’s how you, the only way you’re going to get a motorcycle to go the direction you want it to go, is counter steering. When I say that I’m talking about any time you want to lean the motorcycle, I’m not talking about parking lot speeds, I’m talking about road speeds. The only way you’re going to get it to turn is to lean it. And the only way you’re going to lean it the right direction, is [by] using counter steering.
Jim: We did an episode on counter steering, so I don’t want to get too deep into this right now, but it is so important, isn’t it? I think unless you really understand what counter steering is, and like you said, make it your go-to, make it the thing you are used to the most, that is your go-to in a panic, then you can find yourself in real trouble. I can remember back when I started to ride, not fully understanding what the dynamics were with the motorcycle (why was it that some corners felt so good, and some corners didn’t feel so good). And of course, it was counter steering. I often see it now, when I’ll watch a rider on the road, and I’ll see them do this upper body jerk to get the bike to lean over. I can tell by seeing them do that, at least I think that they don’t understand what counter steering is. So, when they get into a situation, they’re going to find that upper body jerk to try to get your bike to lean over is not going to work. Some of it comes automatically. I know a lot of people say counter steering is automatic, you do it when you ride a bicycle, so it’s very simple. That is true, but I agree with exactly what you said. When you get into a situation where you start to panic, you go to what you know, and that is steering like a car. So it’s really important to know counter steering and without getting us into too much detail with it, I would recommend that the listener go back, go to our website, go to the search field, and search for counter steering. You’ll find an episode that we did on it, and I’m sure we’ll be talking about it again. Okay, before we get into the actual mechanics of making that corner, are there things that we should know about ahead of time? Should we talk about the general idea of a curve, and making a curve?
Walt: Well, sure. One of the things I am doing now is writing again for Motorcycle Consumer News.
Jim: Great magazine.
Walt: Yes, thank you. I do Street Strategies in that. Thank you [to] Dave Hough for turning that over to me. I appreciate it and the faith that he has in me, and I hope that I live up to the expectations. What I was going to say is (a little preview here for you), I’m going to do a piece on visual control. Visual control is so important [in] each and every aspect of motorcycling that without it, you’re going to be lost. Like, if you want to talk about cornering, where do you start talking about cornering? It’s certainly not when you lean into the corner. You’ve got to understand- at least have some kind of an idea- where the corner goes to or what the geometry of the corner is before you even get there.
Jim: A lot of people are probably scratching their head right now and thinking; well how on earth could you estimate what a corner’s doing before you get there?
Walt: There are actually a lot of ways. You’ve got a lot of clues out there, some of them are the advisory speeds lists, some of the clues might be…I think the point is that some of the clues you need to look for as you’re approaching a corner (that will give you a clue as to where the corner goes) is fence line, topography, the lane lines, tree lines, where the power poles are, and things like that that give you some kind of idea before you even get there. The other thing is, as you are approaching the corner, and getting up to where you can actually see the corner, keep and eye on the outside and inside edges of the roadway. If you see them staying an equal distance apart, you can count on a constant radius turn. If you see them getting further and further apart, or diverging, it’s an increasing radius turn. On the other hand, if you see them getting closer and closer together, then it’s a decreasing radius turn (it’s going to tighten up, and those are the ones that tend to get people in trouble a lot).
Jim: Okay, and that’s [where] you’re talking about visual control.
Walt: Yes. Visual and control entails a lot of aspects of motorcycling. As in example: You’re coming into a corner. You have no clue of how tight it is. Without visual control, how do you know where to downshift? Or where to brake? See, so that comes into play before you even get to the corner. If you’re approaching a corner, and you’re not sure about it, the best policy is [to] slow down a little bit. Because the worst that could happen is you get to accelerate harder out of it.
Jim: Which is fun.
Walt: Absolutely fun.
Jim: That’s all part of the corner. You mentioned topography, you mentioned trees, you mentioned fence lines…what sort of things should we watch for with that?
Walt: Well, what you’re looking for is the arc of things to give you some kind of an idea where the roadway goes to. Now, fence lines are one thing, power poles are quite another. You may find that they cross the road at an angle and give you an odd reference to where the turn may actually go to. So you [do] need to be careful of that. But fence lines certainly don’t cross the roadway, and tree lines don’t cross the roadway. Actually, I think what it really boils down to, Jim, is that you need to (as a rider) start putting together a library in your brain. Keep track of every corner you go through, and try to catalogue it; [eg.] I see this here, yet partway through the corner it does this. So, I’m going to put that in my file cabinet. Next time I see something like that, I may come to the prediction that is may do this or that (whatever the case may be). It may tighten up, or it may open up. So, it’s just a matter of you, as a motorcyclist, diligently paying attention to what the roadway does at any particular moment. And, putting this library together so you can refer back to it, call on it, and help determine where that roadway’s going to.
Jim: Okay. So let’s get into the mechanics of the turn. I guess that we should probably start with our body position on the motorcycle to begin with?
Walt: Well, sure. It’s quite simple for me. On the roadway, I sit really neutral on the motorcycle. I see no reason whatsoever to lean off, to put a knee out, to get down close to the centre line, to even put a knee on the ground. That’s definitely a bad thing in my mind. Let me see if I can give you an example…So, you’re approaching a corner. So you’re going to crouch down a little bit, and you’re going to lean off to one side. But first, to get leaned over, you’ve got to lift yourself up, move yourself over, then set yourself back down on the seat. And then you’ll go through the corner. Now, coming out of the corner as you accelerate, what you’re going to do is pick the bike up. And, as you do that, you’re going to pick yourself up, move back over on the seat, put yourself down, and down the straight of way you go. That’s a lot of work. And there’s a lot more things involved than that, but that’s just it in a real brief description. Here’s the problem with that. Number one, for most road users, it doesn’t look cool. We’re looking like hooligans, like we’re racing. That’s the last thing we want to do. We want to be good citizens on the road, we want to be responsible. Don’t make it look like we’re racing, and going fast and getting crazy. Because frankly, we’re so few in number, that we don’t have any clout in Washington or with any government (state government) at all. I can ride a 60 miles road trip to and from work, and sometimes never see another motorcycle on the roadway. But I see hundreds, if not thousands, of cars. So that’s just a personal thing [that] I’m real sensitive to, and that is the fact that we really don’t have a good reputation with the masses, with the public and masses of road users. I say, don’t do that. That’s race track technique. It’s not necessary to get your motorcycle turned. It’s not necessary to get to the corner. If it is, then my take on it is, your motorcycle is defectively designed. And, I don’t think any of them are.
Jim: That sort of runs with everything, it doesn’t matter what you get into. When you start to get into something, you want to look at the performance aspect of it. And when it comes to motorcycling, or any sort of vehicle thing, you’re operating on publics roads, so that’s gotta be a huge concern for us. There’s so many things there for your own safety, for other peoples safety, and like you said- just for the image of motorcyclists in general. I think that goes with all of our riding styles, whether we are driving on road or off road.
Jim: Well, we talked about visual control, about estimating or trying to estimate what you’re coming into as far as a corner goes…and as you said, if you can’t estimate it, then it’s time to slow down. That’s the first thing you want to do is scrub off speed. Because, that’s our real nemesis I think, in the corner, other than maybe a deer or a moose standing in the middle of the road as we come around the corner. What we should talk about with this too is over driving your vision, much like it is at night driving with your headlight.
Walt: Well, yes, and that’s very easy to do. I mean, here’s the reality of that: If you were concerned about over driving your vision, you would slow down on every single corner you came to. You would become…probably a hazard to yourself because you’d have automobiles catching up behind you and wanting to move you on. You have to look at a corner and say, okay, I can take this corner at 60 miles an hour. That’s about…it’s 88 feet a second. So, you have somebody else that’s coming 60 miles an hour around the corner (88 feet a second), which means in one second, both of you guys are going to go 88 feet. So if you can’t see further than 88 feet around a corner…actually, that’s not true. Let me back up and suggest that, to be able to safely react to something, you need to be able to see at about two to two and a half seconds out. So now we’re looking at 2.5 times 88, and then you have to add the stopping time versus distance. So, you know, when you start putting all of these numbers together, we’re looking at hundreds of feet. You’ve got to be able to see through a corner hundreds of feet. And sometimes that’s not possible, because of obstructions and embankments and so on and so forth. So, it’s reality, there’s seldom a corner that any of us ride through that we could get stopped if we had to. Just keep that in mind when you’re out tooling around on strange roads and roads you’re not familiar with. The last thing you want to do is have a surprise, by definition that’s a bad thing for a motorcyclist.
Jim: When you’re in a corner in particular.
Walt: Of course.
Jim: Okay, so, when we approach the corner then, what should we be doing?
Walt: Alright, well…Visually, it’s up to you as an operator to determine; one, where that corner goes before you get to the corner, [and] two, determine what speed you’re going to enter the corner at. Then [you] adjust your approach speed down to the cornering speed by either just rolling off the throttle, rolling off the throttle, braking, or rolling off the throttle, braking and downshifting. Whatever it takes to get yourself down to the appropriate speed. I’m going to change things up a little bit. I think everybody is familiar with the slow, look, lean, and roll mantra that goes with cornering. So, I’ve changed that up a little bit. It’s slow, look, roll back on the throttle just a little bit, and then lean the motorcycle into the corner. And the reason for that is, I find it much more beneficial for making it easier for the rider to corner if you get on the power just gently in a straight line before you lean the motorcycle. It just makes things a lot lot simpler and smoother for you as an operator.
Jim: Okay, so before we actually get into the corner, I just want to ask two questions here. Or, one question about both things: brakes and gear. Now, you already said, scrub off your speed and then slightly get on the throttle as you’re going to enter the corner…what about gears? Should we be picking our gear ahead of time?
Walt: My policy is to select the gear you want to be in as you enter the corner, before you actually get leaned over.
Jim: It makes sense, doesn’t it. If you ride a lot, you can change your gears and be very smooth at it. But if you’re not that smooth, then that can create a problem right there.
Walt: Of course it can.
Jim: Clunking into gear, dropping a clutch, whatever.
Walt: Right, right. Absolutely. I highly recommend taking care of the slowing, which includes the downshifting prior to the corner entry.
Jim: Okay. So where are we on the road at this point?
Walt: Well, it depends on whether we are going left or right. In either case, you’re going to stay out as wide as you can, as long as you can. Which means for a left hand turn, you’re going to be on the right hand roadway edge. For a right turn, you’ll be over near the centre line.
Jim: Okay, and we’re talking for all of us who are riding in North America, on the right side of the road. This is what we’re referring to, obviously.
Walt: Of course, of course. Yeah, I think the point is that, wherever you’re at, you want to be on the outside of the corner entering the corner.
Jim: Okay. Now, is there any special consideration for when the outside of the corner is the centre lane (you’re making a right turn for us), for oncoming traffic?
Walt: Well, of course there is. Again, that’s our friend, visual control. It comes in handy here. You again have to make the decision, can I see far enough ahead on a right hand turn (we’re going to start that turn out by the centre line)? So, the question becomes, can I see far enough ahead to move inside if have to, if there’s a car coming here? Or, if you can’t see far enough ahead, then you modify the far outside on that right hand turn, bring it inside just a little bit, so you give yourself a cushion between yourself and the centre line.
Jim: Now, some people might be saying, why the outside of the turn? If you go on the outside of a turn, you theoretically have to go faster, or you will be travelling faster than the person on the inside of the turn, and all race riders go on the inside of the corner. So why are we on the outside?
Walt: Well, sure. You don’t have to go faster. You could be, but you don’t have to. And here’s why; you hit on it, being on the inside of a corner is a racer line. And that’s one of the problems, it is the racer line. It is the fastest way through the corner, it is the least lean angle for any given speed through that corner, but there’s also some negatives to it. They are this: first let me define apex. Apex is the closest point that you will come toward the, or at the, inside of that corner, any corner. Typically speaking, the apex would be in the classic sense, in the middle of the corner. If you apex too early, you exit wide. So, we could do the racer line. But one of the problems I see with that is that, let’s say you were going at a really good clip- maybe not a fast as you could go, but as fast as you feel comfortable going through a corner. What I find is that when you go from the outside to the inside, once you reach the apex on the inside of that corner, your exit path of travel is already set. Now, if something changes in the corner (as an example, the corner does tighten up, you’ve misread the corner, it tightens up, you’re going to go out wide. Only based upon the fact that your exit path is already set when you get to the apex, and the corner tightens up, you’re going to go out wide, possibly at or across the centre line. That’s the last thing you want to do, that’s a big mistake. Novice riders make it all the time, people that think they’re better than they really are make that mistake all the time. I see that a lot.
Jim: Now, I want you to talk about delayed apex…
Jim: But before we do that, let’s talk about head position.
Walt: Okay. Head position. As you enter the corner, you should have your head turned to where you either can see the exit of the corner, or where you think it might be based upon the clues you’ve got before you get there. When I talk about a head turn, I mean you’ve got to turn your head and aggressively look through the corners as far as you can [to] try to locate and identify where the exit of the turn is. Head turn is essential for visual control. Head and eyes up, head turned and looking through the corner as far as you can.
Jim: And this is also that thing where, you look where you want to go. We’ve all went down the road and saw the hole, or the pebble, or the rock or something, and looked right at it and thought, oh I don’t want to hit that. [We] find ourselves riding right over top of it.
Walt: You do.
Jim: And the other part is just the visual cues are that much quicker, even a fraction of a second can make a difference at speed on a corner.
Walt: Yes, that’s correct. And that’s one of the other reasons for staying out wider, and staying out longer. Because, it does open up the corner for you and allows you to see further through the corner than if you were on the inside.
Jim: Okay, now, delayed and late apex.
Walt: Delayed and late apex. Okay, so, as it turns out (for the most part), in almost every and any corner that you get to (with the exception of an increasing radius turn, it’s hard to find an apex in that), whether it’s constant radius or a decreasing radius turn, the apex is going to be at the end of the corner, where the corner quits turning and the straight of way starts. That’s it in a nut shell. So with that description, you can see in your mind the fact that I’m asking you (suggesting) that you should move the apex way forward, way beyond the classic apex. Way beyond the middle of the corner, but over toward the end of the corner.
Jim: And when you head out of that corner, are you cutting the corner tight at the point? Are you in toward the inside of the corner?
Walt: Well, I believe that the exit position for someone that uses this type of technique is the inside one third of the lane.
Jim: At the end of the corner- on your exit.
Walt: On the exit of the corner, you’re on the inside one third. That would be your apex. As close as you ever come to the inside of the corner.
Jim: By doing this style of corner, as we’ve said, we’ve got the visual cues, you’ve got your oncoming traffic able to spot you easier, you’ve also got a little bit of room for (as you said) if you find it’s a decreasing radius turn, and you have to come in a little tighter.
Walt: Yes, you do. I think the other thing to consider here is that it does give you options. As an example, let’s take a left hand turn. So, we’re starting out wide, we’re staying out wide, we’re leaning into the corner, we’re looking aggressively for the exit point (our apex), and we finally decide here it is. We make a turn in toward that point, and from that point on, once I’ve made that turn, I can start coming on with the throttle and I’m rolling back under the largest contact patch of the tire. So that’s another benefit there. We’re at a little steeper lean angle than the outside-inside-outside path of travel, but the amount of time that we’re leaned over is actually less than outside-inside-outside path of travel. So here you are. You’ve determined you’re going to go to the apex on a left hand turn, which is down near the centre line. So we’re on the power, we’re starting to roll the bike up under the largest section of contact patch, and we have cars coming. Well, the only thing you have to do is (you’re still straightening up) you just move over to right just a little bit. No harm, no foul, and you’re out of everybody’s way and out of harm. So that’s how that works. There is one of the benefits- you have options.
Jim: So I guess if we do a little bit of a recap here, then what we’re going to look at is…the set up for the corner is, we’re going to be coming in wide (which means we’re going to be on the outside of the corner, regardless of the direction) and then, as we’re coming up to the corner, we’re going to scrub off some speed (whatever we feel using our visual cues that we’re going to need to make the corner). We’re going to come into the corner and be just slightly on the throttle as we’re entering the corner because we’ve scrubbed off enough speed for that. We’re turning our head at a very good angle so that we’re looking in and through the corner (as far through the corner as we possibly can).
Jim: We’re doing a delayed and late apex, which means that we are not in tight, we are still on the outside of the corner, until we can see the exit point. At which point then we cut in a little tighter
Jim: …and get on the throttle some more, and pull out of the corner.
Jim: Have I done it right?
Walt: Yeah, you’ve done very well at it. The one thing that I’ll add to that is that, as you’re aggressively looking for the corner, this is one of the times you need to work at training your peripheral vision for your lane guidance.
Jim: I like this, [let’s] talk a little bit about that. Now, we’ve talked about that before, using peripheral vision is very important. But talk a little bit about that.
Walt: Well, you have enough peripheral vision, whatever motorcycle you ride, to see the inside and the outside of your lane. One is defined by a centre line, the other’s defined by a roadway edge (maybe also a fog line or just the edge of the roadway). Those are the things that you are looking at with your peripheral to tell you where you are in the roadway. So that becomes essential, actually in any cornering sequence, but particularly this one because it helps tell you where you are with respect to one side or the other of your lane. It doesn’t require you to look back or turn your head back. In fact, my instructions are (to my students), you don’t look back. Once you’ve turned your head, you keep your head turned, and you keep looking to the corner. If you think you have to look back, you don’t turn your head back, you use your eyes. Let them roam back to the left or to the right depending on what corner you’re taking. But always keep your nose pointed to the exit, or what you think is the exit, of that corner. Like a gunsight. So when you bring your eyes back to your nose, you’re still focused on the direction.
Jim: You said train yourself to use your peripheral vision. How do you do that?
Walt: Well, you know what? People don’t use their peripheral vision enough. Consequently, you have to train yourself to do that, and you do that by practising. So we do several different types of training with Streetmasters. One is (completely removed from the street), we do something called Dirty Streetmasters, [in] which I work with adventure trained riders off road. The other would be on the road training, which is great experience, but probably best suited for doing that after our training class on a closed course. The closed course, I find, offers the biggest advantages to riders because we’re rather insulated. We don’t have anybody coming the other way. We don’t have debris in the roadway. We don’t have any large animals, other than maybe snakes slithering across the track every now and then. I think I’ve seen one or two out there since 2004, and maybe a rabbit or two. This is the ideal environment to train your peripheral vision. In other words, turn your head, look through the corner, and work on focusing on your peripheral vision so you learn to see the lane delineators. Ether the roadway edge, and the centre line. It takes practice. It takes a lot of practice to get comfortable with doing it. But once you master that, man, you’re on the right track there for sure.
Jim: Now, have we left anything out talking about making the corner?
Walt: Well, I think not. I think to recap; visual control is everything. It helps you know where the corner goes to before you get to it, it identifies your path of travel through the corner, it’ll allow you to find the apex or the exit point of the corner sooner (once you get comfortable with it). Above all, everything has to be done smooth, which means braking, down shifting, rolling off the throttle, rolling on the throttle, accelerating out of the corner, and upshifting. It all needs to be done smoothly and seamlessly.
Jim: Walt, I always enjoy these discussions, thank you very much.
Walt: Jim, thank you so much. I appreciate it. It’s a pleasure talking with you again, too.
Jim (Narrate): I’ve been speaking with Walt Futon from Streetmasters Motorcycle Workshops (and of course, he works at Kawasaki as well). You can find out more about Streetmasters by dropping by their website www.StreetMasters.info
Interviewer/Host: Jim Martin
Producer: Elizabeth Martin
Transcriptionist: Natasha Martin
*Special thanks to our guest: Walt Fulton; www.streetmasters.info
Photo Credit: A Grand Prix motorcyclist leaning in a turn; https://www.flickr.com/photos/smudge9000/9682091212/; Photographer: Claudio Corti